What Is Your Current Salary?

Dear Platinum Recruiting,

I’ve been asked about salary during several interviews recently. Both current salary and salary expectations. How do you suggest handling these questions? I don’t want to be difficult but also don’t want to lose leverage if we get to the offer stage. Thanks for your help!

Dear Joe,

You know it’s a great question when it could cost or make someone money! Handle this poorly and you risk leaving money on the table at the offer stage. Nail this conversation and you just might get a better offer! (Click Here for Facebook Live Video)

On the surface, this topic seems to revolve around leverage. Both employers and candidates prefer the other to share information first. Understandable. This explanation makes so much sense that the conversation usually ends here.  Isn’t there more to it? Yes.

Besides leverage, why else might a candidate be hesitant to share current salary or expectations?


Think about it. No company is the same. Offer strategies and reasons for asking for information vary. Many employers have genuine intentions when asking about salary. They don’t want to waste your time or theirs and fully intend to make a fair offer if the process gets that far.

However, I can tell you first hand there are plenty that will use your salary information, if possible, to justify a lower offer than they would otherwise make.

That’s the problem:

As a candidate, you don’t know the offer strategy being used. So, you are faced with a dilemma: Trust that the company has genuine intentions and they will make a fair offer based on the job and your experience. Not current salary. Or, play defense and protect their salary information.

Before you think I’m just sounding off on employers, both sides could do better:

Employers: There is often an immediate assumption that a candidate is being difficult or dishonest if they don’t want to share salary information. That’s not fair. How is a candidate to know the strategy of a company when making offers? Like a few bad recruiters giving us all a bad name, your company might be on the up and up but how is the candidate to know?

Candidates: Learn how to handle this conversation. It’s often how you respond, not what you say. In other words, there’s an acceptable way to communicate that you’d prefer not to share certain salary information. Don’t be a jerk about it. If you get pushed to share, be prepared to have a conversation about it. No matter the offer strategy being used, ball is still in your court if you get an offer: You can accept, decline or counter.

How do you answer the salary question? Here’s a quick role play:

Company:  What is your current salary and what are your expectations? (Previous Blog: It is now Illegal to Ask Current Salary in Massachusetts!)

You:  For me, it’s more about the opportunity and finding the right fit.  I would need to learn more about the position, the team and growth opportunities to determine what an acceptable salary would be.

Majority of the time, the interviewer moves on.  Or, they share a salary range and ask if that’s acceptable. If they push for more info?

Company:  Can you at least give me a range so we can make sure we’re not wasting each other’s time?

You:  It’s tough to know for sure since there is still so much to learn.  But I’m making $100k now + 10% bonus.  I would probably be looking for something in the $110K to $140k range depending on bonus opportunity, culture, cost of benefits, advancement opportunities and other important factors. I have another interview next week as well so that could be a factor.

You aren’t leaving money on the table b/c you aren’t going to jump from $100k to $140k. You’re not pricing yourself out unless their salary range is below your current compensation.  Providing caveats isn’t being wishy-washy. It’s impossible at the beginning of the process to know what salary you would accept. You might accept $110k with one company but turn it down from another.

3 Takeaways:

  1. Rehearse your response to the salary question.
  2. Offer a wide salary range, not a specific number.
  3. Provide plenty of caveats in case the company references this conversation at offer stage

Now you’re ready to nail this question next time it comes up!

Think others would benefit from learning more about this conversation? Please share!