Creative Career Level Up

How to answer ‘what’s your current salary?’ in an interview

Jun 27, 2024
Photo by jeshoots on Unsplash

Nothing strikes fear in the average person than a direct conversation about money. Especially when it's a conversation about how much money you want to be paid.

Not only is the whole thing a big ‘dance’ between you and the other person (typically the HR manager employed by the company you are hoping to work for). But it's usually not something we are well prepared for. 

Even when working with a coach like myself, at least half my clients get caught off guard by this question. 

The key to not messing up this conversation is preparation and practice. Plus some steely nerve to not fold when they push you on things you don't want to answer.

The typical scenario

Here is what typically happens. 

You join the HR screening call. And after a few questions about your experience they fire the dreaded question at you.

‘What’s your current salary?’

Despite knowing that it is completely irrelevant to how they compensate their own teams, companies still insist on asking this question.

Do not disclose this! 

As a reader of my weekly newsletter and a member of my much loved online community, I implore you to never answer this question. 

Obviously what you earn today is completely irrelevant to what this company will pay you should you be offered the job. So it should not even be asked.

But unfortunately, many companies do ask. 

And many candidates still get caught off guard and end up answering honestly. Or lying (which I don't recommend either).

Here’s a script you can use

Here’s a word for word script you can practice in case you get asked this irrelevant question.

‘I'm not able to disclose my current salary. But I can give you my salary expectations. And my salary expectations are [insert a range]’

If you want them to give the salary first, you could tweak the above:

‘I'm not able to disclose my current salary. But I can give you my salary expectations. And my salary expectations are that I’m paid inline with where this role sits in your company and my experience level. Based on that, are you able to give me the salary range?’

What if they keep pushing?

Some people don’t take ‘no’ for an answer, and so here are some follow up scripts.

If they say, we really need your current salary you can say:

‘I'm not contractually able to disclose it. But given my current salary is not a factor for how you set the salaries in your company, I'm sure this is not an issue.’

If they keep pushing, I'd keep reiterating that you are contractually not able to disclose. They can't really argue with that! 

The key is to stay calm and warm 

It’s really important to deliver this in a calm and warm tone. You don’t want the conversation to turn awkward or snarky. 

But you are completely within your rights to NOT disclose your current salary.

And you are also completely in your rights to ask for their range. Asking a candidate to set the range, implies that they are going to low ball you. And for me, that's a big red flag.

Practice, practice, practice

Money chat is not easy. It takes practice and strong nerves to not cave. But you’ll get better at it. 

And if you want a good book about money mindset I love Jen Sinceo’s ‘You are a Badass at Making Money’. This book will not only help you understand how important it is that you advocate for yourself when it comes to money, but it will also help you get in the right mindset to have this conversation.

Here’s to becoming a badass at salary negotiation! 

Salary negotiation is a key part of my Creative Career Level Up programme.

I’ve helped clients double, even triple their salary when coming through my programme. I’d walk you through it step-by-step.

I help people in the Marketing and Creative and Tech Industries to find their next perfect role. 

If you are looking to level-up your career, use the link below to schedule some time to chat about whether the programme might be right for you.