How to Answer "What's Your Salary History?”

Even though you’re not obliged to provide your salary history as part of your job application, in a face-to-face interview, this question will definitely come up. It can be an uncomfortable question to answer, as you do not want to be too preemptive but you also don’t want to sell yourself short.


Defer the subject until you have facts

It is best to delay answering the question on salary history until you’re sure what the interviewer’s intention is. In doing so, you maintain some control over the discussion of payments when they eventually come up with an offer. Furthermore, as you learn your employer’s intention, you’re able to give yourself time to come up with an appropriate answer.

“I’m sorry, but that is confidential.”

Your interviewer might insist on asking for exact salary figures. Should such a situation arise do not be stiff or rude in your response. You could explain that your previous or current employer highly values confidentiality and you are not allowed to breach this by divulging into details pertaining to salary. Loyalty is a commendable trait that your interviewer will appreciate.

“I’m looking to expand my career prospects”

This response is the most subtle way of talking about salary without being overt about figures or the need to increase your current pay. Make it clear to your interviewer that you’re looking to grow and develop in your career so as to reach the highest professional level possible. This elaborates your ambition and increases your prospects. It is also a skillful way of putting your professionalism ahead of merely earning income, which shows your long-term engagement to work.

Realize Your Value

Sometimes employers use your salary history as a shorthand way of determining your worth as an employee. Do not let yourself fall into that trap. When you don’t see your value, an employer is likely to take advantage of you. Similarly, if you exaggerate your value, your potential employer will not take your commitment to work seriously. Accentuate your value and potential input through your skills and qualifications, since these should be the factors that determine your suitability for the job, not your pay.

Respond with a question of your own

It is important to clarify any information during the interview process. You could ask your interviewer why they would like to know your salary history. This is a more risky option, but well handled, you will be able to get appropriate information that you can use to determine your response. Be sure to ask this question with a smile and open posture, so that you don’t appear confrontational or offended.


Salary history questions are generally unfair, and very personal. However, your interviewer could also be testing other skills, such as your ability to negotiate through uncomfortable or difficult situations or just how much you value yourself. Remember to always be creative in your responses, be assertive and put your qualifications first. Most of all, be honest in your final response and leave the possibility for future negotiations on salary open should you get the job.


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