Published on

If you don’t know where you’re going,
you could wind up someplace else.

Yogi Berra

Interviewing for a new job can be an emotional rollercoaster.   Many job seekers go through a variety of emotions, when navigating interview challenges.   Frustration, excitement, anticipation, tension are just some of the common feelings one experiences when sitting through an interview.

An individual needs to have both confidence and competence to successfully navigate through a challenging interview

There are many resources to help individuals prepare for interview questions,  however there is one question that is particularly challenging and worth exploring in detail.  This is:

“What is your current salary?” 

Interview Challenges – Hiring Manager Motivations

There are a couple of reasons why potential employer  would ask this question.

Either it’s because an interviewer has no training in the interviewing process or the interviewer is trained and wants to obtain an advantage over the candidate.

Whatever the interviewer’s motives, they believe that knowing this information will let them determine if the candidate is worth their interviewing time.  

If they get a salary answer that is much lower than the pre-established salary they expect to pay, they will continue the interview because the candidate is within their “cost expectations”.  

If they get a salary answer that is higher, they can eliminate the candidate immediately.  

However a candidate that stated a lower salary number can also be eliminated because the candidate is perceived to have a “lower value” than what they are looking for.

Interview Challenges – Advantages and Disadvantages of Providing Current Salary

So you can see that there are many advantages for a hiring manager to have this information and very few for a candidate to offer it.

This imbalance is considered a problem and several states have made it illegal to ask this question.  Check with your state Dept. of Labor to verify if this is an illegal question.

Unfortunately, you can expect some hiring managers to ask this question so we will cover the three steps to responding to the question, “what is your current salary”.

The steps are PLAN, PREPARE and PRACTICE. We will cover them in more detail below.


As mentioned above, interviewing managers may ask this question because they don’t know they’re not supposed to or if they do know…they don’t care. Either way you need to plan a response to this question so you protect your interests and maintain rapport with the interviewer.

Take some time and research what employers pay for employees in the job role you seek.  Also consider geography. The salaries for IT Specialists in New York or San Francisco are going to be higher than the same positions in Dallas or Cincinnati.

Here are some useful resources for researching salary information:


Occasionally you will be asked to complete an application, either online or paper, that includes the question.  Leave the field blank on a paper application. For an online application, leave it blank and if the field is required, add a series of numbers such as 111111 or 999999.

If the interviewer still challenges you to complete the field, be prepared with a verbal or written response.  You certainly can offer your top number, however be prepared that if you do get an offer, the offer won’t exceed the number you provided.

If asked, you can choose one of these responses:

Gentle response

I’m sure you understand that my previous employer considers salary information be confidential, so I am unable to share it with you. However if you can share the salary range for this position I can tell you if our expectations will match.

Assertive response

“I’m not sure my current salary is relevant, but if you must know, I’d be happy to provide it after you share the salary range for this position


There is a saying by a tribe in New Guinea, “Knowledge is only a rumor until it’s in the muscle”.  This saying illustrates the importance of turning knowledge into skill.

Reading about responses is a good step towards learning how to respond, however taking some time to practice will actually “put it in the muscle” when it comes time to respond effectively to the question.

Your Workforce Partner

Are you looking for an experienced, competent employment partner?

New Wave People is a professional staffing agency offering our clients and job seekers the best services in the industry.

We specialize in nationwide workforce staffing, partnering with educated professionals with hands-on experience. 

Call us at 732.786.9070 or email us  

Seeking a job? Click Here

Whether you need contract, part-time, and permanent professionals, our team will find the perfect fit for any organization or industry. And if you’re a job seeker, you can count on us to find you that perfect assignment.