Source: This article was originally published on CNBC.
Written by: Marguerite Ward, CNBC Make It
“What’s your current salary?” a hiring manager asks you. Instantly you tense up, unsure of how to respond.
It’s a common—and uncomfortable—job interview scenario. In some places, it’s actually no longer legal to ask about an applicant’s previous compensation. But while the issue is still being debated, you’ll want to be prepared with an answer.
Some would tell you to dodge the question or give a range to avoid disclosing an actual number. But, the best way to secure your place at a new company and advance your career is to simply tell the truth.
People are going to tell you that you should game this conversation, or that you should dodge this question by talking about ranges. That is no way to start a relationship.
The decision to share your salary is worth the risk. Here’s a two-step process for navigating this tricky interview question:
1. Know your market value
Discussing salary is the interview tightrope that everyone hates to walk. To make it across successfully, you’ll first need to know where you stand.
Be smart and do your research. Find the job’s likely salary, and know what your skills are likely worth in the open market.
Sites like PayScale, Glassdoor or LinkedIn Salary can tell you what a job should pay and let you know if you’re earning above or below market. You may find that you’re being underpaid, which can happen if you’ve been at your company for a long time or were hired at a low salary. You could also find yourself in the less common situation of being overpaid.
Either way, you want to be prepared for an interview with concrete information about your current situation.
2. Disclose your current salary and make your case
Once you know how you compare to people with similar jobs, be truthful about your current compensation.
Doing so shows that you’re candid and have integrity. Your response could be, “My salary is X, my bonus is typically Y, for a total package of just about Z.”
After you share the number, advocate for yourself. You can make a compelling case about why you’d be willing to take less for something like opportunity or growth, or why you should make more. Once you’ve made your case, there’s nothing else you can do, except wait and see how the hiring manager responds—and if they treat you with similar consideration.
If your potential employer games you in this conversation, it’s a warning sign. Don’t ignore it.
Suzy Welch is the co-founder of the Jack Welch Management Institute and a noted business journalist, TV commentator, and public speaker. Through its online MBA program, the Jack Welch Management Institute transforms the lives of its students by providing them with the tools to become better leaders, build great teams, and help their organizations win.