Salary Question: What is Your Current Salary?

June 14, 2005

Dear Job Seeker,

When companies ask you about your last salary, they are trying to screen you out. This is a high-risk moment, so you want to delay the salary discussion for later in the hiring process. The representative from the company is trying to make sure there is reasonable alignment of your salary requirements and their salary range. 

Here is a recommended response when this question is asked early in the interview process (before the company has decided to hire you). First is the overall strategy, then specific examples of how to respond to this question.

The overall strategy is to delay stating a specific salary number until the company has decided to hire you. Any discussion of compensation before this time runs a high risk of eliminating you from further consideration.

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Possible Responses
1. "I was paid well and in line with job market conditions."
2. "I'd be happy to discuss salary history later in the hiring process."
3. "I'm interested in the opportunity so far."

Specific Examples
When asked “What was your most recent compensation?” state the following (or something similar that is comfortable for you).

I was paid well in my last position and in line with market conditions and the results I delivered. I will be happy to discuss my compensation history in detail when we have decided that I'm the right person for this position.

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If they ask again
I realize that you need to make certain that my salary expectations are consistent with the salary range. To ensure we are aligned, please tell me the salary range and I'll let you know how my salary matches the range.

If they ask yet again
When deciding on a position I consider the following factors; quality of the opportunity, quality of the company and the people I'd be working with, long-term growth potential, location, and compensation.
Compensation is the least important criteria I use to evaluate a position. So far I'm impressed with what I have learned about this opportunity and remain very interested.

Remember that the first person to give a number is at a disadvantage. You want to discuss salary only when the company's representatives are absolutely convinced they can't live without you. It is at this point that you have negotiating leverage, not until then.

Craft a response that feels comfortable for you and practice saying it. At this point, decide that you are not going to discuss salary until you are ready.

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Rodney Capron, Jr.
President/CEO Pongo Software, LLC


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