Holding the Salary Card Close to the Vest

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Executives conducting an employment search frequently run into a situation like this. You see a posting for a position that sounds as if it may be right for you, and the advertisement asks for your salary requirements up front. Or you get that coveted first interview either via phone or in person, and the interviewer presses you for specific salary requirements. What do you do?

Career and compensation experts en masse advise against revealing your salary requirements too early in the game, despite veiled (or not so veiled) threats that candidates will be disqualified from consideration if they do not comply. (Surveys have shown that this is rarely if ever actually the case.) By divulging this information early in the game, you are virtually guaranteeing that the employer’s view of you will be prejudiced and the hiring executive or committee will see you as either too expensive or not expensive enough.

The key issue here is: How do you want to be evaluated for this opportunity? Someone who is relying on your salary history is basing their evaluation on how someone else (another company) valued you. Does this make sense?

By withholding your salary history (diplomatically, of course) you are not being uncooperative. Rather you are shifting the focus to demonstrating your potential present and future value to the employer, rather than either defending what your last employer paid you or trying to explain why you were not paid more.

If executed properly, this tactic will earn the respect of the hiring executive and make it far more likely that you will ultimately receive an offer commensurate with your worth.