When asked "What is your last drawn salary?", is it appropriate to answer by stating one's salary expectation. I don't mean that I would pretend that I am making more (or less) than what I currently make, but I would clearly state that I expect to be compensated a certain amount for the position.

I ask because it has been stated that one reason this question is asked is to ascertain whether the candidate is "within budget". If my current salary falls within their budget but my expectation does not, answering with my current salary doesn't really [i]answer[/i] what is being asked. (Yes... lots of assumptions here.)

aspiringceo's picture

The answer to the question "What is your last drawn salary?" should be your current salary, but I see no reason why you shouldn’t mention your expectations.
We ask potential candidates about current salary for several reasons. The 1st is as you say to see if their expectations fall within our limits (we tend to have fixed pay scales), the 2nd reason is because it can sometimes be a good yardstick to measure candidates experience and potential e.g. I would have reservations if somebody wanted to go from a 20k salary to a 50k salary. A final reason is because sometimes job titles can be a bit ambiguous but current salary is more reflective of levels of responsibility.


jacques's picture

Very enlightening. I'm beginning to see the 90º angles on that hole.
Thank you.

tokyotony's picture

A consultant friend of mine says not to answer the current salary question. He says from a negotiation standpoint, it puts you in a weaker position. He even says not to give out expected salary, and best to turn the table and ask what the expected budget is for the position.

Anyone have any thoughts on this? How would you react if someone would not give our their current salary and expected salary?

ashdenver's picture

I agree with your consultant friend.

[i]He who mentions salary first, loses at the negotiation table.[/i] (From "What Color is Your Parachute")

If firmly and consistently pressed, almost backed into a corner, I will occasionally come up with "Based on what we've talked about regarding this position, it seems to me that the current salary range for this area would be in the area of $x to $x." You're mentioning a salary (range) but not lying about your current salary.

I've occasionally taken jobs that were very far below my normal compensation level (location, personal circumstance, etc.) and, when applying for a position in my usual area & level, I would never dream of saying "Yeah, I'm at $20k now but fully expect this position to pay $50k." It just makes employers suspicious (as Edmund pointed out) or think they can pay you the bare minimum (or less!)

bflynn's picture

The trouble is, you have to say something. You can't just not answer the question (unless you're a candidate against me, in which case, please refuse to answer the question.)

I've been in many interviews where I was asked some form of "How much do you get paid right now?" My response is usually something like "I'm sorry, but I'm can't answer that. It would probably violate the confidentiality of my current employer and it really has no bearing on what I would accept for this new position. (pause) You know so much more about the position than I do, what would be a average market rate for this job?" After the answer, I'll say something like "That is a rate that I could consider accepting". Professional, casually, almost off-handed in the manner I go for.

I've only had once where an interviewer pushed back. Yes, it ruined the interview, but it ruined it both ways. We had reached a point where my impressions of his company were too negative to overcome, so there was no chance of a deal anyway. Lucky me.


ashdenver's picture

[b]Q. "What do you currently earn right now."

A. "I am currently in the 65th percentile for this region in this role."[/b]

It shows that you know your value and you've done the research to back it up. It also doesn't divulge anything of consequence. You're interviewing for THEIR job, not the one you've already got so they've really got no real way of knowing the true value of the current job.

[b]Q. "What are you currently earning?"

A. "Based on our discussions here today, it would seem that my current compensation is about par with what one might expect this position to pay."[/b]

Again, dancing around the actual hard numbers while redirecting the focus on the value and worth of the current job, subtly hinting at the research you've already done. That research piece is important; if they know that you know what it's worth, they're less likely to think they can get away with low-balling you at the offer.

[b]Q. "We appreciate that however we need to have the actual figure for _____ (some reason or another)."

A. "I understand that ____ (reason) is important to you. My current total compensation is in the $xx to $yy range."[/b]

I will occasionally throw in the "total compensation" in there and use the figure that my HR group lists as my Total Compensation Package -- matching FICA, employer paid premiums, company match, etc. Hey - I've got no guarantee that the prospective company is willing to pony up the same level of health insurance premiums, be as generous with the 401k match, etc. so I use it all to my advantage when put on the spot.

