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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.

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.”

Do You Know What You're Worth?

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 Fibbing about your salary history can come back to bite you, in the form of a rescinded offer — or even a termination once you’ve started a new job, should your employer discover you were dishonest.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you think employers should have the right to ask for your salary history? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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7 Comments on "Do This Before You Share Your Salary History"

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I had an employer ask to see my pay stubs from my current employer. When I refused to show them to her, she refused to give me the job. I was the top candidate for the job and was not asking for a lot of money. I was asking for market rate. However, my refusal to provide proof of what I was currently earning cost me the job. It was none of their darn business. If they start being that invasive at the outset, what is next?

Actually in this one, single case it is not only okay to lie, it is the recommended option. The only reason that you are asked your current salary is so that your employer will ensure that you never get more than a possible 10% raise. If they learn what your previous salary is, they would have done it via some illegal means as it is not legal for your previous employer to release details of your salary AND it is not legal for your interviewer to contact your current employer without asking you (simply refuse – I specifically state on… Read more »
I live in UT where employers are notoriously cheap. When I get calls from recruiters or I’m speaking with a hiring-manager & the question comes up, I don’t beat around the bush. I ask outright “What is the salary-range for this position?”. They don’t seem offended or shocked, but they give the answer and you’re not locking yourself in or low-balling yourself. This approach is IMPORTANT! Why? What if the hiring-company’s HQ is in CA, WA, NY or other high-cost region? Your personal ‘wow salary’ of $90k might be peanuts to them! I’ve held 2 successful positions with out-of-state companies… Read more »

I have been working for my current employer for 16 years now. Since day 1, the policy was that I discuss my salary with no one. If that is your story, you can always use that as your backing.

Most candidates know what they should be earning and if they are not at ‘market level’ considering their years of experience and education, then that is one of the reasons they may be looking. I suggest candidates try to keep it light, reiterate their years of experience, achievements etc., then tell them you are hoping for better than current market level. Then ask them, “What do you have in mind for this position?” Interviewer’s turn to talk. Also, do not get trapped into revealing your current salary. That’s confidential. Just tell them it is not relevant, that you are looking… Read more »

I agree your earnings are private. The question I have is once hired are you legally obligated to share your W-2 information from the previous year?


I totally agree that past salary history is no one’s business but your own. What’s the range for this particular job is what you should be asking…or what range do you have budgeted for this position? Online Job applications try to get at this info and sometimes makes you feel like you HAVE no choice in the matter. Try to enter an obviously fake number.

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