It’s inevitable that you’ll be asked about your current salary or salary requirements during your job search. Sometimes you'll be asked to include this information with the application, other times it might not come up until a phone screen, or the employer may wait until you’re the candidate they want to hire before this question comes up. However, you should be prepared with an answer when you apply to each job.
So how do you answer the question? Here are a couple options to consider:
Do Your Homework
Before you even apply to the position, do a little research to determine what the job market is paying for someone with your background, in your location, and in certain industries. Salaries can vary greatly on a number of factors, so it’s important to be realistic in your expectations. To determine your worth, there are a number of resources available to you, including sites like payscale.com, salary.com and Simply Hired’s own salary tool. You can also search job listings that are similar to the role to which you’re applying, to see what similar employers are offering. Keep in mind that your salary can also depend on the full benefits package you’re offered, including vacation time, insurance, 401(k) options, paid lunches, laundry, etc.
One way to avoid giving an answer right away is to respond that you’d like to learn more about the position and its responsibilities and requirements before offering a salary. You could also turn the question on the interviewer and say something like “The market value for someone with my skills is between X and Y. Is this consistent with your range?” Another option is to hold out until you’ve sold yourself as the candidate they want to hire, so that they may be more willing to negotiate the salary. However, many employers won’t like this approach and may press you for a number, so have a number or range prepared in advance.
Tell the Truth
If an interviewer asks what your salary was at your most recent employer, it may be tempting to offer a number higher than what you were paid. However, the potential employer can (and probably) will find out your true salary when performing reference checks, so it’s important to be honest. If you feel you should earn a higher income, give the actual salary but also mention why you believe you deserve a raise. For example, you could answer something like, “I earned $60,000 at my last job, but I believe I deserve $65,000 based on the technical experience I acquired creating web pages” or “I earned $60,000 but the company was struggling and was forced to pay many of its employees below-market salaries.”
Offer a Salary Range
Without offering your previous salary, give the interviewer a salary range, such as $60,000 to $80,000. Make sure this is an appropriate range based on the position, so don’t forget to do your research. Also mention that your salary requirement depends on the job’s responsibilities and the full benefits package.
At the end of the day, your job search is driven by one thing: to land a job. Hopefully that job is one you actually like and that allows you a comfortable living. There are many tactics for answering salary questions, and the same tactic might not work for everyone or in every situation. When it comes to salary negotiation, it’s important to do what works best for you and what you’re comfortable with.
How have you answered questions about salary requirements or salary history in an interview? What tactics have or haven't worked for you? Share below in the comments!