Imagine this scenario per a comment: you’ve been contracting or consulting while you’ve been looking for a job. A potential hiring manager asks you, “What was your gross income?” as part of the interview. What do you say?
“Oy vey” is not a good answer. Although it might be precisely what you are feeling.
This is the start of the salary negotiation. Are you ready for the start of the salary negotiation? Have you built rapport with the hiring manager? You can always say, “I’m open to negotiation. What level is the job, and what is the midpoint of the level?” See What Salary Do You Expect is Another Bad Question.
Now, how do you wiggle out of the question? You might say something like, “I’m not comfortable telling you that right now. Gross income as a consultant or contractor is nothing like an employee’s yearly wage. When we get to the salary discussion, I’d like to know what the position is worth to you, and what you think I am worth to you. I haven’t been working full time; I’ve been working enough to pay some bills. I’ve been looking for a job close to full time. I’d hate for you to think you could base an offer on my part-time contracting or consulting income.” I would say this with a smile on my face, if at all possible.
If a younger HR person or hiring manager asks this, I would chalk it up to naivete. If an older HR person or hiring manager asks, I would chalk it up to stupidity. If a senior manager of either stripe asks, I would wonder about working there. If you were successful as a contractor/consultant, why would you be looking for a full-time job?
No matter what, remember this is the start of the salary negotiation. You get to decide when to answer the question. You don’t have to answer at the beginning of the interview process. It’s sort of like being asked when you meet a blind date, “Will we sleep together tonight?” Ooh ick. Sometimes I’m very glad I’m married and self-employed.