Whether you’ve been unemployed for awhile, or you’ve been eyeing a job that will take your career–and paycheck–to the next level, it’s normal to wonder if lying about your salary to prospective employers is acceptable.
As a rule of thumb, you should never lie outright during an interview. That said, don’t volunteer your previous salary to them unless they explicitly ask for it.
If they do ask, then you should answer based on your circumstances and what you hope to achieve. Below we will outline 2 types of job seekers–those who are unemployed and those who are looking to advance their career–and how each type should address the question.
If You’re Unemployed
If you’re unemployed by choice, then you may want to put yourself into the “advance my career” category; in that case, feel free to skip to the next section; however, if you were let go, and it’s been awhile since you had steady income, then you’ll want to address any noticeable gaps in your work history first. The point is to prove that you’re not desperate. Use phrases like “finding the right fit” to justify the reason why you haven’t taken any old job.
If you are asked to divulge your previous salary, then be honest: tell them what you used to make, and if that was truly below market value, then ask for their ideal range for the position next. If the cap is higher than what you told them, then give them the figure you’re looking for, and back it up by highlighting your experience and accomplishments.
If You’re Employed, But Seeking Career Advancement
If you hope to leverage the experience you’ve gained in your industry for a better offer, then you should be extremely confident. Even if you are underpaid, remember that you have a steady paycheck. If this interview doesn’t work out, you’ll be able to refine your answers when the next opportunity comes along.
To address the salary question, do your research well before the interview. Use salary data from Glassdoor, Indeed, and Payscale to get an idea of what a person with your experience can expect to make. Once you are armed with that knowledge, you can tell them what you currently make, but because you’ve successfully done x,y, and z, you have the right to the salary that you’re after.
Remember, too, that if you’re going after a job in your industry, some employers will know that you’re not looking to make what you already make. What would be the point of jumping ship, then?
In closing, remember to remain confident. Accepting the same exact salary would be a sign of desperation, so if they won’t budge, and you don’t hate your current job THAT much, then just know that it’s ok to decline the offer. If anything, you’ll gain the upper hand. After all, if they want someone with your experience, then they know that they’ll have to pay for it.