How to answer questions about salary

How to answer questions about salary

Sometimes during an interview, the subject of salary history comes up. It’s a good idea to be prepared to discuss salary during any interview, and to be familiar with what compensation to expect for the position. Your salary history may be of interest to your potential employer, and you should make sure you can discuss it in the most flattering way.

Keep in mind that in some locations, but not all, employers are not supposed to ask job applicants their prior salary. Also, some employers have banned interview questions regarding salary history. If you’re asked when you shouldn’t be, you’ll need to decide what you want to share and how you should respond.

The best place to start is by reviewing your salary history. Note any changes in your salary over the course of each job, including pay raises, bonuses, and other changes in your benefits. If you are unsure of the exact amount of your previous salaries, go back and check. Giving the wrong data to an interviewer can result in the job offer being revoked. If you have trouble remembering the exact numbers, write the information down, along with the dates for each pay change. You might even bring this sheet of paper to the interview for your reference.

You also need to research the salary range for your target position, especially if it warrants higher compensation than your past jobs. Questions about salary history can easily transition into a discussion of your salary expectations. Be prepared to address any differences in your target job that would justify a higher salary and be ready to indicate how you are prepared to meet those challenges.

How to Answer

Make sure that what you tell the interviewer matches what you listed on your job application. Don’t exaggerate or inflate your earnings. Many employers will check references and confirm your salary history prior to making a job offer. A discrepancy between what you reported and what the employer says could knock you out of contention for the position. Spending a little extra time verifying the numbers and writing them down can help you avoid making a mistake that could inadvertently cost you the job.

Along with simply stating your starting and final salaries, it’s also a good idea to list any other benefits you received. These might include bonuses or other perks. Sharing these with the interviewer will demonstrate other ways your former employer recognized your worth.

You might also note any big changes in responsibility that matched up with increases in salary. This will show that your former boss respected your work, and that you earned new opportunities.

If you are moving from a traditionally lower paying industry like the non-profit sector to a higher paying corporate industry, be ready to point out the differences in pay for comparable functional areas.

Finally, explain any inconsistencies in your salary. For example, if your salary decreased for any reason, explain why. Perhaps you switched to part-time work while raising a family, or your salary decreased while other forms of compensation (insurance, other benefits, etc.) increased. Show the interviewer that you were still a valued employee and that your compensation properly reflected the work that you did.

, you will likely be asked about your salary or compensation expectations—that is, how much you would like to earn in this job.

There are a few reasons employers ask this question. In most cases, the company has budgeted a pay range for the role. They want to be sure that your expectations are consistent with that budget before moving forward.

Another reason is that, should things continue to go well, your potential employer wants to put together an offer that is compelling and exciting to you. This question opens up an opportunity for you to consider and discuss the salary as well as other benefits that interest you. In this article, we explain how to talk about your salary expectations in a job interview.

3 tips for talking about salary in an interview

Here are several guidelines that can help you steer the conversation:

1. Know your worth

Each job has a general market value. You can learn the compensation range for your job on Indeed Salaries

, where you can search by job title and location to narrow in on current compensation rates in your field.

Before you share your salary expectations with an employer, think holistically about what you’re earning presently, including salary, bonuses and benefits. Then, use the research you’ve done to set a realistic target for what kind of compensation you want in your next job. What base salary are you looking for? Which benefits do you value the most? What other perks interest you?

If you’re changing career tracks or interviewing for a job at a company that’s structured differently from your last employer, you should be able to articulate what you’re gaining or losing in terms of compensation.

2. You don’t have to answer salary questions right away

The requirements of a job as well as the other kinds of compensation an employer offers, like benefits, equity and bonuses, are important to take into consideration. When you are first asked, “What are your salary expectations?” it’s ok to delay answering. Here are some responses that can help you continue the conversation and get more information:

Example 1

“I’m looking for a competitive offer that includes benefits and other kinds of compensation, but I’d like to know more about the specifics of what this job requires first." (This answer is good for most situations.)

Example 2

“Over the course of my career, I’ve worked in several different areas, across different levels. I’d like to learn more about what this role entails as well as the benefits and other forms of compensation you offer." (This may be a better answer if you’re transitioning to a new career track.)

3. Give a salary range, not an exact number

If you’ve delayed answering the question and the interviewer asks you again, it’s time to respond. Avoid giving a specific number. Instead, you can provide a range. Cite your research and frame the conversation as being about what is fair rather than what you want. Here are some examples of how to answer:

For the less experienced candidate:

Example 1

“I understand from my research and experience that low 50s to mid-60s is the competitive range for this role in this industry and city.”

Example 2

“In this environment and in this location, my research indicates that mid-50s to low-70s is a reasonable range.”

For the more experienced candidate:

“Based on my experience in this field and my research on the current market, I understand that mid 70 to low 90s is a competitive range.”

Final thoughts on salary talks

To sum up, here’s what you need to remember when talking about salary in an interview:

Know your worth and the forms of compensation that matter most to you.

Use salary resources like Indeed Salaries to study the current trends and learn about the range for this job in your city.

Give a range, not a specific number. Frame the conversation about salary around what is fair and competitive.

Rachelle Enns is an interview coach and job search expert. She works with candidates to perform their best in employment, medical, and post-secondary admission interviews.

Question 1 of 10

What are your salary expectations?

In many states, it is now illegal for hiring authorities to ask about your current earnings. A question like this will give the interviewer a solid idea of what you are hoping to earn. When you change positions, you want to see an increase in wage. Most interviewees will typically aim for a 7-15% increase for each time they change jobs. This range offers room for negotiations with the new company. This percentage increase reflects economic inflation, unique skills you bring to the table from the last time you joined an organization, and an increase in responsibilities. The best way to discuss your salary expectations is to use your current earnings as an example if you are comfortable doing so. If this makes you uncomfortable, do give as many indicators as you can. Be open, and honest. Transparency is the best choice when salary based questions arise.

If you are newer to your career, or the area, and are unsure of what a fair ask may be, there are many reliable salary calculators available online.

“Currently, I earn a base salary of $45,000 per year, and I would like to earn slightly higher in my next position, as I have additional certifications since my last salary negotiation took place.”

“As I am new to my career and this industry, I am happy to negotiate my earnings based on your typical salary for this role. From my research, I see that the average junior administrator in the Chicago area earns an annual salary in the $45K range.”

“I can share with you what I am currently earning, and where I would like to be in my next position. Currently, I am earning a base salary of $78K plus an annual bonus opportunity of an additional 10%. Last year my earnings were $85K, and I’d like to earn above that in my next position, to reflect the MBA I recently acquired.”

“I am currently making $80,000 per year with two bonus opportunities based on project completion. I am looking for compensation that is aligned with the responsibilities of this role and provides an opportunity to learn new skills.”

“I would like to earn slightly above where I am now. Currently, I earn $25/hour plus benefits and a 10% commission on all sales. My target income for the coming year is $65,000.”

“I am negotiable with my salary expectations. However, I am not inclined to lose compensation. Compensation to me, though, is not only net pay. I take into account work hours, commute. overnight travel, health benefits, etc.”

“My salary requirements are flexible, but for a ballpark figure, I would accept $100,000 considering the cost of living in the Bay Area.”

How to answer questions about salary

It’s fantastic that you have done your research and brought cost-of-living factors into your response. It’s important to consider all angles, so I recommend also mentioning how your skills, knowledge, experience, and education also align with your ask. This additional information will further support any financial conversation/salary requests.

List of 10 Salary Interview Questions & Answers

To view our answers examples, please upgrade.

What are your salary expectations?

How to Answer

In many states, it is now illegal for hiring authorities to ask about your current earnings. A question like this will give the interviewer a solid idea of what you are hoping to earn. When you change positions, you want to see an increase in wage. Most interviewees will typically aim for a 7-15% increase for each time they change jobs. This range offers room for negotiations with the new company. This percentage increase reflects economic inflation, unique skills you bring to the table from the last time you joined an organization, and an increase in responsibilities. The best way to discuss your salary expectations is to use your current earnings as an example if you are comfortable doing so. If this makes you uncomfortable, do give as many indicators as you can. Be open, and honest. Transparency is the best choice when salary based questions arise.

If you are newer to your career, or the area, and are unsure of what a fair ask may be, there are many reliable salary calculators available online.

Answer Examples

To view our professional answers examples, please upgrade.

1 Community Answer

Anonymous interview answers with our interview experts feedback

“My salary requirements are flexible, but for a ballpark figure, I would accept $100,000 considering the cost of living in the Bay Area.”

Did you know the “salary range” question posed in the early stages of the interview process can be a way for hiring managers to eliminate candidates early on? If your salary requirement is too high, they might say, “So long dear applicant.” But if you lowball your worth, you could sell yourself short.

So how do you answer the question, “What is your expected salary range?”

