How To Answer The Salary Expectations Question

Remote Job Hunting

Answering the salary expectations question for remote jobs could make or break your chances of landing the role. Learn what to say to hiring teams now:

You’re not the only one who fears the dreaded salary expectations question during interviews.

This one answer could literally make or break a remote team’s decision to move forward with the interview and hiring process. 

Answer correctly, and the top remote companies will know you’re a valuable candidate worth pursuing. 

But a misstep here could tell hiring teams you’re either underqualified, overqualified, or totally unprepared, all of which are undesirable impressions to make during your remote job search.

That’s why we’re sharing everything you need to know to answer the salary expectations question the right way. You’ll learn how to prepare a data-backed response, what to avoid, and how to negotiate the compensation you deserve. 

If you think you can just wing it here, let’s start with the real reasons:

Why Remote Hiring Teams Ask About Your Salary Expectations

Many remote companies are starting to list the salary range for each position on their job ads, which is super helpful. This ensures remote job seekers avoid applying for roles with salary ranges far from their expectations.

However, you’ll still come across remote companies choosing to hold their compensation cards close to their chest. They already have an ideal salary range in mind. 

So when hiring teams ask, “What are your salary expectations?” they’re really hoping:

To See If You’re In Budget

The salary expectations question is a lot like a dating app. Both remote employers and candidates are looking for the perfect match. The right skills and experience, meet the right salary.

See, employers budget a salary range for each new hire based on industry averages for the role. Then a candidate’s experience, education, certifications, etc., determine where they’ll fall within that range.

For example, let’s say a remote team budgets $65,000 to $95,000 for a new product manager job. Candidates with years of shipping well-known products under their belt might ask for $85k to $110k. But those with fewer bragging rights or experience might expect an offer between $60k to $75k.

Remote hiring teams don’t want to waste time on candidates they can’t afford, and job seekers shouldn’t spend time barking up the wrong trees. So it’s essential to learn each party’s ideal salary range as early in the hiring process as possible.

To Learn Whether You’re Qualified For the Role

If your salary expectations are higher than the company’s, they may think you’re overqualified for the job. They may not be in the position to offer you the salary your experience deserves, so you might get priced out of the role.

If your salary expectations are lower than the company’s, they may think you’re underqualified. You may not have all the experience they’re looking for if you come in with a lowball offer, also removing yourself from consideration.

These errors might explain why you’re not landing as many online interviews as you’re hoping for.

To Assess Your Research Skills and Seriousness About the Role

You should prepare to answer the salary expectations question as soon as you apply for a remote job. Performing market research plays a big role in this game plan.

When candidates research and come prepared with realistic salary expectations, it shows they’re serious about the position. And this opens the door to productive, meaningful compensation conversations.

So show remote teams that you understand the value you bring and what your skills and experience are worth. Research all but guarantees you land on a salary range everyone can agree on.

To Learn More About Your Personality

Another way to think about the salary expectations question is, Why should our company invest in you?

If you shrink in your seat, get nervous, or don’t have an answer prepared, hiring teams will find your lack of confidence and preparedness a red flag. They may wonder if you’ll be as unsure and unprepared on the job, which isn’t a good look. 

On the other hand, if you sit up straight and reply with an intelligently-researched answer, they’ll find your confidence and self-assuredness impressive. They’ll assume you’re always this informed and decisive, which are excellent traits in a potential employee.

So now that you know what’s on the line, grab your notebook as we run through a few:

Do’s and Don’ts for Answering the Salary Expectations Question

Follow this roadmap to come up with a salary expectation that lures hiring teams in like honey (and avoid actions that may leave a sour taste):

Do Figure Out Your Minimum Base Salary

If you don’t know the minimum base salary you can accept, you might agree to one that’s lower than what you can really afford or deserve. So determine your “walk away number” first. Any offers below this number aren’t worth your time.

If you’re a recent grad or changing careers, you may feel as if you should accept any salary offer, but that’s not the case. You still need to calculate your current monthly expenses, financial obligations (like student loans), and future money goals. 

Add up all these for one month, then multiply that number by 12 to figure out your minimum annual salary. Try to add a little extra for unexpected expenses.

If you need to relocate for the position or take on additional costs, such as an extra-secure work-from-home office setup, factor this into your salary too. You may be able to have these compensated upfront or rolled into your overall compensation.

Do Your Market Research

To figure out a solid salary expectations range, consider:

  • The industry average for the position in which you’re applying
  • Your location and the company’s location
  • The size of the company
  • Your career level and years of work experience
  • Your education, certifications, etc.
  • Your career achievements

It’s easy to find average salaries for positions online. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has a ton of federal data you can geek out on. Browse national compensation data, wages by occupation and location, and even earnings by industry. 

Check out sites like 81cents, a woman-founded and led organization to help close pay gaps for underrepresented minorities, too. You’ll find intel to navigate fair compensation and gain the confidence to go for it.

During your research, you may see that remote marketing jobs average $75,000 per year, for example. But digital marketers with an MBA or high-level certifications might command $100,000. Your experience may fall somewhere in the middle.

Do Consider Employee Benefits and Additional Perks 

Compensation doesn’t only fall in the salary bucket. Some of the best company benefits every remote team should get are worth their weight in gold.

Comprehensive healthcare coverage, unlimited vacation days, free childcare, health and wellness stipends, student loan repayment, etc., will all save you money. Receiving equity or stock options may pay off more than your initial salary later down the road. 

