Being fully prepared for the interview process means knowing what questions to anticipate. One of those questions is, “What are your salary expectations?” You won’t encounter this question during an internship interview, but it’s likely to come up if you’re interviewing for an entry-level job. Why do employers ask this? If you’re a recent college grad, it’s because they want to make sure that you have a sense of the industry you’re trying to enter and are coming into the job with realistic expectations.
Entry-level salaries vary by job type and industry, so knowing as much as possible about your field is extremely important when preparing to answer this question. Another thing to note is that entry-level salaries are most often not open to negotiation.
Here are some things to keep in mind when preparing to answer.
When it’s not appropriate to negotiate.
“If you’re recruited into a formal entry-level program (a program where a class of people starts together and trains together) the answer is likely going to be no to a salary negotiation,” explains Liane Hajduch, a former campus recruiter for RBC Capital Markets.
This includes fields like investment banking, consulting and engineering, all of which have structured salaries for entry-level jobs. If you’re entering one of those industries, it’s best not to negotiate! However, you should still come into the interview knowing the salary range for the position and having a clear sense of what to expect if you’re offered the job.
Say something like: “I expect to be paid a salary that is commensurate with the industry standard for an entry-level candidate joining this position.”
When it is appropriate to negotiate.
If you’re entering a more creative field (think media or marketing) and have previous relevant experience, then negotiation might be possible. “I recommend doing your research on the industry and what similar entry-level hires are being paid,” explains Hajduch. “If you know your worth, and you have data to prove it, you’ll have a much stronger case than if you make it subjective or emotional.”
Once you’ve done the research and know the range for the position, be ready to show the interviewer that you have the skills and commitment to deserve the highest salary within that range.
Say something like: “I know the average salary for this type of entry-level position is in the $35,000-$40,000 range. I think that I would be a great fit for the role due to my past internship experience and I am expecting a salary within that range.”
Answering “What are your salary expectations?” effectively is easy if you come into the conversation prepared and with some solid research under your belt. Be confident and straightforward, but also remember that flexibility will go a long way toward making a good impression on the interviewer and the company.
Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as When to Start Applying for a Summer Internship and find answers to common interview questions such as Why Do You Want to Work Here?