As a career coach who helps leaders land their dream jobs, I’ve seen that many people struggle with this question. Here are five steps I’ve found to be especially useful when the topic of salary comes up during an interview:

1. Remember the first rule of negotiating a salary.

I have a simple, but firm, rule that I’ve found works a high percentage of the time when it comes to salary: “He who speaks first loses.” So, as a job seeker, I would encourage you not to bring the salary up at the interview stage. Let the interviewer be the first to mention it and take the lead here.

Don’t begin negotiating a salary until you have a firm offer in hand. An interview is not the time to shout out a magic number if you can avoid it. But since recruiters and hiring managers might ask this question in the beginning stages of the interview process, you need to know how to gracefully navigate this line of questioning to advance to the next stage.

2. Turn the question on its head.

Put the question back in their corner. For example, you could say something along the lines of, “My salary is negotiable, depending on the duties and responsibilities that are expected with this position. May I ask what the budget is for this position?” Or you can ask, “Can you share the salary range being offered for this position?” The idea is to let them know the salary is negotiable for you and give them the opportunity to take the lead in answering the question.

Practice the delivery of this before you go to the interview. Talking about money can be uncomfortable for many people, and you want you to ensure you come off as friendly, approachable and cool as a cucumber when you try to turn the question around. To shake off your nerves, practice answering the question in a mirror or with family or friends.

3. Be prepared to answer the question anyway.

Sometimes refocusing the question is all you need to do. But in some cases, the interviewer might come back and say they truly need an answer they can document, which means you will be forced to give an answer. In instances like this, what do you do? When you are locked in and have to respond to the question, what should you say?

Here is how you answer this all-important question: You don’t — until you do your research. And that research should be done prior to any phone interview and before you step a foot into the door of your meeting.

4. Research wisely.

You can do your salary research online at various websites, such as Glassdoor, or LinkedIn. Sites such as these allow you to research what a proper salary range is by companies and job titles. For example, LinkedIn’s salary tool allows you to search the company with which you’re interviewing, along with your desired position and location, to see the actual salary the company is paying their employees in that position currently.

That information is gold and is what you need to answer that salary range question. But if you can’t find the company that you are applying to on these types of websites, look for a competitor in or around the same location, and look at the wages they are currently paying.

5. Take a wider view of your negotiations.

If a “firm” salary offer has been made by the employer, I’ve found that many hiring managers still have a bit of wiggle room in what you receive. It won’t immediately knock you out of the running to try to negotiate an additional 10% to 15%. Do keep in mind that this “wiggle room” does not always appear in the form of direct payments. If the company is not able to pay you an increase in direct wages, you can try to negotiate additional benefits or perks, such as extra vacation time or personal days.

Remember, you will need to do your salary research before each interview because you want to know what the company you are interviewing with is currently paying. Make this a part of your job interview preparation, and do the research each time. Be able to answer the critical questions so you can be the one to move on the next step in the hiring process and get that job offer.

Talking about money can be awkward at most times but it’s an important conversation to have when you’re applying for a new job. Failing to mention it during the application and interview stages could lead you to be offered a job where the salary doesn’t reflect your skills and experience.

But, being too forward about the salary and the employer may feel that you’re only interested in the money and nothing else. Striking the right balance is vital, so here we cover when the best time is to talk about salary expectations, how to approach it and also what to do if the salary offered doesn’t match what you’re looking for.

How to determine your desired salary

Being asked what your salary expectation is, is a common interview question, so you should have a figure in mind. But, how do you come to this? Research!

Visit Glassdoor’s salary checker to see what the industry average is for the area you live or work in.

Check out advertised vacancies that are similar to the job you’re applying for to see what salary is on offer. Speak to any professional organisations you’re a member of to see if they can offer some guidance. Also, speak to colleagues or friends who are in similar roles to see what they think you should be being paid.


When to mention your salary expectations?

There are numerous points throughout the application process that you could be asked what your salary expectation is; when forwarding your CV or submitting an application form, during an initial phone screening or during the interview itself.

Be prepared to bring up the subject of the salary, particularly if it isn’t mentioned on the job description or if the recruiter or employer isn’t forthcoming with it. You could politely ask “ What is the salary on offer for this job ?” or, “ Do you have a salary in mind for this job ?”

How to answer interview questions about salary expectations

What is your salary expectation ?” or “ What salary are you looking for ?” is a common interview question.

Here are some examples of answers you could use in response:

I’m looking for a salary between £40,000 to £43,000. Taking into account my number of years of experience and skill set, I think this is a fair salary range .”

Firstly, thank you for taking the time to discuss the benefits package that comes with this job. Taking into consideration my vast sales experience and the value that this will add to your company, I’m looking for a salary that pays approximately £50,000 per year. How does that sound to you ?”

The industry average for a job of this type is around £45,000. Given my experience, qualifications and skills, I’m looking for a role that pays around the same.

Thank you for asking. While I’m certainly flexible, I’m looking at jobs that are paying a salary of around £50,000. Is this similar to what you’re offering ?”


Why do employers ask about my salary expectations?

The reason employers ask about salary expectations is that it helps them determine if you’re a suitable candidate.

If you’re looking for a salary that’s significantly higher than what they can pay, you may be too senior for the role. This also works the other way as well; asking for a much lower salary and you may be too junior for the role or you may be undervaluing your skills and experience.

What to do if the salary on offer doesn’t meet your expectation?

If the salary they’re offering is lower than what you’re looking for, then you have some options:

  1. You could ask what non-salary items they can provide to make the job offer more appealing. For example, this could include flexible working, paid volunteering days or private health insurance or gym membership.
  2. If you love the job and the company and you don’t want to miss out on the opportunity of working for them you could decide to accept the lower salary.
  3. You could negotiate for a higher salary. This countermove has to be handled delicately as the company may refuse to budge on the salary. Handled correctly, though, and you could end up working for a company you like and being paid a salary that is above the industry average.


Summary of tips for communicating your salary expectations

Being open and honest about your desired salary gives you and the employer the opportunity to see if you’re both on the same page about salary and to see if you’re a good match for each other.

This article was co-authored by Jonathan Soormaghen. Jonathan Soormaghen is a Career Coach and Founder of Resume Advisor, a career counseling firm that specializes in creating personalized products such as resumes, CVs, cover letters, and online branding tools to propel clients toward their next career milestone. Jonathan holds a BA in Political Economy from the University of California, Berkeley, where he was honored to serve as the Valedictory speaker of general commencement. Prior to founding Resume Advisor, he worked in management consulting and finance at companies including Accenture, Target, and Ernst & Young. Jonathan’s clients have landed job offers from leading firms including Netflix, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Uber, Deloitte, KMPG, Accenture, and Merrill Lynch.

There are 9 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

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Answering questions about your salary can be a tricky topic to navigate because there are many social and professional taboos regarding discussions of money. Additionally, it can be awkward asking your boss for a raise or negotiating a salary amount during an interview, largely due to the fact that you typically want your boss or future employer to make the first offer. While discussions involving salary figures can be nerve-wracking and uncomfortable, being ready with specific talking points and prepared responses will help you answer questions about this financial topic with grace and confidence.

How to answer questions about salary

Imagine successfully answering all the difficult job interview questions — only to unravel when the topic of salary comes up.

In my 15-plus years of working as a recruiter and career coach, I've seen hundreds of job seekers give answers that made them sound indecisive and uncertain about pay expectations, thus lowering an employer's confidence to hire them.

Don't assume the hiring manager will just throw out a number, and that you can just negotiate from there. Always do your research and prepare a script.

How to calculate your salary range

When a hiring manager asks about salary expectations, your answer to should reflect your "ideal salary" and your "walk away rate."

Beth, for example, is interviewing for an auditor position at a well-known firm in Boston, Massachusetts. First, she'll want to research her market rate using reliable websites (e.g., LinkedIn,,

She's also reaching out to recruiters, former colleagues, friends and mentors for market intelligence. Without it, she won't know how she's priced — above market, below market, or fair value. All that homework will go a long way in giving Beth an edge in every conversation about money.

Based on her research and conversations, Beth finds that the average salary range for auditors in Boston is between $62,000 and $75,000. This helps her determine whether her asking range is reasonable.

Now Beth needs to consider her current situation and figure out the minimum amount of monthly income she needs to pay her bills and live comfortably.

She combs through every little detail: How much do I have left in student loans? When will they be paid off? Are there people who depend on me financially? Would I have to relocate to Boston? If so, what's the cost of living? Where do I see myself in the next few years? Will I still be renting?

Beth has a decent amount of years in auditing experience and several credentials, including an MBA. Her current salary is $65,000 at a mid-sized company. This is enough for Beth to live comfortably for the rest of the year, but she'd like to start saving up to buy a home, so she adds $5,000 — making her "walk away rate" anything lower than $70,000.

From here, Beth must determine her salary worth by factoring in the job requirements, her professional experience, accomplishments and the additional value she plans to bring to the company.

Keep in mind that the average salary increase employees receive when changing jobs is between 10% to 20%. Of course, it can be much less — or more — depending on a person's circumstances and industry.

