I know one should not disclose their salary in an interview: how you are valued anywhere else should not affect how the new company should value you, and it can be used against you.

I am aware some people just give a higher figure to prevent it being used against them (stating their supposed current salary as the minimum salary they want in the new position). I would prefer not having to lie, though, but I am not sure I would be able to refuse to disclose it without sounding rude/paranoid.

How can one politely refuse to disclose their salary, ideally without hurting their chances of staying in the interview process?

EDIT: This is not a duplicate of How to respond to a direct ask of salary earned and expectations?: I know how I want to answer, but I do not know how to phrase it in a polite and professional.


6 Answers 6


How can one politely refuse to disclose their salary, ideally without hurting their chances of staying in the interview process?

Hurting one's chances during an interview is a two-way street. You have no control over what might cause the other party to end the interview process, even if you do everything you believe the other party wants you to do.

Negotiation is risky because it is an adversarial process. To get what you want, you have to do and say what's in your best interest, and potentially against the other party. Revealing your salary history is not in your best interest.

So what to say instead? Simply:

I prefer not to discuss my salary history.

If they press further, you can say:

My salary history represents specific agreements with past employers, which I don't think is relevant to the position we are discussing.

You can bring in any evidence of this that might support it. You can say, for instance, that you would consider yourself underpaid in your current position, so your current salary is not a reliable indicator of your market value.

There's always the risk they'll say an offer is contingent on telling the interviewer your salary history. In that case, you'll have to decide how badly you want the job, and either tell them, or simply call their bluff.

  • If "what I've done in the past" is irrelevant, what makes a 30-year veteran better than a new graduate with the same qualifications?
    – user53718
    Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 19:12
  • 1
    @Nij good point, I have edited to be more targeted.
    – mcknz
    Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 19:26

"My company considers salary to be confidential, so I can't disclose it to third parties".

If they insist, hold your ground. You can even reply "You aren't suggesting that I break a confidentiality agreement with my current employer, are you?".

EDIT: For the odd case where your salary isn't confidential and you don't want to lie, you can say "My current salary is not relevant for the current negotiation", or just "I rather not tell" if you want to be bold.

Bottom line, there is nothing wrong with you not wanting to share this information, and holding your ground and clearly stating that you don't want to share this information is not unprofessional.

  • Thanks, but I'd prefer not to lie, and that line wouldn't always be true. Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 9:04
  • 3
    IANAL, in some places (e.g. Germany where I live) salary is confidential by law. But even in places where it isn't by law, your employer can forbid you from sharing it in the basis that it is company's confidential information. If you are so concern about lying, ask your HR department whether you can freely disclose your salary outside your company.
    – angarg12
    Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 9:08
  • Wait, so in Germany you cannot willingly share your salary with other people (e.g. friends and family)? Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 9:09
  • 6
    @user2891462 if it is confidential by law that mean you cant be legally get asked to provide it and no body can force you for a random reason (unless it is a judge or something)
    – kifli
    Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 9:25
  • Again, IANAL. After talking with my colleagues apparently it isn't enforced by law, but companies can (and do) state confidentiality agreements. In any case I don't think your company can forbid you from sharing your salary with your spouse (as in they will sue you) since it is necessary e.g. if you are filling taxes jointly.
    – angarg12
    Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 10:04

In a perfect world the salary history is not needed ( only the market average for this position compared to your set of skills is).

But for must HR/headhunter it is very important and it is part of the process : they need to communicate the number internally to the department manager. Most of the HR won't give your application to the departement manager until they know what is salary ( because the manager need to know if they have enough money to pay you). If you refuse to answer ( saying it is confidential) it will for sure hurt (maybe a little -delay- maybe a lot - stop the interview process-) your application.

One solution to avoid the "confidential" answer or to reveal your exact salary ( which could hurt the salary expectation) is to give a package revenue range :

Dear XXX My current package is around 150k-200k (including salary, benefits, bonus that may fluctuate).

Note : Never reply directly to the question saying "it is confidential", "i can only give a range, it is acceptable?" . Because it means your email will need another emails to clarify until the HR got what she wants. It is better to give directly the package range.


Here's a twist to that assumption - I've referenced my "current salary" for every position I've been after, and I end up getting the compensation I want every time. The key is to know what compensation you need and to know how your value justifies it. It could be twice your current salary if it's justified, so I have no problem stating my current salary because I come in with a realistic expectation of what new salary I would need to make me personally interested in the move while also being realistic and understanding what value I'm bringing.

Also, an employee's compensation is an agreement between the two. One's current salary can be a relevant factor, although not a necessity. For example, if a candidate mentions that they're making $100k and the company knows they can only pay $50k, then that question saved everyone time by realizing it isn't worth moving forward. Ultimately, however, the onus should not be just on the company. The employee is providing a service for a price, and they are equally responsible for disclosing their price just as the company is responsible for disclosing their budget range.

  • 1
    Rather than state raw salary I prefer to use how much money I have left after bills as my negotiating point. If the new company is in a more expensive area then they need to pay more so that after mortgage/rent I still have a similar or better amount for saving and discretionary spending. Basically you don't want to take a lifestyle downgrade.
    – user
    Commented Jan 29, 2018 at 10:17

You don’t have to refuse to disclose your current salary, as long as you make sure they know the salary you want.

The reality is that you want between X and Y, and depending how your job search goes, you will start with a salary at the lower or upper end. If they offer Y or close, you take it. If they offer X or close, you look for something better, and only take their offer if your search seems fruitless. If they offer exactly in between then you look for a short while only.

Your old salary is really not relevant. So you can say “I’m making Z now, but I’m looking for offers from X to Y”. Some people will think they can offer Z. Your reply is either “why would I leave a company that I know for the same salary” or just “No”. Good companies will have a range like you do, and just like you they have to decide if it’s better to hire you now or wait for someone better.


It is my understanding that, under U.S. law anyway, you are not allowed to ask that question.

And, it is truly none of their business what you make now. You can ask them what is the salary-range of the position, since that has to be fixed by HR in a carefully-proscribed fashion. But they don't have to tell you.

  • Not sure why this was downvoted. This information is correct for some US states.
    – BigMadAndy
    Commented Aug 1, 2020 at 6:59
  • I wasn't one of the downvoters, but I could easily understand why it was. Even with the angle this is taking it still doesn't answer the question. If you're taking the stance of 'Them asking the question is illegal', it still doesn't tell the OP what to do when asked.
    – Kevin
    Commented Aug 3, 2020 at 13:15

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