Five Tactful Ways To Dodge Questions About Your Salary History

Five Tactful Ways To Dodge Questions About Your Salary History

When you’re interviewing for a new job, there’s a very good chance hiring managers will try to get you to talk about your past compensation. Here are a few ways to keep that information to yourself without sounding too defensive.

Photo by Ethan.

Hiring managers will sometimes try to figure out what you made at your last job so they know what you’ll be willing to accept from them. This gives them the upper hand in salary negotiations. If they know you didn’t make much at your last job, they might try to low-ball you. When they ask about your past compensation, and you don’t want to say, Ted Leonhardt at Fast Company suggests you say something like this:

My past compensation is a private matter between my previous employer and me. I’m sure you’d hope a former employee of yours would respect this if they were asked a similar question.

If you’re afraid of sounding too defensive, practice it in front of a mirror until you think you’ve it down. As Leonhardt explains, a response like this is decisive and reinforces your integrity. If you don’t think you can handle saying some variation of that, he shares four more useful pre-made responses worth trying at the link below.

How To Dodge Questions About Your Salary History On Job Interviews [Fast Company]


  • I’ve been asked this a few times and usually reluctantly answered. I always thought it was a bit unprofessional to ask. I think if a prospective employer did ask me this question in future I would re-evaluate whether they would be a good place to work for regardless of how they reacted if I refused to answer the question.

  • I would just say what I would expect to start at the new place like – I would not consider to leave under xyz. Later you can take this as base to add bonuses or ask for more as you do more (have more responsibilities or ownership) in the new position.

  • I think a more interesting question is, when and why should you answer the salary question with a number.

    1) When: When you were well paid at the last job for which you will cite salary AND you expect that this org is able to pay you similarly. (Do your research.)

    2) How: With the largest number in your salary history that is realistic. Don’t forget to include bonus if any, extra super contribution if any, and fringe benefits if any.

    If I know an org can’t pay that, but I want the gig (it’s happened), I dodge and focus on the non-cash positives of working for them.

  • I felt a bit uncomfortable about the question. In one case I deflected it with something along the lines of: The key issue is do my strengths and abilities fit well with your company’s requirements? If only part of my skillset is utilised then I’m not as valuable to your company. You need to get value for money, and I need interesting work and a fair reward for it. I could (simple menial part of job) all day, or I could run projects such as (major system upgrade) like I did at (company) where I delivered (big cost saving or efficiency boost). So do you have opportunities in the near future for interesting work I can sink my teeth into?
    You get the idea, pitch it at the upper end of the position you’re applying for. Don’t answer the question and get them thinking of value to the company bottom line in terms of productivity not low wages.

    In another interview I simply said: “Too much, they hired me for my skills which they then didn’t utilise much of.”

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