How to Answer the Salary Question in a Job Interview

During a job interview, the question that I find most cringe-worthy is What’s your current salary? It’s weird to disclose personal financial information with someone you hardly know. Plus, what if you’re unhappy with your current salary and that’s why you’re job hunting—how do you explain that? While it may seem like you have to answer this question truthfully, according to a LinkedIn article by Liz Ryan, the founder and CEO of Human Workplace, you shouldn’t disclose this information.

Instead, you should say, “In this job search I'm focusing on jobs in the $80K range. Is this position in that range?” If the hiring manager or recruiter pressures you, then you say, “I understand that many companies ask for that information, but, of course, that is my private financial data and my accountant has been very emphatic with me that it is not to be shared with anyone—just like your company would never share its salary data. Can you find out whether this opportunity pays in the $80K range? If so, then it may make sense for us to keep talking.”

While it could make the recruiter or hiring manager uncomfortable, nobody should have to grovel to get a job. Employers need talent, and if you tell them your current salary, you may get a job offer that’s only a small jump up from what you are making, and this is never desirable. Ryan says that many recruiters will start to talk of transparency and trust, but don’t buy it. If a recruiter says they can’t work with you because you refuse to reveal your current salary, hang up and find a different recruiter. As Ryan puts it, “When you know that you bring something to the table that not every job-seeker does, you have leverage in the hiring process. Don't give it away just because a recruiter bullies you!”

Learn more about how to nail a job interview by reading 60 Seconds and You’re Hired.

How do you feel about the salary question during a job interview? Do you think you have to share the information?