Q: I am currently interviewing for a position I am highly qualified for. They have given me the salary range, and asked what my salary expectation is, however my current pay is below market. How can I avoid being offered less than I deserve?
A: When they ask this, deflect their question. A savvy and diplomatic answer is, "I expect that if we decide this is the right match, we will come to a mutual agreement on salary". Try not to reveal your current salary, or delay for as long as is reasonably possible.
Aim to defer salary discussions until the field of candidates has narrowed to just you, when you will have the upper hand in negotiations.
When you get into negotiations, ask for the highest salary in their range, then explain "I believe I am uniquely qualified for the position because..." and give three or four brief bullet points explaining what qualifies you as the best candidate for the job.
If they then offer you less, say "Hmmm. Is that your best offer?" then go silent, let them do the talking.
If they put the ball back in your court, say "I believe I am worth the top of the range because...” and repeat your bullet points. Then go silent, and let them talk.
If they persist in low-balling, explain that one of your reasons for leaving your current position is the below-market salary. Remind the employer that with your level of qualifications, you expect a competitive offer to be at above the market average rate.