Ethical? Dunno but it's what I do and it has (knock wood) worked fairly well for me over the years.

Mark's picture
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I disagree completely with some thoughts on this thread.

When you are asked your present pay, please tell us.

We are not playing some clever game with you. We really want to know your salary. You are not clever enough to trick us into telling us something that you think we really SHOULD want to know more than what we actually asked for.

If you dance with me twice, we're done.

What Color is Your Parachute is outdated and wrong on this subject. WRONG. You are never negotiating for more salary. Negotiations imply give and take. What more can you give us? Have you been holding out?

Consider this: "whomever mentions pay first" seems to have some traction. Can you quickly, without pausing, state the underlying rationale for the truth of that assertion? You likely cannot. Why then give it such credence?

I would suggest because it reinforces your own bias of not wanting to talk about your pay.

You would never tolerate a firm making you an offer with a range. A question about an amount is as valid as a statement about one.

When you don't answer our question, you PROVE your weakness around this issue, and we look harder for other areas of disagreement.

And please let's be clear: managers are ALWAYS ethical. We don't publish unethical advice here.

We are on very infirm ground here.


jacques's picture


Thanks for responding.
I'm really amazed at your tenacity in going through all these older posts and sharing your perspective. It is [i]truly[/i] appreciated!


Mark's picture
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And, have I made my point? Don't confuse expected salary with present salary. Internal salary compression is understood. A raise to offset the loss of goodwill at a firm is normal.


rdshackleford's picture

[quote="mahorstman"]When you are asked your present pay, please tell us.[/quote]

Mark, when you say [i]we[/i], are you talking about a search firm recruiter, a corporate recruiter, a hiring manager, does it matter?


ashdenver's picture


Suppose you were interviewing candidates for a position holding a range of $50,000 to $70,000 and you believed the person before you had the requisite skills, background, experience, etc. and in the back of your mind, you were ready to put an offer on the table of $60,000.

If that candidate told you "I am currently earning $23,000" how would you handle the situation?

Mark's picture
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In an interview, YES. Search firms usually don't conduct interviews, and if they asked early in a relationship, I might balk - depends on the relationship and situation.

But in an interview, yes. Most of what I read here and hear elsewhere about pay is just flat wrong. If you push too hard to not answer us, we get irritated because you are ASSUMING it's bad to share (how do you know we don't need data to get you MORE money?) and you are making us come back to a subject later.

This is a perfect example of "common wisdom". The whole point is that wisdom is by DEFINITION not common.


Mark's picture
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The scenario is essentially impossible - it's never happened to me, nor anything even [b]remotely [/b]close. The salary market, while apparently impenetrable to many, is quite efficient.

And, I would offer them 50. If I'm ready to offer, they're so good such a disparity is trivial.


ashdenver's picture

The reason I ask is that I've been in the applicant position at least twice. During my younger years (read "flakier years") I 'dropped out' of the corporate track ... once to pursue a mom-and-pop business opportunity with my then-husband while taking a succession of lower paying temp jobs to fill in the missing cash and once I just couldn't get back on my feet in time after being downsized so I ended up cleaning houses for cash under the table part time.

As a result, when interviewing for a corporate position, when asked what my current salary is/was, answering directly and honestly would have been akin to shooting myself in the foot. I still had the same knowledge, background, experience, etc. that I had 6 or 12 mos previously but because the paycheck wasn't the same, I would have been short-changing myself by ten grand to answer the question.

I know at least three other people that have been in similar situations -- got off the corporate track for various reasons, retained all the essential components to have earned the higher salary, would have been undervalued had they spoken directly about their current salary rate -- and I'm surprised you've never been in a situation even remotely close.

Perhaps you have and those applicants were more adept at concealing the issue. Perhaps those applicants were perfectly okay with short-changing themselves, their families and their self-worth by intentionally lowering their starting salary.

It would seem that "Parachute" isn't that wrong after all. In the example, the candidate mentioned salary first (their current salary) and as a result, they lost out on $10k from the offer initially being entertained.

