THE INTERVIEW PART 3: How To Handle The Dreaded “What Is Your Current Salary?” Question
In Part 2, I wrote about my belief that injecting the salary question early in the interview process is not only poor form, but also unproductive. It sets the wrong tone for a good interview process, like asking a potential love interest how many children they want on the first date. As a headhunter, I would never coach a candidate to walk into an interview and inquire about the salary of the proposed position. It’s off-putting to the company. I would ask the company to consider that this is a two-way street. Regardless, candidates must game plan for multiple questions. Here are some tips for throwing the hot potato salary question back into the interviewer’s lap.
- He who speaks first loses. So there you are, in your first interview and the interviewer asks, “So, what’s you current salary?” Instant Standoff – the classic “I-know-what-you-are-doing-and-you-want-me-to-be-the-first-to-say-a-number-but-I-am-going-to-do-my-best-not-to.” Time to play the game. It’s important to defer this question in an open handed manner. How do you let the interviewer know that you will not give up your salary information, but do it in a way that doesn’t sound defensive? Try this: “I’m interested in this position and I like your company, but I’d like to defer a salary conversation until you have had a chance to evaluate whether I am the right fit.” Or, “My current salary isn’t important. What’s important is whether my skills fit the need for the position. I know the reputation of your company, and I’m confident that you will be fair.”
- Handle the comeback. Usually, the above responses calm the waters and defer the salary conversation. But sometimes, the interviewer will press. So press back with this one: “I’m really interested in this position and I want to explore whether this job is a good fit for me. I’m confident that whatever salary you are paying is in line with the market.”
- If you end up with a bulldog on your hands and he/she persists with Round 3, then I’d recommend stating exactly what you make in detail – salary, bonus, stock, and vacation. Be specific, be confident, and be brief. Do not add a caveat, a plea for why you are underpaid or an apology if you’ve done your research and know that you are coming in on the high-end of the range.
- And speaking of range, NEVER talk in “ranges”. Salary ranges are dangerous traps. Say a range and I guarantee you that the only thing you hear is the highest number and the only thing the interviewer hears is the lowest. I’ve never heard of anybody recommending talking ranges in any other negotiation, but somehow people think it makes sense for a salary in the next step of a career. It doesn’t.
Discussing salary early can be dirty work, but sometime you are forced to get down in the muck. If so, be prepared, be confident and let the chips fall where they may.