How to answer the salary question in an interview

Another very difficult phase of interview for job seekers is the salary or payment discussion phase. Employers may bring up the topic of pay at some point in the interview process.

You may be asked for your salary expectations directly, asked to enter a number in an application form, or asked to respond to a pre-determined salary range offered by the employer.

While this question is one of them important questions recruiters ask, you may find it difficult to answer especially as it has to do with money but you can ease of yourself of this stress when you porepare to answer the question ahead.

Doing a research on average pay for both the role and your level of experience, affords you the chance to have productive and informative conversations about pay with your potential employers during interviews.


To be able to give the right answer to any question even beyond interview, you must be able to determine why the person has asked the question, this will put you at a better perspective to answer the question.

When an employer asks about your salary expectations, it’s usually for three reasons:

  • They have a budget. The recruiter wants to be sure your salary expectations align with the amount that has been planned for the job. Should it turn out most candidates are asking for an amount much higher than budgeted, it will mean requesting a larger budget for the role.
  • They want to gauge how well you know your worth. A good candidate knows how much their skill(s) is/are worth in the market and will say it with confidence. The recruiter may want to value you based on how much you request for, the onus then lies on you to place yourself on a reasonable pedestal.

To determine appropriate market value, factor in your level, years of experience and career achievements.

  • They want to determine whether you’re at the appropriate professional level.

The amount you give will help the recruiter determine if you are at a higher level than the role they are recruiting for, at the same level or possibly at a lower level.

The answer you give to this question could go a long way in determining your pay, therefore, you want to be equipped with the right information so you don’t end up shortchanging yourself.


In answering this question, it is important that you give an answer based on real data which you can get by researching online.  There are websites available to help you calculate the right salary for the role you are applying for and also putting into consideration your knowledge, location, industry and experience. You can also get help from top leading job portal like Delon Jobs.

Be mindful of the fact that salaries vary not only by career level and company but also by geographical location. When making research about the salary range for a position, also put into consideration where the role is located and cost-of-living in that area.

For example, a job located in a city like Lagos will likely pay higher salary than the same position located in a rural area like Ondo or Ekiti.

When determining how much you will like to be paid, you should put into your thoughts the following factors: your seniority, experience level, educational background and any specializations or unique skills other applicants in the field may not have.


Guidelines to help you communicate your salary expectation

As earlier stated, talking about salary with a recruiter can be a difficulty especially for a first time job seeker with no experience; you don’t want to come off as too expensive at the same time you don’t want to be shortchanged. This can make you end up confused.

However, with adequate research and preparation, these guidelines can further help you negotiate your way into profitability

 Aim for the top
Once you have information about the average salary for the position you’re interviewing for, consider topping up your expectations. This is because, most of the time, recruiters want to start off at the lower end of the amount you provide. By topping up, it helps you ensure that even if you’re offered the lowest of what you provided, you are still within your target.

Example, if you want to make #50,000, don’t say you’re looking for a salary between #45,000 and #55,000. Instead, give a range of #50,000 to #55,000.

Exude confidence

Recruiters are interested in how you give your answer as much as they are interested in what you say. Talk about your salary expectation confidently, this will show that you know what you want and what you are worth and as much as you are open to negotiation you wouldn’t take less than your value.


 Give little information

Though it isn’t very necessary that get into details of how you arrived at your pay expectation, you should share a bit of information to show that you’ve made your research. At the same time, mentioning your experience, education and other skills that qualifies you to earn that will better increase your chances.

Here’s an example of how to apply this tip:

“The average salary for this position in this area for a professional with my level of experience is between #100,000 and #150,000, so that would be my salary expectation for this role.”

When an interviewer asks about your salary expectations, having a well-formulated, data-backed answer will ensure you’re not undercutting yourself or aiming over the market value. By giving an honest, informed response, you can help the interviewer better understand whether your expectations align and, if things go well, what sort of salary will be attractive enough to get you on board.

Practical ways to answer the question

When a recruiter or hiring manager asks, “What are your salary expectations?” there are a few ways you can answer. Here are some of the ways you can answer the question:

  • Give a range
    If you are not comfortable with giving a single number, then you can give a range instead. Although, make sure that your target pay is close to the lowest number you give because the recruiter is likely to jump in the lowest. Also, keep your range somewhat tight with a variance of not more than #5,000 to #10,000.

Example: “I am seeking a position that pays between #75,000 and #80,000 monthly.”

  • Include negotiation options
    In addition to your salary, there may be other benefits or forms of compensation you consider just as valuable. Including these as possible opportunities for negotiation is an option, too. For example, while the employer may not have budgeted enough for your ideal salary range, they may be willing to offer equity in the company to make the compensation package more attractive to you.

Example: “I am seeking a position that pays between #75,000 and #80,000 monthly, but I am open to negotiate salary depending on benefits, bonuses, equity, stock options and other opportunities.”

  • Delay the question
    If you’re still early in the hiring process and still learning the specifics about the job duties and expectations, you may want to delay the question for later in the conversation but know that you will eventually have to discuss salary expectations.

All the same, you should be prepared with your answer and must have done your research.

Example: “Before I answer, I’d like to ask a few more questions to get a better idea of what the position entails. That way, I can provide a more realistic expectation.”

Sample answers for the question “What is Your Salary Expectation?”

Here are a few examples to guide you with more context as you research average salaries and also determine what is best for you.

Example 1:
“While I am certainly flexible, I am looking to receive between #85,000 and #90,000 monthly. Due to my skill set and experience level, I feel that this is a comfortable and appropriate range for my work.”

Example 2:
“My baseline salary requirement is #90,500. I feel that the value and expertise I can bring to this role supports my compensation expectations. Is this in line with your thoughts?”

By Deborah Yusuf

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