Since the job she's interviewing for is more senior and comes with additional responsibilities, Beth wants at least a 15% increase, which totals to $74,750.

Beth decides that her ideal range is between $75,000 to $85,000. (She aims toward the high end, which is smart, because she knows the employer might try to offer the lowest amount possible.)

When you're asked the salary question: an example script

With the information she's gathered, Beth can now prepare an answer that will show how confident she is about her worth and what she has to offer:

"I'm looking to make between $75,000 to $85,000. This seems like a fair range because I've worked with large clients like [X] and [Y], so I'll have no issue transitioning to your client base.

My large network of connections is also of particular value, and I can leverage it to bring in new clients for the firm.

Beyond client work, this job would require me to be deeply involved with training junior associates. While I have leadership experience and enjoy managing people, this will bring on additional responsibilities, especially if I implement some of the improvements we previously discussed.

Given all these factors and my experience, I believe that $75,000 to $85,000 which is close to the market rate is a fair ask. Is this something we can make work?"

Beth's script is solid for three main reasons:

  • She gave a salary range, which says she's open to negotiating.
  • She backed up her numbers by making a case for how she'll not only meet the job requirements, but also add additional value to the company.
  • At the end of her answer, she asked whether her range is within the company's budget, which will give her an idea of where conversation is headed (even if the answer she gets is a simple: "We'll get back to you.")

What to keep in mind when entering the salary negotiation

If the offer is below your ideal salary, or hits your walk away rate, there are other things you can negotiate to make the position worthwhile, such as:

  • Flexible work hours
  • Additional vacation time
  • Tuition or professional development reimbursement
  • Signing bonuses
  • Higher commission rates and bonuses
  • Equity and profit-sharing agreements

Lastly, don't be afraid to say no! If you sell yourself too short, you might end up unhappy, struggling to pay your bills, and possibly looking for another job a few months into your new one.

If you’re in the process of searching for the ideal job, or your resume impressed and you’ve been invited to come along for a chat, you may find yourself faced with interview questions about salary expectations. It can be awkward or unsettling when they come up. On the one hand, you don’t want to ignore the question. Yet, it may be difficult to know how to answer it properly. You don’t want to turn off a prospective employer with the wrong answer. So let’s delve into how to handle those anxiety-inducing salary questions.

Why interviewers ask about salary expectations

Why does the interviewer ask about salary expectations? Do they really want to know how much you will work for, or is this a trick question? It is not a trick question most of the time, although it may seem tricky to you. The employer gauges whether hiring you will fit within the budget they have prepared for that position.

Most likely, the hiring manager has a salary range in mind for the position, and as long as the amount you provide is within that range, you’ll be safe. By researching salaries and being prepared for the question, you can answer appropriately and secure the position.

How to answer questions about salary

Winning move: Go in with a plan ready.

Answering salary questions during the interview

Salary questions are never easy to answer in a direct manner. Let’s face it — these questions can be complex because you never know what the person on the other end has in mind. It’s vital to go into the interview knowing how you’re going to respond to the question if it comes up, so you can have some level of confidence. The worst thing to happen is that you come across as unprepared, unsure, or stumbling in your answer.

You might think that providing a low salary amount will help you win the job. A “low” salary might be more than what you are making now, so, in your opinion, it’s an upgrade.

However, if you put the salary too low, meaning out of the typical salary range for that position, the hiring manager might think you don’t possess the skills or experience to do the job. Or they might think you don’t value your abilities. Either way, it’s not likely to help you secure the position.

On the other hand, you don’t want to give a salary amount that is too high because you take the chance of putting yourself outside the employer’s budget for that position, thus eliminating you from the list of potential candidates.

Research what typical salaries are for the job position and get an accurate range. Also, be sure you’re checking the salary for the geographic location of the job — sometimes, the amount changes based on the state/city. Then, when you go into the interview, you’ll be armed with the right information.

Dos and Don’ts on Handling Salary Questions

These dos and don’ts should help you avoid any major missteps when it comes to dealing with salary questions:

  • Don’t leave any questions blank about salary when filling out an application. It might be tempting to ignore those questions, but that might give the impression that you’re careless with following directions. Instead, write something like “negotiable” or list a salary range.
  • You can consider your current salary when providing a specific range for the interviewer. As mentioned above, you want to research the average salary for the position, but you also need to be sure you aren’t going to be cutting yourself short. You most likely expect to get a slight raise when changing jobs. So, you could take your current salary and add 10% to 15%, then compare that against what your research is showing you.
  • When giving a salary range, you can always preface this by saying you are flexible or willing to negotiate. This lets the hiring manager know there is room for change.
  • Always respond politely, even if the amount is below what you’re willing to accept. You can decline the offer, ask if there is any room for negotiation, and if not, thank them for their time.

How to answer questions about salary

No matter how intense it feels, don’t bite your nails.

Salary Question Answers — Examples

These example answers give an idea of how you might respond during an interview when asked about your salary expectations.

Example 1

My salary range is flexible. I am sure we can agree on fair compensation for my many years in the industry. I’m open to discussing a specific salary amount once we’ve gone over the specifics of the job.

Why Use It: This response is good because it highlights the applicant’s experience and shows flexibility regarding salary requirements.

Example 2

My salary requirements are negotiable, but I do have extensive experience in this industry. I look forward to discussing the job responsibilities of this position in more detail, and I’m confident we can decide on a salary that will be fair for everyone.

Why Use It: This approach is helpful because it keeps things moving along as you ask for more information about the job. It also implies that the hiring manager will be fair and you’re willing to negotiate, which puts the ball in their court but leaves room for negotiations.

Example 3

I’m open to going over the job requirements and what you believe to be a fair salary for the position. However, based on my previous salary, my experience in this field, and my research of this geographic location, I’d expect the salary to be between $X to $Z. However, I’m willing to discuss these numbers with you.

Why Use It: This lets the hiring manager know you’re open to discussions, and also that you know your experience in the field has inherent value. On top of that, it demonstrates that you did your research to the point where you can quote a salary range. It’s not a “locked-in” number, so it shows flexibility, too.

"What is ideal is if they provide a number first."

How to answer questions about salary

The Great Resignation continues: Approximately 4.3 million people quit their jobs in August, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Their reasons vary, but 17% quit because of low pay or lack of benefits, according to a Q3 Joblist survey of 26,278 job seekers.

If you're among those who have recently quit in search of better pay, or are thinking about doing so, you'll want to be prepared for any interview questions that may arise as you seek out your next role. These include "What are your weaknesses?" and "Why did you leave your last job?" Another important question to anticipate is "What salary are you looking for?"

This can be a tricky one, as you don't want to scare off a potential employer by citing a figure that's way outside their range. It's just as important to "never throw a number out there that you would not accept," says Amanda Augustine, career expert at TopResume, because, based on that figure, they could make you an offer you wouldn't want to take.

Here's how to answer the question without making key mistakes.

Get a good sense of 'the going rate for this type of role'

Research is key in preparing to answer questions about salary.

"Before you go in for any role, you want to get on Glassdoor, you want to get on some of those company review sites ―, ― those types of resources, and get a good sense for what is the going rate for this type of role," says Augustine. You could also check the Bureau of Labor Statistics or look through similar roles on job boards like LinkedIn and Indeed to see if they list salaries.

If you know someone who used to work at that particular company, that's your best bet. They can tell you from their own experience if that employer pays people on the low end or high end, or somewhere in the middle.

"Be educated, that's the most important thing," says Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, entrepreneur and author of "Choose Possibility." "If you come in with some unrealistic number, not only will people not appreciate it, they'll think you haven't done your homework." Such a misstep might even cost you the job offer.

Try to get them to 'provide a number first'

How you answer this question depends on when it comes up during the interview process.

"What is ideal is if they provide a number first," says Brie Reynolds, career development manager at FlexJobs. If a hiring manager or recruiter has already mentioned a target salary or range, that reduces the risk of you citing a number that's too high or too low. "You don't want to give a number and it's $20,000 lower than what they were actually willing to offer for this role."

If the company hasn't already offered up a number, Reynolds suggests saying something vague like, "That's a really good question. I've done some research and based on my experience and salary I have some numbers in mind, and of course I'm flexible, but I would love to hear more about how compensation is designed for this role."

Video by Courtney Stith

You could also "try and push it off" until later in the interview or hiring process, says Augustine. You can do this by saying something like, "I'd like to understand a bit more about the role and your expectations for what I'd be doing before I provide you with a firm number," she says.

Getting a sense during the interview process of what a compensation package would look like and what the role entails could point you in the direction of the kind of salary you should ask for. Pushing the question off to the end of the interview could also give them a chance to get to know you and get excited about you as a candidate, which could also give you leeway in asking for more.

Give them 'benchmarks'

When it's time to give the company some concrete numbers, "I think you just need to know the benchmarks for the position," says Singh Cassidy. For instance, you might mention how much you made at your last job, or you might mention the research you did about similar roles and the salary range you'd be interested in given that research.