Either way, I appreciate the input. I'll take it under advisement if/when I find myself in a similar situation in the future.

TomW's picture
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[quote="mahorstman"]And, have I made my point? Don't confuse expected salary with present salary. [/quote]

As I was reading over this thread, I was thinking exactly that: current salary and expected salary are two very different things.

In my experience, if I start dancing around any issue with an interviewer, they seem to take it as being evasive. I never thought about it until I started interviewing others and saw how I reacted to someone trying not to give me a straight answer. I started thinking "Do I want someone working for me who will not give me an answer to a direct question?"

bflynn's picture

Tom, excellent point - thinking of it from the other side of the table helps. I'm always afraid that interviewers might mistake my answer for evasion. Its probably happened where I didn't know about it, but in the 3 or 4 job searches I've conducted, I've rarely had more than 3 interviews, so maybe I'm being clear enough. I think its mostly in the delivery.

I'm somewhat amazed that people who would usually not discuss salary information with anyone other than their spouse will tell a complete stranger anything about their pay structure if they think it would help them get a job. Most of them probably have some kind of agreement with their current employer not to reveal this information. What can I expect from them when they leave my company? From the interviewer side of the table, I'm very unimpressed when someone "rolls over" and gives up this information. That is probably what influences me so strongly on the interviewee side of the table.


mjkuras's picture

I would say that turnabout is fair play.

If the interviewee is expected to answer honestly as to his desired salary, the interviewer should be willing to provide the salary range of the position.

This puts both sides on equal ground.


TomW's picture
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[quote="ashdenver"]Perhaps you have and those applicants were more adept at concealing the issue. [/quote]

I worry when I see the word "conceal." Employers tend to find things out and they are not always happy if something was concealed from them in an interview.

ashdenver's picture

What bearing does a previous salary arrangement with a completely different employer [i]truly [/i]have on the current discussions between an applicant and the new potential employer?

If the new employer believes the candidate is capable, competent and qualified and is willing to offer whatever dollar figure it is, why does it matter what someone earned with a different employer?

Perhaps I'm being obtuse.

In the past, as a hiring manager myself, I have never once asked what an applicant was earning with another employer. I [i]have[/i] asked what their [u]expected[/u] salary is/was for the job opening which we were discussing because I want to know that we're on the same page.

Honestly and truly, I have experience in a wide variety of employers: 50 employees to 45,000 employees. A manager at a company with 200 employees may be earning a fraction of what the same manager at a company of 10,000 employees may be earning - even if the scope, nature and responsibility of those positions is equivalent. (If they're both managing X direct reports, using the same software, responsible for X amount of revenue, etc.)

The end result for me has always been: do the applicant's background checks, drug test and reference checks match up to the information I've been given in the interview? If so and I believe you are capable, competent and qualified for the job, my offer is on the table. As the employer, I or we have placed a value on the position. That position's value is the amount of money the organization is willing to pay for a new person (who is capable, competent and qualified) to do that work for us. (If that person proves themselves to far exceed the baseline expectations, random raises are always an option!)

(Side note & rhetorical question - how is "what are you currently earning" different from "what's your number of partners"? I mean, does the number really change the current relationship in any tangible way or does full disclosure of the number generally adversely impact one party or another by perception and judgment from the other one?)

Mark's picture
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First off, "turnabout is fair play" doesn't mean what I think you think it means. ( I hate writing that, but it's technically accurate, even if a mouthful).

It is common to assume that it means "if you do something to me, I can do the same to you", or, put differently, "what goes around comes around." What it actually means is, "we'll take turns," as in, "you do this today, I'll do it tomorrow."

And, perhaps more on point, it doesn't apply here. Interviews are not meetings of equals in any way. If any activity appears that way in isolation, it is sheer coincidence. Interviews are about the allocation of a scare and in demand resource - jobs. The company has them, the applicant wants them. This is neither a negotiation nor a discussion among peers.

While a candidate may choose to judge a company in this way, a discriminating one would quickly realize that all companies are not out to please the candidate, they are out to benefit themselves.

