Research is key.

'What's your salary expectation?' It's a question that appears in almost every interview, yet it inspires panic in many job seekers. Between wanting to impress the HR manager and trying to remember your entire professional history by heart, job seekers often forget to consider their salary expectations before sitting down for an interview. And if you haven't done your research or prepared an answer, you'll likely find yourself giving a figure that is either too low or too high for the job at hand.

So, how do you avoid a salary mishap before you've even been offered the role? Use these tips when preparing for your next interview.

Expect the question

The easiest way to feel confident when revealing your salary expectations is to walk in prepared. Know the figure you want, as well as how much you'd be willing to negotiate, before the interview starts. This will give you a good range to work with.

It also means that if the HR manager offers a salary, you'll know right away whether or not it is right for you, and you'll be able to ask if there is room to negotiate. The worst outcome would be walking out of that interview room having agreed to a salary amount that doesn't align with your basic living expenses. By walking in prepared, you'll prevent that mistake from happening.

Do your research

If you're unsure of how much money to ask for, do your research. Companies like Indeed and Glassdoor are known for publishing the average salaries for most job titles. Alternatively, simply Google search the job title with 'salary' and see what comes up.

For a more detailed response, try PayScale. You'll find the average salary and bonuses for your job title in a specific region. It will not only help to know how much you should be paid, but it will also help you determine how much a prospective company values its staff, since you'll know where their salary offerings sit within the average pay scale.

Give your salary expectation

It's a fair and simple question, but it has the ability to incite nerves in the best of us. You don't want to give a salary that's too high because you don't want to push yourself out of the running, but you also don't want to give a salary that's too low and undervalue yourself. So, how do you answer the question and still end up with a fair salary?

There are a number of ways you can approach this. If you're uncomfortable giving an exact figure, you could try something like, 'I understand the average salary for this role is £30,000–£40,000.' This way, you're not giving an exact figure, but you're letting them know that you've done your research and know what you should be earning. Alternatively, you could throw it back to the HR manager and ask, 'What is the approximate salary range being offered?' This will give you a good ballpark figure to base your answer on.

Another approach, which may not be for everyone, is to sidestep the question altogether. For example, if you're in a position to be flexible with the salary and there are other benefits or opportunities that could open up as a result of obtaining the role, you could try something like, 'I'm open to being flexible with the salary that is offered, as I am more interested in the opportunities this role will bring to my career.'

No matter the response you choose, two things are paramount. The first is that you value your own worth as an employee. The second is that you understand prior to the interview how much you realistically need to earn to cover your living expenses ‒ then don't dip below that figure.

Salary transparency

Pay ratio regulations that came into effect in the UK in 2019 now make it a statutory requirement for UK-listed companies with more than 250 employees to disclose the salary gap between their CEOs and their average-earning workers each year. And these companies aren't alone.

Several companies across the globe are now endorsing salary transparency. Take Buffer, for example. In a movement to encourage openness and eliminate the gender pay gap, the social media management software company published all of its employees' salaries online for anyone to see.

Not only does salary transparency help employees to understand whether or not they are being paid equally, but it also assists staff when asking for promotions or negotiating salary increases. For some employees who value their privacy, salary transparency may not be the most comfortable solution. However, it is a step in the right direction towards reducing unfair pay gaps.

Final thoughts

The interview question on salary expectations is here to stay. The most important thing to remember is not to let it shake you. By asking the question, the recruiter or HR manager is trying to understand if they can afford you and if your expectations align with the role being offered. There's no shame in putting forward the figure you want ‒ just make sure it's realistic.

To an employer, your CV says a lot about what you're worth. Find out how yours presents you by getting a free CV critique.

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