The idea is to get a sense of what's logical to ask for and what you'd genuinely want to get, then give a salary range that makes sense given those facts. You want to give your interviewers "general indications while giving them room to maneuver," says Singh Cassidy. That way they can make you an offer you'd actually be excited to receive.

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Salary questions can make job interviews more nerve-wracking than they need to be.

Job interviews can be nerve wracking. One contributing factor is that candidates are often unprepared for or unsure of how to handle the ever-dreaded salary question. It’s anxiety-inducing not only because our livelihood is at stake, but also because it can feel so personal—like an assessment of our value as a person, versus that of our contribution, is being made.

The salary question is typically asked in one of two ways:

  • What is (was) your current (previous) salary?
  • What are your salary expectations?

The first question looks backwards at salary history and has been banned in several geographies since it perpetuates existing discriminatory wage gaps. Massachusetts became the first state to ban the salary history question in 2016. There are currently 17 state-wide bans and 17 local bans of the salary history question—and two bans against the ban (Michigan and Wisconsin). It’s worth doing a quick internet search to know if a ban on salary history questions exists in the state or city in which you are interviewing.

The salary history ban has also prompted many employers to be more transparent in disclosing the pay ranges for posted positions—this a very good thing in that it creates a foundation of trust by having the more powerful party (the hiring organization) demonstrate transparency. The organization also creates trust with the candidate by showing that it is paying for the value the role contributes to the organization, regardless of the gender or skin color of the person who fills that role. Moreover, the organization accomplishes its goal of weeding out candidates for whom the compensation range is not acceptable.

If the recruiter asks you the salary history question in a geography in which it’s legal to do so, take note that while they are technically operating within the law, they are using antiquated hiring practices. Do you want to work for an “old-school” organization stuck in the past or a progressive one that looks to the future? And if you are asked the salary history question in a geography where it is illegal, there should be alarm bells going off and red flags waving. What does this say about the organization’s leadership? Where else might they be cutting corners or breaking the law? How else might they be discriminating within their organization?

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The second question, “What are your salary expectations?” is forward looking and more appropriate. Nonetheless, as a candidate—regardless of which question is asked—you want to do your best to not answer it without seeming evasive. The following strategies, used individually or in some combination, outline how you might accomplish this in a way that doesn’t compromise your candidacy.

Gently take the salary question off the table. Be tactful. Acknowledge that you understand why they are asking this question. Your immediate mutual goal is to determine if there’s a fit as it relates to the scope of responsibilities for the job. Talking salary so soon is putting the cart before the horse. In particular, you don’t want to unnecessarily anchor the recruiter in a number that is ill-informed or too low. One way to do this is to say something like, “I understand compensation is an important element and one of many factors to consider. I’m not concerned about us being able to reach an agreement, so I’d prefer to address this should we reach the offer stage.” This type of response also positions you as a reasonable person who is optimistic about being able to find a mutually agreeable solution and starts to build trust.

Shift the recruiter’s focus. If you are asked the salary history question—legally or not—your job is to shift their focus from the past or present to the future. After all, you’re not expected to accept yesterday’s stock price for a shares you sell tomorrow, so why should yesterday’s salary be relevant for a job you perform tomorrow? You might say something like, “My responsibilities in my current (or prior) job were smaller in scope than the job for which I’m interviewing, so I don’t think it provides a very good benchmark,” or “I prefer to focus on the value of the contribution I’d be making in the job for which I’m interviewing, which would be much more relevant.”

Turn the question around. If the recruiter has not already shared the compensation range with you, when asked about salary expectations, it’s perfectly legit to say, “I was just about to ask you the same thing! What is the range you are currently budgeting for this role?” The recruiter has this information and it’s in their interest to share it. This will give you useful information and by continuing the conversation, you will have signaled that the range is not egregiously off-base.

Confess ignorance. If pressed on salary expectations, the last thing you want is to appear evasive. It’s ok to say that you are still doing your homework to determine the market rate for the role for which you are interviewing. You might say, “I’ve just started my search and I’m still doing my due diligence on the compensation ranges for this type of job at the Director level, so I’m not able to give you an informed answer at this point.” You can then segue to asking them about the range they’ve budgeted.

Stay calm. This goes for any interview question, of course. Remember, this is a conversation and not an interrogation. The salary question is a box the recruiter wants to check. The next time you are asked this question, look at it as practice to help take some of the pressure off. After working with hundreds of clients, more than a few have come to me saying “Whoops! I told them what my salary is (was). I probably shouldn’t have done that.” While not ideal, it can be addressed later in the process and expectations can be reset (although it’s much preferable to not to have to do this).

To be sure, there are other ways to answer salary questions. Answering these questions is highly nuanced—it takes practice and finesse. This is just one of many interview challenges that can come up, but it’s one that, with practice, can be easily addressed and set to the side so that you can focus on the task at hand—making them want to hire you.

How to answer questions about salary

One question that often makes people feel uncomfortable at interview is ‘what salary are you looking for?’…or something along those lines.

I personally feel ok talking about money and I think it’s fine to state your expectations clearly and confidently.

Most people shy away from talking money

However, I’ve been in this game long enough to know that the majority of job seekers don’t like to discuss this at interview. They don’t want to be the first person to mention a figure. If it’s too low, they may miss out financially. If it’s too high, they could miss out on a job offer.

If a recruitment consultant asks you this, then I would advise you be as open as possible. They will give you advice on the market rate for your skills and will often do the negotiating for you when you get offered a role. They need to know where your expectations are, so not to waste your time with lower paid jobs in the future.

How to deflect the salary question

If the employer in the interview asks you this and you really don’t want to answer it just yet, then here are a few ways you can deflect the questions.

‘I’m quite open and slightly flexible on salary as the opportunity to add value and to be valued is important to me. I’d appreciate knowing how you value this position and what your budget is for this role?’

The way you say this is very important. Say it with a smile on your face and raise your voice at the end of the sentence, so it seems like a question.

Or just bat it straight back…

‘I’d rather not commit to that quite yet. I’m really open to your thoughts on this as I’m sure you will be consistent with the market?’

Then pause. Just stop talking. By silencing yourself quite abruptly, you are forcing the other person to talk and it shows you are in control.

Again, you must do this in a very ‘upbeat’ way. We don’t want you to become defensive as this can sometimes come across as aggressive… not a good look!

Smile and nod while you ask it. By nodding you are assuming the answer you want is coming back to you and increasing the chance of the other person giving you what you want. Practice it in other conversations and you will see what I mean and how well it works.

Practice makes perfect

I’m not talking about ‘jedi mind tricks’, but there are lots of NLP books that talk about your body language during negotiations. I would check them out if you are unsure.

At some point you are going to need to discuss salary (unless there is a recruiter involved) and I would recommend practicing these answers.

Say them out loud in the mirror, while you are washing the dishes or driving. The more comfortable you are when you get asked this, the less likely you are to be conditioned by the interviewer.

How to answer questions about salary

Bestselling management author and CNBC contributor Suzy Welch says that it's understandable that this common interview question causes many candidates to "panic" — your answer requires strategy, subtlety and confidence.

But challenging though it may be, it's essential that you get this one right. If you undersell yourself when answering this question, Welch tells CNBC Make It, you run the risk of being "underpaid and undervalued from day one." On the other hand, if you oversell yourself, "you could price yourself right out of a job offer."

Below, Welch shares a helpful three-step process to follow when preparing your answer:

1. Do your research

In order to confidently discuss your salary requirements, Welch says you have to "understand the answer to this question is not about what you want, your experience level or your previous salary." Instead, she says, "It's about what the employer wants to pay you."

That's why doing your research is crucial. "There's so much compensation data out here today," she says, "and it's all discoverable on sites like LinkedIn Salary."

Additionally, Welch says you should talk to people who have similar jobs in the same field. "Be sure to take into account the company's location, industry and financial condition," she adds. "Get a grip on the reality of what the company expects to pay."

2. Figure out how much leverage you have

After doing your research, Welch says the next thing you want to do is "assess how much leverage you have."

Look at any information available through the site where you applied regarding how many candidates have applied to the position and how long the position has been open. The longer the job has been open, the more eager the company may be to fill the role, and the more leverage you may have.

However, she warns, "When you make this calculation, err on the side of caution. Job-seekers are always the seller."

3. Come up with a salary range

The last thing to do when preparing to discuss your salary requirements is to come up with two figures. One of those figures, Welch says, should be "a bit above the lowest number you'd be comfortable accepting." The other figure should be "the highest number you think the company would be comfortable paying."

For example, if the lowest salary you'd be willing to accept is $55,000, consider making your lower figure $58,000. If, based on your research, you believe the highest salary the company would be willing to offer you is $65,000, make that your second figure.

The range anchored by these two figures is the answer you should give about your salary requirements. "If your salary offer is somewhere in the middle," Welch says, "that's a good start for both parties."

