How to Positively Discuss Salary History

by Staff - Original publish date: January 16, 2012

Talking about salary is always tricky. Bring it up too soon and you might screen yourself out of an interview. Put it off too late and you could be at a disadvantage towards the end of the process. And sometimes---as is the case with this week's guest---your hand is forced because your salary is a matter of public record. So what do you do if you're going for your dream job but your current job has paid you peanuts? Are you at a disadvantage because they don't take you as seriously? If so, how can you make sure you don't get lowballed? As always, our expert Jack Chapman has your answers!


I'm currently the vice president of a non-profit earning $62,000 a year plus good benefits. I'm also a candidate for two similar positions with two other non-profits, which both pay between $100,000 to $150,000 a year. How should I discuss my previous salary, which I have successfully avoided thus far even though is is a public record? What strategy do I need to wind up at the high end of the salary range? I fear being possibly perceived as a less-experienced candidate.

No need to worry about disclosing your current earnings. You can't stop them from finding out so you might as well tell them the next time it naturally comes up in conversation.

Regarding ending up at the high end, you need to monetize the experience you bring to this venture. And remember, sometimes monetizing is not "dollar-izing" because, in the case of a non-profit, it's "numbers of kids cured" or "numbers of trees saved" instead of how many dollars are in your checking account. But while the accomplishments won't BE money, they can be EXPRESSED as money or some other form of value.

If you postpone any real serious salary talk until they've chosen you, then you have the most leverage to get the highest salary. If you go first with a high number once you are ready to talk money, that will usually pull your compensation up as much or more as your last salary brought it down.

All the best,
Jack Chapman

Career coach and author Jack Chapman, who wrote "Negotiating Your Salary: How to Make $1000 a Minute," is teaming up with to offer a weekly Q & A on all things related to salary negotiation.

Using real questions sent in by actual readers, Jack will help you navigate the choppy waters of interviewing for a job, negotiating a salary and asking for a raise or promotion. Remember all those times you desperately wished you had someone to help you answer all the tough questions that invariably surface around negotiations? Now Jack has your back and he's providing easy to implement, real-life solutions to your salary negotiation dilemmas.

Check back every Tuesday for the FREE advice that could prevent you from losing thousands of dollars in unnegotiated pay, get you the job you want and steer you clear of potential pitfalls during the interview process.

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Jack Chapman is a Career and Salary Coach, and author of "Negotiating Your Salary: How to Make $1000 a Minute." For more negotiating advice go to or e-mail