6 ways to navigate salary expectations questions

Navigating salary expectations

Learn how to navigate tricky conversations about salary expectations during the hiring process.

If we asked you right now to tell us what your salary is, how would you respond?

…if even the thought of sharing this information makes you feel awkward, you’re not alone. Discussions around salaries are still very much a taboo. We may not even know family member’s or closest friends’ salaries.

There is one context, however, where salary conversations are unavoidable, and that’s during recruitment.

With the cost of living rising, it’s crucial for jobseekers to get comfortable with these kinds of conversations. Being able to confidently talk about your salary expectations will ensure you’re not selling yourself short.

Before you have an interview, do your research. You should be aware of the salary range for your role in the market. If you’re expecting a pay increase from your last position, have an idea of how much more you’d like to receive.

We asked Australian workers about the salary expectations for our Employee Movement and Retention Report. How much of an increase were they expecting from their current role when pursuing something new?

The most popular response was a 10% pay increase, with 34% of respondents choosing this, with a 20% pay increase coming in at a close second, with 23% of respondents selecting this. At an even closer third, however, 21% of respondents stated that they would be satisfied with a new salary on par with their current role. Only 15% were expecting an increase of over 30%.

salary expectations chart


How can jobseekers navigate conversations around salary expectations?

The topic of salary expectations is tricky to tackle, so no one expects you to be a natural when it comes to these conversations. However, you can prepare yourself for the most productive discussions with these helpful tips.

1. Approach salary expectations conversations with the right mindset

Remember to enter salary expectations discussions cool, calm and collected

If you walk into the conversation with the mindset that you’re going to have to go head-to-head with the hiring manager, you’re unlikely to have a helpful exchange. Try to deflate the fear of failure and approach the conversation with a transparent, generous mindset. Nine times out of ten, both you and the hirer will have the common goal of coming to a reasonable resolution when it comes to salary.

Remember that you’re setting the tone for your relationship with a potential employer: avoid adopting an aggressive or awkward manner, and the conversations will go much smoother.

2. Always have a number in mind

Chances are, when you decided to apply for this role you knew what you’d like to get paid. You may have set a clear goal, and if not, it may be time for a goal refresh. Once you have this range, have it in the back of your mind when communicating your salary expectations, but not before you’ve made sure that it’s in line with industry standards. Which brings us to our next point…

3. Be aware of the current market salary range

If you land an interview, do your research. Log into Glassdoor to check out the employer’s reviews, check out their employer brand on LinkedIn, speak to people in your network who work at the business and triple check the market’s salary range for someone in this position. This will give you the confidence to advocate for your expectations during the salary negotiation.

Base your salary expectations on research

4. Ask about salary expectations in the first job interview

Recruiting can be a long and tedious experience for everyone involved. By the end of the process, you’ve taken the time to apply, gone through rounds of nerve-wracking interviews, and may have even completed a task to demonstrate your skills. The hiring manager and HR would have gone through mountains of paperwork, organised members of the team for interviews and spent time compiling feedback.

The general length of the hiring process is why it’s so important to communicate your salary expectations early on. This way you’re on the same page from the start of the process, and you’re not wasting each other’s time if you don’t see eye to eye.

Did you know? If you’re nervous about interviewing, you can use AI to practice speaking and answering questions.

5. Be prepared to negotiate

It’s on the other end of the hiring process that you will negotiate. You’ve disclosed your salary expectations, but now it’s time to do the dance. You should be prepared for a bit of back and forth to make sure that everyone feels confident to move forward. You should especially be prepared for this if your starting point for an offer is at the higher end of the company’s budgeted range.

Take into consideration the industry standard, your expected range, your in-demand skills, and other compensation on offer. Be prepared to enter your salary negotiation process with all of these elements in mind.

6. Remember that compensation is more than just salary

Salary isn’t everything (if it was, we’d all be investment bankers). Throughout the interview process, ask questions about the workplace’s benefits, company culture and employee experience (a package which is known in the HR biz as the employee value proposition or EVP).

This is where it’s time to ask about:

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Want to learn how to land your dream job in 2023?

Being comfortable addressing salary expectations is just one part of the recruitment process. If you’re looking to land a new role this year, we’ve got a library of resources designed to help.

Check out our 13 Tips to Ace your Virtual Interview if you want to approach online meetings with a sense of calm and confidence. Or perhaps you want to dust off the CV and start applying for remote roles? In that case, check out our guide on How to Write your CV to Land a Remote Job in 2023.

The Swag Career hub is always being updated with new resources and advice from our community of recruitment experts and candidates, so keep visiting if you want to make the most of the job hunt in 2023.



The information in this article is current as at July 2023, and has been prepared by Employment Hero Pty Ltd (ABN 11 160 047 709) and its related bodies corporate (Employment Hero) for its Swag brand. The information in this article is general information provided in good faith without taking into account your personal circumstances, and financial situation or needs, and should not be relied on as professional advice. Some Information is based on data supplied by third parties and whilst such data is believed to be accurate, it has not been independently verified and no warranties are given that it is complete, accurate, up to date or fit for the purpose for which it is required. Employment Hero does not accept responsibility for any inaccuracy in such data and is not liable for any loss or damages arising directly or indirectly as a result of reliance on, use of or inability to use any information provided in this article. You should undertake your own research and seek professional legal, financial and taxation advice before making any important decisions or solely relying on the information in this article.

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