You should never be surprised when you're asked about your salary requirements — it's essential, Welch says, that you be prepared to deliver a carefully crafted answer.

"Don't blurt out what you think you're worth, or what you think they want to hear," says Welch. "Instead, show your diligence and maturity — it's as easy as one, two, three."

How do you answer when the interviewer asks you difficult interview questions about your salary requirements and expectations?

In a large number of job interviews the subject of salary is brought up and it is tricky trying to formulate the right response.

How to answer questions about salary

Answering the salary expectations question is easier and more straightforward for candidates with a career salary history than for a candidate who has not previously had a permanent job.

We look at each situation separately and show you how to answer the salary question during an interview.

For candidates who have previously earned a salary these are the guidelines when responding to the salary interview question:

“What salary are you looking for?”

If this is asked early on in the interview process you could suggest that there is time to discuss it later in the interview process but that right now you are interested in learning more about the position and job responsibilities.

Additionally, more information about the job tasks and responsibilities is necessary before being able to properly answer salary questions.

If the interviewer presses you on the salary question you can ask if there has been an amount budgeted for this position or ask if there is a salary grade attached to the job and see if it fits your requirements.

When there is no indication of salary and the interviewer continues to probe, you will have to respond with a number. If you don’t, you may create the impression that it is unimportant what you get paid and any offer is acceptable.

When responding to difficult interview questions about your salary  requirements, rather than confining yourself to a specific figure, state a range:

“The range for this sort of position is between $X and $Y.”

How to determine the correct salary range

Consider what salary you want, your most recent salary and the market-related salary for the job.  Don’t undervalue yourself but continue to emphasize that the position is the most important factor. Money should not be perceived as the most important thing to you.

“I am currently earning $. I would obviously like to better that figure but my main interest is the actual position.”

Taking a new job does not automatically make you worth more money. Link any reference to an increase on your previous salary to increased job responsibilities and demands.

Stick to the facts when stating your previous salary, it is within the rights of a prospective employer to request proof of your former salary.

You have the right to decline the request but this is likely to be perceived negatively in the job interview.

For candidates with no real salary history

You could suggest a range to the employer but your suggested range needs to be based on good research to make sure it is current and industry-related. Do your homework before the interview and make some notes.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) collates and publishes comprehensive information on new graduate salaries based on regular surveys.

You can go to the NACE website to view how to access this information. is another useful research site but be specific about the area you are searching for, the cost of living differs greatly between areas and is a critical factor in determining average salaries. This data helps you to confirm that your salary requirements and what you are being offered are in line with the industry averages in the particular geographical area.

Back up your salary suggestion with details of how you got that figure, for example:

“I have reached this figure through some extensive research, I have used the NACE stats and information from recent salary surveys in this area.”

Backing up your job interview answers about salary expectations with concrete data makes them both reliable and valid.

4 good answers to the salary question in your interview

How to answer questions about salary

Preparing yourself for the salary requirement question by doing your research and considering your financial needs enables you to deal professionally with difficult interview questions about your compensation expectations.

What should I put for salary requirements on a job application?

Job applicants find it tricky to include a salary number on their job applications if asked. The best way to handle this is to include a fairly wide range, based on your research, with the explanation that your salary is negotiable depending on the job responsibilities and the entire package being offered.

How to respond to salary expectations in an email

If you have been asked to state your expected salary in writing it is best to respond with a well-researched salary range and the explanation of how you have arrived at this figure. For example:

“I believe that my 5 years experience in this industry together with the skills and expertise I bring to this position qualify me for a salary in the range of $35,000 to $40,000. This amount is supported by my recent research into the compensation that comparable jobs are offering. I am, of course, open to some negotiation depending on the total compensation package and job-related factors.”

How to answer difficult interview questions

Other difficult interview questions you may face in your job interview include explaining lay offs, being fired and gaps in employment. These good interview answers will help in preparing for these questions.

As a manager, it is important that you know where to find information about the fundamental elements of Duke’s total compensation package. These resources will prepare you to conduct proactive conversations with your staff, as well as answer questions and correct misperceptions. We’ve pulled together some key questions around compensation, along with links to resources where you can find more detailed information so you’ll know where to go when you need to quickly get the facts.

If you have a question these resources cannot help you answer, need assistance in analyzing a pay issue, or just want to compare notes, you can always talk with your department or entity Human Resources representative.

How are salaries determined? What factors influence internal equity?

When determining a starting salary, the following factors will be considered, both in terms of the candidate and the relationship to existing incumbents: relevant work experience, applicable knowledge (including relevant educational degrees), skills and abilities, and performance history. All decisions must fit within budgetary constraints and be made without regard to an individual’s age, color, disability, gender, gender expression, gender identity, genetic information, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or veteran status.

Additional Resources

  • The Performance Management page on the HR website has helpful information on determining pay and managing performance. For additional information for DUHS managers on setting salaries, including guidelines for internal transfers, select About Pay.
  • In addition to base pay, all hourly-paid staff are eligible for shift differentials, on-call pay, and other pay premiums.

How do I locate the salary range for a job?

It is important to remember that salary is determined by a number of factors (see above). Information about Duke’s pay structure is available on the HR web site to any employee with a NetID. Duke University has a traditional pay structure, with each job being assigned to a range with a minimum, midpoint, and maximum. DUHS has a pay structure with very broad bands (i.e., the maximum is normally double the minimum of the band). In order to provide some more guidance within each broad band, there are three market targets with corresponding pay ranges (known as ranges of competitiveness). Each job classification is assigned to a particular market target (and corresponding range of competitiveness), which represents the range of pay our competitive market typically provides for that job.

The Pay Administration page on the HR website has helpful information on pay schedules, job descriptions, and pay policies. For a detailed explanation of the DUHS pay structure, select Pay Administration Resource Guide. For a listing of all Duke jobs and pay ranges, select Job Classifications and Pay Ranges.

What does it mean when we say that Duke aims to offer market competitive pay? Who are our competitors?

Duke administers compensation policies and programs that provide pay that is both externally competitive and internally equitable. Being “market competitive” means that we do not want to pay significantly less than our competitors (lag the market), nor do we want to pay significantly more (lead the market). We want to pay a competitive rate that will allow Duke to successfully attract and retain talented staff. To make sure we remain competitive, the HR/Rewards and Recognition department evaluates local, regional and national markets, focusing on academic and health system competitors of a similar size/scope to our organization. That market data, supported by statistics and feedback collected from within Duke is used to determine the market target for each job.

For more information on how we determine the value of a job, contact your department or entity Human Resources representative.

Many entry level candidates tip their hand far too easily when the topic of salary is brought up in the interview. This is one time you do not want to be specific. If you give specifics, you lose—you will be either too low or too high, potentially costing yourself thousands of dollars or possibly even keeping yourself from getting the job. If you are asked the money question early in the interview (as is common), the best response is: “What would a person with my background and qualifications typically earn in this position with your company?” The best response if asked late in the interview process is: “I am ready to consider your very best offer.”

That said, if you continue to be pressed by the interviewer for a commitment to specific numbers, do not put them off with more than one open-ended response. First, make sure you have done your homework on the expected salary range for your field. Many salary surveys are skewed toward the high end (possibly because only the best-paid graduates responded, while those with average or low pay did not want to admit what they were earning), so take them with a large dose of conservative adjustment.

The best salary surveys are from those who graduated within the last year in your major from your school. You can possibly locate the information through your Career Center, Alumni Office, or your personal network of contacts. It is important to understand the differential by college. A business grad from Stanford is going to be earning a lot more than a business grad from a lesser known school. Know the going rate for your major, your school, and the field that you are considering entering. And make sure you know it before you get propositioned with the money question. For further information on current salaries for both entry level and experienced employees by geography, visit:

The Money Response Technique

Armed with this salary information, ask the interviewer: “What is the general salary range for new hires in this position?” If the entire range is acceptable, respond with: “That would be within my expected starting range, depending on the full salary and benefits package.” If only the top end of the range is acceptable, respond with: “I have been discussing the upper end of the range with the other employers that are currently interested in me.” If the range is below your expected starting salary range (be careful!), respond with: “The other employers I am currently speaking with are considering me at a salary somewhat higher than that range. Of course, money is only one element and I will be evaluating the overall offer package.”

Do your best not to get pinned to specific numbers, but if they do mention a number and ask if it would be acceptable to you, respond by saying: “I would encourage you to make the formal offer. What is most important is the opportunity to work for you and your company. I am confident that your offer will be competitive.” Remember, don’t do any negotiating until you have a formal offer in hand. When that finally happens, go straight to the Successful Job Offer Negotiation information for guidance on enhancing your offer into the best offer.

How to answer questions about salary

It’s true that you can look on PayScale to figure out the going range for the job, but you can never guess how much the company values the position for which they are interviewing you. So don’t give the first number.

Because if you request a salary lower than the range for that position, the interviewer will say nothing, and you’ve just lost money.

