‘How Much Did You Make at Your Last Job?’


At some point during the hiring process, a recruiter or interviewer will ask you how much you made in your previous position.

Some people choose to inflate their salary. While that’s a tempting decision to make—in theory, even if your new company lowballs you on the job offer, you’ll still make more money—it’s also unethical: You don’t want to start off your new position with a lie.

Even if you aren’t sold on the immoral implications of hyperinflation, the recruiter or interviewer could eventually find out how much you really made—remember, the tech world is a fairly tight-knit one, and people tend to talk.

When asked about your previous salary, it’s wisest to deflect until an actual offer’s on the table: Say that you were always paid a competitive rate, for example, and that you’re sure you can work out something agreeable for the new position. Some candidates are willing to offer a broad range of what they’ve been paid, without offering too many details.

If you’re concerned about achieving the maximum possible salary for your new position, take a few negotiating tips:


Take a look at what your prospective employer has paid for positions similar to yours in the past. If you have the experience and qualifications, you could certainly ask for the upper end of that salary range.

Play Coy…

In addition to querying about how much you earned in the past, interviewers sometimes ask your desired salary in your new position. Naming a number is a mistake: Too high, and you’ll damage your chances of actually landing the position; too low, and you might end up severely underpaid. When in doubt, stall by suggesting you’re open to discussion, and prepare to negotiate only after they deliver a hard number.

…Then Be Straightforward

When the time comes (i.e., after they deliver that hard number), negotiate by citing your skills and whatever other assets you might bring to bear on your new position. Chances are good that the company already has a bit of flexibility built into its offer and will elevate your proposed salary; but also be aware that, if you’re too aggressive and pushy, it could tarnish your relationship with the company before it’s even really begun.

10 Responses to “‘How Much Did You Make at Your Last Job?’”

  1. Richard A. Langevin

    Perhaps try this approach … “I am very interested in this position and feel that my prior experience will enable me to meet all the requirements for his job. I understand that the company has a salary range for this position. Perhaps we can discuss what the company’s salary range is for this position as that is more relevant than what I have made previously.”

  2. Blane Robertson

    It’s my opinion, and used to be my understanding, that they could not require you to provide this information. In an interview a while back with a certain company, I was specifically asked how much I made. When I balked @ providing an answer, the HR person told me that the interview was over, and that I was to let him know when I was ready to provide that information.

    After doing some research, not only can they ask it, they can also blacklist you if you do not provide it. Now, mind you, not every company is that hard-nosed about it, but it blew my mind that they could do that.

  3. Nitai Gaur

    This trick of deflecting the expected salary has never worked for me. The HR always says we need to know YOUR expectation so that we can think about taking you forward or not out of the many candidates they are considering simultaneously. Not providing a no. not only creates an awkward moment in the conversation but could also be detrimental to getting the role. “You are applying for such an experienced position and you don’t know how much you want?!” Then I am forced to give a range and once that is done, they always select the lower end and set the offer letter on that.

    Any suggestions on how to overcome that?

  4. One problem I’ve run into is there seem to be a lot of job shops out there that ask this. If you give them a low number, they’ll be happy to pay it, then sell you at a high rate and keep the rest as pure profit. (I got lowballed $20/hour once and the guy admitted they were going to do this.) I still would not lie, on principle, but I would question that it’s unethical to do so in this case.

    I worked abroad, so I tell them that my salary is not comparable.

  5. Some applications require it to be filled in or it won’t process. However, I honestly don’t know what my previous salaries were – I was at my last job over 15 years – so I put question marks.

  6. While it may be unethical to lie about your salary, in my opinion it’s unethical for them to ask about salary especially if they use that as a tactic to either a) lowball you into a lower salary or b) not consider you for the job if you give a figure too high. If they’re going to be unethical, then why shouldn’t I? They’re playing a game, I’ll play too.

  7. Here’s what works for me…Try to avoid giving a salary. Ask them if there is a salary range they have in mind. You could also point out differences between the position you’re interested vs. your previous position (different responsibilities, job title, contract vs. salaried, location etc). Then say, “Although my experience is comparable, to give out my salary is irrelevant because of the differences in job description.” If they won’t budge and you’re forced to give an amount, then give them an amount, just make sure you’ve done research to protect yourself and find a salary that is suitable for you. There’s plenty of info out there on how much positions pay. Keep a list of salary requirements for any positions you’re applying for handy and when they want an amount or ask what you made at your last job, just go by your salary research.

  8. What’s the big deal? Just give them the number. If you still have a job and are simply looking for another one, who cares? If they give you a lowball offer, then politely tell them to shove it. If you don’t have a job and aren’t desperate for one, do the same thing. The key is to save up enough money while you’re working so that you don’ t have to be in a position to accept an insulting offer if you ever find yourself out of work. Also, if a company makes a poor offer, do you really want to go to work for them? If they’re that shifty during an interview, just think of what it’s like to try to get a raise out of them.