As you apply for positions when you get out of the service or look for your first follow-on job, you often stumble across a common question on the application or during the interview. It seems like a straightforward question to answer when you’re asked, “What is your current salary?” For a variety of reasons, most applicants never want to disclose this information. Therefore, if you know your value to the company is higher than your current salary suggests, it’s a good idea to avoid answering this question. But how?

A Good Reason to Avoid the Question

Current salary is not relevant to the skills and value you bring to a potential employer. To you as the applicant, the question may feel invasive and embarrassing.  Hiring managers want this information, so they can leverage your current salary during a job offer.

If a prospective employer knows you currently earn a low salary, they are more likely to offer you a low salary. It is just business.

You can’t lie about your current salary. If an employer learns that you lied about your salary, everything you have said is now suspect and you will no longer be a candidate. Remember, if they persist about salary, it is for a reason – and it is not going to be to your advantage.

In some places, it is against the law to ask

Some local governments and states have adopted laws and regulations that prohibit employers from requesting salary history information from job applicants. Some go further, prohibiting employers from using an applicant’s pay history to set compensation, when the information is discovered or volunteered.

A running list of states and localities where pay history questions are outlawed can be found at Currently there are 21 state-wide bans and 21 local bans. Alabama, California, and Illinois are just a few of the locations with statewide bans.

How to Avoid Answering the Salary Question

You may very well deserve higher salary than your current rate. It is your job to make sure you get a salary matching your skill set. Know your value and be willing to walk away. But don’t overestimate your value or base it on irrelevant facts such as ‘two kids in college’.

Suppose a job looks great for you, but they are demanding your current salary. Here are few approaches.

  1. Do not disclose salary on the application. If salary is a forced field on the application, place a ridiculous number like 0 or $5 in the field.
  2. If a human resources (HR) representative subsequently calls and asks about your response, this is a good thing, as they are interested in you. Be polite and firm. Remember, HR may say things like, “We cannot continue the hiring process without knowing if your salary is within range or acceptable.” Politely ask them to provide the range for the position.
  3. When your resume gets into the hands of a hiring manager, you may still be asked about your current salary. Politely say things like, “I would like to have a fair negotiation based on my skills and what I offer the company” or “I will consider all reasonable offers.” You have been in sticky situations before. Now is not the time to cave.
  4. If they persist, you can’t say “no” or “I am not providing that information.” Instead, politely ask the interviewer about the position’s salary range. Firmly and politely make them provide the first salary number. 
  5. Finally, try to network yourself into a position. Attempt to enter a company through developing connections in your future organization. This will allow you to connect and get your resume directly to a hiring manager or supervisor, bypassing the initial screening process.

Bottom line, not disclosing your salary will allow you to negotiate a higher salary more with less difficulties once you have been offered the position. If a company does not hire you because of non-disclosure of your current salary, it may not be the right place for you.

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Jay Hicks is an author, instructor and consultant. With a special kinship for military personnel, Jay provides guidance on successful civilian career transition and has co-authored “The Transitioning Military Series”. He is the co-founder of Gr8Transitions4U, where advocating the value of hiring military personnel is the key focus. More about Jay and his passion can be found at