How to Answer the Question, “What Are Your Salary Expectations?”

by Pranav Ramesh
March 15, 2021
How to prepare yourself to reply

“What are your salary expectations?” is one of the most common questions you will face in any interview. It is a great way to ensure early on that neither the recruiter nor the candidate will waste their time moving forward. Interviewees often dread this question, fearing the negotiation that may follow, and therefore don’t prepare for it. This is a huge mistake.

Follow these three steps to prepare for the next time an interviewer asks you what your salary expectations are.

Topics Covered:

  • Research the average salary first
  • Ask what the salary range is
  • Give your personal salary expectation range

Research the salary first

Research the average salary range beforehand.

Having a large personal network can be a great asset for this endeavor. Look through your LinkedIn connections for those who are in a similar position to the one you’re applying for and ask them. Remember, conversations about how much someone earns are very personal and not everyone wants to share that information. Rather than blindly messaging a contact, “hey, how much do you make?”, try a more subtle approach. Let them know that you are applying for a similar role, you respect their opinion, and that you are curious what salary range they believe someone in their position should make. The answer you get will be very close to their true salary, though likely slightly higher.

There are plenty of websites that provide average and estimated salaries as well.,,, and are just a few. Be very careful, though, and take the information with a grain of salt. Remember that these averages are exactly that–averages. This means, for every person making 20% more than what it says, someone else is making 20% less. These salary ranges don’t take into account other compensation benefits such as paid time off, insurance, stock options, or 401k’s. They also don’t take into account your unique situation. Your education and experience may very well warrant a higher salary. Then again, they may justify a lower one too.

Ask what the salary range is

Hiring managers will often ask you “what are your salary expectations?” sooner rather than later. They want to beat you to the punch, so to speak, to ensure neither you nor them are wasting each other’s time if you are too far apart. Rather than giving a number, or even a range, try asking the interviewer what their range is for the position.

This will likely open a mini-negotiation as neither they nor you, want to be the first to state a number. They, understandably, don’t want to overpay just as strongly as you don’t want to be underpaid. Many candidates shy away from this which is a huge mistake in the long-term. Just remain professional, respectful, and polite. Asking what the salary range is, in response to their salary expectation question, shows interest, not combativeness.

If the hiring manager flips the question back to you without giving a range themself, demonstrate your interest in the position. Let them know that you are flexible and that you will be taking much more than just the salary into consideration. You are looking for an opportunity to grow and advance, and compensation includes much more than just salary. Finally, politely ask them one more what the salary range is, and stress that you understand you may fall anywhere on the scale.

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Give your personal salary range

If after inquiring twice, the recruiter is still unwilling to give you a salary range, it is in your best interest to share your own. Pressing any more than this will come across as combative or inflexible.

If you do have to give your own, personal salary expectation, use the information you researched in the beginning, combine it with your own personal needs and situation, and determine a range. Never give just a single number. Most employers today will not ask you what you currently make as it is illegal in many states.

When you give a salary expectation range, you do run the risk of undercutting yourself. If you are hoping for $50k-$60k, and the position pays $55k-$65k, you will likely be offered $55k. It just makes business sense for the employer to do so. You may be able to use this to your advantage once the complete compensation package is made apparent. If the insurance is sub-par, or the 401k match is less than you were expecting, you can use that, later on, to justify asking for slightly more salary. Even if the answer is no, though, you have reason to be thankful. What others make should not be your driving decision-maker when it comes to choosing your future. And if you are making what you need and you believe is fair, you are much better off than most.


Candidates often fear coming across as combative or pricing themselves out of a position. Because of this, they sometimes avoid preparing for the dreaded question “What are your salary expectations?” That question is a great opportunity for both the interviewer and interviewee to ensure they should continue moving forward in the interview process. Prepare for it, and you will not only be more confident during the interview but you are more likely to get the compensation you deserve.

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About the Company:

Peterson Technology Partners (PTP) has been Chicago’s premier Information Technology (IT) staffing, consulting, and recruiting firm for over 22+ years. Named after Chicago’s historic Peterson Avenue, PTP has built its reputation by developing lasting relationships, leading digital transformation, and inspiring technical innovation throughout Chicagoland.

Based in Park Ridge, IL, PTP’s 250+ employees have a narrow focus on a single market (Chicago) and expertise in 4 innovative technical areas;

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PTP exists to ensure that all of our partners (clients and candidates alike) make the best hiring and career decisions.

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