Are You Afraid Of The Salary Question?

Show them your worth, not your paystubs


Donna sterling

3 years ago | 5 min read

What are you worth to your company? Do you know? You should. You have to stand up and be noticed if you want to move on and move up. The way you do that is knowing exactly what you bring to your field.

Employees from all occupations face the salary question. You know the one. “How much did you earn at your last position?”

Have you asked yourself why they need to know that? Have you ever asked the screener or interviewer why they need to know?

Hiring managers ask for salary history to get a start point for salary offers. It’s also possible they’re asking to gauge the likelihood of you accepting their offer, but it’s mostly to start salary negotiations.

Show Your Value

What does your salary at your current job have to do with your qualifications to do any other job? Nothing, that’s what. Whether you made/make less or more, it doesn’t affect your ability to do the job that the employer needs to fill.

Know your worth before negotiations begin. Start by revamping your resume to showcase your past achievements. Employers know job titles and descriptions for their own jobs, so don’t wast valuable space on your resume by outlining your job duties. Show them your job skills.

Right under your name and objective, make a bullet list of your career achievements.

  • What did you do in previous jobs that made you stand out from other employees?
  • What direct benefits did previous employers see because of your efforts? Money? Time? Convenience?

Quantify your achievements.

  • How many dollars did you collect and how did you do it?
  • Did you score new clients? How many? By what method?
  • Can you and did you teach others to do it, too? Did you improve team engagement? Be specific.

Everything that you did better than anyone else goes on that list, and the longer the list, the better.

Your resume is about showcasing who you are, what you can do, and why you do it better than most. Hiring personnel often find themselves overwhelmed with the number of responses to job ads and at best, they’re scanning through resumes as quickly as possible.

Most of them are looking at your resume on a computer screen, so you want to make your resume pop,make it stand out above all the other ones in the mail, on the desk, in the email.

This doesn’t require color or pictures; in fact, try to avoid those embellishments, especially if you’re submitting electronically. Use a clean, professional font such as New Times Roman, Calibri, or Ariel, (don’t pick the bold or narrow forms of those fonts) in font size 10 or 12.

Bold and italics are you friends, when you use them sparingly, to highlight a specific word or phrase. Again, use them judiciously.

Photo by Marten Newhall on Unsplash

Know Your Value

Go to to research your job experience. You can search by job title and the site allows you to drill down to experience, location, and specialization to narrow your results for more accuracy.

There’s a wealth of information here, from extended job descriptions to help you pick the one that’s closest to your experience, to the value of company benefits so you know how they affect your total salary package. is a great tool, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Only you can do that. It’s easy enough to understand you value on paper, but you must prepare yourself to discuss your real-world value to the company.

If dealing with unhappy customers is in your wheelhouse, and you successfully converted lost accounts because of that ability, a salary information website is unlikely to accurately valuate that skill. That’s a skill that you list on your resume as an achievement with a specific example that you can discuss in detail with an interviewer.

Whatever your skill set, make yourself comfortable talking about your talents and experience. Be confident when describing your value and what you can bring to the company. Practice if you must. The more you encounter the question, the more comfortable you’ll be giving a natural answer.

Explain Your Value

You might hear the salary question at anytime before or during the interview process. You could see it on an application the employer asks you to complete when you come in for an interview, or maybe in an online application or inquiry form, or even during a pre-screening phone call or email.

You can write “pending discussion” on a manual form or type the same on a manual form if it allows alpha input. If it doesn’t, enter or something similar. If anyone prior to the interviewer asks you, politely explain that you’ll be happy to discuss that in detail at the interview.

The idea is not to hide information from the employer, but to confidently express that you’ll discuss that later in the interview process. If we’re being honest, most employers have an idea what employees make in their field, so deflecting the question shouldn’t be cause for concern.

Another way to divert is to give a salary range. This gives the employer an idea of your salary expectations, and it also gives them an opportunity to tell you if that salary is outside their starting point.

If you’re asked about your salary expectations before you know the job requirements, it’s perfectly okay to tell the interviewer that you’d like to have more information about the job.

For instance, you could simply say, “Can you tell me the specifics of my job duties before we get into the salary discussion?” You could also say, “I have a lot of experience in many areas and at various levels. Can you provide more description of the position’s job duties, and outline the benefits and perks for this position?’

Sometimes there’s no graceful way to wriggle out of answering the question, and that’s okay, too. Be honest and forthright, and hopefully, you’ll buy yourself a little time and discover more about the position, the office culture, and whether you’d like to continue the interview process before they pin you down on salary. has some other helpful tips to help you navigate salary disclosure.

Finally, many states and localities have outright banned the salary question from the hiring process. They claim the question leads to gender pay gaps and they’re leading the charge to end pay discrimination for all genders and ethnicities.

It’s not just gender and ethnicities, though. Pay discrimination can happen to anyone answering questions about salary history.

Employees expect recognition for work well-done and for knowledge and experience. The way an employer recognizes our value is by salary and/or benefits and perks. If every subsequent employer only pays what the previous employer paid and you don’t try to negotiate, you can never expect to make more salary than you make now.

That’s silly. You can’t wait for the employer to take the initiative. You must learn to request more money now.

Originally published on medium


Created by

Donna sterling







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