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How to Answer When They Ask Your Expected Salary

Alan Writer

As a fresh graduate, this could be your first professional job. Yet often these days there's a question when it comes to your salary. It can happen when you're applying for the role online or when you have a screening interview with the Human Resources team. It can even happen at the end of the interview process when they're ready to offer you the job itself. It seems an awkward question to answer, especially when you're doing it for the first time. 

Understanding why they ask this question

A few reasons come from this question, and knowing about this when you're just a graduate is important. First, the company and hiring team wants to ensure that your salary expectations align with what the company is offering. As a graduate, that may not seem necessary as you may be looking for any initial position in your industry and thus be willing to accept any initial amount.

The other reason that comes from this is they want to know if they've properly budgeted for the role. It helps Human Resources and hiring managers gauge what the market is looking to be paid. Remember, you're not the only one to apply for the job, and so this is a data point that can be collected that's quite relevant. 

How to approach the question

First, do your research. There are plenty of sites out there and market reports that have prepared salary data. These data points can either be on years of experience in an industry or specifically for each job. You want to understand what the current market rates are and show that when you’re making your proposal. 

If you don't want to give a fixed number, a range is appropriate, but it should also make sense and only be a few thousand pounds' difference, and not tens of thousands of pounds, as that could be too huge of a range. 

Also, take the time to think about your costs and expenses to see what you'll be comfortable accepting. That also means you don't always need to provide the lower end of the salary range, as many companies will still look for the most qualified candidates within the budget. 

Some things to consider

You do need to answer the question when it's asked. Even if the question is asked online but doesn't appear to be a requirement. The hiring team will appreciate it, as they can associate the figure or range with you and show that you're a professional who has done professional homework. Also, the days of being vague are over, and many companies insist on a specific amount. Don't put something such as commensurate with experience because it will come off as if you’re passing the question back to the hiring team. 

It could also work against you, as it could have them put you at the lowest starting point from the overall market range for the salary since, technically, you're a graduate with minimal experience. 

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