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Here’s How To Answer The Salary Question

Here’s How To Answer The Salary Question

Most job seekers hate being asked about their current salary. Although some say they don’t want to share personal information, most people are afraid revealing their current salary may negatively influence potential job offers.

While you can’t dodge the salary question, you can somewhat control the narrative.

To do this, you need to understand the process and prepare your response.

Why do recruiters ask about your salary?

Despite what some candidates think, recruiters don’t ask your salary requirements to put you on the spot. They need to know if you are affordable. Do your salary needs fall in the range of the position they are filling?

Each open position has a predetermined salary range supplied by the hiring manager and/or human resources. While there may be a fairly wide range, salaries at the higher end of the spectrum will be offered to highly qualified candidates, and those with fewer skills or less experience can expect salaries at the lower end.

Asking a candidate’s salary requirements is a quick way to weed out those who are too expensive.

While employers sometimes have “wiggle” room, no matter how awesome you may be, it’s unlikely an employer will pay you $150K if the top of the range is $100K.

[Related: Is That New Job the Best Next Career Move? A 10-Point Checklist to Help You Decide]

How should you respond to questions about salary?

If you’re interested in the job, you need to have a response to the salary question. Of course, you can ask the salary range for the positon. They may tell you. They may not.

When a recruiter does provide a range, you can either say that you’re within that range or pick a number that works for you. Just remember that the highest salary in that range will go to an “ideal” candidate who has most, if not all, of the requirements.

[Related: Get Ready to Negotiate (Because You're Worth It)]

The most desirable candidates will likely have industry experience, some particular skills, and maybe several years in a similar role. If you’re a corporate accountant, you may not command a top salary at a public accounting firm.

There will be times when the recruiter will not share the salary range. In those cases, you need to be ready with a response. You can try giving the recruiter your salary range. The inference is that the lowest number is your bottom line, so make sure this is one you can live with.

Not every recruiter will ask your current salary. But if they do, don’t lie to them.

It’s too easy to get caught lying during the reference checking process, and discovering that you lied may cost you the job.

When stating your current salary, make sure you note whether or not that includes benefits. While health care and sick days may be common, many companies don’t provide things like tuition reimbursement.

How to you decide on a salary range?

Before beginning your job search do plenty of research. It’s easy to find salary information online. Here are four sites to get you started.

Once you get some basic salary information, get additional details by interviewing people that are either familiar with or work in your target position. First, start with your friends and family. You may be surprised who your cousin knows. Increase your circle by contacting your college or university alumni association which may be able to connect you with other alumni who are willing to help.

For most candidates, discussing salary is uncomfortable. Spend some time online doing research, and try to talk to people who are in or hiring for the position. The best way to reduce the anxiety around the “salary” question is being ready with your response.


Annette Richmond is a 3X Certified Executive Resume Writer, LinkedIn Profile Writer, former recruiter, former associate editor, and owner of career intelligence Resume Writing & Career Services. Annette has been featured on Monster, Forbes, Chicago Tribune, Huffington Post, and Business Insider. Her work appears in Resumes For Dummies.

Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.


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Community Discussion
Marina S. Rudolph SHRM-SCP, PMP, SPHR

Great article and topic Annette! A lot has changed this past year with hiring and especially with the 'salary question'. It's important to know in many states it is now illegal for the recruiter or company to ask the candidate their current salary. This may not apply to External Recruiters/Headhunters. Also, it may be a requirement that the company discloses the salary range when asked by the candidate. This doesn't mean you will get the top of the range now that you know it but it is good to know how much you can grow in a position.

August 1, 2018