"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 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, so you don't disclose the actual number. But according to bestselling management author and CNBC contributor Suzy Welch, 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," Welch tells CNBC Make It , or that "you should dodge this question by talking about ranges."
"That is no way to start a relationship," she says.
For her, the decision to share your salary is worth the risk. Here's Welch's 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," Welch says. To balance, you first have to know where you stand.
"Be smart and do your research," she says. "Find the job's likely salary, and know what your skills are likely worth in the open market."
You may find that you're being underpaid, which Welch says 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 standing.
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, Welch says.
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," Welch says.
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," she says.
Once you've made your case, there's nothing else you can do, Welch says, 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," she says. "Don't ignore it."
More from Suzy Welch:
- What to say when a job interviewer asks, 'Do you have any questions?'
- The single best question to ask in a job interview
- 3 things you should do immediately when you screw up at work
Video by Andrea Kramar.
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