That’s why you want the interviewer to tell you the range for the position, because then you can focus on getting to the high end of that range. But you can’t work to the high point if you don’t know it.

When there are two good negotiators in the room, each person will try to get the other to give the first number.

Each time you deflect the question, the interviewer will try again. Your goal is to outlast the interviewer until they finally tell you the salary range for the job. Here is how to respond:

Question: What salary range are you looking for?
Your Answer: “Let’s talk about the job requirements and expectations first, so I can get a sense of what you need.” That’s a soft answer to a soft way to ask the question.

Question: What did you make at your last job?
Your Answer: “This position is not exactly the same as my last job. So let’s discuss what my responsibilities would be here and then determine a fair salary for this job.” It’s hard to argue with words like “fair” and “responsibilities”—you’re earning respect with this one.

Question: What are you expecting to make in terms of salary?
Your Answer: “I am interested in finding a job that is a good fit for me. I’m sure whatever salary you’re paying is consistent with the rest of the market.” In other words, I respect myself and I want to think I can respect this company.

Question: I need to know what salary you want in order to make you an offer. Can you tell me a range?
Your Answer: “I’d appreciate it if you could make me an offer based on whatever you have budgeted for this position and we can go from there.” This is a pretty direct response, so using words like “appreciate” focuses on drawing out the interviewer’s better qualities instead of her tougher side.

Question: Why don’t you want to give your salary requirements?
Your Answer: “I think you have a good idea of what this position is worth to your company, and that’s important information for me to know.”

You can see the pattern, right? If you think you sound obnoxious or obstinate by not answering the question, think of how he feels asking the question more than once.

Also, by the time the interviewer has asked two or three times, the interviewer will know that hiring you means having a tough negotiator on his team — another reason to make you a good salary offer.

How to answer questions about salary

“What’s your salary range?” It’s a question that can cause even the most seasoned interviewee to panic. Suddenly, you’re caught off guard, hemming and hawing and wondering how to respond professionally and not shortchange yourself the compensation you know you deserve. We checked in with three hiring managers to find out exactly how to approach this dreaded query and how to answer if (and when) it comes up.

1. First, Do Your Homework Ahead of Time About Your Salary Expectations

Whether it’s the first interview or the fifth, always assume that salary could be a talking point. Prepare yourself by having a clear (and research-backed) understanding of your expectations in regard to a range. “The number you give should encapsulate three things,” says Chandra Turner, CEO of Ed2010 and Talent Fairy, a career website and recruitment agency for media professionals. “You need to know what you want or need to get paid to keep or improve your lifestyle, but also the comparative rates in the industry you’re looking at (say, technology) and also for the role itself (say, product manager).” To figure out the first part, look at your current or most recent salary. Are you happy with it? Do you need to make more in order to afford your lifestyle? For the second part, check out online resources and calculators. “ lists salaries for all kinds of jobs and now allows you to search by industry, then the role. Glassdoor also provides pretty detailed information. Some companies now even fill in the range on their LinkedIn postings. Just be sure you check,” Turner adds. Last, she advises talking to your peers in the industry for final insight on the going rate. “It’s as simple as asking, ‘What’s the market rate for someone in X role?’ Perhaps they’ve hired someone in that position personally or have previously worked in that role. That way they can answer without getting too personal—although I’m also a big proponent of just flat out putting it out there since it helps others learn how to value their own work.”

2. Don’t Be Afraid to Flip the Script

Remember that you don’t always need to give a number. “If there is a box where you can type an answer, it’s completely acceptable to put the word negotiable,” says Maria Dunn, head of people and culture at Managed by Q, a company that builds tools for workplaces that help improve the office experience. If the conversation is taking place in person and you are in the beginning stages, it’s fine to answer the question with a question, like “What is budgeted for the role?” “At Q, we are typically very up front with what we are willing to offer since open roles have to be approved by our finance team in advance,” Dunn says.

3. Just Because You Commit to a Salary Range Doesn’t Mean It’s Set in Stone

The interview process is a learning opportunity for both sides, and just because you write down a certain number or range at the outset, that doesn’t mean you’re married to it, says Turner. “After you learn more about the role, you can always ask for a higher salary by saying, ‘Now that I have a better understanding of the responsibilities for this position, I feel that $X is more in line with what I would like to make in this role,’” she explains. One caveat: “Just be sure you don’t throw this out during the offer stage. You’ll want to update your ask with the hiring manager or recruiter after your first interview or whenever you realize that the role is worth more than your initial guess.”

4. Know the Law

Many states—including New York and California—prohibit companies from asking a candidate to share their current compensation, according to Jennifer Ruza, SVP of the people and experience team at VaynerMedia. She explains, “As a result, in many cases, organizations have done away with asking for salary requirements and have shifted the narrative to say, ‘The position is budgeted for a range of $X. Is that within what you’re looking for?’” This may not be the case across the board, but it’s worth keeping in mind as you go through the interview process.

5. Bottom Line: Don’t Overinflate Your Ask

According to Dunn, if you’re answering with a number, you are going to have to justify it. “For an in-person conversation, when the salary question comes up, say, ‘Based on my research on compensation for a role like this and a company at your stage and size, I would expect to be in the $75,000 to $80,000 range, considering I have X years of experience and I’m confident I’d be able to hit the ground running. That said, I’m very interested in this position and the total compensation package is what is most important to me. I look forward to hearing the details on that as well.’” Turner adds, “I think it can be dangerous to overinflate yourself. If you are currently making $60,000 but your research shows that the market rate for your role (or the one you want to move in to) is closer to $75,000, then go ahead and ask for $75,000. But if you were to ask for $90,000, which is 20 percent more, chances are they wouldn’t call you in because they have plenty of candidates in the $70,000 to 80,000 range already. Of course, you don’t want to leave money on the table, but you also need to be at the table to begin with. That’s why doing your research is so important.”

You have to be able to answer the question “What are you earning now?” without giving away your current salary, or you will lose a big chunk of your negotiating leverage.

Watch on Forbes:

The fact is that it’s nobody’s business what you are earning now or what you earned at any past job.

Of course they want to know what you’re earning now. With that information, they can easily gauge what it will take pay-increase-wise to get you on board.

Undoubtedly you would love to know what they paid the last person in the position, or what the other folks in the department are getting paid now. That, of course, is all confidential information. Why would your personal financial arrangements with your current employer be any different? Your salary details are confidential, too.

You can let recruiters and hiring managers know that your former employers asked you to keep your salary details confidential. How can they argue with that? Surely they have confidential information in their organizations, too.

You can also answer the question “What are you earning now?” with a number that represents your salary target.

Recruiter: So Patrick — what are you earning currently?

Patrick: I’m focusing on jobs in the $50,000 range. Is this job in that range?

Recruiter: I’m not sure.

Patrick: I understand. That’s fine. Do you want to find out, and get back to me?

You cannot take the view that any recruiter who reaches out to you sits on a higher plane than you do. Too many job-seekers treat any recruiter who contacts them like a demigod. That’s a very bad approach.

There are amazing recruiters of course, but there are lots of folks in the field who will misuse your time and energy, and worse, crush your precious mojo. You have to be just as careful deciding whether or not to work with a given recruiter as you would be entering into any professional relationship — for instance, with an attorney or accountant.

If you treat every recruiter who contacts you like they are more important than you are, you will give away your power — and that is the worst thing you can do.

Keep in mind that contingency recruiters — people who work on commissions, by far the most common kind of recruiter — cannot earn a dime without talented candidates like you to place into job openings with their client firms. If you know you are talented and can make a difference for a new employer, then it is appropriate and important to stand up for your value.

If you don’t know that — if you feel that you would be lucky to get any job at all — then you have a mojo issue. You are not in your power then. Until you take the time to reflect on your path so far, think about your accomplishments in perspective, forgive yourself for whatever you believe you could have done differently and claim your amazing story, no one else will value your abilities.

When you remember that you are mighty whether you are working or not, your mojo will begin to return.

You will have an easier time setting boundaries with recruiters. If they insist that they simply must have your confidential salary details even though they are not about to reciprocate and share any financial information from the company with you, then you know that they do not value talent and neither does their client.

If you take a job under those conditions you can never expect to be treated as a valued collaborator.

Luckily more and more recruiters are asking the more sensible question “What is your salary target?” instead of “What are you earning now?”

Savvy recruiters have been using this technique for years. You do not need a candidate’s current salary or salary target in order to place a value on their services. In fact, the ability to put a dollar value on a candidate’s resume without the benefit of their salary history is a fundamental requirement for any competent recruiter, from entry level up.

Talented people want to work for companies that understand one thing: without talented employees, no organization would reach any of their goals.

Many employers are finding that their competition for talent is not other employers but rather the prospect of independent consulting. The more marketable a working person is the more appealing a consulting life style can be.

The employers who will keep great people working in full-time jobs rather than working for themselves have to bend — and they know it.

