18

This question already has an answer here:

I am being underpaid for my industry, quality of work, and even experience. My question is not about how to get more money out of my current employer. Rather, I am concerned what potential future employers will think when they ask "What was your previous salary?" I won't lie, and I don't want to refuse to answer. But, specifically, there are two things I don't want them to think:

  1. This guy is cheap labor; let's offer him a mild increase over what he's making now and then continue to underpay him for as long as he's stupid enough to work for us. [this is kind of how I got in my present situation]

or, worse,

  1. If this guy was really as qualified as he seems to be, there's no way he would be working for $x per year. You get what you pay for, so there must be something wrong with him, so let's not make him an offer at all.

I'm looking for anything specific I can do (put in a resume/cover letter, say in an interview, etc) to help steer the potential employer away from thinking either of these things. In other words, I'd like to get them to make me an offer based on what I'm worth, not just "previous salary plus a mild increase".

I'm a software developer, in case that matters; but I couldn't think of any other details about my specific situation that would matter. If there are any further details needed, I can provide.

marked as duplicate by gnat, yochannah, Jenny D, jcmeloni, IDrinkandIKnowThings Jun 23 '15 at 19:00

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • 6
    Why don't you want to refuse to answer, when asked your previous salary? – andi Jun 3 '15 at 2:36
  • @andi I suppose because it makes it look like I have something to hide. But the consensus seems to be that I do indeed have something to hide and it's better to hide it than to let it be taken advantage of. – AnonymousCantaloupe Jun 3 '15 at 3:55
  • Why no just answer the salary question and add That was way too low and it's the main reason I'm looking for a new job (assuming that is truthful)? – Jan Doggen Jun 3 '15 at 6:27
  • 1
    Honestly, Point 1. This guy is cheap labor; let's offer him a mild increase over what he's making now and then continue to underpay him for as long as he's stupid enough to work for us. seems to be a pattern in my career from start, but I will break the glass ceiling real soon :) – user8961 Jun 3 '15 at 9:59
34

Short answer: You need to stop divulging your current salary to prospective employers.

Stop telling prospective employers what you earn. It's none of their business and will certainly be affecting your rate. It's not dishonest to say, "I would rather not divulge my previous salary as it is not relevant." You are under no obligation to tell them that. I have been asked this many times over the years and I never divulge it. I still got the job :)

Be judged on your experience and qualifications. You have no reason to state your salary and plenty of reasons not to!

  • 3
    This. See also: kalzumeus.com/2012/01/23/salary-negotiation, which goes into specifics about why this is the right answer and tactics for using it in practice. – jpatokal Jun 3 '15 at 1:41
  • 2
    Perhaps this belongs as a separate question, but what is the best way to phrase this? I don't see it going well as "What's your last salary?" / "I don't see how that's relevant." / "We use it as a baseline for the offer." / "But I want you to pay what you think I'm worth and not what XYZ Company thought I was worth." / "...uh...we'll get back to you ::files resume in trash bin::" – AnonymousCantaloupe Jun 3 '15 at 3:58
  • 1
    Look at it this way. If that's the conversation and the benchmark they use, you will find yourself being underpaid again, which is exactly what you are trying to avoid! You do not need to disclose your current income. You can word it along the lines of "I'm sorry, but I would rather not disclose my current salary. What salary range do you have in mind for this position?" – Jane S Jun 3 '15 at 4:02
  • @AnonymousCantaloupe read the link in jpatokal's comment – AakashM Jun 3 '15 at 7:23
  • 1
    @AnonymousCantaloupe, I simply replied that my past pay rate was private (or personal). Only one time did HR say they "Need" it, and I asked point blank if it was deal killer. Of course, it was not, but she was free to save face and say she'd ask, then never brought it up again. – donjuedo Jun 22 '15 at 18:16
11

Do you know what you are worth? Figure that out first. Then stick to it.

Them: "What was your previous salary?"

You: "I'm looking for $X."

That's all there is to it. If they ask the same question again, just repeat your number/range until they get the picture.

  • 2
    Kindly see 'the first person to mention a number loses'. The better approach would be to be confident, assertive and think for your interests only - and how to achieve them. – user8961 Jun 3 '15 at 9:54
  • 3
    @GopalAggarwal - That's only true if you don't know what you're worth. See my first sentence. – Bowen Jun 3 '15 at 13:39
  • Yes @Bowen, pardon me for jumping to conclusion :) – user8961 Jun 3 '15 at 14:02
3

I'm looking for anything specific I can do (put in a resume/cover letter, say in an interview, etc) to help steer the potential employer away from thinking either of these things. In other words, I'd like to get them to make me an offer based on what I'm worth, not just "previous salary plus a mild increase".

If you feel you are underpaid, you need to reject all jobs that will underpay you, and hold out for what you think you should be getting.

It's perfectly reasonable to admit during an interview "I feel I have been underpaid. Thus, I will no longer accept less that I am worth."

Be ready to elaborate on what you feel would be acceptable. Be clear in your own mind what you need, because you will likely be asked.

Answer with a specific amount, rather than as a percentage increase. For example say "I am worth $X", rather than "I deserve a 53% increase." That will get the focus off of how much of an increase this will be, and back onto how much you should be getting paid.

1

I think your value should be set by your achievements and not your previous salary.

In order to succeed you need to explain your achievement very well in an interview.

Good examples would be to highlight certain great project you have done and what value that created to your company and customers.

For example, I was part of a CRM implementation team, that helped my client double direct campaign sales. I was in charge of the predictive analytics logic, everything you need is right here in my head.

You need to tailor such messages to your own situation, of course.

It is also beneficial to highlight soft skills like team work and communications with real life examples from your career. How you solved a difficult situation with a critical bug, or an unusual email for example.

If you do this right, your interviewer will want you because of your experience, knowledge and personality.

The point is, you set your price with the above value proposition before the salary talk.

If they ask about your current salary, you can be open and say: I am underpaid but I know I am worth more, so my current salary expectations are higher.

This is a matter of personal preference how interviewers react. I personally do not like if people hide their current salaries. I like people who know what they're worth and are not afraid to tell.

My experience as an interviewer is that people usually tell their previous salaries, so I think you should too. Don't provide less information than your competitors (i.e. the other candidates).

What you can do about the current salary is to communicate your total compensation, including the value of benefits on top of your salary. This looks better and gives you a better negotiation position.

0

In the UK, my employers asked me for my P45 and as i did not have it, my P60. The P60 had my salary, tax contributions etcetera in black and white, so although it was provided after i got the job, you're making a good decision not to lie.

Although you are not legally obliged to tell them your salary, you have to handle it delicately, especially if a smaller firm. If the firm you are applying for is a large company then i wouldn't worry as much when not stating it. Just state what you are looking for.

Think like politician!

  • I am working in UK as well and I was wondering if a company can actually ask for your P45 or P60 before employing you? – andrea.marangoni Jun 21 '18 at 15:23

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.