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Interview Series - What’s Your Current Salary?

On08/ 11 /17

When it comes to discussing salary, many people feel uncomfortable. In an interview situation, this is often compounded; a salary question can easily bring out the nerves.

Interviewers will often follow the question “What’s your current salary?” with “What are your salary expectations?” This is an altogether easier question to answer, as it allows you to focus on the salary you’re aiming for. 

But however this question is phrased, we provide you with some tips to answer it with confidence and put yourself in the best position to negotiate a salary you deserve.

What does the interviewer want to know?

Really the hiring manager is asking, “What is the minimum salary we need to offer you to convince you to change companies?”

However, if the interview goes well their objective may change to “what do we need to pay you to convince you to take up our offer?”

Shouldn’t I just be honest?

There is a difference between being honest and keeping your cards close to your chest. There are a variety of reasons why you might not want to share you salary information. First of all, it could put a ceiling on your potential earnings.

The fear is that once you share your salary information, you can probably only expect a 10% increase on that figure. Hiring managers tend to use your previous salary as a base and add a few thousands. If you’re already underpaid, clearly you don’t want to stay underpaid in your next role.

Well should I just make something up?

It’s not advisable to just pluck a figure out of the air. Some companies will check a P45 to see if it matches with the figure you mentioned at interview. Whilst you can withhold this, it can create unnecessary stress. Additionally, some reference forms do have salary on leaving, as a question.

Bring the conversion back to what you are looking for

When asked your salary you can simply talk about what you are looking for e.g. “I’m focusing on opportunities in the £25-30k range”. This is where your research comes in – you need to have a realistic idea of your market value, whilst giving yourself some room to negotiate.

Some career advisors suggest that you should not reveal any salary information, even your expectations. However, if you are concerned about underselling yourself, you can always turn the question around by asking what the employer has budgeted for the role.

Inevitably, the interviewer is likely to repeat the question “and what is your current salary?”

Remember that you don’t have to answer the question directly. You could say they you would prefer to focus on the value that you can add to this position rather than what you’re paid at your current job. 

You can also add “I want this move to be a big step forward for me in terms of both responsibility and compensation”.

Some hiring managers will continue to press you on this point. After all, salary information is an invaluable guide for them. Some companies may even say that they aren’t able to move forward without this information.

Refer to your entire compensation package

If this is the case, you can refer to a salary range, however by mentioning your entire compensation package (including benefits and bonus), you can remain deliberately vague.

For example, “My complete compensation package is in the region of 25-32k.”

You should follow this by emphasising your experience and skills and reiterating you desire to work for an employer that will reward employees based on the potential value they can offer the company.

A sample answer

“Given my experience and skills, I’m looking for a salary in the range of 30-38k” or “I’d be keen to understand the salary that you have budgeted for this role”.

When the question is repeated:

“I’d prefer to focus on the value that I can add to this position rather than what I’m paid in my current role. I want this move to be a big step forward for me in terms of both responsibility and compensation”.

If the hiring manager insists:

My total annual compensation package is between 25-32k, however as I mentioned I’d prefer to focus on the value that I can bring to this position. Given my experience, I am looking for a package in the region of 30-35k.

For more job advice and tips, read our selection of blogs. You can also read other posts from our interview series, helping you to tackle those tricky interview questions!
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