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Should You Divulge Your Salary History?

By Sarah Auerbach

Looking for a job is all about being on the ball. But when it comes to talking about your future paycheck, it pays to procrastinate. Here are our tips on how to negotiate this thorny piece of the job search.

When is the right time to mention salary? Here are our tips on how to negotiate the money issue.
Looking for a job is all about being on the ball. But when it comes to talking about your future paycheck, it pays to procrastinate. If you talk salary too early, you risk pricing yourself out of a job-or pinning too low a price on your skills. But when is the right time to mention money? Here are our tips on how to negotiate this thorny piece of the job search:

Wait as long as possible

It's best to wait as late as possible in the interview process before bringing up salary. Never mention it in a first interview. If possible, wait until you have an offer. At the very least, wait until your final interview. Before you leap in, you should know exactly what the job entails and have a pretty good sense that your interviewer wants you on board. Always avoid being the first to mention a dollar amount, if possible.

To lie or not to lie
If your employer is salary savvy, she won't name a price either. Instead, she'll ask you what you make now. Above all, don't lie. Not only is lying a bad thing to do in general, but it's also just way too easy for her to check up on you.

Evasive maneuvers
You can evade her questioning. Instead of telling her what you make now, tell her what you want to be making. Or you can turn the question back at her by asking, "How much is budgeted for this position?" Of course, when you absolutely have to give an answer, you should give a range of numbers, with the lowest being the smallest salary you'd accept.

Sophisticated evasion
Some interviewers will tolerate more dancing around the topic than others. But if you think some twisting and turning might buy you time, you can try some more sophisticated evasions. You can say: "Of course money is important to me, but it's the opportunity that I'm really interested in talking about right now." Or you can quickly list the responsibilities you're being asked to take on, and then ask your interviewer, "Given this set of responsibilities, what figure did you have in mind for someone with my qualifications?"

Salary research
If you research the company and industry well, you'll have more leverage. You can say: "I've done a lot of talking to people in this industry, and I've consulted some salary guides, and I think that a range of X to X sounds reasonable." There are a number of web sites that offer salary surveys. is one such site that gives a range of salaries based on the position and the region.

Answering salary requests in ads
If you're replying to a job posting that specifically asks your salary, what should you do? Expert opinion is split on this question. Some say it can't hurt to be honest about your requirements, to save you the trouble of interviewing for a job that's out of your price range. Others say, just don't answer. A middle path is to give a range, then add, "depending on my responsibilities."

If you know you're overqualified for a position, say so in the cover letter, and explain that you'd be willing to accept a lower salary because you're interested in breaking into the field (or company).

One special case
If you know your cover letter or application form will be reviewed by automated resume software-or if you're entering information online-you should always include current or desired salary if the employer requests it. Otherwise, when the employer does a search for viable candidates, your information won't pop up. "Negotiable" won't cut it in an automated form.

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