The first person to speak a number loses.
I learnt it the hard way. My first salary in Germany was below market level. When I got an offer from Amazon, it was more than 70% jump in Germany.
Where you stand (usual candidate thinking process):
Let’s assume you are interviewing for a marketing position, with 4 years of experience. Your current salary is, say, €36,000 per annum. Your personal expectation is to land somewhere between €40,000 to €43,000 salary, with the new job.
Salary question in the initial rounds does not really matter much. Provide a generic “market standards” response for the initial round. Like dating, this is the time, you and the company are testing each other. It does not make sense to share a committed number/range, when both sides are not even sure that things will go forward.
So, when should you state your actual salary expectation? Read on…
Where company stands (how companies exploit candidates):
The company has an unfair advantage over you when discussing salary. There is a very clear range of budget allocated for each opening. In this case, lets say the salary range that the company is working with is €43,000 to €46,000.
Highest range of your expectation < Lower range of the salary budget
(There can be multiple reason for this : market is competitive, they are in urgent need, you are paid below market n 100’s of other reasons… but that is not the focus of this answer).
This is why never disclose your salary number to the HR, no matter how much they ask. It’s their job to ask, so they can find the best yet cheapest candidates.
State your salary expectation NOW: Once you are one of the final candidates, and close to finish line, get a feel of their range. Ask them probing questions. Let them put their cards on the table. Only after that, start to show your value.
This is the only time you hold the leverage as a candidate in the whole process. There is a high probability of offer, they have spent too much time with you, you (hopefully) have understood how desperate they are to hire…. this is the time to state your salary expectations.
This is a play on the basic human psychology : the longer you hold out disclosing, the more valuable you make yourself seem. (assuming that you have the technical and professional requirements for the stated opening).