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The interview question ‘what are your salary expectations?’ is usually one of the most complex questions you can be asked. It can also be the most decisive at some stage of the interview.  From experience, many interesting candidates have been screened off due to wrong responses to this question – a few would have gladly accepted what the client is offering.

Organizations need this response. Many things hinge on it. Many companies have salary structures they would like to maintain. They often have budgets too – for overheads, and what have you. For these few reasons, they take salary expectations seriously.

The best strategy is to do your research in advance. It is important to know the minimum you can accept (your “walk away” number when the job is not worth it for you), and have your answers ready. This question may also be stated as ‘What are your salary requirements?’ or ‘What do you expect to be paid?’

Here are a few different ways to answer and prepare for the salary expectations question.

Deflect the question

Rather than answering the question directly, you could respond with:

I would prefer to know more about the job and your expectations of the employee first to give you a realistic number.

If you go with this approach, be prepared in case the interviewer presses you for an answer about your compensation expectations, in which case you would have no other choice than to divulge.

Provide a salary range

The employer will very likely want a specific number, so another strategy is to give them a number or a range. Assuming your target salary is ₦ 400,000, you could say:

I’m looking for a position which pays between ₦ 400,000 and ₦ 500,000 for a 7-hour work day.

Offer a salary range plus some options for negotiation

To give yourself more room for negotiation, add some options which would be beneficial to you.

I’m looking for a position which pays between ₦ 400,000 and ₦ 500,000 for a 7-hour work day, but that number can be adjusted based on my ability to work at home, vacation time, bonuses, tuition reimbursement, and other benefits you may provide.

With this answer, you are offering a specific salary range, but also indicating some flexibility based on the benefits provided. Include options that are important to you and will, effectively, be an increase in your pay by reducing some of your out-of-pocket expenses or giving your salary a boost.

Research to prepare for the salary expectations question

Guessing at the salary range is very dangerous! If you guess too high, you could disqualify yourself from consideration. If you guess to low, you are setting yourself up for a long period of being underpaid.

Research the salaries paid for the job you are seeking so you have a starting point for this discussion. Unfortunately, fewer than 15% of job postings contain salary ranges.

Fortunately, today, several websites offer salary information. Sites like hrheadhunting.com and LinkedIn offer salary information.

I hope this helps.

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