The fact is, many companies DON'T have figures for jobs, or the range is so wide, or the hiring manager has such discretion, that any range given would be misleading (being read as a lack of analysis, for instance, rather than confidence in the hiring manager).

Further, any range can be broken for the RIGHT candidate.

On the other hand, the candidate's present compensation is a fact. It is reasonable for the organization to expect that fact as a part of a discussion that could lead a decision about compensation.

Moreover, many companies intelligently use interviews to gather data about market rates and internal compression. This is reasonable market research to which a candidate's reply is not illicit nor an inappropriate divulgence.


Mark's picture
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[First, I edited your post, to allow those of who are a bit older ( I am 46 and was unable) to read your final comment. No intent to change your post, just make it response-able, so to speak.]

It does make a difference. Perhaps not as much as relative differences in performance and abilities do (though to be clear those are ENTIRELY judgment calls), but it certainly does.

One reason is because there is more at stake here than simply "a person with a set of skills" and "a set of responsibilities". One factor not immediately obvious is the budget of the manager and the company. Managers have a role to play as responsible economists for their firm. That is to say, they should not pay 100 dollars for work or products that can be done or purchased at similar quality for 50 dollars.

Therefore, if the position I have open has a SUGGESTED range of 60-70K, and you made 30K last year, and I believe you are the "best" - be careful of "right" - person for the job, it might be a BRILLIANT move for me to offer you 50K.

If your response to this is, "but that's not fair", consider two factors: one, this may allow me what amounts to salary cap room to offer someone else the money we need to get them, and that person may be junior to this role yet shore up a weakness that my loved 30K candidate has.

Further, if I offer you 60K, the MOMENT you start, the joy of the increase is lost for many, many people. BUT, if I offer you 50, then next year get you to 60K, and you are THRILLED both times, as many people are, retention is improved.

Moreover, if I offer you 60K, you are likely to get a standard increase in the next year, which brings right back into the salary grind of so many others.

And, my boss might choose to NOT HIRE for the position if we have to offer 60K. Yes, it's an open req, but open reqs close all the time. To get a good fit at 50K, why, that's a bargain worth making...and hey, maybe we could hire others at that level...which brings us back to my first point, which is that if we can, and there is no long term adverse affect, we SHOULD, as managerial economists and the stewards of our firm's money.

And before anyone screams "retention problem due to low pay relative to the market", please check the data regarding pay at companies relative to retention. It is the WORST companies that often HAVE to pay the MOST, and there are PLENTY of firms who lead their industries in retention who pay near the bottom. The causality is simply NOT supported.

So, I want to know, because I'm a manager and it's a factor to consider. And, because I have the power ( i have the job that you seem to want), I get to know. This isn't clumsy or a form of managerial effrontery: it's simply a reasonable outgrowth of relative power in a business relationship.

All of these arguments work equally well in the "she makes more now than we can offer" scenario, I might add.

Regarding your side note, I believe my answer directly addresses why current compensation is different from number of partners. Further, the fact that such disclosure might adversely impact one party isn't terribly relevant. If we were going to eliminate questions that might adversely impact one party, we wouldn't ask any interview questions, based on my experience in over 10,000 interviews. I can imagine no more adverse impact than "you won't be offered", and every manager ought to know the one reasonable question that will rule anyone out for any job.

What's more, we certainly wouldn't stop asking a question that might adversely impact a candidate when it might also help them greatly, as this one might.

Candidates are welcome not to disclose. It would show an astonishing lack of knowledge about interviewing, about careers, about managerial economics, and of relationship building. It would likely be highly counterproductive.


mjkuras's picture

I really do hope that your response to my first post was done tongue-in-cheek.
To address some specific points:
[i]...are about the allocation of a scare and in demand resource - jobs. The company has them, the applicant wants them. This is neither a negotiation nor a discussion among peers. [/i]
The company has something I might possibly want - a position. I have something the company might possibly want - skills. We meet to discuss one versus the other. How is this not a "negotiation"?

[i]all companies are not out to please the candidate, they are out to benefit themselves.[/i]
Anyone who has interviewed knows this to be true. Are you insinuating that the interviewee does not have the right to negotiate terms that are favorable, and that they should meekly accepted what is offered?

