Don't let this interview question trip you up.
We get it — job interviews are challenging. Add in the question of money, and coming up with an appropriate answer seems impossible.
Salary is an uncomfortable subject; you don't want to come across too greedy or solely motivated by money. It's hard to answer “What is your current salary?” in an interview without disclosing too much information that may work against you down the road. That being said, salary history questions tend to come up in most job interviews.
So how do you answer this current salary interview question? Before you contemplate further, bear in mind that an increasing number of cities and states around the U.S. (such as California, Massachusetts, New York City, Philadelphia, and more) are banning employers from asking about a job candidate's salary history.
This move aims to eliminate the gender wage gap that comes with disclosing one's previous salary history. If you come across employers asking about your salary in these cities or states, you can report them for asking an illegal interview question.
However, if you happen to live in areas where this salary history question isn't illegal, follow the tips below to address this pesky question during the hiring process.
Do your homework
An excellent way to prepare yourself for the dreaded salary expectations question is to research approximate salary figures for similar roles that you're interviewing for. You can find this information using resources such as PayScale, Salary.com, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, with their salary comparison tools giving you a great place to start.
For instance, if you're a chemical engineer currently looking for a job, these sites will allow you to compare salaries of roles with similar sub-specialties, such as biochemistry and biotechnology. Walking into the job interview armed with the latest salary range data posted by reputable sources will boost your confidence when answering this tricky salary history question.
When the potential employer or hiring manager asks about your current salary, be thoughtful before giving a number.
A good way to approach this question is to provide a figure that is a calculation of your gross salary plus benefits. Your net salary would be a considerably lower number and certainly not the one you should share. Instead, think in terms of the total compensation: salary plus medical, dental, optical, life insurance, tuition remission, and other such benefits that you've been enjoying in your current position.
Don't discuss salary too early
Don't get tricked into talking about your current salary and other salary expectations early in the interview process. If the interviewer or hiring manager tries to talk you into sharing, explain that you'll be able to discuss this better once you understand the job requirements and how well your qualifications match the role.
You can also give a generic answer like saying that you are willing to look at the overall offer package, including salary, bonus, and other benefits, to deflect the question.
Wait for the prospective employer to disclose the salary range
It's always a good idea to wait for the prospective employer to talk about their budget for the role before you throw out your own expected salary numbers. However, the employer or hiring manager will probably try not to disclose this information to keep the upper hand in the salary negotiation.
You can prompt them by saying something along the lines of, “Based on the industry data, similar positions at this level across the industry call for A to B. I am sure you have budgeted for this role with these figures in mind. What is your target range?”
If this seems too direct and uncomfortable for you, consider this instead: “I would appreciate it if you could make an offer based on my qualifications and achievements, as well as your budget for this position. We can take it from there.”
Feeling overwhelmed when it comes to talking about salary requirements in your job interview? Interview coaching can help you feel confident and not give away your hand too soon during salary negotiations, ensuring you get what you deserve in your next role. Contact our interview coaches at TopInterview to help make your interview journey smoother — and help you land the job offer of your dreams.