Do This Before You Share Your Salary History

Should you have to share your salary history? No, but try explaining that to many hiring managers — or getting out of the conversation without tanking your chances at getting the job.

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“What you earned at past jobs is your own business,” writes Liz Ryan at Forbes. “Your spouse or partner is entitled to know your salary, and perhaps your very best friend, or your cat. No headhunter is entitled to that information and neither is any hiring manager. When someone asks you ‘What did you earn at your last job?’ you’ll politely share your current salary target with them, instead.”

Certainly, it’s worth a try — especially if you do your prep work ahead of time. To circumvent the salary history question:

1. Do your research.

Come up with a range that reflects the position’s responsibilities and title, and your years of experience and skills. Make sure you don’t name a low-end number that’s lower than you’d feel good about accepting. Take into account things like benefits and health insurance, if your new employer offers better (or worse) bennies than the employer you’re leaving.

2. Stay calm.

Sometimes, in negotiations, we’re our own worst enemies. Don’t assume that that you’re going into a hostile confrontation right off the bat. Ryan is correct when she says that you don’t necessarily owe a hiring manager or headhunter your entire salary history. If you’re not defensive or argumentative out of the gate, you might well be able to get away with just giving your salary range.

3. Be prepared to make a choice.

“Most interviewers are going to stop pushing at this point,” writes Alison Green at U.S. News. “But if an interviewer insists, you’ll need to decide whether you’re willing to hold firm (and potentially risk losing the job opportunity over it) or if you’ll give in.”

Whatever you decide to do, Green says, the important thing is not to lie. Fibbing about your salary history can come back to bite you, in the form of a rescinded offer — or even a termination once you’ve started a new job, should your employer discover you were dishonest.

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