I'm looking to interview for a reasonably high paying position in market analytics with a corporation. I'm well qualified, I have demonstrable experience and I've gotten real results.

One of the examples I'd like to bring up is a marketing campaign aimed at new customers that I created. In runs and self-maintains automatically, requiring virtually nothing in terms of man hours (after the initial design and programming, that is). A point I've made in my performance reviews at my current job is that this campaign alone offsets my yearly salary.

The problem? My salary is so pathetic at my current company that it's almost embarrassing and I'm worried that mentioning how little I currently make will impact the amount they offer me (if they make me an offer). I work for a small family owned business in a small town, there's an understanding that most employees (and especially the marketing department) are under-compensated - BUT we love and believe in the company, so that's been the tradeoff. But at this point in my life, I really need to make money more than anything else.

Is bringing up my campaign by stating that it pays for me (it nets around 45k in revenue a year), a horrible idea?

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    Employees almost always add more value to companies than they are paid. – enderland Mar 27 '14 at 22:38
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    Have you done any research into what people at similar positions and responsibilities earn? – Kvothe Mar 27 '14 at 22:38
  • @Kvothe - Yeah, it's a huge range. The specific job I'm hoping to move in to ranges from 60k - 110k a year within the city I'm looking at. – TheNovice Mar 27 '14 at 22:44
  • @enderland - Sure, otherwise no company would be profitable. I'm not sure if most employees can say they offset their yearly salary via one campaign out of the hundreds they run a year however. Either way, the issue isn't that I add value (which, you're right, all employees do), the issue is whether bringing up this one example in this way is a bad idea because it illustrates just how little I earn. – TheNovice Mar 27 '14 at 22:46

Perhaps your best bet is to describe the campaign without mentioning your salary.

(describe the accomplishment and then say) this campaign alone nets around 45k in revenue a year, and of course, it is normal to run hundreds a year.

In other words, show a concrete accomplishment, but don't tie it to salary at all. That would simply be a different conversation, at a different part of the interview process.

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    Thank you. I've been rethinking it, and perhaps I can illustrate that campaign in terms of the size of the company instead of the size of my salary. – TheNovice Mar 27 '14 at 23:39
  • @TheNovice, tying it to the size of the company is a really good idea. "I increased company revenue by $500,000" isn't nearly as impressive as "I increased company revenue by 30%" – Chris G Apr 18 '17 at 21:51

If your potential salary is negotiable (which they usually are), then the interviewers will likely bring it up during or very soon after the meeting. In most instances it will be a direct question, like:

What is your current salary or package?

When answering, you have two options:

1. Bluff.

If you have looked around at comparable salaries and know that you are being underpaid at your current position, you could reply with a figure closer to what you would like to earn. If it's a realistic number and one the company can afford and believes you are worth they will likely accept it. Even if they didn't believe it, it would be practically impossible for them to determine your actual current salary.

In many jurisdictions it is illegal for an employer to release your salary details. Even so, finding those details out would require significantly more trouble than it is worth. For example, let's say you were asking for $10,000 per year more than you are currently on. If the company can afford it and think you are worth it, they will accept it. If they can't afford it, they certainly can't afford to run a thorough background check.

2. Tell the truth

You mentioned that you are allowing your current employer to underpay you because you believe in your work. It may be worth mentioning this to a new employer, and replying:

I'm paid by my current employer $X, but I have worked with them since it was a small company, believe in the work and have a lot of ties there and wouldn't leave for less than $Y. (Assuming X < Y)

This highlights your work ethic and loyalty to a company, and may or may not work against you. For example, the new employer may value your honesty and hope to leverage your loyalty to them. Alternatively, a less scrupulous employer may attempt to low-ball you and hope that your loyalty can be bought for a lower price.

What do I recommend?

Against common wisdom, I recommend the bluff as it's one that is unlikely to cause issues in the future. Salary negotiations are just that: negotiations, and like most they are built upon imperfect information from both parties. You have a salary that you would like to earn, and the company a maximum salary they want to pay you. You want to maximise your salary and they want to minimise it, and neither of you know the others' position.

Treat this like a proper negotiation and never give more information than is necessary.

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    If you say that you are paid $45,000 now for producing $100,000 in product, the current company will assume they can get away with paying you $50,000. They don't know your current salary, and there is really no need to tell them. – user9158 Mar 27 '14 at 23:16
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    @TheNovice I would strongly recommend against lying. – Kvothe Mar 27 '14 at 23:51
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    Rather than bluffing OR lying, I'd suggest turning it around focusing on what you want. "Well, let's just say that one of the reasons I'm interviewing with you is that I'm hoping to do better. So: What kind of salary and benefits are you offering for this position at hiring, and what might it become in a few years after you've seen what I can do for you?" – keshlam Mar 28 '14 at 5:29
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    Or insist that you will not disclose your current salary, but are interested in reasonable compensation – daaxix Mar 28 '14 at 14:19
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    Why don't you call it for what it is? That first heading should not be "Bluff" it should be "Lie" – Matt Dec 24 '15 at 0:47

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