Turns out there is a perfect answer to: 'What are your salary expectations?'

In the words of Eminem: "Palms sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy." 

That's right, the lyrics to that song are actually about the salary expectation question in job interviews (for legal reasons, that is a joke).

Still, the adjectives hold up. 

You think you've nailed the interview, you're about to stand up and shake hands with the person you've met with and they ask the dreaded question: "What are your salary expectations?"

I can't be the only person who rehearses the answer to that question over and over, only to throw that all out the window when the time comes and blurt out a number I immediately regret.

The angel and devil pop up on my shoulders:

"If I say a number too high, they might not hire me." 

"If I say a number too low, I'd regret it and might end up resenting the work."

Recently, there has been more pressure to answer this question. 

In 2022, the Australian Financial Review reported "workers who moved jobs in mid-2021 nabbed pay rises of between 8 per cent and 10 per cent, far higher than the wage rise they would have obtained had they stayed put."

This has made nailing the answer to the salary expectation question even more stressful. For some people, changing jobs could be their only chance to get their desired salary right off the bat. 

So how do we actually go about answering that question? Well, there are a few steps to help.


But first, watch: Men and women negotiating their salary. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia

1. Trick yourself into being confident.

No matter how prepared you are, we all get a little nervous during a job interview. Sometimes it’s hard to hide and we get shaky hands or a quiver in our voice when we speak.

Sarah and Emma from the Interview Boss podcast, have an... interesting hack to help with that.

"If you want to prevent your hands from shaking, clench your butt cheeks," they said when appearing on Mamamia's Things You Didn't Learn In School podcast. "It stops that." 


2. Do your research.

It's easy to get swept away in the moment, especially if it's a position you really want. This might cause you to panic and give the interviewer a low number just to ensure you get the job.

Sarah and Emma suggest using to find out what the salary expectation for your role is. If the company has posted the job ad there, you can search salary ranges and see if it pops up. That will give you a rough ballpark figure of the salary you can expect.

You can also speak to recruitment companies to find out the average salary range for the job listing for someone with your level of expertise. 

Besides that, think about what you're getting paid now and the skills you've developed in your current role, so you can back yourself and what you're asking for.

Listen to the full interview on this episode of Things You Didn't Learn in School. Post continues below.

3. Stick to your guns.

Sarah and Emma say to pick a salary that's slightly higher than your bare minimum. So, think what your bare minimum would be and add five to 10 per cent.


Then... just say the number. 

For example, "I expect 120,000, plus super for this role." 

"Say the number, that's it," they said. "You will feel like you want to keep saying things to justify that, [but] say the number and stop talking."

You can still give the interviewer a range, for example between $100,000 and $120,000, but you do need to make sure the minimum is still something you would be okay with if that's what you're offered.

Setting the salary expectation upfront makes the job acceptance journey easier. 

Once they offer you the job, you've already given them your ideal salary and are in a much better position to make that decision. If they give you the salary you requested, you won't have that feeling of, "I wish I asked for more". 

If they weren't able to meet your salary expectations, you might be happy with their counter offer or you'll know that anything below your expectation isn't worth it and will feel confident rejecting it.

Yes, you might feel awkward and get filled with imposter syndrome doing these steps but it is an awkward question. 

It's also arguably the most important question.

If you want more culture opinions by Emily Vernem, you can follow her on Instagram @emilyvernem  

Feature image: Canva.

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