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How to Successfully Discuss Salary Expectations in a Job Interview

Discussing salary expectations is often awkward, but it doesn’t have to be. Discover how to prepare for and be successful in your salary negotiations.

Gabriele Culot
Written by Gabriele Culot
January 25, 2023
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Key Takeaways

  1. Research the role, market, and company, before you determine your expected salary.
  2. Self-assess to make sure you are asking for compensation that is fair to you and realistic.
  3. Be confident and positive. The right attitude can go a long way.

Any new job interview will include what most people find to be an awkward moment: the salary expectations question. Reasons for this awkwardness vary from person to person, they can be cultural or personal, but it’s rarely a pleasant moment.

However, knowing how to address conversations about salary and compensation expectations is a valuable skill that can help you approach the interview process more calmly and with better focus. It can help you make a good impression on recruiters by communicating you know the market, are aware of the value of your labor, and are not wasting anyone’s time. 

Below are our top tips to help you confidently approach salary negotiations. Try them out in your next interviews and see what a difference they can make both in mindset and results.

Be prepared

Make sure a salary conversation goes well before you sit down with the recruiter. You can take several steps before your interview to ensure things go smoothly.

Do your research. 

  • Before going into the interview, research details about the role, market, and payscale, so that you can approach the conversation with the confidence of data and information. Make sure you know about:

  • The salary range for your role

  • Salary benchmarks in your market or area

  • Mandatory benefits like paid time off and 13th-month salary

  • Typical perks in for your role or industry

  • Cost of living data for the area you will work in

  • Your market value, as a combination of your salary history, years of experience, and skillset

Be informed. 

  • Knowledge is power, and the more you know about the company you are applying to, the role you are applying for, and what current trends and news from the market are, the more you will be able to back up your requests with relevant points. Examples of questions you should ask yourself to help make your point include:

  • Is the company known for paying well?

  • Is demand for your role growing or declining?

  • Are there certifications, soft skills, or other unique strengths in your profile that make you the perfect candidate for this role?

  • How many players are on the market?

  • Is the global market booming, or are there fears of recession?

  • What is the average salary for your role, and how does that compare to your desired salary?

You can find most of this information by doing some research on sites like LinkedIn, Glassdoor, or

Know your worth

When determining your salary expectations, average ranges and benchmarks can only go so far. Each application will be different, and your specific skills and qualities will weigh big on what you can expect. Honest self-assessment is crucial, as is confidence in your decisions. These will help you avoid the common mistakes many job seekers end up making.

  • Don’t undersell yourself. A career change should be a progression, both in terms of role and responsibilities as well as benefits package. Moreover, lowballing yourself may give the impression that you don’t know or understand the market.

  • Be realistic. Just because top performers make a certain amount doesn’t mean you fit the profile. As with the previous point, a wildly eccentric request may make you look unprofessional or inexperienced.

  • Be flexible. While it is important to know your worth, be flexible in your negotiations. Salary is often one of many factors that make up your total compensation package. Consider bonuses, stock options, and other standard benefits. These all add to your starting salary, so determine what counts for you and your baseline.

  • Identify a salary range. Fair compensation depends on many variables, so the best strategy is to identify a salary range that works for you when negotiating. This will give you more room to negotiate than a fixed amount. Just ensure the lower end of the range you set is one you are comfortable accepting.

Mental preparation

So you have all the information you need, are ready to make your case and know what you want. The next important step is to ensure you don’t fold under pressure. Most of this pressure is self-inflicted, so you can work on it.

  • Everyone does it. As awkward as they may be, salary expectation conversations are a normal part of the hiring process, something recruiters see daily.

  • It takes two to tango. Just as you may want a specific role in a particular company, hiring managers are also looking for the right person. If that person is you, and your expectations are realistic, they will likely be met.

  • There’s room for negotiation. Even if your initial expectations aren’t met with a positive response, there is often still room to talk. Make a reasonable counteroffer and see how things go from there.

  • You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. It might feel uncomfortable at first, you may feel you can’t ask for a certain amount, and you may feel imposter syndrome creeping up, but there is no penalty for taking a shot. Ask what you think is fair, and take it from there.

  • Practice gets you hired. Practicing your salary request can be very helpful. Hearing yourself say your expected salary out loud and getting used to it can make the difference between comfortably asking for it when the time comes or feeling so uncomfortable you end up with a lower salary than you could have negotiated for. Practicing with friends is a great idea; they may have valuable tips for you.

  • You can always leave. It’s important to keep in mind that you are always free to leave. Just because negotiations are not going your way doesn’t mean you have to accept conditions you are not comfortable with. Being aware of this freedom can help approach negotiations with more ease.

Navigate the conversation effectively

It’s time. You’re sitting with the recruiter and ready to go. Luckily you prepared beforehand, but there are still a few aces up your sleeve you can benefit from during the conversation.

  • Keep it pleasant. Good vibes can go a long way, and gliding into salary conversations after an enjoyable conversation can make things easy.

  • Don’t feel pressured. If you need more information before you mention your expectations, ask and give an informed answer once you have all the data you need.

  • Don’t get pigeonholed. Avoid making demands or ultimatums, as they don’t give any room to negotiate or maneuver.

  • Be confident. If you did your prep work and salary research, you will know your expectations are realistic and honest.

  • Be bold and ask questions. If you are unsure about the company’s salary structure or how they determine compensation, feel free to ask questions.

  • Stay positive and professional. Not all negotiations will go your way or be smooth; that’s normal. Even if you are not hired this time, making a good impression can prove useful in the future, should a potential employer need someone with your skills.

Keep making the most out of your career

If you follow the process, you can confidently and successfully negotiate not just a fair salary, but the one you deserve. Have fun!

However, career development and job hunting are about much more than compensation and effective negotiation of your salary requirements. Want to learn more about making the most out of your job search and career? Read more about how to make your resume stand out and how to get a promotion.

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