They ask your current salary – uh, oh! What do you say?
What they give as their reason:
- We want to see if we’re in the same salary range, so we don’t waste each other’s time.
- It’s our company policy to ask that question. We can’t move forward without an answer.
Their real reason:
- To give you a competitive offer. They want to make sure that they’re paying you more than your last job in order to make it enticing enough for you to leave.
- To avoid wasting your time. They really don’t want to go through the entire process, only to find out that they want to pay you $10k less than you’re making now and have no room to negotiate.
These are fair reasons – the interview is a business interaction, after all.
However, when you provide salary information, you risk getting a low salary offer, especially if you were underpaid at your last job.
How do you answer this question?
Here’s a script that I use in interview that will work for you too. Every time an employer persists in order to get an answer, progress to the next line, in exact order.
- “Great question. Unfortunately, I don’t feel comfortable giving that information at this time. I really just want to see if I’m a fit for the job and the company. Once I get through the process I’ll have a better idea of whether I’m a fit, and then we can figure it out when it comes to salary. At this point I really don’t feel comfortable because I need to understand more about what the expected job duties are.”
- “Understood. I also want to make sure that we don’t waste each other’s time. Would you mind sharing with me the range for this job? That way I can tell you if it’s something I will consider.” (Make sure to ask this question and be as silent as possible. Put them on the spot.)
- “Would you like to know what my target salary is instead? Again, it is really hard for me to give this information without speaking to more of the people who I would work with at your company.”
- “You can’t move on the process until I give you a number?” (This is where you start looking at your phone in disbelief that the employer is THAT persistent.) “Okay (Take this information with a grain of salt, and project a calm demeanor.), I still want to understand more about the position. It’s the job I am concerned about much more than the salary. I want to make sure that I’m clear about that. I am looking to make at least [see editor’s note] a year. I know this is probably higher than you want to pay for this position, and that is why I want to move forward with the process and learn more about the job.” (Editor’s note: ALWAYS give a reasonably high number. If you know that the highest they’ll pay will be $75k, tell them you’re looking to make $80k.)
Sharon Boerbon Hanson is associate executive director of Advance IT Minnesota, a Center of Excellence that promotes awareness of and excellence in IT careers in order to ensure business success. She has over 25 years’ experience marketing and brand-building, and has been a resume and interview coach 15 years.