How to answer ‘what was your most recent salary?’

Negotiating salary with your potential employer? Here’s how to handle questions about your most recent salary.

Take a look at our tips on how to manage those tricky interview questions about your most recent salary. 

It could give you the edge in negotiations.

Chances are you’ll be asked

Most employers will have a budget in mind for positions they are looking to fill, often with the numbers established long before the interview process begins. In theory, your previous or current salary shouldn’t significantly impact any offer you receive.

That said, it pays to consider how you will respond to questions about your most recent pay cheque. So, be prepared. Your response to salary issues can shape the flow of negotiations from that point. For example, if your most recent salary was $80,000, and the hiring manager has budgeted for a salary of, say, $70,000 it makes sense for both parties to determine at an early stage if you are likely to reach a mutually acceptable middle ground – or if continued negotiations may prove fruitless.

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Have a range in mind

To avoid a potential mismatch of salary expectations while still retaining a sense of personal privacy, you can respond to questions about your current salary by stating a range you would be comfortable with rather than providing a specific figure.

The 2015 Robert Half Salary Guide is a resource for determining current market salaries for a range of roles. Use the figures provided as a base level, then make allowances for your skills, knowledge and everything else you bring to the table. Review the job description to see how well you stack up against the minimum qualifications and experience.

It may be sensible to home in on jobs in your preferred salary range however it pays not to rule out possible positions on the basis of salary alone. There is likely to be room for negotiation at the hiring employer’s end especially as some firms may advertise salaries at the lower end of the spectrum in anticipation of some back and forth.

Hold steady

If you are asked about your previous salary during the job interview, try to gauge the range for the position you’re seeking so you don’t undersell yourself.

If the interviewer continues to push, don’t allow yourself to become flustered. This is where your research comes in handy. Cite a range so you don’t lock yourself into a concrete figure. You want to leave some flexibility to negotiate if the employer’s offer is below your expectations.

Be honest

If the hiring manager asks about your pay history, it’s best to be honest. But make it clear if you believe you were underpaid so that you have reason to justify a significant bump in compensation. Robert Half research indicates that inadequate salary and benefits is one of the main reasons employees move on, and it pays to be upfront with a potential new boss.

If it is possible, aim to focus on your preferred new salary instead of your previous one. It’s all part of maintaining the emphasis where it should be: on your next job, not on your last.

This article originally appeared as How to answer 'what was your most recent salary?' on the Robert Half Australia Blog. 

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