Guide on how to best answer: "What is your current salary?"
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In the world of job interviews and salary negotiations, it is almost expected for jobseekers to be asked "What is your current salary?". When working with a recruitment firm especially, it is a key question that helps recruiters understand your current remuneration package so they can help secure a new opportunity that is in line with your skills, experience and salary expectations.
Geraldine Hor, Associate Director and specialised Finance and Accounting recruiter at Robert Half says, "asking this question to our candidates enables us to understand their present compensation, aiding us in determining how we can potentially enhance their earning potential in their respective field. While individuals might feel apprehensive when asked this question, no matter if you're just starting your career or an experienced professional seeking new opportunities, it is an important question that should be answered honestly so we can help you."
If the question does come up in an interview for a new position, you need to know how to answer it both tactfully and politely. Read on for some strategies on best answering “What is your current salary?” as well as sample answers you can adapt for your needs.
What to do before the interview to best answer “What is your current salary?”
Similar to answering “What are your salary expectations?” you’ll want to know current salary trends in your industry. Robert Half’s Singapore Salary Guide is a good place to start to get a benchmark of the market rate for your future role. This will allow you to diplomatically pivot the conversation from “What is your current salary?” to what you’re expecting.
Additionally, you should approach this question with understanding. By disclosing this information with an external recruiter, this information will help them to match you with positions on par with or above your current salary. It will also make the recruitment process quicker, as the job matching process will eliminate the roles that do not suit your salary requirements.
When it comes to best answering “What is your current salary?” it really is a question of being mentally prepared. Rehearse your answer, and what you might say in the event that the interviewer pushes you for more information.
Related: How to turn down a low salary offer
Sample answers for “What is your current salary?”
Sample answer 1: be honest but state your requirements
“I’m very keen on exploring a future here, I’m currently earning $X. I am, however, looking for a role that pays a bit more than what I am currently earning. Based on my research, for my experience level, I’m looking for a salary in the [$-ballpark] range.”
This gives the interviewer an idea of your salary expectations, while highlighting that you are looking to secure a higher salary. It also shows you have done your research, which underlines your commitment to the process. Recruiters are able to then understand what salary range you are looking for, and will then ask you more questions about your skills and experience to help you secure that pay jump.
Sample answer 2: ask the interviewer for salary information
You might find yourself interviewing for a role where you are unaware of the salary range. In the event that you are more interested in hearing about the salary information attached to the jobs, as it might help you decide if it is the role for you, it is reasonable to ask about the salary range while also stating your current salary.
“I’d like to know more about the salary range on offer for this role. I am currently earning $X. If my expectations are in keeping with your salary offerings, this will be a role I am interested in.”
Common mistakes people make when answering “What is your current salary?”
Mistake #1: Sharing false salary information
When you share your salary information, you must be transparent with your future employer. Sharing accurate numbers gives the employer a clearer understanding of where you stand, and how they can better help you.
Mistake #2: Getting flustered
Interviews are sometimes uncomfortable situations, and answering salary-related questions often throw interviewees off their game. However, Robert Half Singapore's Associate Director Fen Teo says it’s important candidates walk out of an interview with tact and calm. “Remain polite, answer in as much or as little detail as you’re comfortable with, and everything will be okay,” says Fen.
Mistake #3: Not doing your homework and knowing your worth
To best answer, “What is your expected salary?” candidates need to have done an adequate amount of research that signals to the interviewer that they are confident and capable . “While noting your skills, expertise, and experience, state a range and back-up how you arrived at those numbers,” says Fen.
For more, the Robert Half Singapore Salary Guide offers detailed information on remuneration and hiring trends.