The “SALARY QUESTION” During Interviews…

[WARNING]: Consider this advice only if you are in a position to choose an employer. If not, please PM me, I have an alternative approach.

I feel strongly about this part of the interview process and I personally think interviewers or other people, apart from our spouses or parents or tax bureau, have no right or justifiable grounds to demand this from a candidate.

Having said that, never be afraid to walk away from a seemingly good opportunity if they make the salary question a big deal; except if, the employer wants to know whether they can afford you. But even in this case, your salary expectations should suffice, unless you want to work for them for a lower rate than what you are already getting. In that case, share it and proceed.

Before we start, here are some of the reasons why I believe employers would want to know your current salary (if you have others, please by all means, share them in the comment box):

  1. The employer wants to ensure they don’t overpay the candidate by giving him or her more than 40% of current salary (regardless if their budget for the position is double the current salary).
  2. The employer wants leverage during the negotiation. If they like the candidate and they know the current salary, they can work within that range and eventually provide a seemingly attractive offer based on their current rate. Anchoring the first offer from that perspective.

Think about it, if the organization treats you like this while you’re not yet in their payroll, how do you think will they treat you when you already are?

Below is a sample conversation that might happen when an interviewer asks you about your current salary.

[DISCLAIMER] You may find the discussion below too familiar…it’s purely coincidental.

INTERVIEWER: What is your current salary?

CANDIDATE: Based on the role, expectations, and industry standard, I would expect a base salary package of X.

INTERVIEWER: Yes, but that’s not what I asked for. I need to know your current salary. We can only move to the next level of interview once we have this. We ask this from all the candidates.

CANDIDATE: I fully understand that some companies require this information. However, I consider my salary, highly confidential. And I don’t openly share it apart from my spouse/parents/dogs. The last one is a joke (smile).

INTERVIEWER: All our applicants have to submit this information and there are no exemptions. If you can’t give us this, then I guess we can’t accept your application.

CANDIDATE: I would really love to explore a role in your organization and I am sorry to hear that the salary expectations I just shared would not suffice. I really hope you would re-consider even if I don’t divulge what I believe is confidential.

INTERVIEWER: I am sorry but we can’t.

CANDIDATE: I respect and understand your position on this. Thank you for being candid and up front about it. I really appreciate it. Please do let me know if your policy on this has changed.

End of discussion. You both shake hands and stay connected in LinkedIn.

However, in certain cases, the discussion doesn’t end. And it may go something like this:

INTERVIEWER: Look, we really like you to join us. But this decision of yours is making it really difficult for me to get you to the next level. I hope it’s you who would re-consider.

CANDIDATE: I am really sorry to hear that and I don’t mean to make it more difficult for you than it should be or for anyone else for that matter. That’s not how I operate.

INTERVIEWER: I am glad to hear that. Now, regarding your current salary, we assure you that we’ll treat it confidential. We take confidentiality here really seriously.

CANDIDATE: I have no doubt about that. Seriously, it’s not you, it’s me (smiling). Just kidding. I’ll tell you what, maybe we can arrive at a compromise, could you by any chance share with me the salary of the person who previously held this position?

INTERVIEWER: Unfortunately, I can’t. Those things are confidential.

CANDIDATE: Don’t worry, I can keep a secret. I am very good at it (smiling again). I have another question, what would you do if you found out one of your current employee is sharing with other recruiters his salary?

INTERVIEWER: That’s a major policy violation. Because it potentially exposes our salary structure to our competitors.

CANDIDATE: If I divulge my salary to you now, would you still trust that I won’t do it again in the future? How would that work for us if I join?

INTERVIEWER: I see where you’re getting at here. It’s the first time I heard such a compelling and respectful argument to this policy. You’re exactly the type of person we need in our organization. I would love to see you progress and eventually join us, I’ll talk to my superior about your request. I don’t know if this will do anything, but heck, it’s worth a try. I’ll get back to you on this.

CANDIDATE: Thank you. I am more than willing to wait for your advice.

End of discussion. Both of you shake hands and stay connected in LinkedIn.

Please share your thoughts, below.


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Author: jeffmanhilot

Jeff is a passionate believer in people and leadership skills development; he invested 16 years in both local and multinational FMCG companies. He began his own leadership journey in 2006 and started coaching and training in 2007, building high performing teams and developing next generations leaders. He had the privilege of managing teams he inherited and teams that he had to build from scratch; eventually allowing him to lead individuals from different generations. Jeff now coaches and trains leaders on a full-time basis; he also consults for local and multinational organizations.

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