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interview question

interview question

interview question

So yesterday I had interview, everything went well and I was very pleased with the opportunities. I'm still a young engineer, I've been with my company just over 2.5 years but its time to move on. This new job will be my 2nd job out of college so I feel I have some room to haggle. Just as I was being walked out, following the interview, the HR rep had asked me what my current salary was. I felt as though I was being put on the spot and wasn't totally comfortable revealing this info. At this point I gave the information accurately to what I make.

My question is, at this point I'm wondering how to approach this question by not selling myself short of what I could be getting paid. Do I say what I would like to get paid? Or is there an answer to somewhat avoid the topic to discuss at a later date?  

RE: interview question

I would not sweat over it. What is important is whether not you will accept what they would offer. Ultimately it will be your call. Look at the brighter side, this will also give you an idea if they are cheesy or not. If you think they are making a low offer, do not accept it.

You have the job and they are the one looking for help. You are in position of strength, use it. This is the way to do it.

Good luck with your search!  

Rafiq Bulsara

RE: interview question

I would never lie or deliberately mislead in an interview.  I would agree with what rbulsara said, and either accept/reject/counter whatever offer you get.  It would not be in your best interest to get caught in a lie.  

In the geographic region that I work, there are many places that employ engineers..... however it is a very small community - if you know what I mean.  It doesn't take much to get a bad rap (and possibly blackballed) that will hurt you in the long run a whole lot more than making a few-thousand dollars less per year on your next salary.

RE: interview question

There's nothing wrong with being asked your current salary and nothing wrong with giving it...accurately.  After all, you are looking to better yourself in another job.  An increased salary is one of those betterments.

RE: interview question

The position for which you interviewed is already budgeted.  Some possible scenarios come to mind:

He was simply trying to determine if their budget was sufficient to make you an offer.  
Or not.  
Or if he'd have to go back to the hiring manager and tell him he wa-a-a-y underbudgeted for this new hire.  
Or go to the hiring manager for a good laugh at how cheap you are and how they could get you for a song.

Blue Technik LLC
Virtuoso Robotics Engineering

RE: interview question

Five yard penalty for entering an interview without being prepared for such an elementary question.

RE: interview question

The question of present salary has always rubbed me the wrong way. I understand an employer wanting to know if the candidate has expectations outside of their range, but you never know if a potential offer will be based on your answer.

Ideally your new salary is based on your value to the employer making the offer, not your previous employer. In practice however it's much grayer than that. You don't know if they will alter a potential offer based on your answer.

This has always seemed like a personal question that is rude to ask. If they ask you what you are making would it be rude to counter with "I'll tell you if you tell me the range of what you are willing to pay"?

RE: interview question

HPRifleman....get back to reality, my friend!  An employer can never pay you an amount equal to your "value" to the organization.  Assume you make $10 per hour.  Your employer charges you out at $30 per hour.  Your value to the organization is $30 per hour when you are productive...$0 when you're not.

If they pay you at productive "value", they lose money.  If they pay you at non-productive value, hopefully you would leave.  The reality is a compromise, for which you are paid $10 per hour consistently, productive or not.

RE: interview question


That's why I said "ideally". Also, my post was in the context of a corporation where the engineer is overhead and not billable.

If an engineer's value to a company is worth a salary of $60,000 then what difference does it make if the potential candidate made $50,000 at his/her previous position? At that previous position maybe the nature of the work made him worth a little less to that particular company.

Each employment situation is unique but many HR people just assume that if you made X at your last job then you'll accept X + a little more, regardless of the nature of the position.

RE: interview question

I can understand completely the hiring company's desire to ask this question.

If they like you and want to make an offer, they don't want to embarrass themselves or offend you with a too low offer. Let's say an interviewee makes $60k now, and is looking to move up. The prospective new employer likes the candidate and wants to hire, but offers $55k because that is what they can afford. At that point a schism has been created that would be tricky to bridge.

The flip is also true. No business owner wants to offer that same candidate $80k when $70 would have been enough.

Another thing I have considered when evaluating applications/interviewees is are they being realistic? If they are being paid a near entry level salary at the current job after 2-3 years there, why is that. Red flag raised.


