They ask your current salary – uh, oh! What do you say?

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.

  1. “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.”
  2. “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.)
  3. “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.”
  4. “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.

Avoid Interview Tricks, Traps, and Pitfalls

Employers are looking for “must haves.” Present yourself as a “must have” by avoiding the tricks, traps, and pitfalls that trip up many people during interviews. For each question the employer asks, you want to answer in a way that positions you as the most desirable candidate.