Do the words “salary disclosure” send a ripple of dread throughout your body or make you queasy? You’re not alone! Seriously, salary disclosure is not always an easy or straightforward process, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be as prepared as possible.

If you’ve been wondering the following…

How do I avoid answering the current salary question on an application?
How do I approach the desired salary question in interviews?

You’ve come to the right place! However, before we explain how to tackle the salary question, there’s two things we need to review.

When we refer to salary we mean annual cash guaranteed (the sum total of your paychecks)

When we refer to compensation, we’re talking about a broader, more inclusive account of the sum total value your job offers you. We have a list of types of compensation on the Fair Market Value 101 blog post. Which brings us to…

The fact that you’ve first GOT to know your Fair Market Value before you begin to handle your salary disclosure questions. We have a step-by-step overview on Fair Market Value here — please review! Fair Market Value will ensure that you feel confident throughout the process and I can’t stress enough how important it is that you’re well versed in this concept.

However, if you don’t have the time to do that (perhaps you’re interviewing in a few hours and need a remedy ASAP) – keep reading, because we have quick solutions for you.

Salary disclosure on your application

This one is simple. When asked about your current salary in an application, write “market competitive salary.” And for “desire salary” you can write the same thing: “market competitive salary” (or, if you know your Fair Market Value you’ve calibrated it already, put that number in there.) That’s it. Now, wipe the sweat off your brow.

Stating desired salary in an interview

There are two scenarios that you might come up against in your interview process when it comes to answering the salary question.

FIRST SCENARIO: you’ve done your research, calibrated your Fair Market Value, and have already stated your compensation requirements.

In this scenario, the hiring manager or someone from HR is going to ask your current salary, even though you might have already stated your compensation requirements.

Find your dream job the smart way, NOT the hard way.

For this moment, you want to be prepared to state:

“Based on my market research my current compensation is below the market. So I don’t want to use that as a benchmark and disclose that information. I am happy to discuss my salary requirements or your budget for this position.” (Obviously, you can skip the salary requirements statement if you’re not prepared with your numbers, and just skip to saying “I am happy to discuss your budget for this position).

THE SECOND SCENARIO: you haven’t done your Fair Market Value homework, determined your compensation requirements, or you weren’t expecting to answer your desired salary question so soon in the game.

Here’s a few ways to deal with this. You can state:

“I’m not comfortable calibrating my compensation requirements at this stage of the process — I still have a lot to learn about the role and the company.”


“I haven’t really calibrated my compensation requirements for this role because I have more to learn about it and the company—can you share with me what salary band you’ve assigned to this position?”

This response flips the script and takes the heat off of you in the moment and puts it on them!

If you only have partial compensation information on the role and are being asked to state desired salary:

If you only have partial compensation information: another route you can take is stating a salary range.

The way to do this is create a salary range that you can move up or down (using Fair Market Value), and adjust with additional cost-benefit information as you get deeper into the interview process . An obvious benefit might be health care, 401K, or vacation time, a cost would be extra commuting time or extra travel for work. A 10-15K range is a good range to provide and you can dial your final salary number up or down within that range at the offer stage after you have gotten all your questions answered about the role, company, and benefits.

The way you can answer this question is:

“I’m targeting a salary range of $90K-100K based on my research and market value of this position, but in order for me to fully calibrate my salary, I’d like some more information regarding the role, company, and benefits.”

Stating current salary in an interview

If for some reason you’re being pressured to provide your current salary, you can politely decline by saying:

“I understand why employers ask this question, and while know it might be uncommon for someone to decline to respond, I feel it’s in my best interest to only provide my salary requirements based on my market research. I hope that this won’t be held against me as a candidate, because I feel like I have a tremendous amount to offer this company and I’m really excited about this opportunity.”



Another important thing to take note of: according to legal firm Burns Levinson, Massachusetts passed a Pay Equity Law, which disallows employers to ask candidates what they’re currently making:

Renee Inomata writes…

“The Act to Establish Pay Equity…goes into effect July 1, 2018. All employers, regardless of number of employees, whose employees perform all or the greater part of their work in Massachusetts, are required to comply with the MA Pay Equity Law.”

She goes on to explain…

One of the law’s notable aspects is that a potential employer cannot ask a job candidate what his/her prior salary history is. Many employers regularly ask job candidates what they make as a way of gauging whether they can meet the compensation expectations of a job candidate or, in some cases, trying to determine the least amount of pay to offer. In this day of networking, management-level employees may also receive job inquiries from potential candidates, and it is not uncommon for managers to ask, “How much are you making now?” as a threshold question, to determine whether the inquiry is worth passing on. Unfortunately, if such benign questions are asked, the candidate may bring a legal claim for violating the MA Pay Equity Law”

That’s not all! According to the law firm Ogletree Deakins, on January 1st California enacted a law that prevents employers to request current salary information. In an article entitled “California Governor Signs Law Banning Salary History Inquiries”
Lara C. de Leon (San Antonio), Christopher W. Olmsted (San Diego) write:

“Come January 1, 2018, California will join the ever-growing list of states (such as Delaware, Massachusetts, New York, Puerto Rico, and Oregon) and municipalities (New York City, Philadelphia, and San Francisco) that restrict or ban employers from asking about a job applicant’s salary history.”

So, if you’re located in any of these geographic areas, please take note, because Candidates rights are slowly being acknowledged! The days of employers hoping to undercut compensation are numbered. In case you had any doubts that you have the right to refuse answering the salary disclosure question, here’s your proof that this uncomfortable question will soon be a thing of the past.