The two most common salary questions in the job search

Out of all the questions people answer during a job search, there is one type that is particularly stressful: salary-related questions.

There are two common salary questions that you can expect in most interview processes:

  1. What is your current salary?
  2. What are your salary expectations?

Let’s decode why your interviewer is asking you this, why it may stress you out, and most importantly how to answer.

Salary question #1: What are you earning in your current role?

Why your interviewer is asking: Most interviewers/recruiters know that when candidates are making a move to a new company, they likely want to earn more than they’re currently making. Basically, they don’t want to waste their time with many rounds of interviews if you’re going to turn down the offer because of the salary.

Why you may be anxious: If you’re earning less than you think you should be, you may think that disclosing your current salary will result in a lower offer and that is not entirely untrue.

How to answer: Share the truth, but incorporate compensation beyond base salary. You want to give your interviewer a picture of your “total compensation” and perks. For example you might say, “I make X in base salary, have a X% bonus opportunity which I’ve hit for the last 2 years, and I also do not pay for healthcare, which I consider a big perk.”

This way, if the company you’re interviewing with doesn’t cover healthcare, they know they will have to compensate you in some other way. This is assuming they do want to make the offer compelling to you.

If you feel that your salary is too low (even when including other factors) you should still share the truth but you should pair that factual information with, “however, my expectations in order to make a move are X.”

Which brings us to our next common salary question…

Salary question #2: What are your salary expectations?

Why your interviewer is asking: Most companies have a budget in mind for a specific role. It is usually a range. Your interviewer just wants to know that your expectation of the compensation is something they can actually offer.

Why you may be anxious: Most people in this scenario worry that they will share an expectation that is too high (interviewer will think they’re nuts) or too low (they will accidentally lowball themselves).

How to answer: DO YOUR RESEARCH, think about what you truly want, and don’t be afraid to share it.

Finding out what the market is paying for the type of role you’re interviewing for is key. I have a whole article about this here, but the resource I recommend most is Glassdoor. When you are researching salaries for the types of positions you are applying for, remember to consider location, the industry, and other factors that could affect the data.

What salary-related questions have you been asked lately? Did you have trouble answering them? Comment below!

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