Closing The Gap

How to answer the 'What's your salary?' interview question if you're being underpaid

ABC Family's "Job or No Job"
Adam Taylor | Getty Images

According to compensation research firm PayScale, 43 percent of workers are still asked about their salary history, despite some cities and states banning the question from the interview process.

While it's important for all candidates to know how to answer the "What's your salary?" question properly, PayScale's Vice President Lydia Frank says it's especially critical for women as their answer can have a huge impact on their career.

On average, women are paid 80 cents less than men for the same work and they face a double standard when it comes to negotiating their pay. In a PayScale survey on candidates who do and don't disclose their salary when asked, it was found that a woman who doesn't share her current pay earns 1.8 percent less than a woman who does. Meanwhile, a man who declines to share his pay earns 1.2 percent more.

"Once you think about what we know about unconscious bias and the way people react to women negotiating then you're kind of like, 'OK, I know what is happening here,'" Frank tells CNBC Make It.

VIDEO1:0001:00
This former FBI negotiator's strategy can make you look fearless in any negotiation

She says that expected social norms around women being polite and soft-spoken play a huge role in the workplace and can lead to a woman being seen as difficult if she refuses to reveal her earnings.

To ensure that underpaid candidates, especially women, successfully negotiate the salary they deserve, Frank suggests responding to the question by not just laying your current income on the table, but also by supporting it with context and research around where you stand in your industry.

"Say, 'Hey, this is what I make, but I don't think it is on market,'" she says. "Based on research and this position, I think this is what I should make. Do you agree?"

By adding further information to your answer, Frank says you prove to hiring managers that you are aware of your value and you know that you're worth more than the underpaid salary you're currently receiving.

Bestselling management author and CNBC contributor Suzy Welch agrees. She recommends using sites like PayScale, Salary.com or LinkedIn Salary to find your market value and to help prove your case for more money. If an employer sees your value, then they will pay you what you're worth. If not, Welch says you should consider whether or not that company is the right fit for you.

"If your potential employer games you in this conversation, it's a warning sign," she says. "Don't ignore it."

While discussing your pay as an underpaid worker is never easy, Frank says it's imperative that women not shy away from negotiating the salary they deserve. According to reports, the average woman could lose $403,440 over a 40-year career span due to the gender wage gap and a lack of negotiation. For black and Latina women, that number is even more startling at $867,920 and $1,056,120, respectively.

"My advice to women is even though we know that people tend to react negatively when we initiate negotiations we have to do it anyway," she says.

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VIDEO1:4201:42
Suzy Welch: Here's the best answer to 'What's your current salary?'

ABC Family's "Job or No Job"
Adam Taylor | Getty Images
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