Whether you’re a fresh graduate looking for an entry-level job or an experienced campaigner applying for a promotion within your current company, “what is your salary expectation?” is a question you will likely encounter at several points in your career.

Naturally, this can be an awkward question because you don’t want to overestimate and scare the hiring manager off. Still, you also want to ensure that you don’t lowball yourself and the value of your work simultaneously during the interview process.

Providing a suitable answer to this crucial interview question relies on many factors. In this article, we will provide you with some guidance on how to go about formulating and delivering a well-thought response.

What is a Salary Requirement?

To start with the basics, salary requirement relates to the amount you expect to be remunerated for the work involved in the job you are applying for. In general, there are a few main factors that will have an impact on this figure:

  • Market rate
  • The basic cost of living in the local area
  • The years of experience that you have
  • Level of seniority
  • Industry of work/ job
  • Field of work within the industry
  • Responsibilities involved

Businesses usually already have an amount in mind before advertising a role, which can often be your application’s make or break factor. While this can be a somewhat uncomfortable conversation, it’s also necessary since it sets a clear expectation level and serves as an agreement between you and the company before any work commences. It also minimizes the chances of disagreement in this regard later along in the process.

How to Answer the “Salary Requirements” Question

Firstly, you must respond if an application specifically asks for your salary requirements. With more companies turning to machines to help filter online applications, leaving fields blank significantly increases the chances of your application being disregarded before you’ve secured an interview.

To the prospective employer, this question will help them figure out if they can afford you, and you’re better off overshooting or undershooting the amount than disregarding it altogether. Below are a few guidelines that can help you provide a confident answer.

Do Your Research

Nowadays, fewer job applications provide a salary offer in their job posting. Don’t let this deter you, as a little bit of digging around can take you a long way. Consider the local area where you would work as a great place to start. City centers generally have a higher cost of living than suburban or rural areas. However, travel costs, for example, to a remote area daily may be costly and warrant a higher amount.

Several sources online can help gather this information, but be sure to use sources that have been updated recently to ensure that the data you are using is not outdated. Here are some options of sites that you should consider:

  • High-ranking job websites – The better job websites now offer a vast amount of helpful information, including previous employees and average salaries associated with similar roles to the potential employer.
  • Social media – Established businesses are often easily locatable on most social media platforms. Existing and previous employee reviews, salary ranges, business size, and other helpful information can often be found company’s social media pages. LinkedIn is particularly effective as it can provide an estimated salary based on its algorithms that consider all the relevant factors and allow you to make useful contacts with individuals within the organization.

Be Realistic

Once you have the valuable information from your research discussed above, it’s time to start formulating the ideal figure. When doing this, it’s quite easy to sell yourself short since you may want the job. This is a bad idea for two main reasons.

First, if the company finds that your response was much lower than what they were expecting to offer, it could cause them to build a perception of you as one that does not provide quality work; hence you expect a lower rate. Second, if you did get the job at the low rate you specified, you could feel unhappy once you start work and realize the true value of your work.

As a rule of thumb, many recruitment specialists suggest that if you have to provide an answer that you are unsure of, it’s better if you overestimate than underestimate in the hiring process.

man meditating under money rain

Leave Room for Negotiation

This is perhaps the most valuable guideline. You will be significantly limiting your position and negotiation room by providing an exact amount. When conducting your research, formulate the answer from your findings into a reasonable range. Ensure that the minimum salary in the range is one that you will still be happy with as a starting salary. Offering a salary range indicates to the employer that you are open to salary negotiations and flexible to open salary discussions.

Bear in mind that your compensation package in most professions is not only made up of your salary. Be sure to consider your benefits package, such as health benefits, holidays, overtime, and other bonuses, in your response.

Prepare Your Phrasing

Once you’ve gotten to the question in your application, be sure to phrase your response in a manner that accentuates the reason that you are asking the amount you are. Consider phrases similar to those below:

I feel that compensation expectations align with my experience and qualifications and are competitive with the current market range from the research I have conducted.

If I’m a good fit for the business, I’m confident we can agree based on the value I bring to the role.


When job searching, identifying your salary requirement is essential to landing the job and being happy with what you’re doing. Ignoring the question is often more detrimental to your application than understating or overstating an amount.

Conduct thorough research and remember that what you “earn” may be made up of other factors aside from your gross pay. There is no exact science on how to go about answering this question. Still, by following the guidelines above, you will be giving yourself some vital direction to tackle this difficult application question effectively.