How Should I Answer Questions About My Salary History?
Questions about salary history are common in the initial steps of the interview process. If you live in a state where employers are permitted to ask for information about your current salary, they likely will. It’s important to be prepared with a response.
Disclosing your current salary to your potential employer helps them know how little they can offer you to get you on board. Not offering details of your current salary and waiting to talk about salary until a job offer is almost on the table can help you land a higher offer.
Answering Questions About Salary
Many early questions about salary are the employer seeking to understand if what they are willing to offer and what you are expecting are at least somewhat compatible. If you expect twice what they are able to pay, they do not want to waste their time or your time with moving forward.
When questions on salary come up later in the interview process, they are checking for compatibility, but also starting the negotiation process.
There are several ways you can address these types of questions, depending what information you are comfortable sharing and what you may already know about salary for the role.
Reframe your response
When asked about your current salary, consider redirecting the conversation to the position for which you are applying.
If you are comfortable with stating your salary expectations, focus on this information as your answer to the question.
You can do this by saying:
Focus on your salary expectations.
“My salary expectations for this position are in the $45,000 to $55,000 range.”
“I’m currently looking for positions in the $90,000 range.”
Addressing your response in this way gives the interviewer the main information they are looking to obtain.
Focus on total compensation package
Another option is to focus the conversation on the total compensation package.
You could say:
“I’m really interested in the total compensation package. Right now I have a lot of perks in addition to salary, such as vacation time, a remote work option, and childcare reimbursement.”
Talk about the total compensation package.
This is especially helpful if your current salary is much lower than your desired salary or if you are moving from the nonprofit sector to the corporate sector.
A response like this gives the opportunity for the interviewer to review benefits with you immediately or (more likely) delays the conversation until another time.
Delay the Conversation
You have skills and experiences that an employer wants. Remember this as you move through the process and leverage it early if needed, even if it is tempered.
If an employer instructs you to include salary history in your cover letter or as part of your application, you still do not need to supply it. It is best if you address it though.
A request for salary history does not mean that you have to supply it.
Here is an effective way that candidates have delayed the conversation after being told they must provide an expected salary before an interview could be scheduled:
“This is difficult to answer without having the full picture of the complete compensation package. I expect this is something we can work through as the process progresses and I learn more about the position and [company’s] complete compensation offering.”
If sending this via email, it is best to first express your interest in continuing through the process and then stating this. This way, you highlight that you do want to continue, but also address why you are not able to answer their question right now.
This type of a response addresses the request while also reinforcing that the job search process is about BOTH sides evaluating the fit.
Turn the Question on the Interviewer
Another simple tactic is to reword the question back to the interviewer.
“What is the salary range you are expecting to pay for this position? I can confirm if this is something I am open to.”
Ask the interviewer what they expect to pay for the position.
You may find out the salary range or this might cause the interviewer to delay the discussion as well.
Know Your Rights
Thankfully, some states prohibit companies from asking candidates for salary history information.
Oregon and Delaware prohibit questions about a candidate’s salary history. Other states are following suit as are some cities.
You can find information about your state laws on your state’s Department of Labor website.