RE: interview question

I have had an interview cut short when I answered with my current salary. We both didn't do our homework before the interview. This wasn't a local interview, either. I was in Maryland at the time and the interview was in Utah.

Current job when contacted by the recruiter, I was told a salary they were offering. I said that is less than my last full-time job and WAY less than I on my current contract job. Went through the interviews and all and the offer was slightly more than my last full-time salary. Full-time does have other benefits that the hourly rate does not include.

"Wildfires are dangerous, hard to control, and economically catastrophic."

Ben Loosli

RE: interview question

"If they are being paid a near entry level salary at the current job after 2-3 years there, why is that. Red flag raised."

Perhaps that is why they are looking to move elsewhere? I find it unsettling that the actions of a company (no raises) is looked upon as a flaw for the candidate. Perhaps I am putting more negative conotation on the "red flag" than you intended though.

I generally answer salary questions with a ballpark instead of a firm number, and explain that I will look at any offer in terms of the whole package, with insurance, 401k, vacation time, flex time, ect. I try to avoid a "you need to beat this number," mentality.


RE: interview question

So say someone's current job routinely gives them a 3 grand Christmas bonus and a 1 grand car allowance, is it unethical to throw an extra 4 grand into the number?


Hydrology, Drainage Analysis, Flood Studies, and Complex Stormwater Litigation for Atlanta and the South East - http://www.campbellcivil.com

RE: interview question


I think that depends on how the question is asked and answered.  If you indicate that there are other factors in your compensation, then you could easily include the auto allowance.  Since the bonus is typically more subject to change, then I would not include it blindly.  

When given a chance to verbalize my answer, I usually refer to a "total compensation" number.  Also, when discussing upcoming salary with them, it comes down to "total compensation" including benefits, that I have to pay for.  What good is $10K when you spend it on a health care premium hike.

RE: interview question

Aha.  So just put some wiggle in your words.

"What was your previous salary?"

"I netted about 85k."


Hydrology, Drainage Analysis, Flood Studies, and Complex Stormwater Litigation for Atlanta and the South East - http://www.campbellcivil.com

RE: interview question

Incidentally, in the often referred to guide for finding a new job, 'What Color is your parachute', consideration was given to the issue of discussion of salary (at least in terms of naming figures).

The summary of the section of the book was that whoever names the figure first loses. In most cases, there is room for negotiation, but what is not known is the relative budget of either party. No one wants a great new job that pays 40% of their old salary, and no employer wants to have to pay some exorbitant amount to get a new hire when they're only allocated 70% of that figure.

I suspect HPRifleman's summation is accurate, HR just wants to be able to pay whatever your current salary is plus a small amount, regardless of net worth to company and so on.  

RE: interview question

I'd say that's fair. Before I left my last company to venture out on my own, I had a sweet deal. Good salary, "cadillac" health care (as per Obama), cash bonuses, 401k with healthy matching, several work related golf and fishing trips a year for "business promotion," paid for professional memberships, CEU courses, etc.

The actual cost of me to the employer was close to $25k above base salary. SO yea, the package matters more than the salary number. Especially if you or your spouse are in poor health and that is a covered item.


RE: interview question

You give wize negotiating advise. I know a real estate negotiation expert who uses a training tool to show this very thing.

One side is given the parameters that they desperately need a building. They are to immediately accept any price under $10 million.

The other side urgently needs to sell the building and will accept any offer above $1 million.

Start the negotiation. Whoever gives the first number looses, and most likely both sides will feel that they left money on the table since the first offer will be accepted immediately.

Unfortunately, as engineers, we usually give the first number when feeing projects. What does this say about us?

RE: interview question

Very good points made by all, and to consider all types of compensation not just salary. A great thread for any young engineer in the making. Thanks guys.

RE: interview question

I got away with not giving my salary history when I interviewed for my current job.  I said I didn't want to be penalized in my next job for the fact that there had been a wage freeze at my previous job.  Fortunately they didn't push it.


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RE: interview question

I just come out and say that "I expect to be paid X-amount plus some specific benefits (like an extra week of vacation), I hope that this is within your budget".


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