Answering the “Current Salary” Question

Career Blog

“What’s your current salary?” It’s a question every job seeker dreads. It’s the equivalent of a contractor asking for a homeowner’s maximum budget. It’s an irrelevant inquiry that will have you on the back foot during a future negotiation.

I would never ask my electrician what he made on the last job. I do my research on what the work is typically worth, consider variables such as the market, the geography, my timing, his skill set etc., and then negotiate a price. Why should you do anything less for your career? 

Recruiters will give you a variety of reasons for the ask, but in the end it boils down to time pressure, inability to assess skill sets, and ultimately the fear of presenting a “50k person” for a 100k job. There is no upside to answering the question. When asked, immediately inquire as to the “salary range for the position.” Most jobs are scoped at more than one level so there should be a wide range. This information will help YOU decide if the salary is in line with YOUR expectations.

Once you have the range, shift the conversation to what your salary expectations are for the next role and use your resume to back up the request. If they balk at the strategy or refuse to show flexibility, it’s best to bolt as that is likely a sign of things to come. Most people fear the salary conversation, but it’s critical. Settle for less than you think you deserve and you’ll be looking again before long.

Be sure to check out my new book The Introvert’s Guide to Job Hunting and follow me on Twitter at @timtoterhi

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