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Avoiding Salary History Discussion During an Interview

by Dana Severson, studioD

Disclosing salary history is a personal choice. If you don’t want to divulge it, no one can make you. In fact, it’s a topic that can cloud the interview process. Ask almost any executive recruiter, and he or she will tell you to put off salary discussions until the very end of the hiring process, preferably after an offer has been made. Diversion is really your only option other than offering up previous earnings. But your method of diversion can make or break your chances.


Applicants need to gather as much information as they can to make an informed decision about any position, so using this tactic is pretty standard. Avoid sounding cagey by framing the response in a way that highlights your desire to learn more about the role. Say something like, “I really want to hear more about the duties and responsibilities of the position before discussing my salary history.” Or, “I’d prefer to focus on the skills and qualities I could bring to the role rather than getting into salary discussions at this point.”


How much an employer is willing to pay an employee is based a myriad of factors, and, though it varies by employer, chief among them is experience. If you want to avoid a salary discussion, redirect the conversation to this topic. Simply tell the hiring manager, “As far as salary history, I hope to make a salary commensurate with my level of experience.”


Employment is more than how much a role pays, and employers respect applicants who express as much. They want someone who “fits” the role just as much as you want a job that “fits” your skills and abilities. If the topic of salary comes up too soon for you, respond by saying, “At this point in my career, I’m more focused on the job itself. I want to find someplace that challenges me, and where the company culture feels right. I’m certain we can arrive at an arrangement that’s mutually beneficial.”


Redirecting the discussion to a total compensation package is another option. Even when the salary isn't what you’re accustomed to making, certain perks and benefits can outweigh the lower pay. So, tell a potential employer, “I’m sure we can agree on a total compensation package.” You’ll then have the flexibility to negotiate more days of vacation, stock options or a flexible workweek.


You should know how much the desired position pays in your geographic area. If you don’t, do a little research to arrive at a number. When asked for a salary history, instead offer a desired salary range that is consistent with others in your area who hold a similar position. You won't be locking yourself into an exact figure, but you’re still providing a reasonable salary expectation for the role.

About the Author

Based in Minneapolis, Minn., Dana Severson has been writing marketing materials for small-to-mid-sized businesses since 2005. Prior to this, Severson worked as a manager of business development for a marketing company, developing targeted marketing campaigns for Big G, Betty Crocker and Pillsbury, among others.

Photo Credits

  • Michael Blann/Lifesize/Getty Images