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Tips for Disclosing Your Salary History & Requirements

Few parts of a job application, or indeed the interview itself, are as touchy as the salary questions. Some employers want to know how much you earned in the past and how much you expect to earn from them. "They intend to base their salary offer on your response," says Joseph Shackelford, a mortgage loan originator for Access Mortgage in Charleston, South Carolina. Instead of being intimidated, use this as an opportunity to express what you're looking for.

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Evasive is Okay

For starters, answering questions about your salary history directly may be your immediate instinct, but you don't have to. "You aren't obligated to answer any questions about your former salary," says Amy Reichart, a career counselor out of Sacramento, California. U.S. News says it's all right to be a little evasive. Instead of disclosing how much you've earned in the past, say something like, "While I keep my finances private, I'm interested in asking for..." or, "my previous employers prefer to keep that confidential, but I'd be happy to receive..." If your potential employer presses you further, it's up to you whether you answer him or not.

Being Upfront

Opening up about what you've earned in the past isn't necessarily a bad thing, even if you earned less than you were worth. While it may initially set the bar low, an explanation can offset that. If you accepted a job for the experience more than the salary, say so. The same goes for having a high past salary when you're applying for a lower one. Give your reasons. Shackelford recommends not doing this on the paper application, however. Instead of filling out salary information, say you'd rather discuss that in person. If it's an electronic application, type in "0" so the application goes through. No fluffing, though. Reichart points out that most employers check your claims by requesting past W-2s; a fib could cost you the job.

Get What You Want

Many in the job market don't realize it, but employers expect you to negotiate your salary, says Reichart. This gives you leverage, regardless of your past income. When it's time to talk about money, don't be afraid to state what you're looking for, even if it doesn't resemble what you made at your last job. "Make your case," says Reichart. Use your education, experience, talent and strengths to negotiate. You can be firm without being overbearing. "Do your research," says Shackelford. "If you know what the company is paying people in the position you're after, you stand a better chance of securing a reasonable offer."

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Cut Your Losses

Getting what you want doesn't always happen; we're adults, we know that. But you can sweeten the pot. "If the employer isn't offering what you want, try negotiating a better benefits package," says Reichart. A good package that includes generous health benefits, vacation time and comfortable working hours can offset a lower salary offer. If you want the job, and the salary you're interested in isn't on the table, Shackelford recommends being agreeable but asking when the salary topic can be revisited. You can also ask that the current salary be a trial offering. Ask that if you prove your worth, your salary be increased within a certain time frame, like six to 12 months Shackelford says.

Image via Getty Images

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