“What Is Your Expected Salary?” and Other Questions That Ruin Salary Negotiations

Salary negotiations are a normal part of the interviewing and hiring process. But all too often, job applicants — especially younger applicants — struggle to negotiate fair wages in their chosen careers. “Gotcha” questions like “what is your expected salary?” can put job applicants on the spot and make salary negotiations harder down the road.

Avoid the pitfalls of sharing low salary expectations during the interview process by knowing the top “gotcha” questions to look out for and how to answer those questions if they come up.

Top salary negotiation “gotcha” questions? 

There are four major questions that should raise a red flag if they’re asked during your job interview. We call these questions “gotcha” questions because they can trick candidates into sharing low salary expectations during the early interview process. This can prevent candidates from negotiating for the salary they’re worth.

The top salary negotiation “gotcha” questions to keep an eye out for include:

  • What is your current salary?
  • What are your salary expectations?
  • What are the other companies you’re interviewing with, and what are they offering?

Stay on the lookout for related “gotcha” questions as well. For example, “what are your salary expectations?” might also be worded as “what is your expected salary?” or “What is your expected compensatory range?”

Why should you avoid answering salary “gotcha” questions?

There are a number of reasons to avoid answering salary-related questions during your initial interview.

One reason is that your answer to these questions can impact whether your interviewers choose to bring you on for more interviews. Say you tell them your previous salary, and it’s much higher than what your interviewers can offer. They may not interview you again because they don’t want to waste your time. This could cause issues if you’re willing to take a salary cut. For example, a game developer at a major firm might be willing to take a lower salary to work on projects they’re excited about with an indie development studio.

Similarly, if your answers suggest that your salary expectation is lower than what your interviewers might be willing to offer, they might get the impression that you don’t have the skills for a higher-paying position. Your hirers may even think they can offer you less money than they would to a similarly- or equally-qualified candidate. This is particularly problematic since fair wages can change based on your location, the benefits you’re being offered, and other factors.

By avoiding these types of questions, you keep the power of price negotiations in your hands. Then, when a company has decided they want to hire you, you can begin the negotiation process on equal footing.

How should you answer questions like “What is your expected salary?”

While you don’t want to directly answer salary “gotcha” questions during the interview process, you can’t prevent your interviewers from asking these questions. For this reason, it’s important to know how you’re going to answer these questions if they come up. Having a plan in place before you walk into your interview can keep you from falling into the trap of answering these types of salary questions.

The key to answering these questions is to avoid giving exact numbers. Some specific things you can say, rather than an exact dollar figure, include:

  • Salary is not my primary concern when looking at career opportunities
  • My expectation is for a competitive salary for this industry in this area
  • When considered alongside the benefits I was given, my previous job paid me competitively for the area I was working in
  • I’ll research competitive rates in this area and get back to you

These types of answers convey confidence and set a boundary with your potential employer. If employers continue to press for an answer regarding your previous salary or salary expectations, you can say something like, “I can see that this is a concern for you. Have you decided on a budget for this position yet, or are you still doing your research?”

By turning the question around, you take back the power of a salary negotiation. If they say that they’ve decided on a budget for the position, you can ask what it is and indicate whether you’re still interested in continuing the interview process. If they say they’re still researching, you can say that you’ll be happy to discuss salary expectations once you’ve both done further research.

Negotiate the best salary for your talents 

Knowing how to negotiate a salary is key to being paid what you’re worth and making sure you never leave money on the table. According to a recent poll, only 39% of professionals even try to negotiate their salary, even though most companies leave room for negotiation when they set the budget for a role. Pathrise can help connect you to skilled negotiation experts who can give you one-on-one advice on how to get the salary you deserve. Pathrise fellows, on average, see a 10-20% increase in salary. Learn more and connect with a Negotiation Consultant here to get started on landing your dream job.

Pathrise is an online program for tech professionals that provides one-on-one mentorship, training, and advice to help you land your next job. Pathrise experts can guide you thoroughly about the Amazon leadership key principles related to your field to crack any job interview. Try us for free today.

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