How to Talk About Your Current Salary on a Job Interview


You know the drill. Many hiring managers or recruiters loathe having to ask the question: "What's your current base compensation?" In addition, there's always the dreaded: "What's your salary history?" question on applications.


Your current annual salary (excluding bonuses and commission) shouldn't really impact your future one, right? Especially when you're underpaid. Well, if policymakers have any say, they're starting to agree. In New York City, employers will be banned from asking job applicants how much money they made at past jobs, according to new legislation passed by the city council. It's intended to combat the pay gap between men and women – policy supporters say if a woman is underpaid in one job, when salary history is an indicator of future compensation, she'll end up being underpaid again. And again and yet again. Salary history bans already exist in Massachusetts and Philadelphia; California's legislators are considering it, as well.


And as per a recent Monster poll, when asked how much they were able to negotiate a salary after receiving an initial offer, the majority (nearly 62 percent) of people said there was no change whatsoever.


While you should always negotiate even if the outcome doesn't end up being favorable, these pollsters show the initial salary for them, at least, was unflinching. That's all the more reason for you to speak appropriately about dollars during the interview phase. Here's how to go about it:


Tactfully call them out on it. If you live in New York, Massachusetts or Philadelphia, you can politely say something such as, "I've been informed of a law that's now passed in our state (or city) that says it's not a topic to be discussed during job interviews. I'd be happy to speak about my skills and experiences …" If they press further, you should press further. Be firm.


Still call them out on it. So, how should you handle it when you don't live in one of those locations? Mention that you've been informed a former salary shouldn't bear significant weight, given the future role should be based on internal equity, standards for the industry and geography. Remember to breathe and pause.


If they push and you're going in circles, give a ballpark range. If the conversation feels like you're watching a never-ending match of tennis in the final set going back and forth, back and forth, at some point if they don't reveal what the range is for the position, you will probably have to state a range for your current compensation. Factor in benefits, salary, bonus, paid personal time off and more. When they ask for what you're looking for, you can state an increase and note you're ultimately looking to get paid fairly for what you're worth.


Understand their point of view. Sometimes, if hiring managers aren't provided with a salary range from a prospective employee, they can't proceed to the first round of interviewing. As odd as this may sound to you, employers wanted to be cognizant of everyone's time and expectations. Interviewers have to take off prized time from their office work for interviews, which is not easy to pull off when you have several rounds of interviews for just one position alone. Several interviewers' schedules need to be coordinated and the last thing a company wants for a prospective new hire is to get to the offer stage only to find out the candidate they fell head over heels for wants more money than they can afford.


The reverse is pretty disappointing, as well: As the candidate, you've gotten your hopes up really high, it's going really well, but since you managed to avoid compensation conversations, you're hoping they'll magically offer you what you ultimately desire at the final stages. Womp womp. Instead of dreading salary conversations, look at it as an opportunity to get on the same page in the early going.


Ultimately, trust the process. In cases when candidates told me their current salary was below the range for the position, we still interviewed them and when these specific candidates were hired, they were always paid what the position entailed. In one instance, a woman earned $32,000 from her previous employer and she jumped to $48,000. Keep in mind while that put her in the typical range for the position, it was just that – barely in it. As in the bottom.


So, if you're among the pollsters who tried to negotiate and didn't see the needle move to more money or if you feel like you're being shortchanged because prospective employers are focusing too much on where you are currently instead of where you want to be (because let's face it, the most significant salary leaps typically occur when you move externally to a new employer), you can always politely turn down that job offer and withdraw your candidacy. Find other employers who will pay you what you deserve.