Most of us work to earn money for a living. Therefore, salary is a must have topic in every job interview. Having a mutual agreement on salary decides if you are appropriate to work in the company. There are many ways to answer interview salary questions, depends on which case you are in.

Why do they ask this question?

The tricky thing is that you and the interviewers have opposing goals: you’re always eager to get the highest possible number, while the employers like the contrast. However, money is the most important but not everything they are looking for in your answers. The main reasons are:

They have a budget

The company must’ve calculated a salary budget for the job, that’s how business works. If you ask for much more than what they have, they won’t be able to accept you (unless special cases when they want you so much). And if most candidates are asking for a great deal more than anticipated, the employers might consider giving a larger budget for the position.

They want to know how well you know your worth

A good candidate must know how much their ability worth in the market and he/she can share it with confidence. Hearing your answers, the recruiters also can determine your appropriate market value combined with other factors such as your years of experience and career achievements.

– They want to know whether you’re at the appropriate professional level

Someone who asks for a significantly higher salary than other candidates may be too senior for the role. Otherwise, asking for a much lower number could show that you’re at a lower level than the job requires. Of course, the interviewers always know if your answer is reliable, exact or you are just overrating/underrating yourself.

Keep in mind that your answers to interview salary questions can be the beginning of the salary negotiation process – which is very important in every interview. So prepare well and choose your words wisely.

However, there’re many types of other interview salary questions besides your salary expectation for the new job. In order to have a successful interview, you need to know how to answer them all.

Money is a very important factor in work (Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash)

Sample interview salary questions & answers

The most important question: What are your salary expectation?

  • Flexible

– My salary expectations are of course must be in line with my experience and qualifications

– If this is the right job for me and I am the one your company looking for, I am sure we can come to an agreement on the salary.

– My salary requirements are flexible. Due to my long time experience in the field, I want to discuss with you more about what my responsibilities at this position would be. From there, we both can agree on a fair salary.

  • Offer a range

Giving a range of numbers is the most usual answer and we also recommend this one. This way means you both remain flexible and have a clear answer. Certainly, the range must be determined by many factors: your ability, the job conditions, your own experience, the industry, etc. Normally, just think about your current salary and raise up from 10 to 20 percent.

You also need to know that if you offer a range, usually the employers will choose the low end of the range in their initial offer. You should bump up the range a bit. For example, if you say the range is $1300 to $1500, their offer would definitely be $1300. Being offered the top of the range is only for excellent candidate. Don’t make a too large range, too.

– I think we all know that positions similar to this one pay in the range of $1000 to $1500 in labor market at present. With my experience, skills, and certifications, I would expect a salary in the general range of $1300 to $1500

– I am willing to discussing more about the salary. However, based on my previous salary and my knowledge of the industry, I would expect to receive a gross salary in the range of $1300 to $1500.

  • An exact number

To be straight and in case you can’t give a range, giving them a single number is ok. Choose the middle of your range, a little bit lower or higher are all good.

– I am looking for compensation 2000$ a month. I think this a reasonable number which is average in this industry.

  • Or you just DON’T answer

You can ask them to discuss more if you haven’t understand fully about the job. However, you may still need to get back to 3 options above.

– Because this job is not exactly the same as my last one. Therefore, I think we should discuss about more about what my responsibilities will be and work together to determine a fair salary.

– I would prefer to know more about the job requirements and your expectations first to give you a realistic number.

 2. What’s your salary history?

There are 2 options for you:

  • Tell them, truthfully

Ex: I am currently earning about 2000$ per month. I am looking for a position that will offer me competitive growth and salary. I expect a higher earning than present.”

  • Don’t do that

Many people feel that salary history is nobody’s business but their own. By asking you this matter, they might want to give you something the same. And I bet that is absolutely not what you want.

Ex: I think it would be unnecessary because my last job is entirely different in responsibilities,the base, and the bonus structure with this one. Therefore, I hope we will discuss about the salary for this new job instead.

