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INTERVIEWS: How to answer “What are your wage/salary expectations?” for Experienced Workers

Written by Rod Scott, Employment Specialist with Next-Steps Employment Centre – Vaughan

No matter how great the job interview is going, there is always one question that stops you short: “What are you looking for in terms of salary?” 

Such a straightforward question, and yet, the answer is so complex.  You want to aim high, but what if you put yourself out of the employers range? On the other hand, if your target compensation is too low, the employer may think that you do not have the skills or confidence required to be successful in the role.

So, where does that leave you? In order to be successful and to leave the interview feeling confident about your salary answer, there are a few important points to consider:

  • Provide an answer. Some candidates try to skirt around the question with a broad answer, such as: “My salary expectations are in line with my experience and qualifications.” Or “If this is the right job for me, I am sure we can come to an agreement on salary.” But the recruiter or interviewer will likely be looking for a number, and will ask you a second time to clarify what amount you are expecting. If you keep providing a vague answer you will look evasive and unprepared.
  • Prepare a range. This interview question might come up when you least expect it: during a phone interview, in person, at an information interview, or in your first or second job interview.  If you are caught off guard, you could low-ball yourself or come across as confused. Always have a range in mind, and adjust this accordingly depending on the company and position you are interviewing for.
  • Demonstrate flexibility.  It’s important to be prepared and provide an amount, but you also want to convey that you have flexibility to negotiate. This allows the employer to understand that you are confident, and can allow you to discuss what skills and experience you have to offer. You don’t want to risk losing an opportunity because you refused to budge on your salary amount.

How Do You Determine Your Salary Expectations?

  • Depending on how much you want the job, your individual needs and circumstances, you can figure out a number to offer with confidence.
  • If you are moving to a position with more responsibility or in a different industry, it helps to do some research on the position and know what the going salary is for various company sizes.

Researching Salary Expectations

There are many websites that offer salary averages and estimates:

Remember, you don’t want to confront a hiring manager with unreasonable expectations. But you also want a salary you can live with. If that’s not in place, the job is not right for you.

Sample Answers

“I understand that positions similar to this one pay in the range of $X to $Z in our region. With my previous experience, I would expect to secure a salary in the range of $Y to $Z.”

“Based on my educational background and 6 years’ experience in this field, my salary expectation would be $X to $Z, however I am flexible to negotiate.”


Remember that you don’t have to do it alone! Want to get some help with your job search? Check out our monthly calendars to see upcoming events and workshops, and register at one of our 7 GTA locations. From one-on-one sessions to group workshops, our knowledgeable staff can help with your job search needs. All services are FREE!

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