The Best Way to Answer the”What is Your Current Salary” Question

There are many different strategies and recommendations on how to handle the “What is Your Current Salary” question in an interview. A lot of the recommended answers are bad advice and can cost people job offers or money in the pocket. Probably the most important rule is that there is no one strategy that works for all types of jobs, in all situations, in all regions, with all companies or with all individuals. Some of your strategy is going to have to vary with your sense of the circumstances and personalities involved – but there are still some basic principles to consider. My target audience is primarily professionals and executives in the Information Technology industry. Their handling of the salary issues is going to be different from the hedge fund manager on Wall Street or the retail cashier.

One of the most frequently advised strategies for answering about current salary is to avoid answering the question and state that you would want the company to offer a salary to you that is correspondence to your value to them and not your current compensation. That’s great in theory and, sure, it would be ideal if that’s what the prospective employer would do, but you risk alienating the interviewer, being labeled as evasive, and they will likely surmise that you must be really underpaid currently and that they should be able to take advantage of that.

I would recommend answering the question honestly – it’s better to have an opportunity to negotiate the best package possible over current compensation than to be screened out for having an “attitude” before you get a chance to get an offer.

When stating your current salary, be sure to know the exact annual number prior to the interview. You can multiply your hourly rate by 2080 to arrive at your annual compensation equivalent. Follow-up stating your salary with any mitigating factors, as explained by these examples:
- “and I am due for a salary review at the end of next month where I anticipate a raise of 4-8%”
- “and I receive an annual bonus that has averaged an additional 15% of salary”
- “and I am paid for overtime at 1 1/2 times my hourly rate, which I work a lot of, and will add about $8000 to my W2 this year”
- “and….”, state anything else you can think of that is an unusual and valuable benefit that you are unlikely to get at another employer. A large amount of vacation pay, stock grants or ownership, completely free health insurance might be some of the factors worth mentioning.

What you want to do is honestly answer their question, be labeled as upfront and direct, while building the best case possible for how the prospective employer should view your current salary. You would also want to point out to the interviewer if:
- your current company has had salary freezes in effect that have caused you to miss a raise cycle or more.
- you have worked at one company for a long time, which you feel has caused your compensation to fall behind the rest of the market.
- you’ve been working in a market with a lower cost of living than the prospective employer.
Or, anything else that you can think of that you feel makes a good case to explain why your current salary should be viewed as lower than it should be.

If the employer is asking you to complete a job application or fill out an on-line form that asks about current pay, you may not have the space, nor would it necessarily be appropriate to add many of the above circumstances – but you can state bonuses that have significant impact on your compensation. Even in a little box, you can write, “85K +7K bonus” or “92K w/bonus”.
Leaving the salary questions blank on the application or sidestepping it in the interview might work sometimes, but in other circumstances it might cause you to be screened out. Prepare properly to answer the question and provide the necessary additional information that will help the current employer to best compare what they might want to offer you.
Please add your ideas or questions as COMMENTS to this blog. Please return for my next blog that will explain the best way to answer about your salary requirements.

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