T[i]he fact is, many companies DON'T have figures for jobs, or the range is so wide, or the hiring manager has such discretion...[/i]
Please, Mark, you are obviously an educated individual. You really need to re-read this and decide if you wish to stand behind this statement.

I don't wish to appear or be combative, but I must call it as I see it - you seem to stand firmly on the side of the company, and your comments indicate that the interviewee is nothing more than a commodity for the company to analyze.

Perhaps I'm wrong....I have been in the past, and will be so in the future.
Let me close by stating that you have a valuable resource in this website, and I find myself agreeing with most of your opinions. However, on this one I must disagree.

wendii's picture
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Not that Mark isn't quite capable of defending himself, but I work in recruiting and in the wider sense in HR and [i]The fact is, many companies DON'T have figures for jobs, or the range is so wide, or the hiring manager has such discretion... [/i] completely describes every company I've ever worked for including a blue chip giant, a public sector government agency, and my current top 10 defence company via a BPO.

Taking this into account, [i]all companies are not out to please the candidate, they are out to benefit themselves.
Anyone who has interviewed knows this to be true. Are you insinuating that the interviewee does not have the right to negotiate terms that are favorable, and that they should meekly accepted what is offered?
[/i]becomes, yes, you have the right to negotiate, but the company can be completely fickle and decided arbitarily that they do have financial limit or not, and that WON'T be based on your skills. Just this week, we have given a candidate 1 week to make a decision as to whether he's joining us or not, because, as the HM said - he's being annoying.

[i]The interviewee is nothing more than a commodity for the company to analyze[/i] Companies in my experience have NO clue about the coming skills shortages, and won't acknowledge the ones that already exist, for example in engineering. They do still believe they have all the power, and will exercise it accordingly. The candidate above is filling a req we've had open for over a year, but that fact is not stopping the HM playing hardball.


Mark's picture
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Sorry, but I wasn't joking. I certainly didn't mean to invoke any ire, though. I apologize for my tone, and regret that I caused such a strong response.

I do feel strongly about this, having recruited interviewed and hired thousands of people from all sides of the table.

It's not a negotiation for a couple of reasons. First, because the company rarely has to negotiate - jobs are generally more scarce than talented people available for them. While there are times when the market "tightens", this is only relative.

Second, it's not a negotiation because that implies variability regarding the exchange. That is, if I offer you 100K and you desire 120K, while this is perfectly reasonable, what are you going to offer me for the 20K difference? It's not as if, at this point, that you can give me "20K more of you." You can certainly choose to decline the offer...but that's not negotiation, either.

The fact that two parties have what the other might want doesn't suggest a negotiation is inevitable. The supermarket doesn't negotiate with me.

This doesn't mean that the VAST majority of people don't call interviews or discussions after offers "negotiations". I know they do. But that is a terribly misleading idea to put into the head of most job seekers. They are ill-equipped to negotiate, do it poorly, and put themselves and their new job, or the goodwill associated with it, at risk. I don't mind being right and in the minority. I've seen too many poorly handled "negotiations" end in tears, for candidates who "woulda taken that job!!!!!"

I never "insinuat[ed]" that candidates do not have the "right" to negotiate (though I think "rights" is a misleading modus operandi). I simply do not feel that negotiation is an appropriate tactic. If you want to ask for more money, ask for more money. No problem! But asking for more money is not negotiating.

I do believe that most people are terribly under-prepared to ask for more money, and do so at their peril. So, I generally recommend that folks accept what is offered. This is not meek, and your inference isn't kind.

This is a far better strategy for the vast majority of folks than asking for more money, even when they GET more money. The concept of goodwill is surprisingly lacking from the advice of folks who say "NEGOTIATE!"

Many companies do NOT have figures, or their ranges are VERY large, and/or the managers DO have great discretion. Sorry, but it's true. I've helped companies craft such scales and trained hundreds of managers on how to offer and what to offer and when to offer.


Regarding your feelings on my point of view, separate from its merits, you're certainly welcome to disagree! We're glad you did. :D I think you could have done it less combatively, though, despite your protestation to the contrary.

