When a job seeker reads the question on an online application or hears it from a recruiter, the question may sound like a neutral request: “What are your salary expectations?”
But in fact, how you answer is the beginning of your salary negotiation for that role.
There is a debate about the best way to address this tricky question —some suggest skipping it, while others suggest it’s OK to give a salary range. HuffPost talked with career coaches and salary negotiation experts on what to do.
What the salary expectations question is really about
What a company is really trying to find out is if you are in the same salary range as they are, said Kate Dixon, a salary negotiation coach and compensation consultant.
There can also be legal reasons for why this phrasing is used. Cities like New York City and states like California have salary history bans that prohibit companies from asking candidates what their past salaries are. “Because it’s not legal to ask that in many cases now, they are asking people what their expectations are,” Dixon said.
Whatever you do, be prepared to address this common question. “There are two times when they will ask you about salary expectations. One is often right away. The other is often right before you get the offer,” said Josh Doody, a salary negotiation coach who works with software developers and is a former hiring manager. “They are trying to get you to make it easier for them.”