How to Answer the Toughest Interview Question

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By far, my least favorite interview question is some variation of, “What is your current salary?”. From an internal perspective, this question is asked to help us understand where you fit within our budgeted range. This makes good business sense, of course, but there are two limitations to this approach:

  1. The candidate could be underpaid. When the current salary is disclosed to the recruiter, the recruiter gets a sense of what the candidate is worth + a bit more. However, what if the candidate isn’t being fairly compensated? It is impossible for the candidate to explain this and still maintain credibility.
  2. The candidate could lie. Responding with what your total compensation is when asked about current salary is a fair approach. What we don’t always know is when that number is falsely inflated.

Until I convince the organizations I work with that describing the target salary range for a given position is cleaner and even gives the organization the upper hand, I’m stuck asking these questions. So, I’ve compiled a few of my favorite responses to this question and encourage you to give them a try the next time you’re asked these questions.

“Let’s talk about the job responsibilities and requirements first, so I can get a sense of what you need.”

“I’ve done my research and I’m impressed with this company, so I’m confident whatever salary you’re paying is consistent with the rest of the market. Let’s focus on your target salary range.”

“I am interested in finding a job that is a good fit for me. Let’s make sure I’m the right person for the job and then we can talk compensation.”

“My experience and research tell me that fair compensation for this position falls in the range of $_____. Total compensation is what’s most important to me, so learning more about the benefits will be helpful, too.”

How have you answered this question in the past? Did it go well?

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