I cannot answer all your questions. However, I went from meek/mild in this area to someone with experience…my observations:
I am loathe to give out my current salary. It can only hurt you. If you make too little, they may doubt your competence and so jepardize your getting the job. This was a problem for me because when I left teaching I took a job at a small company and was literally making less and less of marketable wage as time passed. When market wage went to near double my salary, I decided that I needed to move on even though I absolutely loved the company. However having the title of ‘X’ and actually doing it but making so little will put doubts into their mind as to you really have experience as position ‘x’.
If your salary is in the ballpark, they will use your current salary to feel comfortable offering a lower amount…knowing it will still be attractive to you. However, if they don’t know what you make, they probably would have offered more.
If your current salary is too high, they may drop you out of consideration before they realize they really could afford the value you would bring. Don’t laugh, this has happened to me where they said that they realized I was too high level for the position they were trying to fill but realized that it would be good to have me there so changed the position.
That being said, there are legitimate reasons they want to know your salary. One is they want to be sure you REALLY have experience at a certain level. If you say you are X but are paid like levels below that then you probably REALLY aren’t X…but are a good BS artist. Yes, you may be like what I said above…but those people are not overly common.
Another reason is that they have a limited budget and they want to be sure they aren’t wasting their time and yours. If your current salary is more than they can offer, it IS a waste of time.
So…should you offer your salary when asked? If you can get away with not doing it, it is best. However, refusing to give it up can be difficult. So, DO YOUR RESEARCH and have a proper, reality grounded salary range in mind that you can defend. If asked and you have to give…always add on that you do not understand what use this information is and that you expect the salary to be based on the position, not what you have done before. If you reach negotiation then you can quote the range you have researched.
In my experience, the earlier they bring up salary…the more likely the company is on a limited budget and/or is miserly. They bring it up early because what they offer is usually too low for many people - so they don’t want to waste their time. Companies that don’t even hint at salary until well into the interview process when they make an offer are usually used to getting who they want and are very competitive. These companies want who they want and pay what they need to pay.
Companies that call you and ask about pay expectations before they even schedule an interview? Pssshhhaaww…you might as well hang up on em…they are a joke.
I’m sure you know…NEVER bring up salary first. That is a huge no-no.
When negotiations come up and the salary is too low from your researched range (like they used your old salary +10%)? Tell them your research. They can try to refute it…but bring up friends/colleagues who are in that range…that your research should be reliable etc. Say that you are hesitant to take a position for a salary below that position because you would feel that you are a very good X and want to be compensated accordingly - at least at market wage. You can say that you will look into your research more carefully to make sure you weren’t mistaken and take some time to think. You aren’t going to take it - but it gives THEM an opportunity to raise the offer when you don’t call back and they call you to find your answer.
If they offer a salary that is almost, but not quite up to your minimum…then dont forget to negotiate other items. More vacation time? Car allowance? Anything to get the offer up to what you would accept. Some companies can really roll with this, though the majority, IME, do not.
Also, while it is best not to give the first figure…in reality you most likely will have to. If you do your research, then this isn’t so bad. If your research says that the market wage is $55,000 with 1 std dev of $5000…then use a range of $50,000-$60,000. When they ask you your expectations, say $55K-$60K. If they are close (say $52K) they will come back and say $52K + (some special perk). You can then judge as to take it or not.
Remember…there is much crap out there. You want a job, yes…but assuming you are not desperate (best situation is you HAVE a job but are looking) then you can use the salary negotiation as a filter to clear out the crap. You actually look forward to it and find it useful to your needs (just like you will find yourself using interviews to interview THEM even more than they interview you).
Hope this is useful.