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What Happens When You Refuse to Give Your Salary History?

We’ve all been there, whether it’s on the initial phone call with the recruiter, or at the final stage of the interview process: At some point, the hiring manager asks about our salary history.
salary history

The problem is how to answer this innocent yet very loaded question. In the past, have you named a number without much hesitation? Did the recruiter have to pry it out of you? Perhaps you’ve always volunteered your salary history, because you really wanted the job or for the simple purpose of general transparency.

No matter what bucket you fall into, you’ve probably wondered what would happen if you just straight up refused to answer. Are there consequences to refusing to provide your salary history? Does it benefit you in any way? Could it lead to a higher salary? The truth is, refusing to provide your salary information can hurt you or help you. But it depends entirely on who you are.

Who Benefits From Sharing Salary History?

In PayScale’s latest report, Is Asking For Salary History … History?, we surveyed over 15,000 workers to get a better understanding of how people react to salary history inquiries. One of the lenses we examined during this study was how gender affected outcome. Our data show that women who share their salary history are paid 1.8 percent more than women who don’t. On the other side of that same coin, men who refuse to disclose their salary history actually earn 1.2 percent more than men who do disclose their salary history.

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Sharing Salary History and Our Unconscious Bias

While women have traditionally been encouraged to not share their salary history during the interview process, the data show that withholding salary information could be more damaging for women. Why? Most likely, because of unconscious bias. Women may get punished for withholding salary information because they are seen by hiring managers as uncooperative, unfriendly and unladylike. Over time, this helps perpetuate the gender pay gap.

So what should women do to get paid what they deserve? You may decide to disclose your pay history — but then do your best to move the conversation from your previous salary to the one that’s appropriate for the role under consideration.

At the end of the day, companies should be pricing jobs, not people. Keep this narrative in mind as you go through this process and be persistent. You can also arm yourself with data before you even enter the interview, so you already know the market rate for the job you’re applying to, and thus the salary you can expect for that job.

Tell Us What You Think!

Have you ever refused to provide your past salary? What happened? We want to hear from you! Comment below or join the discussion on Twitter!

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13 Comments on "What Happens When You Refuse to Give Your Salary History?"

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As a woman in technology, I have answered that question with “fair market value based on my experience” and was offered considerably more than my previous job.


During interviews I simply mention that my previous employer has made me sign a non-disclosure preventing me for sharing it anyone.

After 9 months of intense searching and being as transparent as possible (huge mistake), I ended up taking a position somewhat out of desperation that was somewhat below my skillset and way below my market value and what I had been making before. Unfortunately, since opportunities with my current employer have been filled externally, I’ve chosen to begin another search. I’ve submitted several applications and have been fortunate enough to receive at least a few callbacks. Those callbacks, however are typically from 3rd party recruiters, and the first thing they say is “Wow, you’ve got a great track record of… Read more »

When asked what I am currently earning I answer with “I’m looking for….”

I see some excellent responses on how to turn the discussion back to market value and worth to the company, which is exactly what a candidate should attempt to do. Doing advance research on typical salaries for the position is essential. Stating ranges, with candidate’s desired rate of pay in the middle rather than a fixed number, is good practice. When a person is currently working for a company with low standards for compensation or in a position that isn’t lateral to the one being considered, stating current pay doesn’t work in a candidate’s favor. In financial negotiations, whomever names… Read more »
Dark Star
If they insist on a salary history to get hired,… walk away. If they want your salary history, then it’s to give them a reference of how much they can nip you down money wise. If you have to ask what the prices are on the menu, you can’t afford it. If they have to ask for your salary history, they’re too cheap to afford you, and they’ll just take you for granted at every turn. — They should assess you by your resume’, your curriculum vitae,… knowledge of the job, education, experience, accomplishments. It’s not just a job, it’s… Read more »

I always ask what the salary/hourly rang is, then decide what number I find satisfactory, and simply state I would like “this amount”. If you’re being interviewed the reason is because the company finds you can and value to their company. They should have to pay for the value you can bring to them. What you were paid, before you gained additional knowledge and skills isn’t representative of what you’re worth now.


My employer would not move me forward in the hiring process until I gave them my previous salary information and they ‘threatened’ that they would follow and verify it was correct. They actually told me they have let people go for providing inaccurate salary history. I hope this practice stops.

Betty Stecher

I once applied for a position for which I was well-qualified. The recruiter told me that, although I WAS the top candidate, I was eliminated from consideration because of my prior extremely high salary in another field. They thought I would leave if I found a higher paying job! I wouldn’t have.

Bruce Bertrand

I have encountered several online job applications where current salary is a required field. No disclosure – no application. What’s up with that?


I have given my salary history in the past and found out I was paid less than other people who had less experience. I found out that the companies based my current pay on what I previously made. I have never given my pay history again and have been paid much better at my current job.

Joe De Ville
There is no one right answer to the question “should I disclose my salary”. When you apply for a job (or are approached about a job), you are entering a sort of sales discussion — you are (potentially) selling your services to a new employer. It’s only reasonable that the potential new employer qualify the feasibility of the hire (“if we like this person, do we have a shot at getting them?”). Just as the candidate fears giving a “bottom-line” minimum expectation, the employer balks at naming the top of the salary range — both are worried about being taken… Read more »

Do you even realize when you promote the gender wage gap as being caused by discrimination and “unconscious bias” you’re discrediting your whole company?

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