You have to be prepared to talk about salary on a job interview, even before you talk to people in person. There’s a good chance they’ll ask you about your salary history in the very first piece of correspondence you receive once you’ve submitted a resume in response to a job posting.
A lot of job ads tell you to send your salary history along with a resume and cover letter. Don’t do that — your salary history is nobody’s business but your own. You can give them what they need by specifying your salary target instead of your salary history. A screener looking at a stack of resumes or opening file after file in quick succession on her screen won’t even notice the distinction between salary history and salary target. As long as your number is within the range that the employer has already specified for the position, you’ll be fine.
You can just include a sentence in your cover letter that says “In this job search I’m focusing on roles in the $55K range.”
You will need to know your salary target as you begin your job search. Don’t use job ads and job interviews as your market-value research, because companies are trying to play it very cheap right now. They’ll delude themselves that they can get an experienced Director of Marketing with 15 years of experience running huge campaigns, and pay that person $60K. Don’t depress your own true market value by buying into other people’s delusions. Use Salary and Payscale to peg your actual, current market value.
There are employers who will tell you “We pay under market.” Think about what those words mean. The market rate is what other companies are paying. The market sets itself, like any market – like the value of your home or of a used car you’re looking to sell or buy. When somebody tells you “Our company pays under the market” they mean that they couldn’t care less what your value is in the talent marketplace. They are hoping someone who doesn’t know his value or whose mojo is depleted and self-confidence diminished will come and work for them for galley-slave wages. You can’t grow your flame in a place like that. Don’t do it!
Once you get to a face-to-face interview, the topic of salary is likely to come up. I don’t want you to bring it up on a first interview, but they might. They’ll do it like this most of the time:
THEM: So, what were you earning at Acme Explosives?
YOU: Er — sixty-seven five.
That’s a low-mojo answer. Your salary history is your own business. Are they going to tell you what they were paying the last person in this role? Is the HR person going to tell you what he or she is earning? They’re not going to do that, so why should you give up confidential information of your own?
If you believe that employers are godly and you are nothing, and if you believe that someone is doing you a huge favor by hiring you, you’ve got a mojo deficit. You can’t job-hunt effectively in that state. You have to gather your good friends around and get them to help you remember that you are strong and capable and that you’re worth every penny you’re asking for, if not much more.
When you don’t see your own value, you’re going to bring in employers who will undervalue and mistreat you. You’ve got to have your feet under you in order to go on a job search with the confidence that the right employer for you is out there. People who want to get the cheapest help they can find aren’t worthy of your gifts.
Let’s prepare for the question “What were you earning before?” and play it a different way.
THEM: So, what were you earning at Acme Explosives?
YOU: For this job search I’m focusing on opportunities in the seventy-five kay range.
There are two possibilities. One is that the interviewer makes a note on her clipboard and says “Okay.” The other is that s/he presses for your past salary.

THEM: Okay, your target is seventy-five thousand dollars. What were you earning before?
YOU: You know, if we’re in the same ballpark with the seventy-five kay figure then it makes sense to keep talking. My accountant would have my head if I shared my past salary.
(You can also blame your past employer, like this):
YOU: Acme is fanatical about confidentiality as I’m sure you can appreciate. I wouldn’t share my salary with anyone if I were working here, either.
If you find that a recruiter won’t let the question go, that’s a red flag right there. They don’t need to know your past salary. It has nothing to do with anything. If they can’t evaluate your talent based on your resume and your physical self sitting right there in front of them, ready to answer questions about anything in your career history, then they are not smart people.
We can feel compassion for folks like that, but you don’t want to work among them. Working with weenies is the surest way to dim  your flame. If you’re having an especially high-mojo moment, you can answer the Salary History question this way:
THEM: So, what were you earning over at Acme Explosives?
YOU: Right now I’m focusing on jobs in the seventy-five kay range, so if that’s a match for you it makes sense for us to keep talking. Is that within your range?
THEM: I think so, but I really need to know your past salary.
YOU: Every company and situation is different, so for me the seventy-five thousand range I’m shooting for is the most relevant piece of information. I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t be comfortable sharing the salaries of the team members in this department with me, and I don’t blame you, because it’s none of my business.  By the same token, my past salary isn’t especially relevant to our conversation,  now that you know my salary target. Does that make sense?
There are brilliant, creative interviewers in the business world and there are lots of drones. If you’re stuck in an interview setting with a person who can’t understand what you’re saying much less imagine stepping outside the lines to substitute your salary requirement for salary  history, your next question to the heavens should be “How did I get myself here?” If you don’t want to find yourself in a room like that facing questions like that again, step outside the lines yourself and contact your hiring manager directly the next time.
I’ve written zillions of columns about how to do that, here on Forbes and elsewhere. Google the term Pain Letter to find them.
It’s a new day in the talent marketplace. Switched-on managers know that only talent powers their engine for profitability and growth. Those are the employers you need to find and start conversations with. The old-line, stuck-in-the-mud, nothing-ever-changes-here people aren’t worth your time. But I can’t talk you into that view: you have to feel it in your body.
Do you?