Answering the Dreaded Salary Question

You know it’s coming.  Be ready to answer the question.

What is your Salary Expectation?

After hearing the same question over and over again, a job seeker can get really frustrated and discouraged from the fearful salary question.


Fear not, courageous job seeker, hope and encouragement are here! Follow these six rules and you should find a middle ground with the recruiting team.




Don’t Respond with Emotion

Recognize that the recruiter or company representative isn’t asking the salary question to elicit ulcers, or trap you into a hard range.  The basic question mainly being asked, is do you fit the requisition and job description.  If you are unassuming and “hate” this question, it will show in your response. Know the question is coming and prepare to answer it.


Do Research on Salary

Preliminary research on salary ranges for the positions prepares you to discuss ranges in recruiter language. A simple search on,,, Linkedin Salary, or any resource you can find–sometimes inside the company–prior to any interview.  Having factual market data will help you respond positively to the salary question.


Prepare a Response Script

Prepare a series of response scripts to handle the question in a positive, direct and diplomatic way.  An opening response might look something like: “Salary is only one area of interest to determine fit. I’m sure you would agree, if you and the hiring team feel that I am right for this role, that I’m certain we can work out a total compensation package that works for both of us. When is the hiring team available for the next interview?”


Press Back, Do Not Push Back

When pushed, respectfully press back with your script.  A follow-up response might yield the salary range.  Frequently a role is being back-filled by the recruiter and a generally accepted salary range already exists: 


Direct Question, Direct Answer

At the point it feels combative, some relentless recruiters will tug at this question until you give them an answer.  The research you have done on a fair salary range along with your highly desired top end:

“You know Ms./Mr. Recruiter, I am reasonable and negotiable within the market range for this role. Based on my research, it’s clear that the market range for the role is in the $95,000 to $145,500 in salary alone. How does that match your budgeted range?”


The Recruiter Is On Your Side

The recruiter wants to find the right fit for skills and culture too.  Your resistance is sometimes uncomfortable for the recruiter, just as the recruiter asking is uncomfortable for you.  Recruiting staff are many times following corporate policy and procedure.  

Pursue opportunities through both front door (online direct application) and back door (working your way through the networking process).  The 1-2 combination should land you the perfect position when you understand who you are and what you want to do next.

Andrew Beach

Andrew Beach

Branding Specialist | Executive Career Coach | Teaching Self-Awareness

I help take the mystery out of finding your dream job. Through a direct and pragmatic process, we will guide you to the path. One step at a time, just a little bit closer to your passion.  It's through my personal story of finding meaningful work that I can share with you what I've learned.

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