Whether it’s a blank field in an online application, or a real, live question from a flesh-and-blood recruiter, what should you do?
We asked several career coaches and recruiters about how to hit this curveball. Here are their tips, slugger:
Consider When It Comes Up
Most HR managers use the salary expectations question as a screening tactic. Some require you to state your pay in the cover letter or an online application to even be considered for the position. In these cases, bite the bullet early and tell the truth.
Of course, being transparent about your current pay and what you hope to make sets you up to be screened out of the interview process if your expected salary is too much. Then again, if your expectations and the actual salary of the prospective job are that far apart, you probably saved yourself a lot of time and hassle. It’s better to know beforehand that you just make too much.
You can give yourself some wiggle room on the question by saying you’re willing to negotiate on “total compensation.” You know, the perks, such as vacation days or flexible work arrangements, that might make the job more worthwhile even if the pay is lower than you want.
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What about lying? You may be tempted to fib about your salary, but employers can legally find out your base pay at previous jobs. Don’t expect to make the cut for the final interview if your prospective employer thinks you’re bluffing.
When you get the question in a live interview, first try the artful dodge. Alyssa Best, a career coach in Washington, D.C., suggests a line like this: “That’s a great question, but at this point, I’m more interested in learning more about the position and discussing how I can be the best asset to your team.”
Sometimes that works, but usually it doesn’t. Even if it’s not an effective dodge, you will show your potential employer that you’re here not just for the money.