Wednesday, July 24, 2013

They’ll Ask. Don’t Tell.

Read Time: 2 minutes

If you are asked what you were paid in the past, and most interviewers do ask, here are some things to say.

  • Turn it around with a question: “What are your expectations for this position? I’d like to get a feeling for what you’re looking for.”
  • Let them know that you hold their interests in high regard: “I’d like to find a job that’s a good fit for me and my employer. I expect to be paid current market rates for my skills and experience. Paid fairly for what I contribute.”
  • Make them the expert with the knowledge: “I assume that you have a budget and a fair idea of what this position is worth to your company.”
  • My past pay isn’t relevant: “What I’ve been paid in past positions is not relevant to my current value or future performance. I’ve added valuable skills and experience.”
  • The “it’s none of your business” answer: “My past compensation is a private matter between my last employer and myself. It would be a violation of that trust to reveal it to you.”
  • And finally, just say no: “No, I can’t do that.”

I know this feels awkward. It may even feel inappropriate. You naturally feel like you need to accommodate the interviewer. You think you need to be compliant, obedient, eager to please. But all those feelings work against you. You will appear to be much more valuable, and more powerful, if you politely refuse to answer this loaded question. If you do tell, the interviewer will peg the offer to your past compensation. And you’ll leave money, and more importantly some respect, on the table.

This article originally appeared at TalentZoo.


  • Nicole says:

    I’ve done recruiting for many years and found most people will tell you what they make. However, I now ask “what are your salary expectations?” I want them to be happy once they are in the role. Knowing what they hope to make is more valuable than knowing what they currently make. However, job seekers should do their homework and know what they are worth in the market and what positions are paying!

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