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I recently had a phone interview with a company that I had applied to. I believe it was with an HR person. She asked 1) How much do I want to make in this position I'm applying for and 2) How much do I make at the company I am currently at.

The first question I never want to answer because I don't want to give a salary that's higher than what they expect to pay and seem lofty, but I also don't want to accidentally undershoot and be taken advantage of. What is a good way to respond to how much I'd like to be paid for a certain position?

The second question I REALLY hate to answer because I am currently making diddly-squat for my current position and background. I'm embarrassed to tell them my salary and it is honestly a large part of the reason I am looking for a new place of employment. How should I respond to this question?

During the actual interview I paused for a moment to deliberate whether to answer the questions or refuse. I ended up telling her a large range for my expected salary and current salary and the way she responded seemed like it was a fairly low number compared to what she was expecting. When I told her my current salary she made a comment and laughably said "Oh, well we would pay you MUCH more than that". I'm afraid that telling my actual salary will give the hiring company reason to chop down a salary offer I could potentially get. Should I just respond to these questions by saying "I cannot disclose that information" or something of that sort?

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  • Ask 15 to 20 % increment from what are you currently getting and never be shy with your current pay. Unless it is very low, Ask for what is the normal range of pay for that job with your experience. Set your tone not in demanding mode but make it sound like if they offered you this much you will be more then happy. Trust me when they say they will pay more they might just increase by a mere 100 dollars more from your current salary. Which would not justify your resume as jumping to a better offer. – 3.1415926535897932384626433832 Feb 24 '15 at 2:30
  • "I'm looking for about £x for this kind of role, as that seems to be what's usual in the industry. Last week I interviewed with Company Y (a competitor), and they're offering £z for a similar role." Only say the second sentence if it's true, but assuming you're going for more than one interview, it'll be true for all of them except the first. – A E Feb 24 '15 at 16:14
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First, you do not have to disclose any information you are uncomfortable sharing.

I've had good results with something like "I'll be expecting a compensation package adequate for the work I will be performing, comparable to my peers within the company and globally."

It doesn't answer the question with a direct amount, but does show that you're not expecting billions of dollars or a yacht or something like that for your work.

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I've been in many situations like this before with many internal/external recruiters for software engineering jobs. It's always awkward to speak upfront about what your salary expectations are. There were several times where I've answered honestly with my current salary, and I don't think it ever does you any good besides allowing them to now lowball you. The first to answer this awkward question usually never "wins" in the negotiation.

I'm not HR person, but I think the main reason they ask you this is because they want to be sure that your expectations are within the range they are allocating to pay for the position.

My own personal opinion: never, ever, talk about what your expectations are before you even interview. I've politely declined before, asserting that "I don't think it's relevant at this time. I want to go through the interview process, and if we both find each other a good fit, then we can discuss salary negotiations". The reality is, you should have a good ballpark estimate of how much you should earn. When the time comes, have an honest assessment of yourself, and speak up about what you think you deserve you should earn. And frankly, if they're adamant about getting an answer from you, I don't see why you couldn't flip the question onto them and ask what the typical salary range for the position is. If they give you a stupid answer, like a salary with some large range that really doesn't tell you anything, I would just stop talking to them. I've had that happen to me before.

  • The recruiter doesn't want to waste the hiring staff's time and yours with interviews when your salary requirements are out of line (either too high or too low). It's a tough but valid question on the recruiters part. I have been on both sides of the problem too and the best way in my opionion is to be honest. You can say , I would like $X and I currently make $Y. I know $X is a lot more than I make now, but I feel I am worth that in today's market. You could also say, I know I am making $Y, but the job market is tough and I am willing to go down to $Z, but I really want $X. – Bill Leeper Feb 24 '15 at 19:52
  • @BillLeeper, I can see your point, but should you really answer this way before you've even begun interviewing? I can see how it's a way to be sure that your expectations are inline with what the company is willing to payout, but these are simple negotiations that can be deferred until the time is appropriate, i.e, when an offer is to be made. Depending on how well you do in the interview, and how well you're received by the team, you can effectively "dictate" your expectations. This puts you in a better position than speaking about numbers prematurely. – HiChews123 Feb 25 '15 at 0:15
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    I guess it depends on if you want to waste your time on a job that isn't going to make you an acceptable offer. I made this mistake once and it cost me thousands. I knew going in they would offer well below what I was making and they did. I made the additional mistake of accepting it thinking I didn't have many other options. The excitement of the job and other aspects clouded my judgement. I should have just passed. – Bill Leeper Feb 25 '15 at 18:23
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I have two options:

Option 1

Before looking for a new job I decide how much I want to earn. Obviously I consider how much I could realistically expect given the current job market, my experience and skills. Another factor that may affect the number I choose is whether I currently have a job and therefore have time to look for another job that will pay the salary I want. If I am unemployed then the salary I am looking for can be less and less depending on how much savings I have left.

During the interview process when I am asked what salary I am looking for I tell them honestly what I decided on before looking for a new job. If they question why you deserve such a large pay increase tell them that you feel that you feel that your current wage does not compensate you enough for the experience, skills and dedication you bring to your current job and that what ever you've been paid in the past should not be a consideration when weighing the benefits you'd bring to the new company versus the wage they'd have to pay you. You really need to believe in and back yourself for this. They will ask you to justify your salary demands. If you don't sell yourself to them well then they'll pass your salary expectations.

Option 2

I have never been asked how much I am currently earning. I live in Australia and I've not heard of prospective employers asking for the salary from previous employers during their reference checks. If this happens in your country then this next bit of advice might not be applicable to you.

The second technique is to say "I currently earn $X a year and I don't want to go backwards or sideways". Every time I've used this wording with a job that I was eventually offered the salary in the offer was usually $5k more than $X, so make sure that you will be happy with $X if you want to use this technique.

If $X is not what you currently earn (i.e. you're trying to shoot for more) then you have to be comfortable with 'bending the truth' to get the salary you want. If you need rationalisation keep in mind that when it comes to how much to pay an employee employers might use different reasons or excuses as to why they can't pay you more than they are already. "there's not enough in the budget" or "tell me why you deserve more now". I've even heard "Don't give me CPI or inflation as a reason to give you an increase". In my opinion when you change jobs is the single most reliable time to get a raise. You have the ability to say no and look at other job offerings. This is also pretty much the only time an employer will look at their budget for your salary. (Of course this isn't always the case but for most employers I believe it is the case).

If you're not comfortable with saying your earn more than you do then your only option is to go with option #1.

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I would never recommend that you disclose your current salary or what salary you are looking for. Neither piece of information is useful except as a feeler to see how low they could potentially offer you or as a weed out because you've asked for rockstar pay at an entry level job. I usually answer that my compensation package is currently adequate but my compensation package requirements are commensurate with the job. This often leads to a discussion about compensation vs salary - which is a worthwhile discussion as work/life balance and other perks certainly are worth talking about.

  • Why is turning the conversation around downvoted? – Jim B Feb 25 '15 at 21:31
  • Why is turning the conversation around downvoted? – Jim B Feb 25 '15 at 21:31

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