How to Answer The Interview Question: “What Is Your Expected Salary?” – Part 1

This article, and the two that follow, talk about how to approach the interview question “What is your expected salary?” In this first discussion, we’ll cover what a job interview really is.

According to 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement by SHRM, compensation or pay is the third most important aspect in job satisfaction (60%), right after job opportunities (63%) and job security (61%).

This report shows that being overworked and yet underpaid leads directly to job dissatisfaction. The catch is, unfortunately, this fixed amount of money you receive was usually set up when you sat in that first interview.

How should we approach this sensitive matter? During an interview, is it okay to state a number first, or should we persist in forcing the employer to give a range?

salary interview question

But first, the basics

What is a job interview? Basically, an employer has a vacant seat and he wants to find the right piece of the puzzle. The candidate brings their piece of the puzzle to the interview to see if it fits.

But most often, as soon as we walk into that strange room with strange people, we feel like a gazelle hunted by the lions on the savannah. Almost instinctively, we try to impress and please them as much as we can.

Here’s something your prospective employers never tell you: they are already impressed with you. Out of the piles of resumes, they specifically handpicked you for an interview. Now their job is to make sure that you are the right piece of the puzzle they’ve been waiting for.

And your job is to figure out if you want to be the right piece of the puzzle to complete the set.

The job interview paradox

In approaching job interviews, some describe them as a game, while others think of them as a talent show.

Such descriptions portray nailing that job interview as a plain win-lose situation, with our job being to mould ourselves to an employer’s liking and interest to win the prize called contract offer.

They show the job interview as a one-way street where the employer controls everything.

But that’s not true. On the contrary, a job interview is more like dating.

You have an interest in the employer already (if not, you wouldn’t apply for the job), and the employer has an interest in you (if not, they wouldn’t ask you for an interview). Meeting face-to-face is a way for them to see if you will fit their company culture, and if their company values are adjacent to yours.

So the next time you are preparing for a job interview, remember that it’s a two-way street, and the employer’s not the only one who holds the key to your next pay cheque – you do too!

Watch for Parts 2 and 3 of this series, where we will further discuss how to best approach the salary interview question and whether you should be the first to state a number.