GET EMAIL UPDATES FROM POWERTOFLY
By signing up you accept the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy
BROWSE CATEGORIES
GET EMAIL UPDATES FROM POWERTOFLY
Career and Interview Tips

“What Are Your Salary Expectations?” - The Best Answers

Level Up 90 Founder Anica John Shares Her Tips (And Scripts) For Getting It Right

When I'm interviewing for a job, there are very few questions that trip me up. Hit me with, "Tell me about a time that you failed at work," or, "If you were a fruit what fruit would you be," and I'm dynamite. (I'd be an avocado, in case you were wondering.)


But ask me, "What are your salary expectations?" and my head starts to spin, equal parts anxious and annoyed.

The anxiety:

  • "What if I ask for too little? Or too much? Or seem too 'difficult' if I refuse to answer? What if I say the wrong thing and they reject me before they've even gotten to know me as a candidate?"

The annoyance:

  • "Surely they know what fair compensation in this role would look like. What should my expectations have to do with it? Why can't they just pay me what I'm worth?!"

Unfortunately, companies don't want to pay you more than they have to (thanks, capitalism), so as annoying as it is, you need to be prepared to answer this question (and its sister, "how much were you making in your previous role?") in a way that keeps the company interested and sets you up to get the best offer possible.

To learn how to do this, we sat down with former lawyer, entrepreneur, and founder of Level Up 90 Anica John to talk all things negotiation. She's helped hundreds of women in tech successfully navigate the interviewing and hiring processes. Luckily for us, she's crafted perfect responses to these two very tricky questions so we don't have to.

Question 1: "What are your salary expectations?"

Why You Should Defer The Question

You might be relieved to know that you don't have to provide a numerical response to this question. Actually, Anica advises strongly against it. There are two main reasons to defer this question and wait for them to make you an offer, rather than provide a number:

  1. You don't want to go too low - "If you go first, and you go too low, then you've anchored the negotiation at that point." If you've given away your previous salary, what your expectations are for a new role, you've already tilted things so that they're taking that into account when they put forth their first offer, and you don't want to do that at all.
  2. You want to take a holistic view - "Compensation in startups occupies 3 different pools. Cash & signing bonus/performance bonus, equity, and benefits. As candidates, we tend to only focus on the cash. Ideally, you'd get the job offer in its entirety and a better sense of the total compensation package, then you can decide where you can ask for more and where you don't have wiggle room." A great way to ensure you're not overlooking an aspect of compensation that's important to you is to prepare a wishlist that includes your wants and non-negotiable items.

Remember, "You don't owe anybody this information upfront."

The Best Answers

If you're asked the question in real-time:

Thanks for asking. I know that's an important conversation. I have some flexibility in my expectations, depending on the company and the role. I'd love to learn a bit more about both during the interview process, and then we can chat about compensation.

If you're asked via email or questionnaire at the beginning of the interview process:

My compensation expectations are dependent on the details of the company, and the specific position. I look forward to learning more about both.

If they push back:

I'm sure that you have resource planned very meticulously for this role. Assuming you have a range, and are talking to me because I fit somewhere within that range, it would be great if you could tell me where you think I fit. Then I can give you feedback.
Remember, You're Not Doing Anything Wrong!

"Be comfortable knowing that you're not being withholding or sneaky, they have more information, so it's not fair for them to ask you! When you know that, you become more confident in your firmer stance."

Question 2: "What was your previous salary?"

Although this question is now illegal in many states (including New York and California), it's still extremely common. It's particularly problematic when your previous salary was lower than market value, and you're looking for more fair compensation.

Don't Let A Low Previous Salary Hold You Back

"Remember that if you have been underpaid, and you're looking to level up to market rate or above, there's so many different reasons that people take that lower pay. You might take lower pay for flexibility, or you might really enjoy working at a company and they're early stage so that's all they can afford… If your previous salary is lower and internally you don't feel confident about that, it's completely normal. And hopefully that will give you confidence to be able to level up in the next job."

