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By Michelle Wanjiku
Dave is a technician working for a company in Nairobi earning a monthly salary of 23K plus some benefits. He recently managed to get a better job offer where he was offered a salary of 35K. This seems like a good deal considering it is a salary increase of over 10K. That is until you find out that the client was originally willing to pay 50K until he mentioned what he was currently earning.
Dave was not aware that the employer would have offered him more if his previous salary wasn’t so low.
The employer picked him because he was the most qualified candidate out of all the others; they were really impressed by him. If anything they were willing to go above their budget just to make him accept the job.
Had he been conscious of the fact that his salary would cost him a lot of money, he might have handled the salary question in a manner that doesn’t put him at a disadvantage.
This clearly goes to show that an employer will base how much money they offer you on your previous or current salary.
This is why they normally ask ‘what is your current salary?’
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This might not seem fair because if the employer was willing to pay more, then they should not offer you a smaller amount just because you are currently underpaid.
According to Ms. Muthoni, Muthoni Ndegwa, a recruitment manager at a leading recruitment firm in Nairobi, employers will reduce the offer they give a candidate if they are way below what they were willing to offer in the first place.
“For example, if the original salary offer for the position is 90K and they choose to hire someone who is earning 40K, they might offer the person around 60-70K,” says Ms. Muthoni.
Obviously, a company is looking for ways to avoid spending a lot of money, so if they can get away with offering a lower salary but still keep the candidate happy then they will do it.
Some employers do believe that a candidate should be paid depending on the role and in accordance with the market rate, however, a majority of them don’t. So you need to be able to protect yourself and avoid being in the same situation as Dave.
Ways To Avoid Disclosing Your Salary During A Job Interview
First, it’s important to know that not every employer is asking this question out of malice, some just want to know if they can afford you.
Another important thing to remember is you should never lie about what you currently earning, the truth will be discovered eventually and you could end up losing the job.
1. Deflect as much as possible
Try as much as possible to avoid answering the question. Just ensure you do it in a manner that cannot be considered rude.
For example, just saying ‘I don’t want to answer that’ will kill your chances of getting the job, but saying something like;
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“My last job is different from this one, so my past salary may not relate. But I’m sure that I’m a great fit for this position and we can come to an agreement on compensation.”
2. You can also turn the question to the interviewer
Before a job is advertised, the employer already knows how much they are willing to pay the person.
A good way to avoid telling the employer what you are currently earning is to ask them what they are willing to offer.
For example, a good answer could be something like;
“I assume there is a budget for this role. So what is the salary range for the position so that I can know if it is something I can work with?”
This way you get to know how much they are willing to pay and even if the figure is not accurate you at least know where to start.
In Conclusion,
If you were underpaid in your first job, chances are you will continue to be underpaid throughout your career unless you find a way to convince a new employer to offer you what you deserve.
You need to be smart in how you approach your salary negotiation so as to ensure you are not short changed when it comes to how much you earn.
After all, if they don’t know how much you are earning now, they cannot use it to base the offer on your salary and this drastically increases your chances of getting a  better offer.