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It seems that almost every employer I've interviewed with has asked me the following 2 questions:

  • What is your current salary?
  • What compensation are you looking for?

A potential strategy might be to answer one of those questions and not the other. For example, not telling them what compensation I'm looking for could leave their offer range more open than accidentally low-balling myself. They could then base the compensation off of the info provided as to what I'm currently making.

On the other hand, I could say that I'm not comfortable telling them what I'm currently making. Then, I can specify what I'm looking for without limiting myself to an increase based off my current salary.

How should I answer (or not answer) these two questions based on the fact that I believe based on my salary research that I am underpaid at my current company?

marked as duplicate by CMW, jcmeloni, bethlakshmi, jmort253 Apr 13 '14 at 19:58

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  • How much experience do you have with your position within your industry? This would play a huge role in knowing what makes for a good salary, and the interviewer should know this. – panoptical Apr 9 '14 at 4:39
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    Another related Q&A... this one really gets asked a lot workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/183/… – Rafael Emshoff Apr 9 '14 at 6:52
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    I don't really understand this question. Why not just answer honestly, after doing your homework. If you're questioned further, be prepared to back up your answers. – Vector Apr 9 '14 at 8:18
  • @comeAndGo Mentioning your current salary can significantly affect the offer they make, but doing so is usually expected. Mentioning an expected salary more often than not will affect their offer, regardless of whether it's higher or lower than what they planned to offer, and, in the worst case, might completely take you out of the running for the position. – Dukeling Apr 9 '14 at 22:26
  • @Dukeling - But they're asking you. You need to have the right answers and talk straight - not decline to answer or dodge around. Nobody wants to hire someone who is evasive or tries to move the goalposts. That's why you need to do your homework. State what you made, and state what you think you're worth for the job on the table, based on market price in the industry, location, etc. If they lowball you, then you're involved in negotiation - the normal course of affairs. – Vector Apr 10 '14 at 0:33
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I was in the same situation ,I answered both questions and was completely honest with the prospective employer.

  • What is your current salary ?

    xxxxx but this is below industry standard as per research(here us the proof...) and is one of my reasons to be looking for a change.

  • What compensation are you looking for ?

    *XXXXX + 25 , because then i'm aligned with the industry levels & will feel incentivised enough to make the switch as it enables me to forget about salary being a worrying factor at the next job

The employer's response at this stage will tell you a lot about whether they are fair towards your situation or are disadvantaging you during negotiations by basing their offer on your already existing low salary (rather than what the industry should pay).

Note that your "research" on what you deserve to be paid need to be solid too !

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"I prefer not to discuss my previous salary." is the way to answer the first question. What I do make right now has no bearing on my worth beyond what my current employer and I have agreed to. There are more diplomatic ways to say the same thing. The whole point is I am trying to get the best salary for the work the company wants me to do.

"What is the budget you have for this position?"* is how I start the actual negotiations into salary. If the interviewer is insistent that I provide the first number, I will. Somewhere toward the high end of the range I am looking for. *Suggested by a friend of mine.

This is the strategy I have used successfully many times in the past. I don't expect it to work for anyone else.

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    "I am open to a range. What did you have in mind?" can actually backfire on you in an interview, as some interviewers want to know what you as a candidate expect to get out of their job, involving financial, career, and to a certain extent lifestyle terms. Saying something like that tells them that you aren't certain of a few things about the job or industry. – panoptical Apr 9 '14 at 4:45
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    If you are downvoting, please explain why so I can improve my answer. – Adam Zuckerman Apr 9 '14 at 4:54
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    An argument call also be made that the interviewer wants to low-ball your salary. – Adam Zuckerman Apr 9 '14 at 5:00
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    @AdamZuckerman I think you're being downvoted because they fundamentally disagree with your advice ... to not get low-balled on salary negotiations. Oh well. – HopelessN00b Apr 9 '14 at 11:27
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    While I wouldn't use the exact words "My current salary is not relevant to these discussions", it's 100% the correct sentiment. It isn't relevant. All that's relevant is the value of you, in that position, to the company you're interviewing with. – MattBelanger Apr 9 '14 at 13:17
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How should I answer (or not answer) these two questions based on the fact that I believe based on my salary research that I am underpaid at my current company?

These are both common questions, and while it may be uncomfortable, you do need to be prepared to answer. Declining to answer interview questions is usually a way to miss out on the job.

What is your current salary?

This one is easy. You tell them your current salary. And you indicate that you feel you are currently underpaid.

What compensation are you looking for?

This is a question you can handle several ways.

Most times, I've just finessed the question and indicated "I'm open to reasonable offers." But then, I haven't gone into interviews feeling that I was ever significantly underpaid. If you take this route, you have already indicated that you are underpaid and want more, but you are leaving it open for them to decipher what "reasonable" means. Be prepared for pushback. You may still need to give them a number.

Or, you can be bolder. You can just say "I feel that I'm worth X". This puts the onus on you to determine which X is high enough to meet your needs, but not too high so as to be unreasonable for this employer. You are the one who is guessing what "reasonable" means here. If your X is too high, you may be considered too expensive, and thus not be offered the job.

Either way, go into the interview with a very clear idea of the minimum you would need to receive in order to accept this position. Be prepared to be offered a bit less than you might want, while still being at least as much as you need.

  • The issue I have with answering "what is your current salary?" is that there are 1000's of variables at play. For example, my company hasn't given regular raises since the crash, and if I even got "cost of living" raises, I would be making quite a bit more. There is also a concern that the company could use your current salary to low ball you. – bigdaveyl Apr 10 '14 at 13:33
  • Stazzere - In my experience, it has been a mixed bag. Most places will ask what your expectations are, because it defuses the situation a bit. Head hunters/recruiters tend to ask current salary, but my advice would be to turn it on it's head and say you would want $x. You aren't refusing to answer the question, but are giving them a number you would be happy with. Any company that uses current salary for a future offer is probably poorly run. – bigdaveyl Apr 10 '14 at 15:06
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I would not answer the current salary question, but would be willing to discuss what I would like to make. I would also not proceed if they couldn't give me a budgeted range as well. Using this information, I could make a determination whether it is worth it to proceed.

You probably won't low ball yourself, if you do your homework.

The issue by giving your current salary/history is that the company could use that number against you. In other words, they could not do their own independent analysis of how much the market for a particular job pays and how much the job at hand is worth to the company. There are many variables at play in a salary.

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