When Asked Salary Expectations, What Should You Say to Recruiters?

When Asked Salary Expectations, What Should You Say to Recruiters?

Here’s a common scenario for jobseekers: You’re in an interview and the recruiter asks, “What are your salary expectations for this role?” You might respond, “Well that depends. What’s the range you have for this role?” At this point, it becomes a sort of standoff. 

So, how do experts recommend you approach this situation? Keep reading for their takes on responding to recruiters about salary expectations and scroll down to access more resources on salary and the job search.

Salary Negotiation Consultant of Pathrise, Alex Immel

My opinion is that you should NOT provide a salary range. If you do, it can be a lose-lose situation. For example, if your range is too high, it could immediately disqualify you from the interview process. If it’s too low, you could undervalue yourself and employers will take advantage of that by offering you slightly above what you’re asking for. This would make it seem like you’re getting a great offer but in reality, they could’ve offered you a lot more. There’s a lot of money left on the table because of this. 

The counterargument is that you don’t want to waste your time on opportunities that are too high above or below your salary expectations. This is what recruiters say – they don’t want to waste the candidates’ time or their own time if they go through the whole interview process and extend an offer that is far off of the expectations and the candidate rejects the offer.

This is a very fair counterargument and I’ve found that the right middle ground is to put the question back on the recruiter. Rather than giving your salary range, ask the recruiter for their budget for the role. Because of salary transparency laws, they sometimes have to share this information. But even if they aren’t, they will typically share a range and you can respond with whether that meets your expectations or not. Even if it doesn’t, they may still have the ability to go outside of their pay bands for the right person so if it’s close, I’d continue the interview process. If it’s way off, then you respectfully part ways. 

Here’s how I recommend people answer the salary expectations question: 

“If you and the team determine I’m the best fit for the position, I’m sure we’ll be able to reach an agreement on the salary. I’m willing to be flexible. What is the budgeted salary range for this role?”

Tip: Contrary to popular belief, base salary and bonuses are not the only things “on the table” in a negotiation. Check out a list of potential job offer negotiables in The Ultimate Guide to Salary Negotiation. You might be surprised!

Founder & CEO of Ladies Get Paid, Claire Wasserman

During the interview process

It depends on where you are in the process. If you don’t have an offer yet, your goal is to get to the next interview and then the next and then to get the offer. So you don’t want to do anything that disqualifies you. 

If it’s an online application, put the low end of the range you found in your research. It may seem counterintuitive. However, if you put a high number during the application stage, it might filter you out and prevent you from getting an interview.

If it’s during a conversation at the beginning of an interview, avoid saying your number. You might instead say, “I’m hesitant to lose the opportunity on the off chance I quote something too high. The search I was around X. Is that close to what you budgeted?” You might also say, “I would prefer to learn more about the position and how I could contribute to your team before discussing salary.”

After they’ve extended an offer

If they extended the offer you can say, “I found in my research that a top performer makes about X. Since I hope I’ve proven myself to be one, I’d expect something close – especially since I know you’re a company that values pay equity and invests in their employees.”

Cite the research and don’t hold yourself to one number because it might take you out of the running. That being said when you get the offer, absolutely say the top dollar again based on research. 

Career Expert, CPCC, & CPRW at TopResume, Amanda Augustine

Start by saying, “Based on my research and what I know about the role today, here’s the range I’m seeing online based on X, Y, and Z resources. However, I’d love to learn more about the role and how I could provide value before negotiating any specific numbers.” I think it’s opening the door and ensuring that conversation. 

There’s always the advice to try and push it off too. You might say, “I’ve done some research but I’d love to learn more about the role before we talk numbers. Let’s make sure I’m the right fit for this role and this is the right opportunity for me.”

I find that recruiters and employers often say, “No, I need a number now. I don’t want to waste your time or mine. If your number is way out of our range, give us a number.” You’re kind of pushed to give something. It’s always best to have an educated number based on real research. 

Director of Global Talent Acquisition at Glassdoor, Amy Farrar 

If transparency and compensation are not part of a company’s philosophy, it’s really difficult to get past the initial stage. The recruiter wants to know if you are in the correct range. But it’s almost as if they’re not prepared to give you that. Then, it’s on them to make sure you’re the right person to move forward. 

If they come back to you saying it depends, ask a question: “What’s a comparable, rough idea of what people are currently making in this organization who are doing the same role?”

You might get an idea of what people earn at the organization before you take the time to go through an interview process. It might result in realizing the compensation was way off. I would not shy away from the conversation early on. 

We’re seeing transparency become a key part of compensation across other organizations. Certain states are specifying companies advertise compensation in job descriptions, which I think is fantastic. The pressure is on employers to give an answer and to make sure it’s right for you to move forward — not the other way around. 

Answer with confidence 

Simply put, do your research, and don’t be afraid to present a number first when asked about salary expectations. If you know what you’re worth and that number works for you, you can confidently say it out loud! 

To see how companies value your tech experience, use Hired’s salary calculator featuring real-time data. 

Sharing salary preferences puts the power in your hands 

Jobseekers using the Hired platform have the benefit of seeing the salary offer from companies up front. In other words, no confusion and no awkward conversations. Companies apply to you, prepared to offer the salary you desire.   

Ready to find your dream job? Create your free Hired profile to employ your potential in a new tech or sales role. 

Watch the full How to Build Leverage in a Volatile Job Market webinar and get insights from all the panelists.

Originally published Dec 2022. Edited on July 24, 2023.