It is a very small concession to tell a job candidate “We are curious about your salary requirements — and here is the salary range for this position.”

It is a very small step away from the traditional “We need your salary history, or else!” approach.

Organizations that can bend with the times will snag awesome people. Organizations that insist on treating job-seekers like lower life forms will eventually lose every talented person they’ve got.

If you run into an online job application that asks for your salary history, follow these steps.

Know your salary target every time you job-hunt, and be ready to share it when you talk with recruiters. Don’t share your salary history or your current salary with anybody — that information stays between you, your employer and your bank.

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What is your current salary?

Whenever that question comes up during a job search, you’re stuck wondering if you should answer honestly (which could result in an offer that’s lower than you want), lie (which feels shady and could easily backfire), or perform some interview gymnastics to get out of sharing it.

So you might’ve been relieved to learn that a growing number of cities and states are fighting back against it (including California, Delaware, New York City, and more). No, it’s not just because it’s awkward, but because it might perpetuate pay gaps.

As Ariane Hegewisch, employment and earnings program director at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research explains, it’s pretty typical for companies to hire somebody and give them a percentage increase from their previous salary, say 10% or 15%. Groups that face discrimination in the labor market are more likely to come in with a lower previous salary and therefore start their next job behind as well—to be repeated on and on throughout their careers with almost no hope of catching up.

“The wage gap between women and men in New York City is unacceptable, especially for women of color,” says Seth Hoy, spokesperson for the NYC Commission on Human Rights, which enforces the law in the city. The goal of the ban is “to break this cycle of pay inequity and ensure that people who have been systemically underpaid their entire lives are able to negotiate competitive salaries based on their actual skills and qualifications rather than their previous salaries.”

The good news is that the laws can give an advantage to anyone who feels they were paid unfairly in their previous role. But we all know that just because something’s illegal doesn’t mean it’ll never happen.

So what can you do if you get the question anyway?

1. Avoid Putting the Number in a Form

You’re filling out the application for a job you really want and it’s asking for your current salary.

Muse Career Coach Emily Liou recommends putting “N/A” or “Flexible” in that field. If it forces you to enter a numeric value, she suggests writing “0” and finding an appropriate text field elsewhere on the application where you can add something like, “Note: I entered $0 on the salary question however I want to clarify I am flexible if we determine there is a mutual fit.”

2. Deflect or Reframe the Interview Question

Theoretically, you can simply tell an interviewer politely and respectfully that you’re not legally required to answer that question. “But that response is intimidating,” says Muse Career Coach Arik Orbach. “The important thing here is to not overreact or let your emotions get the best of you if you feel that you are being targeted.”

Liou adds that you can always deflect the question, and make sure you end on a positive note. “If asked, ‘What were you last making?’ a savvy candidate can answer with, ‘Before discussing any salary, I’d really like to learn more about what this role entails. I’ve done a lot of research on Company and I am certain if it’s the right fit, we’ll be able to agree on a number that’s fair and competitive to both parties,’” she says.

You can also answer a similar question instead of the one you’re being asked. Applicants “should not disclose their previous salary but instead reframe their answer to express their salary expectations or requirements for the job,” according to Hoy. In other words, tell them what you expect to make, not what you’re currently paid.

3. Do Your Research

“Companies love data and the more you can come prepared with factual information and evidence, the more likely you are to convince an employer you deserve $X,” says Liou. (And this article can help you get as close as possible to a realistic figure.)

Give a “well-researched salary range with the lowest point of that range being a salary offer you’d still be willing to accept,” Orbach says. “A fun little tip is to provide an uneven range to demonstrate you’ve done your homework,” such as $47,000 to $51,000 rather than $45,000 to $50,000.

4. Know Your Worth

Research is crucial. But “it’s also important to back up your reasoning with your own personal qualifications, which include years of experience, certifications or degrees if applicable, or anything else that may separate you from other potential candidates,” Orbach says. “Know your worth before an interview.”

If you’ve already shared the number or feel you can’t get out of stating it, you can also be ready to explain why you feel it was low or below market rate for your position or experience, Hegewisch says.

5. Share Your Salary (if It’ll Help You)

Hear me out. It may be illegal for employers in some areas to ask about your salary history, but that doesn’t usually mean you can’t volunteer the information. If the new offer’s significantly less than your current pay, you can use the higher number as leverage in your negotiation.

6. Report the Incident

Even if you sail through the online form or the interview with one of the strategies above, you can always report the incident to the appropriate city or state body. In New York City, for example, you can contact the NYC Commission on Human Rights at 718-722-3131 or online, and you can choose to remain anonymous. Just a few months in, the commission was already pursuing more than a dozen cases involving violations of the salary history provision.

So check if your city or state has a salary history law and prepare to face the question anyway with the strategies that feel most comfortable to you. Next time you hear those dreaded words, you’ll be ready to fight for the salary you want and deserve.

How to answer questions about salary

Interviewing for a new job can be exciting — every conversation is a chance to say exactly what you want in a new role or company, and to make the case for why you deserve it. But one thing that can trip up even the most enthusiastic candidate is figuring out how to discuss money in job interviews.

It's natural to want to be paid fairly for your work. And yet discussing pay plainly with someone you hope to have a long working relationship with, not to mention with a hiring manager who has way more inside information than you, can feel unnerving, says Andres Lares, managing partner at Shapiro Negotiations Institute.

But there are ways to prepare for the conversation, whether you want to bring it up or wait for HR to do so, to feel more confident and give yourself the most leverage possible. Here's how.

When to bring up salary in a job interview

Experts say you should go into every first interview with your salary expectations in mind. Author and career coach Octavia Goredema recommends checking industry salary reports, using online databases and tapping your network to figure out where you stand in the market.

As for timing, there are a few different schools of thought as to when to bring up salary in a job interview.

More companies are beginning to state their pay upfront, in which case you might discuss salary in first or second rounds. If you're confident in what you want your salary to be, and you have a lot of promising interviews lined up, you might bring it up on the early side to make the most of your time, Goredema says.

But for the most part, wait until the offer stage or as long as possible to discuss concrete numbers, she says. This is when you have the most leverage — you know HR really wants to hire you, and they've already spent time and money vetting you.

It's also crucial to note that women who negotiate are more likely to be penalized in the workplace once they're hired. Women who wait to negotiate pay until later stages of the interview process might avoid some of this bias, says Mabel Abraham, a Columbia Business School professor who studies gender inequities in the workplace. According to her research, hiring managers are less influenced by gender bias when they're looking at one or a handful of applicants, compared with when they're starting off with a large pool.

How to answer "What are your salary expectations?"

Experts generally say to avoid stating your salary expectations first. State a number too low and you could shortchange yourself in the future. State one too high — without additional interviews to back up that number — and HR might move on to another candidate expecting lower pay.

Instead, you can respond to the question by kicking it back to HR, Lares says. Be kind and curious: "I appreciate that compensation is an important aspect to the job, and it has to work for the both of us. Given you're the hiring manager in this role, and you're the expert on what the company can offer, I'd like to hear what you have in mind for the salary range of this position."

If HR pushes for a number

The hiring manager could just as well turn the question back to you and insist you state a number. In this case, have a range ready based on the data you've collected.

Lares says to be clear about your absolute minimum and put that number at the bottom of your range. Your target number should be on the lower end of your range, too, Goredema adds. Identify a high enough ceiling to give yourself room to negotiate upward later on.

How wide should your range be? That'll depend on how much you want the job, how much the pay matters to you and how much leverage you have at that point in the hiring process.

Lares gives this example: If you're aiming for $100,000 and are still figuring out whether you like the job, you might give a range of $95,000 to $115,000. If you really want the job, know you can negotiate other benefits and want to be flexible on base salary to speed up their decision, you might tighten your band to $95,000 to $102,000.

Keep in mind that "the wider the range, the softer it is — it almost seems like you're not saying much," Lares says.

You can always follow up by saying these are your initial expectations based on what you know of the job and company so far, and that you look forward to discussing more concrete numbers as you advance through the hiring process.

How to answer questions about salary

"What's your current salary?" a hiring manager asks you. Instantly you tense up, unsure of how to respond.

It's a common — and uncomfortable — job interview scenario. In some places, it's actually no longer legal to ask about an applicant's previous compensation. But while the issue is still being debated, you'll want to be prepared with an answer.

Some would tell you to dodge the question or give a range to avoid disclosing an actual number. But according to bestselling management author and CNBC contributor Suzy Welch, the best way to secure your place at a new company and advance your career is to simply tell the truth.

"People are going to tell you that you should game this conversation," Welch tells CNBC Make It, or that "you should dodge this question by talking about ranges. That is no way to start a relationship."

For her, the decision to share your salary is worth the risk. Here's Welch's two-step process for navigating this tricky interview question:

1. Know your market value

Discussing salary is "the interview tightrope that everyone hates to walk," Welch says. To make it across successfully, you'll first need to know where you stand.

