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What are your salary expectations? Answering this interview question

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You’re making good headway in your graduate job interview, having already answered a whole host of questions including ‘what are your weaknesses and strengths?’ and then you hear “what are your salary expectations?”

Don’t be surprised.

This is very common but can be difficult for graduates making their first leap into the graduate jobs market to pinpoint.

Salary is always an awkward topic to discuss, but you can use it to your advantage by showing the employer your worth and confidence.

For more advice about salary, check out our blog about how to negotiate a better salary.

But first… We’ve found the best way to tackle this graduate job interview question, is to first understand, why an employer ask it?


Summary video for “what are your salary expectations?”

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Why do employer's ask "what are your salary expectations?"

  • Make sure you research the average salary of the position and sector you’re interviewing for as it will give you a good idea of what amount to put forward.

    Graduate jobs in London may differ to graduate jobs in Manchester or Cardiff so it’s important to bear that in mind too when thinking of salaries.

    Try using job boards e.g. Glassdoor to compare graduate job titles, average salaries and the skills required in the graduate job description.

    Other great tools for salary information include:, PayScale, and LinkedIn.

  • Employers will want to know not just for financial reasons, but to understand even more about you and your skills.

    The Employer will want to see what your expectations are, but also how flexible and confident you are in yourself.

    Presenting a realistic salary in a confident manner will show them you are pragmatic and self-assured.

    Before answering the question directly, make sure you sell yourself first!

    Tip: If you have already been in a graduate job within this sector, mention you are looking for personal development and progression, and an increase on your current salary is important to you.

  • When asked ‘what is your expected salary’, while it is good to aim high, it is also important to stay realistic.

    If you say you would like £40,000 in a Junior Marketing Executive graduate job, the company will see your expectations are unrealistic, and this might say more about you as a person and how you will execute tasks.

    If the salary bracket is £20,000 – £24,000, and you suggest an amount in between and back this up with valid reasons, the company will see you’re a high achiever, but realistic in your endeavours.

    Tip: Having volunteering on your CV will also help to add credibility when answering an interview question about salary expectations, as it shows employers you are driven by more than money.

    Find out other ways volunteering can improve employability.

What is your salary expectation sample answer

Example graduate student applying for a PR role:

“As I mentioned previously, I have gained some really good work experience within PR, I have many contacts within the industry already and I am very eager to engage with both new and existing clients.

For this reason, the salary that I think is right for me is £X. I feel that I can bring significant value to your team and with my hard-working personality, I am confident that I would excel in every challenge I am faced with”.


How to answer the salary question in an email

There are a few different ways you can approach your answer to the common question ‘what are your salary expectations?’

In some ways, being asked this interview question in an email is better as it allows you to take a step back and consider your salary requirements.

However, on the other hand, it is difficult to gauge what an employer is thinking and you need to be careful not to say a salary amount too high and put the employer off without having the opportunity to prove yourself in person, in a face-to-face interview first.

We have explored the best ways to answer the salary question in an email…

1. Swerve the salary question

You could hold off the salary question by politely stating in the email that you would like to know a little more about what the job role entails and what is expected of the employee filling the role before you make any suggestions for pay.

This is a good way of avoiding the salary question, particularly in the early stages of the job application process.

2. Propose a salary bracket

Providing the employer with a range for your salary requirements, for example £19,000 – £23,000, helps to prevent potentially missing out on an opportunity by being too specific or aiming too high with your ideal salary.

3. Suggest that you are open to negotiation

State that although you are looking for a salary around the £22,000 mark, you are open to negotiation for the right job with career progression opportunities, work culture and any benefits provided.

This flexibility allows you to demonstrate that you are not solely driven by pay.


How to answer your desired salary on online applications

If you are applying for a job online, you have filled out the whole application and then you are asked ‘what is your expected salary’, it is normal to feel stumped and unsure of what to put.

Sometimes there are multiple choice options with different salary brackets, or sometimes you will be asked to manually type this in yourself.

If this field within the application is required (i.e. you have to fill this section in, in order to submit your CV and application), then of course answer this as you see fit.

However, if this box is not a required field, we recommend that you leave this section blank.

This is something that can be discussed with more flexibility in person further down the line of the interview process.

If it is important then the employer can always get back in touch with you to ask the question at a later date!


What to avoid when answering 'what are your salary expectations?'

  • Or starting with “I was hoping to earn somewhere between £X – £X” – be confident in your approach and prove to the employer you know exactly what you are looking for.

  • This will not be effective and may present you as not valuing yourself, you need to show the employer how much you’re worth.

    If you are confident in yourself, the employer will be more confident in you.

  • Stay realistic and focused, taking into consideration your salary from your current or previous job.

    It is very likely that the employer will ask you what your current salary is, it is important that you tell the truth about this because if you don’t, it might come back to bite you in the butt when you have to show the employer your P45 later on down the line!

Variations of the question “what are your salary expectations?”


  • What are your salary requirements?
  • What do you expect to be paid?
  • What are your pay expectations?
  • How much salary do you expect for this job?
  • What would be your ideal salary?
  • How much money do you want to make?
  • How much money do you need to make to be happy?
  • What is your salary expectation?
  • What do you think is a fair graduate starting salary?


Here at Give a Grad a Go, we are strong advocates of the London Living Wage and believe graduates should know their rights in all aspects of work.

It’s important to be aware of the company’s policies, and using the London Living Wage as a point of reference can be a good indication of what is a fair salary… Have a think even before applying for jobs, what is your expected salary?

Read our complete guide of interview advice.

Find more career advice on our blog – or check out the latest graduate opportunities!

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