Job Interviews: Should You Tell the Truth About Your Salary?

job interviews

Having to look for another employment and go through job interviews again may not be what you were looking forward to.

However, it is almost a fact of life in America that most people will not stay at the company they started with out of college. In fact, the odds are against you to stay and work with the same firm until you retire. A lot of younger workers nowadays jump from one company to another.

They are either looking for better pay or ready for a career change.

I also personally know of people who after working for the government for a good 15 years decided to leave government service and enter the private industry.

Gone are the days of 30 or more years and out to retirement with the same company. At least that is for some of us.

Some of the statistics are that half of the jobs today will be gone in 20 years due to technology. In addition to that, a child growing up today can expect to have up to 20 or more different jobs in their lifetime, across several industries.

With this in mind, keeping one’s resume current is paramount. If you need a guide on how to write a resume, check out our post on the tips and tricks of resume writing. Which of course brings us to the current topic of salary disclosure?

But first, depending on where you live as of this writing, some cities and states now ban future employers from asking a job applicant about their salary history. These include New York City, Oregon, California, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Orleans, Puerto Rico, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. I’m pretty sure more states and cities will follow suit.

If you don’t live in one of the places mentioned above, what do you do?

Should you be honest about your salary during job interviews?

Before I answer this question, we need to do a paradigm shift in our minds. Remember that job interviews are actually a sales interviews.

The company is selling you their position, and you are the buyer using your services and talents. You are in a way, also are selling your skills and expertise to the company.

You also need to understand that they wish to buy the product you are selling which is you. If you can come to this understanding, then you will not be as intimidated.

Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.
– John F. Kennedy

So what is the discussion on current salary all about? It is the price that the company is willing to pay for your services and talents up to that point in your life. As with any sellable asset, the price is always negotiated.

The reason why during the job interviews they wish to know your salary history is so that they can make an offer, not so much on what they are willing to buy you for, but what are you willing to sell yourself for?

It would be prudent for you to have done your homework before the job interview. Before even considering to sell your services and talents to a company, it would be reasonable to have researched the average job salary for that position.

In addition, it would be prudent to have research the company you are applying for to determine how you fit in with what they are buying. Also, it would make sense to ask them what they typically pay for the position that you are applying for.

After all, they are asking for your salary history, so there’s nothing wrong with asking them what they have paid in the past for this position.

So, the first answer would be to never lie about your salary history, but try your best not to reveal your salary until they are ready to make an offer.

If you feel pressured during the interview process, you may reveal your salary history but make sure to be ready to negotiate.  Lying about your current salary is one job interview mistake you never want to make. 

Preparation before job interviews is the key so make sure to know your numbers. Your salary includes typically base pay, benefits, and bonuses, so it is wise that you review this information before your job interview date.

You are also competing for other candidates for the same job. As a result, you do not wish to automatically push yourself behind a candidate that you do not even know about.

Below are the three important things that you should know before your interview:

  • You should already know what your target salary with bonuses and benefits are.
  • You should already know what the industry is typically paying.
  • You should already know what they have historically paid.

The basic rule of thumb is that in job interviews everything is negotiable. So the correct answer is never to lie, but rather have a serious discussion about what you are worth to them and what they are willing to pay.

Then you decide if you want to work for them. This removes the idea that you are a beggar and they are the provider.

It reverses the mentality and puts you in charge. A good article to also help answer this question is found at Ladders article called “Should you share your salary history?”

BA in Accountancy, he entered the entrepreneurial world by starting his first online marketing business in 2004. Passionate about personal finance, the stock market and a digital marketing addict. I also love to read books on entrepreneurship and technology and always on the lookout for new opportunities. I'm an avid golfer and currently a 15 handicapper.

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