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Should I Share My Salary History With Employers or Not?

Posted by Jeff Pelliccio on Aug 30, 2016 9:00:00 AM

In Interview Tips, Job Search Tips

At some point during your job hunting process, an interviewer will ask for your salary history. So, are you going to share? On one hand, you may be hoping for a significant bump in salary or, on the other hand, you may be willing to take a pay cut once you have found your dream job. Either way, you gamble with your compensation. 

Up to this point, you have probably read 1001 reasons not to reveal your salary information with potential employers. There are, indeed, many reasons to keep your current salary to yourself, privacy and negotiation strategy included.

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Why Do People Not Share Salary Histories?

Some job seekers have made it a hard and fast rule to never share their current salaries or compensation histories. Many believe that doing so may put them out of the running for positions that pay less than they currently make, even though an employer may be ready to make a bigger offer.

Those who currently work in less competitive markets, where cost of living and pay are lower, fear that a small number may result in a small offer from the prospective employer who is hoping for a bargain.

Others may be more than willing to take a pay cut, especially if a dream job is at stake. They are focused on other desirable aspects of the position, such as location, flexibility, employee benefits, and office environment. Still, they do not want to undersell themselves to a prospective employer prematurely.

In all of these scenarios, you, the candidate, are trying to understand why the employer is even asking about your current salary and what the employer will do with that information.

Why Do Employers Want Your Salary History?

Employers want to get in to your head as much as you want to get in to theirs. They are always weighing what is best for the business and what is best for you.

When they ask for your current salary, employers are also implying several other questions:

  • Will you be happy?

The first reason is to try to gauge whether or not you would be happy with the salary they are prepared to offer you before going through with the interview process. This way the employer can see if you are playing in the same ballpark, or you are in another completely different league.

  • Have you received pay raises?

Second, employers are looking to see whether you have traditionally received raises when making job changes. If you have received those raises, the employers  want to know if it was just for cost of living adjustments.

  • What is your market value?

Hiring managers use your compensation history as a yardstick to determine your market value. This helps them see how your role will fit in to the larger picture of the company.  It is a matter of screening, particularly if the employer has received a flurry of applications.

You are, understandably, worried that employers simply discard job candidates whose salary requirements are too high or too low. But omitting your salary history automatically takes you out of contention for many jobs. Some companies simply eliminate all resumes that do not include a salary figure.

Making the Case for Including Your Salary History

The biggest argument to share your salary history involves looking at it from the employer’s point of view. That organization is the one signing your paycheck. When interviewing candidates, the employer may be window-shopping to get an idea of what is available in terms of filling their open positions. They still have a budget to meet at the end of the day. 

Allowing them to glimpse at the qualifications on your resume is one step in the right direction. Without giving them a clue about the price tag, though, they are likely to move on to the next window in order to get a more complete picture.

Finally, including your current salary information avoids wasting time spent interviewing for positions that you will ultimately turn down. Neither you nor the company benefit when you interview for positions that are not within your desired salary range. 

Tips When Providing Your Salary History to a Prospective Employer

When you provide your salary history to a potential employer, let them know up front that you believe your current salary undervalues the contribution you will make to their organization if you are not willing to settle for a similar offer. 

Also let them know if you are willing to accept a low offer for the chance to do what you love. There are some occasions when that is the right choice to make for the sake of your career. You also have the opportunity to use this as a medium to let the employer know that, in the right circumstances, you would be willing to work for less. Then, enumerate those circumstances to include things like:

  • Better benefits
  • Bonuses
  • Flexible work hours
  • Telecommuting
  • Location
  • Improved work/life balance
  • Retirement contributions by the company

What is the takeaway? There are many compelling reasons to stand your ground and not divulge your compensation history, and just as many, if not more, to reconsider and offer the salary information companies request. Just remember, when the employer does make the offer, you can always negotiate.