The Best Answer
I don't disclose previous salary information, but I'm so excited to learn more about the company and the role, and talk about the value I can bring. When we're ready to discuss compensation, I can share a bit more about my salary expectations.
Don't Feel Bad!

"Especially for women, because there's such a gender disparity in pay as it is, what it does is it compounds that over the years for women. So in the states where it's still legal, they ask what your previously salary was, and they base your new salary on the previous salary, which was probably lower than a man's salary anyway, and then over the course of your career, there's this compound effect, and so you have a right to say, you know, I just don't disclose that."

The Takeaway: Defer & Be Confident

Deferring the salary expectations question doesn't mean you shouldn't know your worth in the market—you should still do your research and be prepared with a salary range and firm walkaway number. That said, negotiating is hard enough as it is. Don't make it harder for yourself before it's even begun by disclosing more information upfront than you have to—knowledge is power in a negotiation, and you don't want to be handing that leverage over to your employer. You don't owe them this information. By showing that you're confident, thoughtful, and prepared, you'll impress hiring managers with your ability to stand your ground.

If you're still not feeling sure about your negotiation skills, don't panic—you can check out Anica's library of negotiation resources for more tips and scripts on negotiation and leveling up your career in general. You can also watch the full video with Anica here!

RISE UP THROUGH OUR FREE COMMUNITY
  • Network with top executives even if you aren't looking for a new role
  • First look at flexible, work-from-home, in-office roles
  • Join live chats led by expert women in your field and beyond
Sign Up

Webinars

Elevating Black Women Virtual Summit: Learn more about Our Partners, Sponsors & Speakers

Learn more about our amazing speakers and sponsors at our April 2021 virtual summit Diversity Reboot: Elevating Black Women, three days of conversations and panels plus an interactive virtual career fair.

From everyone here at PowerToFly we want to extend a BIG thank you to everyone who tuned into last week's Diversity Reboot: Elevating Black Women. In case you missed a talk or you'd like to revisit one of our great conversations, don't worry, all of the fireside chats and panels will be available to watch for free on PowerToFly soon.

We were thrilled to present conversations on such important subjects as the racial wealth gap, the importance of affordable child care, how BIPOC youth are leading the way on combatting the climate crisis, the importance of black women in entrepreneurship and business, being an ally for communities outside of your own, plus tech talks, fireside chats with Black woman founders, panels with DEI leaders and much more.

We want to extend a HUGE thanks to our amazing sponsors MINDBODY, Smartsheet, NGA, Procore Technologies, S&P Global, PayPal and PwC whose support made this event possible.

Finally, don't forget to visit our Merch Store and grab yourself some PowerToFly apparel. 100% of the proceeds from our sales will be going to TransTech Social, supporting transgender people in tech.

READ MORE AND DISCUSS Show less
S&P Global Inc

Prepare for Your Interview at S&P Global with These Tips from Recruiter Kiana Labuhn

Kiana Labuhn, Recruiter at S&P Global, shares an exclusive take on the most important tips to keep in mind when preparing for an interview.

READ MORE AND DISCUSS Show less
Diversity & Inclusion

How Bumble’s Director of Engineering Learned to Be Herself at Work—and Encourages Team Members to Do the Same

Rose Hitchcock found out she was pregnant with her third child halfway through the process of interviewing to be Director of Engineering at Bumble.

She told the team at the social media and dating app and that didn't change their plans to hire her. "They were completely fine with it, really supportive," says Rose.

READ MORE AND DISCUSS Show less
popular

How These 9 Companies Are Celebrating Difference This Autism Awareness or Acceptance Month

Five million adults in the U.S. have autism spectrum disorder, per the CDC. More are considered neurodivergent, which can refer to people with autism, ADHD, and dyslexia.

You've met some of them—maybe they're your family, friends, classmates, or coworkers, or perhaps you identify as neurodivergent yourself.

READ MORE AND DISCUSS Show less
© Rebelmouse 2020