How to answer the Dreaded Salary Question

Whether it’s a required field on an online application, a requirement on your application, cover letter or face to face in an interview room, the question ‘what are your salary expectations’ works up a sweat! If you bid too low, you may lose thousands but again if you bid too high, you may be eliminating yourself from your dream job. So, what is the best answer?

Employers ask this question to confirm wether you will be within their salary range. It is also good for you too, who would want to go through the whole time consuming interview process just to find out even your current salary is out of a company’s salary range? Not me!

First things first……prepare yourself:

  1. Do your homework: Research, get to know the market rates. How? Ask around from your friends, family and colleagues what a salary range would be, make google your friend or even make friends with a recruiter 😉 Just find a way!
  2. What can you bring to the table: Consider your skills, academic/professional qualifications and experience that you could bring to a company that will make a difference. You can use your skills to leverage for more but be careful, if the market is flooded with your skills (like accounting in Kenya at the moment) you may not have much leverage.
  3. Always have a figure in mind: calculate an estimated increase from your current basic salary and remember….be realistic

The top three approaches to answer this question are:
1. The number
This is the easiest way to calculate and explain your figure in case you’re asked. Calculate a 10%-20% increase of your salary mentioning that the figure is negotiable. If you’d like, you could always try for more, this is all up to you. Be realistic though, an 80%-100% increase as much as it would be great, may be impracticable. You’d rather be lower than the salary range than above it.
2. The range
When you select a range, ensure that the lower amount you indicate is a figure that you are truly comfortable with in the event that this becomes your new salary.
The difference between the lower end to higher end amount in a range should not be too big like Kshs. 49,000 to Kshs. 99,000?! Crazy right? Kshs. 49,000 to Kshs. 59,000 is a more comfortable range.
3. The dodge
If you really don’t want to give a number, you could try deflect the question or mention that you are more interested in joining the company and are willing to take up a salary that is within their range.
This is a tactic most interviewees use and I wouldn’t recommend it. If an employer asks this question, more often than not, an answer which has a figure is expected.

How to answer the salary question in an online application

In the field provided, you could answer this question as a) Kshs. 49,000(or any other currency) b) KShs. 49,000 to Kshs. 59,000 (range) c) 49,000

This however depends on the online application. Some fields provided only accept numbers, some allow more characters and others even provide a range as a drop down.

How to answer the salary question in a cover letter

Here, do not complicate it, keep it short and simple….one paragraph, maximum three lines.

My expected salary for this position is Kshs. 79,000. However, there are other things to consider and I am excited to find out more about this role. I welcome the opportunity to discuss my application with you further.

How to answer the salary question in an interview room

At the interview, you could mention that you are willing to work with what is within their salary range. It would be nice to reinforce your enthusiasm to work with the organization and your interest in the position in particular.

Always be prepared with a figure or range in mind. If you try to dodge the question and are asked again about your expectations (which will probably happen), its best to answer…..malizana tu nayo haraka 🙂

Nice notes to know:

  • Most companies have pre-determined salary scales/bands and can only pay within these scales/bands wether your salary expectation is higher or lower.
  • Mentioning a figure or range does not lock you out from negotiating for more when you are given an offer
  • Avoid the words ‘minimum’ and ‘non-negotiable’. Be flexible, always be willing to discuss, there may be other benefits that may make the compensation package more attractive.
  • Do not ignore the question or leave it blank

After all is said and done, remember it is important to show that you care more about the position and/or what the work entails and working with the company more than the salary.

Till next time…Kwaheri!

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8 thoughts on “How to answer the Dreaded Salary Question

  1. Jackson Asenahavi Shigoli says:

    2 interviews I went to they weren’t successful, I was aiming too high. Now I have learnt how to go about it. Thanks. Wonderful post!

  2. Amazing Kisumu says:

    Reblogged this on Amazing Kisumu and commented:
    Whether it’s a required field on an online application, a requirement on your application, cover letter or face to face in an interview room, the question ‘what are your salary expectations’ works up a sweat! If you bid too low, you may lose thousands but again if you bid too high, you may be eliminating yourself from your dream job. So, what is the best answer?

    Employers ask this question to confirm wether you will be within their salary range. It is also good for you too, who would want to go through the whole time consuming interview process just to find out even your current salary is out of a company’s salary range? Not me!

    First things first……prepare yourself:

  3. Roxana Kuria says:

    it’s very enlightening…Thank you next time will know the best way to respond to the question in an interview.

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