Psst! See a job you want on We Work Remotely? Click the company’s profile to scope out the employee benefits and perks before you apply!

Don’t Give an Exact Amount; Come Up with a Salary Expectations Range

Never give hiring teams an exact amount when asked about your salary expectations. This gives off the vibe that you’re not open to negotiations, which could definitely sour hiring teams.

Instead, try to come up with a range in which you’d like your annual salary to fall. To do this:

1. Write down your “walk away number” from earlier. This is the minimum amount you’ll be able to accept. For an easy example, let’s say this number is $50,000.

2. Use your market research to determine the average salary range for someone in the position you’re applying for. You might learn that people earn between $45k and $75k for this role. Consider where your experience, certifications, education, etc., puts you within that range.

3. Come up with your low salary end. Most companies will run with your lowest salary expectation. So try to keep your bottom number near the mid-high range of what you’re looking for.

Aiming for higher than what you need -- while still within the average industry range -- ensures you meet your minimum during negotiations. 

Using our example, you absolutely need to earn $50,000, but you shouldn’t ask for anything higher than $75,000, based on your research.

Make $50,000 your low end, and companies might lowball you with an offer for $45,000, which you won’t be able to accept. 

Shoot a bit higher by making your low end $65,000, and they may come back with an offer at $60,000. That’s still more than your minimum, and accepting it shows you’re flexible and eager to work with the company.

4. Find your high end. Try to keep your salary range tight, with a difference of no more than $10,000 between your low and high ends. So simply add $10,000 to your bottom number to find your high.

In this example, a salary range between $65,000 and $75,000 covers your bases, aligns with industry averages, and leaves room for negotiations -- which is exactly what you should strive for.

So now that you have your ideal salary range figured out, it’s time to learn:

How To Answer the Salary Expectations Question for Remote Jobs

Remember, it’s illegal for potential employers to ask about your current salary in many US states and cities. So when asked about your ideal salary expectations: 

1. Never Answer Before You Know All the Details

Some online applications have a space for you to list your salary expectations even before learning what the position entails. You can add your salary range here, but you can also note that you’d like to discuss this when you know more about the role.

If the role is more demanding than it seemed in the job ad, you’ll want to be fairly compensated for the extra work you’ll need to put in. 

Similarly, if you’re asked about your salary expectations right off the bat, you could say:

  • I’d like to learn more about the position and the company before I answer that, so I can provide a more accurate salary expectation.
  • Finding the right role and remote team are my first priorities. I’d love to hear more about the job, your company culture, and your employee benefits package before we discuss salary. 

This shows you’re more interested in seeing whether the role and company are right for you rather than focusing on paychecks.

2. Consider Asking
Their Range First

When deftly handled, asking hiring teams about their budgeted salary range gives candidates a competitive edge during negotiations.

You may hear that the company’s prepared to offer more than your low end, in which case you’ll want to use that higher number as the new low in your salary range.

If their range is lower than expected, you’ll need to ask about other compensation options to make this role worth your time.

So when asked about your salary expectation, consider responding with:

  • Thank you for asking. It would be really helpful if you could share the salary range for this role, including the employee benefits in your compensation plan.
  • From what I know about similar positions I’m interviewing for, somewhere in the area of [insert average salary range] seems to be common, given my experience and skill set. Is this in line with your company’s salary range?

Once you receive your answer, you’ll need to let your interviewer know whether that range works for you or share what you were thinking instead.

3. Share Your Expected Salary Range

When you know more about the position and the job duties, you can decide to stick with the salary range you calculated earlier or adjust it based on this new intel. Remember to factor employee benefits into your overall compensation plan too.

Use these salary expectations examples to inspire your reply:

  • Given my industry experience and track record of success, I feel an annual salary between [insert your range] is fair and competitive.
  • Based on the information you shared, the responsibilities of this role seem more demanding than I initially considered. I have all the qualifications and skills you’re looking for, so I think a number between $XX,000 and $XX,000 would more fairly reflect the hard work I’ll be putting in for your organization’s success.
  • I’m excited to take on the challenges this opportunity brings. My salary expectations for this role are between $XX,000 and $XX,000, based on [insert your experience, certifications, skills, etc.]. Your company profile mentions mental health support for employees, which is very important to me. So I could be more flexible with my salary expectations based on additional employee benefits.

Keep your tone positive, friendly, and encouraging to further the conversation and work out an arrangement that leaves everyone satisfied.

It wouldn’t hurt to highlight a few accomplishments and transferable skills you’ll bring to the company to justify a higher salary. Show potential employers what’s in it for them to hire you.

For example, suppose your stats prove you’re a whiz at lowering department budgets while boosting revenue. In that case, you’ll earn more for the company than the extra $5k or $10k you’re asking for in compensation. So come up with a highlight reel to put these numbers in perspective for hiring teams.

In the end, if you really want to work for this company, you can always negotiate a raise later when you’re on the team.

Never Fear the Salary Expectations Question Again!

You now have a game plan to answer the salary expectations question like a pro. Honest, data-informed answers here help hiring teams better understand what it will take to get you on board.

So do your market research, figure out your ideal salary range, and be confident and flexible when the time comes. When a remote company sees you’re the perfect fit for the role and you came prepared, they’ll be eager to snatch you up.

Looking for your dream remote role? We Work Remotely is the largest remote work community in the world and your number one destination to find incredible remote positions. The best remote jobs start here!

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