In the recent past, some cities and states have already passed legislation to prevent employers from asking job candidates their salary history. It’s a great move for a couple of reasons.
Originally designed to promote equal pay for equal work, such legal measures go beyond attempts to narrow the pay gap for women in the workplace. All job seekers, regardless of gender, should understand how unfair the salary question is and know how to avoid it, especially in cities and states yet to prohibit it.
Your current or past salary has no bearing on what you should be paid in a new position. Period.
What should determine your salary?
The scope of responsibilities in the new position combined with the fair market value for the geographical region in which you will work should be the first factors in deciding salary. Next, levels of experience and expertise weigh in to setting compensation for a role.
Don’t go into an interview without knowing your worth based on market research. There are plenty of online tools, such as PayScale and Glassdoor, to help you calculate your value. But better yet, if your region doesn’t have legislation banning salary history questions, employ some sidestepping strategies.
Many companies request current and past salaries in their online applications. Leave that section blank if it is not a required field. If it is mandatory, you won’t be able to leave that field incomplete, but you can try using all zeros to bypass the system, leaving that question for later in the interview stage.
It’s true that some companies like to have your salary history to make sure your salary expectations don’t exceed their set range for a position and that time isn’t wasted interviewing non-viable candidates. The assumption is that a candidate with a higher salary won’t be satisfied receiving less. That’s not always accurate, however. Many employees find job satisfaction in the work that they do, not just the compensation they receive. An employer can avoid this altogether by being upfront about the salary range for the position. You can then indicate if that range is acceptable to you.
Your first interview with a company will most likely be a screening call with a recruiter, who in most cases will inquire about your salary. You’re in the hot seat. How do you respond without angering the recruiter by withholding information? You can kindly answer the question with some variation of the following:
- Don’t provide your current salary, but rather provide the recruiter with your salary requirements. What you require and what the hiring company is willing to pay are the only aspects that need to be considered in ascertaining if your salary expectations are a fit for moving forward.
- Ask for the salary range, or provide a range in which you are willing to consider for the role.
- Provide a range for your current salary just like the hiring company does for the position they are trying to fill. There is nothing wrong with stating that your existing salary is in the fair market value range for the scope of your responsibilities and that your salary expectations are based on the job requirements and your level of experience. A company worth joining will compensate its employees accordingly.
No one likes the salary question or the salary negotiation stages of job searching. Companies in the know and those that compensate fairly will avoid asking for salary history and instead pay for the value of the job and the experience of the person filling it.