"What's your current salary?" a hiring manager asks you. Instantly you tense up, unsure of how to respond.
It's a common — and uncomfortable — job interview scenario. In some places, it's actually no longer legal to ask about an applicant's previous compensation. But while the issue is still being debated, you'll want to be prepared with an answer.
Some would tell you to dodge the question or give a range to avoid disclosing an actual number. But according to bestselling management author and CNBC contributor Suzy Welch, the best way to secure your place at a new company and advance your career is to simply tell the truth.
"People are going to tell you that you should game this conversation," Welch tells CNBC Make It, or that "you should dodge this question by talking about ranges. That is no way to start a relationship."
For her, the decision to share your salary is worth the risk. Here's Welch's two-step process for navigating this tricky interview question:
Discussing salary is "the interview tightrope that everyone hates to walk," Welch says. To make it across successfully, you'll first need to know where you stand.
"Be smart and do your research," she says. "Find the job's likely salary, and know what your skills are likely worth in the open market."
Sites like PayScale, Glassdoor or LinkedIn Salary can tell you what a job should pay and "let you know if you're earning above or below market," she says. You may find that you're being underpaid, which Welch says can happen if you've been at your company for a long time or were hired at a low salary. You could also find yourself in the less common situation of being overpaid.
Either way, you want to be prepared for an interview with concrete information about your current situation.
Once you know how you compare to people with similar jobs, be truthful about your current compensation, Welch says.
Doing so shows that you're candid and have integrity. Your response could be, "My salary is X, my bonus is typically Y, for a total package of just about Z."
After you share the number, advocate for yourself. "You can make a compelling case about why you'd be willing to take less for something like opportunity or growth, or why you should make more," she says. Once you've made your case, there's nothing else you can do, Welch says, except wait and see how the hiring manager responds — and if they treat you with similar consideration.
"If your potential employer games you in this conversation, it's a warning sign," she says. "Don't ignore it."
Suzy Welch is the co-founder of the Jack Welch Management Institute and a noted business journalist, TV commentator and public speaker.
This is an updated version of a post that appeared previously.
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