Sunday, January 09, 2011

What to Say When the Interviewer Asks How Much You Make

During the interview process, it’s inevitable that at some point you’ll be asked about your salary requirements. Along with that question, a hiring manager or human resources employee might casually ask, “How much do you make now?”

Employers want to know what you earn now or what you’ve earned in the past for one reason: so they can hire you for the lowest possible salary. If you answer truthfully, you could be looking at a minimal increase from your last job. But if you lie, you could cost yourself the opportunity.

Here are a few honest ways to tackle the question:

1. Tell the truth.

Be honest about what you make, but also say how much money you’d require to accept the new position. If your salary request is light years away from your current earnings, explain why you’re underpaid in your current job—maybe your company has financial problems, for example—and why you deserve more in your next position. Gaining experience or education during the last year likely means you deserve a raise.

2. Explain what you’d like to make.

Rather than giving your current or former salary amount, make eye contact with the employer and tell her what you’re worth, and how certain on-the-job perks like bonuses, health benefits, and vacation could make a compensation package more appealing to you. This allows you to be truthful, but without answering the question. And sometimes simply saying out loud what you deserve is a good reminder of what you’re worth.

3. Don’t say exactly what you’d like to make, but offer a salary range.
Without offering your current salary, provide a salary range of what you’d like to make. Use a wide range, for example, between $50,000 and $70,000. Say you’ll have more concrete salary expectations when you have a better understanding of what the job entails. This is a stall tactic; the longer you put off this question, the better your negotiating position.

4. Turn the question on its head.

Tell the employer you’d rather not talk about your previous salary, and would prefer to concentrate on getting on the right career track with an organization you want to grow with. Emphasize your commitment to the company and make it clear that you want to work there. Then explain that they have a better understanding of the market value for someone with your skills. If you want, you can even shift the question back to the employer, and ask what he thinks you’re worth.

When you’re interviewing for a job, your goal is simple: get an offer. Even if you can’t agree on salary, you may be able to negotiate other valued perks such as the ability to telecommute, additional days off, or a customizable in-office schedule. Many larger companies use formulas and third-parties to limit flexibility, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

Every scenario is different, and what will work in one case might not work in another. That’s why the best advice is likely to come from you, the reader.

How have you answered when a hiring manager asked, “How much do you currently make?” and what were the results?

Andrew G. Rosen is the founder and editor of, a career advice blog. He is also the author of How to Quit Your Job.

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