You are currently viewing How To Answer “What are your pay expectations?”

How To Answer “What are your pay expectations?”

In job interviews, one of the most common questions asked is about the applicant’s pay expectations. Here’s advice on how to answer this job interview question.

Recruiter: What are your pay expectations?

what are your pay expectations

When attending a job interview, you need to be prepared to answer ‘what are your pay expectations.

Negotiating pay is all about preparation.

Applicants who accept an offer and then decline after deciding it’s too low could damage their future chances with the recruiting company. But on the other hand, if you accept low pay then that low pay is the standard the next employer will maintain and the next, and the next and so on.

This is why South Africa has such incredibly high inequality, it is perpetuated in the labour market. The labour market contributes more than 70% to overall income inequality.

How Should You Respond to Pay Expectation Questions?

Questions about pay expectations really are the devil in human rights. When employers are not upfront about pay, the salary expectation question is unfair. Without pay transparency during recruitment, job applicants are in a fix. (They are fixed to inequality.)

what are your pay expectations

What are your pay expectations? The Safety Rules

Pay Expectations Should Only Be Shared if a Salary Range is Given

Answering too high might price you out of the job. While answering too low might give the impression that you don’t value your skills and experience. However, this question is also an opportunity for job seekers to engage in fair information exchange and promote pay transparency. The salary negotiation process is where job candidates have the opportunity to advocate for themselves and ensure that they’re being compensated fairly for their skills and experience.

Respond Thoughtfully and Strategically to Questions About Pay Expectations

Negotiating salary can be one of the most difficult and uncomfortable parts of the job interview process. However, it’s also one of the most important.

When you are asked the question “What are your pay expectations?” in a job interview, it’s important to respond thoughtfully and strategically.

Respond to questions about pay expectations by following these guidelines:

  1. Do your research.
  2. Be honest and realistic.
  3. Focus on the value you can bring to the company.
  4. Consider other compensation factors.
  5. Be open to negotiation.
what are your pay expectations

Candidate Tips for Questions About Pay Expectations

1. Do your pay research:

Before the negotiation, do your research on the job title, industry, and location to determine the typical salary range for this position. Use this information to set a reasonable salary expectation and to justify your request. We unpack research more at the bottom of the article.

Use online resources such as Glassdoor, Payscale, or industry-specific salary surveys to help determine a reasonable salary expectation.

wage floor why some jobs pay more

2. Be honest and realistic about your pay expectations

Candidates should be honest about their salary expectations but also be realistic. It’s important to strike a balance between asking for a fair wage and not pricing oneself out of the job. Candidates should aim for a salary within the expected range for the position based on their qualifications and experience.

3. Focus on the value you can bring to the company:

Instead of just stating a salary expectation, it’s important to show the employer the value you can bring to the company. Discuss your skills and experience and how they can benefit the company. This shows that you’re not just asking for a higher salary, but that you’re also invested in the company’s success.

4. Consider other compensation factors:

Consider other compensation factors such as benefits, vacation time, and bonuses. Ask about these during the interview and use them to negotiate a more comprehensive compensation package.

5. Be open to negotiation: What are your pay expectations?

Be open to negotiation. If the employer offers a salary lower than their expectation, they can try to negotiate a higher salary based on their qualifications and experience. However, they should also be willing to compromise and consider other compensation factors.

learner pay raise

Navigating the Salary Negotiation Process: Tips for Effective Communication

1. Start by expressing gratitude:

Before starting the negotiation process, it’s important to express gratitude for the offer and show enthusiasm for the job opportunity. This sets a positive tone for the negotiation and shows that you appreciate the employer’s interest in you.

2. Be confident and assertive:

During the negotiation, it’s important to be confident and assertive. Remember that you’re advocating for yourself and your worth as an employee. Use positive and assertive language when discussing salary and benefits.

3. Use your research:

Don’t use the information you obtained about pay to start a debate. Simply state a broad range and ask where they fit in. Don’t be specific about your pay expectations unless they are specific.

4. Gracefully compromise if necessary:

Be willing to compromise if the offer is fair. The negotiation process is a two-way street, and both parties need to be willing to give and take. If the employer isn’t able to meet your salary expectation, consider other compensation factors or other ways to increase your overall compensation package.

Always remember, effective communication is key to navigating the salary negotiation process. By expressing gratitude, being confident and assertive, doing your research, focusing on the value you can bring, considering other compensation factors, and being willing to compromise, you can increase your chances of receiving a fair and competitive compensation package.

The Pay Expectation Conversation

1. Prepare for the pay expectation discussion

Applicant: I’m looking for an opportunity at R10k.

Recruiter: That’s a bit high!

Applicant: Based on my research, I saw that 10k  is fair for someone with my level of experience and qualifications. In addition to meeting the standard job requirements, I’m also great at communicating in three languages and can be an asset to your sales department.

