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The Interview Decoder - "What salary are you looking for?"

Job interviews are intimidating. More often than not, you spend hours preparing yourself, ensuring you have all the answers to any question they could possibly ask - then, they ask you something you somehow don’t have the answer to.

In this series, you’ll get insight into the true meaning behind some of the toughest interview questions out there, as well as a few different options for how you can best answer them.

This question in particular tends to make people freeze up more than most. There are a lot of variables that go into how you’re going to answer this one, and it can be difficult to navigate. The first thing you’ll want to remember - in most U.S. states, it’s illegal to ask you what you’re currently making. Use the best strategy for yourself to make sure you’re getting what you deserve.

Keep in mind when asked about salary, there are other variables to consider. Don’t get too hung up on the actual salary number. Consider the industry, your job responsibilities, and your interest in the job before answering.

Things you should be looking for when calculating the value of an offer package:

  • Base salary

  • Bonus (guaranteed or subjective)

  • Signing bonus

  • Equity

  • Profit-sharing

  • Health benefits

  • 401k (matching percentage)

  • Holidays/vacation/sick days

  • Fringe benefits

  • Location (remote, onsite, or hybrid)

  • Food allowance

  • Any other perks that come from working at that specific company

There are a few things to keep in mind here.

  • You want to be honest. If you say you’d be willing to accept a salary that you wouldn’t be, move through the interview process, and then turn down the job because they offer you too low, you’ve wasted both your own and the interviewer’s time. If the budget doesn’t meet your expectations, you want to know up front.

  • If the role you’re interviewing for has a going market rate, you want to be aware of what that rate is before you head into the interview. If you’re working with an agency recruiter, you can ask them what the going rate is that they’ve seen for similar roles. If not, you can check out a website like Glassdoor to see what the typical rate is for roles such as this one. Keep in mind they aren’t always accurate, so check a few different websites. This is important - if you ask for much more or much less than most people doing the same job, that can be a red flag to an employer.

You’re likely to be asked this question either at the very beginning of or at the very end of the interview process, and where you are in that process dictates how you’re going to want to answer.


For starters, at the beginning of a process, you can give more of a salary range that you’d be targeting. Keep this as broad as possible until you learn more about the role. Keep in mind there’s more to an offer than just a base salary, so if you’re being asked in the beginning, keep that range broad as you learn more.

There’s an old school mentality of not wanting to say your number first, so if you agree with that, feel free to counter the initial question by asking about their budget and suggesting a later negotiation.

“I’d be interested to know what your ideal budget for this position is and see if we can find something that works for both of us as we move forward .”

I don’t agree with that old school approach. If you keep the range broad and you’ve done your research, you’re not going to limit your earning potential if the offer comes down the road. If your range is off, you’ll know, and you won’t be wasting yours or the company's time on an opportunity that ultimately isn’t a good match.

If you feel moved to, you can follow your range with a statement like this - “I’d really have to learn more about what this role entails before I’m comfortable giving you a definite number.”


If you’re being asked this at the end of an interview process, it’s most likely because they like you and want to know what it will take to present you with an offer that you’ll accept. Good thing you did your homework, because you’re already anticipated that you’ll be asked this question in the final round of the interview.

You should also keep in mind the range that you gave at the very beginning of the interview process. If nothing has significantly changed, stick within that range.

If you’ve already given a range, assume that throughout the interview process, the company has shared that information amongst themselves. You’ve done your research on the industry, the company, the manager, the leadership, and the market - you know your worth, and you should feel confident in asking for it. Assuming that they already know your range, ask them for an all-in number that you would feel comfortable accepting.

Pro Tip - In my experience, if you are talented and it’s the right fit, and you’ve approached this correctly - the offer they actually present you will be what you asked for OR MORE.

If they low-ball you - that’s a huge red flag and you should consider leaning more towards rejecting the offer instead of countering (if you’re a passive candidate with the freedom to do so).

However you decide to approach the conversation, there are three things you’ll want to remember:

  • Have a great Attitude

  • Be Charismatic

  • Bring Enthusiasm to each and every interview

If you use this guide and remember these three things, you’ll be sure to ACE your interview.

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