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How do folks avoid the question, "What is your current salary?" Or do they?
I work as a software engineer in California and am currently looking for positions. This time around, I've noticed that potential employers are very pushy about asking what my current salary is. Perhaps I'm old fashioned, but I feel this is personal information and shouldn't be given out to just anyone. It certainly is not in my interest to reveal my salary right now as it's rather low due to me being at a startup place where I have a large amount of options. Also, I feel like an employer ought to be able to come up with a number himself/herself. All that revealing my salary does is give them an option to potentially offer less than they otherwise would with the rationale, "Hey, we made him an offer $10,000 over his current salary. He should be happy."
I've tried the often recommended, "I prefer to discuss salary after we have mutually agreed there is a good fit" with little luck. The response was in at least one case, "We need a firm number now to know if it's even worth moving forward. Your salary expectations might not align with ours." On the last interview, I actually used the line, "I am under obligation not to divulge my salary." This is as close to lying as I like to get. In fact, I've promised myself not to reveal my salary, so technically I'm under "obligation" to myself. Unfortunately, instead of this ending the inquisition, it resulted in the response, "So you've signed a NDA about your salary?"
I've been an engineer for over 15 years. I swear that folks are getting more and more pushy about current salary. In my more paranoid moments, I wonder if they are collecting this info as a cheap way to do salary surveys.
How should I handle this? Should I refuse to answer? Could it end the interview process right there and then?