"Be smart and do your research," she says. "Find the job's likely salary, and know what your skills are likely worth in the open market."

Sites like PayScale, Glassdoor or LinkedIn Salary can tell you what a job should pay and "let you know if you're earning above or below market," she says. You may find that you're being underpaid, which Welch says can happen if you've been at your company for a long time or were hired at a low salary. You could also find yourself in the less common situation of being overpaid.

Either way, you want to be prepared for an interview with concrete information about your current situation.

2. Disclose your current salary and make your case

Once you know how you compare to people with similar jobs, be truthful about your current compensation, Welch says.

Doing so shows that you're candid and have integrity. Your response could be, "My salary is X, my bonus is typically Y, for a total package of just about Z."

After you share the number, advocate for yourself. "You can make a compelling case about why you'd be willing to take less for something like opportunity or growth, or why you should make more," she says. Once you've made your case, there's nothing else you can do, Welch says, except wait and see how the hiring manager responds — and if they treat you with similar consideration.

"If your potential employer games you in this conversation, it's a warning sign," she says. "Don't ignore it."

Suzy Welch is the co-founder of the Jack Welch Management Institute and a noted business journalist, TV commentator and public speaker.

How do you answer questions about salary expectations?

You can try to skirt the question with a broad answer, such as, My salary expectations are in line with my experience and qualifications. Or, If this is the right job for me, I’m sure we can come to an agreement on salary. This will show that you’re willing to negotiate. Offer a range.

How do you answer the question about no salary?

If you’re in the middle of a job interview that’s going great, learn how to dodge the mid-interview salary question with these tactics:Refuse to answer the question. Reassure your interviewer instead. Change the subject entirely. Know your worthliterally. Give a range. Understand how to handle online applications.

Is it bad when an interviewer doesn’t ask a lot of questions?

Actually, easy is bad. If the interviewer doesn’t ask you any challenging or probing questions, you’re likely not being seriously considered for the job. Salary didn’t come up at all or seems to be an issue. Once an employer has decided they want you, they have to see if they can afford you.

Is a 10 minute interview good?

It’s a great sign that your job interview is going well if you meet more people than scheduled. Don’t be surprised if they only ask you a few questions. You may only spend about 10-15 minutes with these people. They will most likely just look at your resume and ask you about your experience.

What will they ask me in a phone interview?

Here are the most common telephone interview questions and answers:What Are Your Strengths? What Is Your Greatest Weakness? Why Should We Hire You? Why Did You Leave Your Last Job? Tell Me About Yourself. Why Do You Want to Work Here? Describe Your Current Job Responsibilities. What is Your Management Style?

What happens during a 15 minute phone interview?

In 15 minutes you can check to see that the applicant understands the job, meets the basic job description, and has reasonable salary expectations. You can also do a quick probe of any resume gaps and roles that didn’t last long.

How do know if interview went well?

15 Signs Your Interview Went WellPositive Affirmations. The Interview Ran Longer Than Expected. Tries to Sell You on the Job. You’re Introduced to Different People. The Interviewer Discussed the Future. The Interview Felt Like a Conversation. They Ask if You’re Thinking About Other Jobs. Clarity about The Next Steps.

Is it better to be the first or last interview?

interviews over 10 years, the researchers determined that candidates interviewed earlier in the process received a more objective evaluation. But most research indicates that the first AND last have an advantage based on a serial position effect.

How to answer questions about salary

It's the question you hope will never arise during your job interview: What is your current salary?

Answer honestly, and you risk getting low-balled and missing your chance to climb the pay scale. Bend the truth, and you might overshoot the mark or, worse still, be found out as a liar.

In the U.S., the once routine query is becoming increasingly uncommon as a number of states, cities and companies have moved to ban it. New York City, Delaware, Amazon and Facebook are but a few of the places to make the shift away from the question.

The move is part of efforts to reduce the gender pay gap. Research suggests that salary history questions can cause pay disparities between men and women to snowball over time.

In some cases, the ban appears to be working. New York City-based recruitment specialist Oliver Cooke told CNBC Make It that one female candidate who interviewed through his firm secured a 100 percent pay increase shortly after the city-wide regulation came into effect.

"I'm pretty confident that if she had said her salary history she would have been offered much less," remarked Cooke, who said he had seen a "big shift" in the year since the roll out.

Yet, elsewhere, the question continues to rear its head. According to compensation research firm PayScale, 43 percent of U.S. workers are still asked about their salary history. Meanwhile, in other countries, the request is still widespread.

So, how should you respond to make the most of your next job opportunity?

Know your position

First up, do your research to find out the current regulation on the question in the particular place in which you're interviewing.

If the question is still legal, then it's unlikely you'll be able to dodge it entirely. According to Cooke, when a candidate attempts to do so, it is typically seen as a "red flag." But, if you are reluctant to share, it may be possible to answer indirectly.

"You can try to gloss over the question by stating, 'According to my recent research on [X site], I was being paid fair market value based on my role and level of responsibility at [Company X],'" Amanda Augustine, career advice expert for interview coaching site TopInterview, told CNBC Make It via email.

Don't lie

That answer may not satisfy your interviewer, or you may prefer to be direct from the start. In which case, experts agree you should not lie.

"I'm never an advocate for lying," said Augustine, noting recent research that suggests resume and interview lies tend to catch up with candidates sooner or later.

"Some employers will go so far as to request tax returns to support your compensation claims," she continued, adding that it's best to be upfront.

Bestselling management author and CNBC contributor Suzy Welch agrees, telling CNBC Make It earlier this year that honesty is the best policy.

"People are going to tell you that you should game this conversation . That is no way to start a relationship," said Welch.

If we remember 2021 for anything, it could very well be the year when everyone quit. The Department of Labor reported a record 4.3 million workers turned in their notice in August, topping July by some 242,000 quits.

The good news is that this trend has put many workers in the potentially lucrative position of negotiating for higher pay with a new employer.

If you’re thinking of quitting soon or you’re simply interviewing to keep your options open, get ready for these awkward salary questions.

“How much are you earning at your current employer?”

Avoid this question at all costs, especially if you think you’re currently paid below market value for your skills or you are applying for a new role that would require more responsibilities.

For women — especially women of color — this question can be especially harmful. We are simply more likely than our peers to be and overlooked for opportunities for advancement and the pay raises that come with them. If we tell a recruiter or hiring manager what we are currently earning and they base their offer off that figure, that could make it even harder to catch up to our peers.

The good news is that several states have made it illegal for recruiters to ask this question of job candidates (see if your state is one of them ). Otherwise, here’s a suggested response if you do get this question during the interview process:

“I’d rather not disclose my current salary and instead focus on the market rate for my skills today and the scope of this specific role with your company.”

If the question appears on an application form, fill in $0 or N/A.

“What salary range do you have in mind?”

I’ve women this year as they’ve navigated the job market and I’ve seen this question come up earlier and earlier in job interviews. Time-strapped and overworked recruiters are juggling many candidate screening calls each day. They don’t want to waste anyone’s time by pushing forward candidates who are too expensive for their approved budget for the role, so they use this question to weed out folks early in the process.

Still, avoid giving a range early in the process. Even if you do your research and make your best guess at a good range, you may still be underselling yourself. You may also realize after a few interviews that the role is more complex than you expected and your range wasn’t high enough.

Try answering this way:

“I’d love to learn more about the role and its scope before discussing compensation, but do you have a particular budget in mind that you can share?”

Ideally, the recruiter will give you a range so you can decide if the compensation is in line with your expectations. If it’s way under what you hoped to make, ask them if there is potential for more. If it’s way above what you had in mind, do an internal happy dance and calmly tell them you are comfortable with the range but still want to learn more and get to know the team.

“I thought you said you were fine with this range originally?”

Let’s say you do give an expected salary range only to later realize you asked for too little. By then, you may have an offer in hand that is at the lower end of the range that you gave and the recruiter may not be thrilled to hear you want more. Don’t take it too personally — they are probably just annoyed they have more work ahead of them.

Fight through the awkwardness and negotiate for more anyway. Here’s one way to approach it:

“Thank you so much for the offer. I’m absolutely ecstatic and can’t wait to start working with the team. Since we initially spoke about compensation, however, I’ve learned more about the role and believe the job scope as well as the market rate for my skills warrants a higher starting salary. Can you increase the base salary or total compensation package?”

Get ready for an uncomfortable waiting period before you hear back. Typically, recruiters and hiring managers need additional clearances from higher-ups if they’ve already gotten the budget for a particular role approved.

If they say the salary itself is firm, they may offer to increase additional types of compensation like an equity grant or sign-on bonus.

Mandi Woodruff-Santos is inclusive wealth-building advocate, career expert and co-host of the popular podcast Brown Ambition. Her work has appeared in CNBC, Business Insider, Teen Vogue and U.S. News & World Report.

Follow her for more tips on career and wealth-building: Instagram: @mandimoney and TikTok: @maaandimoney