 3. What were your starting and final levels of compensation?

This is a simple question and shouldn’t be complicated. All you need to highlight is how it has changed over the years (it should be impressive, if it is not, just tell the truth normally). You can also include bonuses and any other benefits you may have received.

Ex: In my first job which I started 5 years ago, it was about $300 a month. My earnings certainly has to rise over time along with my job title. It finished at $1000 with my last position as executive account. Moreover, I got free lunch on working days and extra paid holidays.

 4. Why would you take a job that paid less money?

In this case, you just need to talk honestly because there’s always a special and reasonable reason for this.

  • My reason is that my highest career value is not money, but what I can learn and grow by working here. I would be willing to listen to a fair offer, even if that is less than what I have been paid before.
  • As you know, the reason why I left my last job was because the total working time required is too much for me since I have become a mother. Because this position in your company requires less working hours, it’s quite obvious that the compensation can’t be the same. I am willing to earn less but have more free time to take care of my child.
  • To me, this opportunity to work in an international environment is very valuable. I am willing to look at the bigger picture. I would want to be paid according to what I bring to the position.
How you answer interview salary questions decides your life in the near future (Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash)

Notes to take

1. Talk about money up front if needed

Some people even think that we should ask about salary and benefits package BEFORE the interview. Their reason is that there’s no need to waste both side’s time (an interview can last up to hours) with the interview process if the salary isn’t in the ballpark of what they’re searching for.

However, this would be a bad idea if the position is your dream job and salary is nothing important. If you intended to take the job no matter what, wait until they bring up the matter.

And make sure to ask everything politely, avoid making them think money is your main motivator (even if it’s true!). After all, your focus in the interview should be on expressing yourself, knowing about the job and earning their trust and respect.

2. Only give numbers you’d be happy with

As we have said before, we work to earn money. Some of us even have to support other people (your parents, spouse, children). Don’t be too easy and let them persuade you a number which is not acceptable.

3. A helpful tips: Highlight your skills by the way

Don’t miss any chance to impress them and express yourself. You can say something like: “Based on my … years of experience, I would expect…”

4. Know your salary target clearly BEFORE entering the interview room

You need to do this even as you begin your job search. If you have had experience, you would know that job ads and job interviews are not market-value research. The simple reason is that every company are trying to offer the less the better. You should also set a number for yourself, you can do the job with at least how much money? If they insist on something below that, think about your next chance.

5. Understand your situation

This is the problem everyone needs facing whenever finding a new job:  A too high number can immediately kick you out of consideration before you’ve even had a chance to make a good impression later. Meanwhile, going too low can also put you in a position where you can’t turn the job down, which finally makes you disappointed and regret with a low salary. This case happens quite frequently to freshers or people who have big desperation of getting the job. And sadly, this rarely leads to a happy work situation.

Useful words & phrases

Here are some useful words you might need to use in your next interview:


to be discussed or changed in order to reach an agreement (Cambridge dictionary) = flexible

Ex: I am negotiable with my salary expectations.

Types of compensation which you needs to understand to avoid confusion ( Photo from Patriotsoftware)


compensation # salary # earning # benefit

  • Compensation: the total cash and non-cash payments you get in exchange for the work you do for their business. This consists of everything from salary, overtime wages, tip income, bonus pay to any benefit. Remuneration is almost the same word.
  • Base pay/base salary: the minimum amount before taxes and other deductions.
  • Benefits include insurances, standard vacation policy, retirement, etc

Net salary vs Gross salary

Gross Salary Net salary
total amount before taxes or costs or other deductions have been taken out total amount after taxes or costs have been removed, commonly known as Take-Home Salary, is the income that the employee actually takes home.


If you want to prepare carefully for a job interview, practice frequently before is a must. When practicing, remember to learn by heart all the keywords such as some we listed above. If you are afraid that you can’t learn too many words in a short time. Don’t worry, because eJOY may help you! Let’s take a look:

eJOY has special Word book for Job Interview. You can learn new words everyday in wordbooks by playing games or watching videos

Interview salary questions is not the only thing you have to face in an interview. Learn how to answer others Interview with us!

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