What is the company interested in offering?

2. The Importance of Knowing Your Worth: Researching Salary Expectations

Websites where job applicants can research pay: What are your pay expectations?

  1. Glassdoor ( Glassdoor is a website where employees can anonymously submit their salaries, as well as reviews of their employers. This data is then aggregated to provide salary estimates for various job titles, industries, and locations. Glassdoor also provides company reviews, interview tips, and career advice.
  2. PayScale ( PayScale is a website that provides real-time salary data based on job title, experience, education, and location. Users can also compare salaries for different job titles and industries, as well as access career advice and salary negotiation tips.
  3. ( provides salary data based on job title, location, and experience. The website also includes a salary calculator, which can provide personalized salary estimates based on user input. In addition, offers job listings, career advice, and salary negotiation tips.
  4. Indeed ( Indeed is a job search engine that also provides salary data based on job title, location, and experience. Users can also compare salaries for different job titles and industries. Additionally, Indeed offers job listings, company reviews, and career advice.

These websites can be a valuable resource for job applicants looking to research pay and negotiate their compensation package. It’s important to note that salary estimates provided by these websites are not always 100% accurate, as they are based on self-reported data. However, they can provide a useful starting point for salary research and negotiation.

Balancing Honesty and Realism: How to Set a Reasonable Salary Expectation

If you have no idea about industry trends and haven’t researched the particular job opportunity to find out how much people at your level are typically paid, you will be exploited. And even if you HAVE done the research, chances of exploitation remain high, it’s still best to be informed! 🙁

When asked about their pay expectations, job seekers can use this opportunity to promote fair information exchange. They can ask questions about the job’s salary range, benefits, and opportunities for advancement. This information can help them make an informed decision about whether the job is a good fit for them.

Answer What are your pay expectations?

If the employer is unwilling to share salary information, job seekers can still respond to the pay expectations question by using their research on the job’s market rate. They can also express their commitment to pay equity and fair compensation practices. By doing so, they send a message to the employer that they value transparency and fairness in the workplace.

It’s also worth noting that pay expectations can vary depending on factors such as industry, geography, and job level. For example, a software engineer in Cape Town might expect a higher salary than a software engineer in a small town like Nongoma. Therefore, job seekers should research the job market rate and consider these factors when responding to the pay expectations question.

Always prepare for pay expectation interview questions.

Never be loyal to offers at firms that adopt pay secrecy, always remain on the market for new and better opportunities. The faster you can bump your pay up, the better life you will lead later. Look for other opportunities. 

There is a method for preparing answers to job interview questions called The STAR Method. Check it out!

Pay Transparency

We must oppose pay secrecy and pay slip sharing during recruitment. We are looking for volunteers to assist with our website and campaign for Fair


Pay transparency refers to the practice of openly sharing salary information with employees and job candidates. It’s an important concept that promotes fairness and equity in the workplace. When salary information is transparent, employees can make informed decisions about their compensation and hold their employers accountable for pay equity.

Pay Secrecy is Unfair: What are your pay expectations?

Unfortunately, pay transparency is still not widely adopted in South Africa even though secrecy violates our constitutional rights. Many employers continue to keep salary information confidential. This can put job applicants in a difficult position, especially if they’re not sure what the job’s market rate is or what their skills and experience are worth. Most job advertisers withhold pay information from job adverts in order to take advantage of the lack of information about what the company is willing to offer.

 If you applied to an ad that failed to include pay information, chances are very high that you will be asked how much you expect to earn. Pay secrecy is unfair in job adverts so you can expect these unfair employers to behave unfairly throughout your experience with them.

Assume that they adopt secrecy because they wish to hide unfair pay practices.

  1. The first rule, avoid answering with a specific number unless you have done your salary research and have come prepared.
  2. The second rule, is only give an answer based on research (Get it?) or you could look weak in a negotiation as you have little to back it up with.
  3. Third, when they make an offer, don’t say anything. Look thoughtful, as if you’re expecting them to say something else. Don’t look as if you think they expect an immediate response from you! Practice this in the mirror and in conversations with friends and family. It’s a negotiating trick to see if they have anything else to add to sweeten the deal and see how interested they are in securing you.
  4. Wait until the silence is uncomfortable but you must look relaxed throughout. If they than ask you for a response, ask for another 10% even if you are happy with what they offered. Don’t justify your response unless they ask why.
  5. If they ask why, use your research and skills to back it up.

Related Articles

Leonie Hall

Leonie Hall, disruptive thinker and dynamic strategist, is an expert in education, development, quality management and innovation. She has spoken at local and international conferences; and currently works as an independent consultant and content developer. Contact Leonie for a consultation.

Tell us what's up!