I get this question all the time, but there was an example of this last week that stayed with me from an attorney candidate. He went to a start-up and is paid a really low salary, but he has some stock options which brings him up a bit. Once we broke the ice and he felt comfortable with me, he opened up about what he was earning. He also opened up to me that he has been on some interviews and when it comes to this question, he feels like the interviewer is getting “scared off” by his low salary, seeing it as a red flag. Here was my response to him:
Instead of coming straight out with your base salary, you should share your total compensation package including the equity component. Just like you discussed with me, tell them that you took this job as a risk, because you really liked the background and experience of the CEO. You have worked in business before, so this job lined up well with your previous experience, but the company did not take off like you had hoped. Then tell them what you would be looking for. (We had discussed his market value.) The timing is actually good if you are talking to an HR professional, because many of the latest articles being published now discuss biases in compensation.