The comment "obviously an educated individual" is an ad hominem attack. Unseemly in these forums.

Further, asking me to re-read something that I wrote is also somewhat sketchy. I FIRST wrote that line 9 years ago in an article for an in-house magazine. I think it would have been fine to say, "Gosh, do you really mean that? I can't understand how you can get from so many other of your points of view to this one. Would you explain it differently for me? Thanks!"

I try NOT to insinuate, and the modern definition of that word implies an oiliness that I think is unhelpful here.

Glad you shared, sorry we disagree, no worries! - H

Mark's picture
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Thanks Wendii! :wink:


mjkuras's picture

Considering the responses, methinks this forum may be a bit 'over my head.'

Thanks for the insight - it will prove valuable in future interviews.


Mark's picture
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Naah! Don't say that! You know you're learning when you're uncomfortable. I learned something from our exchange.

Interviewing is far more complex an interaction than most folks realize. I've been trying for years to get folks to realize that the game they're playing isn't the one the companies are playing, and since companies do it a lot more, and control things, there's danger when the candidate's rules conflict with the companies'. The candidate usually loses.

Stick with us. We're nice...and smarter than everybody else talking about this stuff. :D


joolzb's picture

In the UK its usual that you would know the salary range for a position your interviewing for prior to making the initial application. You need to establish what range the employer is hiring in otherwise you will not know if they have made you their best offer.

My experience interviewing in the US is that you do not always have the advantage of knowing the hiring salary and I was asked prior to taking the next steps within the hiring process what my expectations where. I gave a range that I would expect to see this role advertised at in the UK.

Clearly if your earning 30k and are interviewing for a position over 60k you have a gap that may well have to be justified. Just because you have been earning lower on the scale and have an opportunity to be hired higher it certainly will not mean your not fit for the role as you want progression and may be travelling and/or working from home.

If asked what your currently making, disclose and quickly, be prepared to line your significant achievements up as return fire, if you need to justify such gaps.

Nik's picture

When interviewing applicants, nothing upsets me more than avoiding a direct question. Consider how you can answer the question directly and honestly, without "shooting yourself in the foot."

Try: "I'm making $X per year, but I feel that I am under-compensated given my responsibilities and accomplishments."

There are a lot of variations on that answer, but basically you're just sending the message that you feel you are due a substantial increase in wages if you take this new position.

juliahhavener's picture
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Personally, I would shy away from 'undercompensated' (it sounds negative towards your current employer/position), instead I would "sell the value". 'Based on my performance and the requirements of the position, I believe the compensation should be reflective'. You make what you make (it is what it is), but that doesn't necessarily mean it's what you *should* make in the next position.

smholland10's picture

Wow, I am glad no one in this set of posts asked for a recommendation for doctor or dentist.

Your "low" salary could be one of the reasons for leaving your present employer. I had the joy of working for a US company with a three letter name, headquartered in Texas. I joined the organisation as a Senior Project Manager and left as a Service Category General Manager, flash name for an Offering Manager. At no stage was a pay rise offered by my employer - internal promotion was not rewarded where an external hire would get the commensurate salary. Essentially if you want more money leave and come back (that was the commonly held view).

When I was interviewing on my way out the door, many potential employers commented that for the roles, responsibilities and successes I was heavily underpaid, they would then discuss the benefits of their organisation's performance based pay and how this would not happen in their company.

M is right, it is very rare to have true negotiations below GM/VP level [depends on your country as to the title]. I would advise anyone pursuing a new role to review published Salary surveys, if you are a member of professional association they will be able to provide guidance for you.

You as the potential employee need to make the very personal decision, could I work in this organisation, for this Hiring Manager, doing this job for the money on the table.

I am working in software procurement way under my typical rate because I am sacrificing rate for on the job training. In the long run, all things being equal, I will come away from this assignment with more leverage for future assignments. My HM accepted my lack of procurement experience because he could pick up someone with C Suite experience to mentor within the team and I could learn Sourcing. Everybody wins, and that is how it should be.