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How to Get a Higher Starting Salary

Land a Higher Salary by Pivoting This 1 Crucial Interview Question


"So, what's your current salary?"

This is a tricky interview question that might even make you blush. In theory, it's meant to get a sense for whether or not your salary expectations are aligned with the salary for the open role, but it almost feels somehow . . . intimate. And the problem with this kind of question is that it doesn't account for the fact that the new role might be more demanding or otherwise warrant a higher salary than the interviewee's current one. Also, it can sentence you to staying within your same old pay bracket — even if you deserve to make more. This is exactly how the wage gap is perpetuated.

In a recent Forbes piece, career coach Lelia Gowland revealed how one woman made a small adjustment to the salary discussion during her interview and succeeded in landing a salary that was 30 percent higher than her current one. How did she do it? By pivoting the question around to what she would like to earn in the new role, rather than revealing the meager amount she was making. In her article, Gowland continued:

"If the HR manager continued to push for her salary history, Sasha could act like a political candidate and pivot to the question she wish they'd asked. If it came up, she planned to say, 'Based on my experience, the city, size of company, and type of work, I'm seeking a salary range of XYZ.' . . . Sasha planned to reference being underpaid directly and say: 'I accepted my current salary in part because the company provides extensive other benefits like stipends for my car, cell phone, etc. At this point in my career, I'm only considering positions in the range of XYZ.' . . . Because Sasha recognized her nervousness and practiced (out loud!), she was able to successfully avoid the salary history question completely. Each time she was asked later in the interview process, she pivoted to the more relevant question: what salary she was seeking."

So, in summary:

  • Do your research. Find out the average salary range for the new role so you'll know how to steer salary negotiations.
  • Pivot the question. If the question of how much you make arises, gently redirect it so that you're discussing how much you'd like to make in the role — not how much you're making today.
  • Practice! Face it, salary questions are going to be uncomfortable. Practicing your answers to these questions can make it more likely that you won't be overcome with jitters and back out of advocating for yourself.
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Rima Brindamour
Product Credit: Balenciaga jacket (over), Brand Name Sandy Liang jacket (under)
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