How To Answer “What Is Your Expected Salary?”

Today, we’re going to explain how to answer “what is your expected salary?” Tell me.

Who doesn’t love getting this question right out of the gate when they get into an interviewing process? I know it’s a rough one.

I get this question every week during my day job. I get countless comments from clients about this. I know it’s frustrating. I know it makes you nervous, and I know a lot of people out there worry about actually giving a number, and you should. You should worry about it.

Today, what we’re going to do is I’m going to give you the exact script, so you can worry no more. I’m going to tell you why you should use this script. I’m going to tell you the mistakes people make, and why your thinking is likely wrong on how to approach this.

So here it goes …

Hey, how much do you want to earn?

Here’s what I advise.

Never give them a number

Number one, first thing, is under no circumstances do I ever want you to actually give them a number. Why?

Well, the first thing about this is it’s uneducated. You do not know what it’s like to work there, what you’ll get to do, who you get to do it with, the training and development opportunities, the holiday, the benefits, the benefit costs, all of those things. It’s very difficult for you to hit the nail on the head by giving them a number, especially this early in the process.

The second thing is I don’t want you to worry when figuring out how to answer what is your expected salary? There is not a recruiter in the world who determines whether you get hired or what you get paid. The hiring managers do that, I mean, unless the recruiter is the hiring managerl or the HR person is the hiring manager. I don’t want you to worry about that, because they’re not ultimately going to determine what you’re going to get paid, even if they give you a guideline as to what the position pays. I don’t want you to worry about that upfront.

The third thing is I don’t want you to actually give a number, because you might either aim too low, in which case you’re setting their expectations that your expectations are low, even though they might be willing to pay you more, or you price yourself out because you went too high.

The one thing that the recruiter can do in the beginning of the process is knocking you out, but the recruiter won’t knock you out if they really like your background and you don’t provide a number.

The Psychology of a recruiter

You might be thinking, well, maybe I can give them a range. Well, that might be nice, but if I’m the hiring manager and you give me a range and you say,

“Matt, I’d like to earn between £40,000 and £60,000, what do you think I heard?

I heard £40,000.

What were you thinking?


You’re still giving them a low number, probably lower than they would be willing to pay, so ranges aren’t really great either, because those are still uneducated. They’re likely to anchor on your low number, when you mentally are thinking about your high number. Ranges don’t work much, either.

Say this instead

What I would rather you do is, when you are approached with that question,how to answer what is your expected salary?, I’d like you to say:

“while compensation is important to me, I really want to look at the entire value of working at your company: what I get to do, who I get to do it with, the training opportunities, the career advancement opportunities, the benefits, the vacation, and all of the other things that go along with working at your organisation.

I’m excited to learn about those in the interviewing process, and toward the end I would be able to give you a much better idea of what it is that I would expect in terms of my salary, based on all those other factors. At the moment, to give you any kind of estimate would be uneducated on my part. I look forward to investigating those areas, and I look forward to starting the interview process.”

You might be thinking, well, that’s evasive, and they’re going to be upset if I don’t actually give them a number. What’s actually going to happen if you don’t give them a number is you’re going to effectively position yourself to earn a lot of points throughout the process and make a more educated decision at the end. This response also shows the hiring manager or recruiter your potential to add value should they decide to hire you.

What’s going to happen transactionally at that moment, which most people do not realise, is if you’ve got the goods, if your CV is in order, you are right for this position, and they are ultimately going to want to hire you.

That recruiter, if you don’t provide an expected salary, if it’s a big deal to the recruiter or it’s a big deal to the hiring manager, that recruiter will turn to the hiring manager and say,

“I like this person’s background. They really didn’t want to advise on what it was that they expected in the way of compensation.”

And the hiring official’s going to say,

“get them in here so we can interview her.”

That’s what they’ll say.

Why am I telling you this?

The reason I know that is I was a hiring manager for many, many years. I would always tell the recruiters, don’t ask what their expected salary is. It’s silly for you to ask that, because they’ll give you an uneducated answer, but some of the recruiters insisted on asking the question, because they wanted to have an idea of whether or not they should get you into the process.

Every time that the smart candidate didn’t provide the number, the recruiter would turn to me and say,

“Matt, what do we do?”

I would say,

“That person looks fantastic on paper. Get her here, so we can interview her.”

I don’t want you to worry about that.

It’s really simple. You think that they’re going to play hardball with you, but they’re not.

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