Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter discusses whether to disclose your salary during an interview.

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I have one of those questions and someone asked me. Would it be a bad idea to be upfront about what I am getting paid in a job interview? They want to know whether they should disclose what their current earnings are.

To be clear, you generally have 2 choices-- not to disclose is the advice many coaches. The issue is that for many salary levels, the issue becomes disclose or if you don't the interview is over. The advice normally is don't disclose, because you get boxed in to a number and the range and their expectations are going to be lower if you. On the other hand, like I said, if you don't disclose, often firms respond by saying, "Tell us or this interview is over." You become stuck. That power differential that firms can exercise becomes heavily weighted on their side.

What I would say is if you do choose to disclose as friendly for most of you I think you should, the response has to be, "Now that I've said that. What is the salary range for this position?" If they choose not to disclose, then you pause for a 2nd and say, "So let me get this straight. I told you I'm earning but you're not prepared to tell me what this position is prepared to pay? I understand that there is a range for the role and I may not be qualified for the top number. What's the issue with disclosing the range for the job?" At that point, be quiet.

Let them squirm. At the end of the day, you learn something about this firm from their behavior. That's really important because individuals make the mistake of not paying attention to signals that employers give. After all, if this person who is probably in HR individual is unwilling to disclose, this suggests the command-and-control culture that you may or may not want to be involved with. Frankly, for me personally, I like being involved with command-and-control cultures. It's top-down management where you are expected to execute a task and you are not expected to think or offer ideas. That's not my idea of a particularly attractive environment. Maybe it's yours. But it's not mine.

If they are willing to disclose, you learn something about them that I think is very human and natural. You met them and you are looking for them to meet you with the answer to this question. That's fair. At the end of the day, like I said, you may be in a situation where you are not qualified for the high-end of the range.

Picking numbers arbitrarily, the range may be $135,000-$150,000 plus bonus. Understand that they could pay you $135,000, they could pay you $150,000, and there are many numbers between these 2 that they could also pay you.

When all is said and done, not disclosing carries risk. Disclosing really doesn't because firms are going to box you in any way. Better to make it easy and trade information with them and, like I said, if they don't want to trade, you have learned something really valuable.


JeffAltman, The Big Game Hunter
JeffAltman, The Big Game Hunter

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, all as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching, and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1900 episodes, and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.

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