One habit oft-employed by savvy negotiators is to defer disclosure of their salary in their job interviews.
When interviewing at a company, HR departments will often request you to disclose your compensation in past jobs.
They ask for your current salary for two reasons:
- To help determine how much they need to pay you
- To see how you compare to others in the same market
Don’t offer them your salary information up front!
Don’t provide it unless absolutely required to do so. This is particularly true if you are currently earning a much lower income than you hope to earn in the new job.
If asked on an application form, leave it blank if possible. If they bring it up, politely tell them,
“I understand salary is an important issue for us to discuss. Right now I want to focus on learning more about this position and the company, to make sure we’re a good fit for each other.”
Most of the time this is enough to defer the salary conversation until the “ideal stage” in the interview process to talk salary: right after you’ve been offered the job. But sometimes you will get hard-pressed to disclose your current salary by an HR person. If that happens, don’t be evasive. You don’t want to come across as sneaky or deceptive. Instead, if it’s clear they aren’t comfortable moving forward without knowing what your current income level is…then tell them,
“I understand it’s important that you know my current level of income. At present, the value of my compensation package comes to $100,000/year (or whatever that number is for you). I trust that my compensation in this role will be based on the value that I can deliver for ________ (company name here) rather than being based on what I have earned in previous companies.”
Notice that this statement discloses the “value of your compensation package” as opposed to the “salary”. This gives you the flexibility to provide a higher figure than just your salary. E.g. If you have a salary of $50,000 and benefits valued at $14,000 you can accurately say the value of your current compensation package is $64,000/year. If you’re applying for a job where you hope to get paid $75,000/year in salary, this decreases the gap an HR person sees and can help to increase their initial perception of your VALUE.
Don’t get filtered out…
While deferring disclosure of current income is usually more critical when you want to make a significant jump up in income with the new job…it can sometimes be equally important if the income level you are currently at is ABOVE what the company had budgeted for this role. If this is the case and you disclose your income up front…they may eliminate you in early interview rounds, saying you “are not a good fit”. BUT, if you go through all the rounds of interviews and at the end, the hiring manager is convinced YOU are the perfect person for this particular position…he or she will usually go out of their way to get the additional money or resources necessary to bring you on board.
In the case that you go through the entire process, they want you, and the hiring manager is unable to get the salary you are asking for…you are still in an excellent position to negotiate for other non-salary benefits that can sweeten the deal and make the total value of the package agreeable to you. Remember to always focus on the “total value” of the compensation package, not simply “highest salary”. You may end up accepting a job with a slightly lower salary but where the total value you receive in the deal is much higher.