We all want to be honest and forthcoming in an interview. So when the question “What are you making now?” or “What kind of salary are you looking for?” comes up, it’s tempting to just cite a
number or a range and move forward – but try to resist the urge. If you reveal your salary expectations too early in the process, you lose two big opportunities:
1. The opportunity to make them love you before they know your price.
2. The opportunity to demonstrate your ability to handle an uncomfortable situation confidently and respectfully, without caving (a prized skill in most jobs).
To Answer or Not to Answer?
If you’ve done your homework, you should have a fairly good idea of the typical salary range for someone with your level of experience in the kind of position you’re seeking within your market.
If you feel it’s in your best interests to avoid the question, your reply should respectfully and professionally communicate three general principles:
* Your interest in the opportunity;
* Your expectation to be paid in line with market conditions and your experience level; and
* Your willingness to discuss salary history once you and the company decide you’re the right person for the position.
If you’re applying for a sales-oriented job where negotiation skills are critical to success, then by all means demonstrate your negotiating finesse and your ability to diplomatically sidestep the question. If you’re applying for an administrative assistant’s position in a huge company with a rigid salary structure, there’s not much point in negotiating.
However, when you should answer depends on when in the hiring process the question comes up. Some companies demand a salary history with your application. Others will ask the salary question in an initial phone screen. The trouble is, at these early stages, they’re most likely trying to screen you out, not in. Even at these early stages of the selection process, you have a choice whether or not to provide a compensation number..