Difficult Interview Question

It’s inevitable that at some point during your search you’ll be faced with the dilemma of sharing your salary history.

You can guarantee that every employment application will prompt you to disclose your previous income; over and over again. (With the exception of those states who’ve made it illegal)

The problem with sharing this information is two-fold; you could sell yourself short and not get the salary you deserve or end up out of the running entirely. Too little or too much and you’re doomed.

What’s the solution?

First, you should know that you aren’t obligated to share this information; instead be sure that when the time comes, you are prepared with a polite, positive and appropriate response.

Don’t bring up pay at all unless they do. Rarely is there a reason to discuss pay right away. A second interview or job offer is the perfect time to discuss the salary for the position.

I highly recommend sharing your salary target instead. Your target salary is the starting pay you’re looking to make upon hire. It’s extremely important that you are asking for an appropriate and fair range for the position you are seeking; if you are being unrealistic you’re just wasting everyone’s time.

If you’re filling out an application form, simply put the same target salary amount in each beginning and ending field for every position. As soon as you get the opportunity to manually type, add a note indicating you’re excited to learn more about the position and can discuss salary at a later date


Research and compare salaries for the industry and the company you are interested in working for.  Odds are they have a budget for the role and it’s unlikely they will exceed that. Save your time and energy by only applying at those places that can meet your salary and benefit needs.

When asked directly about salary history, share your target instead.  Use this example:  “I’m looking for a starting salary of $38,000-$42,000, is that in line with your budget?” This format not only tells them the real information they’re looking for (how much) but it diverts the question back to them and opens the door for a two-way conversation about pay.

As always when discussing pay you should be open and honest about your needs so the company can truly assess if it will be a good match for both of you.

Whether you’re seeking an entry level position or a role with a fortune 500 company, be confident and know your worth! Do not accept anything less.

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