I'm eighteen years old and I'm working at my first job. I have been here for six months. Understandably, I was initially offered a "less than market value" salary due to my lack of experience/education.

Well, we're now seven months into the job and I have been quite literally working as hard as I possibly can. It paid off. Last month I was offered a 20% raise in salary. The problem is, that 20% raise has only now put me at the bottom of the acceptable market value for my exact position/skills.

I believe my skills speak for themselves and I belong in the average salary range for my skill set. I have an interview with another company today. When I am asked what my current salary is, my thinking is to avoid answering it directly (as is often recommended in my research) and instead bring up the raise I was given in January. Would this positively or negatively impact my chances of obtaining a salary more appropriate for my position, experience, and skill set?

In other words, I'm imagining my response being: "I would rather not discuss exact numbers because I believe my abilities speak for themselves, but if it helps I did receive a salary increase of over 20% after six months on the job."

Your interviewers are (likely) not idiots. If you don't want to cite numbers but cite a 20% raise, they will likely be intelligent enough to understand that you were getting paid peanuts. They will also probably figure out that you are interviewing because you know that you were getting paid peanuts even after the raise.

Be honest

You know your market value, you know what salary you want, and you know that your current company isn't providing it. There is very little harm in saying:

After being given a 20% raise recently, I am earning X which I believe is below market value.

Be straightforward

If money is a big issue for you, and you believe your skills are worth at least $Y, there is absolutely nothing wrong with saying that in the interview if you are worried they aren't going to be willing to pay $Y:

Part of the reason I'm interviewing is because I'm being paid under market value. My understanding is that my skills are worth at least $Y on the market. If you think I'm a good fit for this job, could I expect a minimum salary above $Y?

Bear in mind that benefits and the like can have different impacts on the actual salary figure and you will have to do some mental math to figure out what is best for you.

Leaving Money on the Table

Generally speaking, talking about minimums doesn't mean, "If you offer me $Y I will accept", it just means "I won't even consider anything under $Y". Wording can be delicate, and if you don't want to leave money on the table during the negotiation, just try to be careful about not implying $Y is what you're happy to settle for, and is just the absolute minimum for someone with your skills.

You don't have to answer that, and I wouldn't. Your market value is determined by what employers will pay for your skills, not what you are currently paid. I would dodge the question and answer that "Based on the compensation of colleagues with similar skills and experience, I believe that my market value is ..."

Personally, I would avoid taking employment from a company that insisted on knowing what you are currently making. They certainly won't tell you what they are currently paying everyone else in a similar position. They want to know your current pay so they can offer the minimum that would make their offer better than your current position. That is a stupid move on their part. It tempts you to take the offer and stay until someone else makes a more reasonable offer.

I find such tactics disrespectful. The respectful question is "what compensation are you seeking?"

If you really need this job, tell them what they want to know, take the job, and keep looking. If your estimate of your true value is correct, you will soon get an even better offer, and they will get what they deserve.

I have used what Raganwald has written when it comes to answering questions about salary in his article Three tips for getting a job through a recruiter:

Now I said you don't disclose details. I think you want to mention a range. Here's exactly what I say when people ask me:

Over the past five years, my compensation has ranged from X to Y dollars.

And they will ask for more details. How much is base? How much bonus? How much last year? Does that include stock options? I blow off all additional details. If they can't submit my resume without additional details, that's their problem.

What the client needs is to know that you are neither too cheap (you must suck, or be ignorant, or both), nor too dear (motivated by money, or ignorant, or both). The range answers the question while giving very little away for the negotiation.

Here's how to calculate X and Y. Over the last five years, take the smallest base salary you've earned in any one year or at any one job. Include only the cash portion. This is X.

Now take the most you've earned in any one of the five years. Include the cash equivalent of perquisites (sic) like travel to trade shows or conferences, meals, drinks, everything (I drink two free cups of coffee a day. If I'm calculating Y for this year, I'm adding $2.20 a working day to Y).

That's your range. Notice how it works even if you've been at the same job for five years?

No matter what figure you tell them just one suggestion keep in mind: Don't let your potential new employeer that you are desperate to get a raise or leave your current company and join this one. Because if you show them that you are dying to leave the current company they will also give you small raise.

Another option would be lying, say you get slightly less then the amount you want to get as a minimum salary and that you expect a common raise around 10-20percent for changing your job. In this case you wouldn't work for less money, if he just offers your minimum salary, and you are a bit above your normal range to have room for negotiating.

You can also go a bit higher, if you think he needs you desperately or you ain't to keen to change your workplace.

I doubt he want you to prove it, and is allowed too.

I'm eighteen years old and I'm working at my first job. I have been here for six months. Understandably, I was initially offered a "less than market value" salary due to my lack of experience/education.

This is imho problematic, you are still young and inexperienced. But did you accomplished to get certificated to prove your skills? Since your new chef, cann't judge your work performance, like your old chef who knows that other people ain't keen to hire someone with uncertain skills. Maybe you can ask for the oppurtunitys to make (paid) certificates instead of a higher salary, this knowledge will also help your new chef and is showing that you like to learn.

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    Lying is never a good strategy although I personally have no moral qualms when doing it for salary negotiation. The problem is you're anchoring your new salary to the old one. There's no reason to do this and no reason to leave money on the table, when you might as well go for the maximum they're willing to offer. Never disclose past salary. No need to lie. – rath Nov 19 at 17:25
  • In this case his past salary is also his qualification, like my chef thinks i am worth this money - and he has hard times to proove that he is worth it as a young gun without "written" qualifications. I wouldn't talk a lot about the salary in the first place, but i think it isn't good to avoid an answer when it is asked. (you can be in the active part and ask it first -> but i personally prefer not to talk about money in the first interview) – chris Nov 19 at 18:40
  • his past salary is also his qualification The fact that he got a 20% increase only shows he was woefully underpaid in the first instance. I wouldn't let a future employer base his salary decision on the decision of others, at a different company, with very different needs. I agree with you on delaying salary discussion as much as you can. – rath Nov 19 at 18:43
  • I am not talking about the increase, as he stated he his lack of education and experience. His previous salary is what he is worth for someelse on charge, which shows his ability to work. Maybe they give him a test, but honestly sometimes they just show if the candidate is able to google ;) – chris Nov 19 at 20:45

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