Do I Have To Share My Salary History in an Interview?
What happens when a prospective employer poses an interview salary question? Learn how to answer the salary question tactfully in this guide.
October 19, 2021
It’s the dreaded interview question that stops many in their tracks: How much are you making right now?
What should you do if a prospective employer asks about your salary history? If you’re on the job hunt, you’ll need to brush up on your interviewing skills as well as your negotiating skills.
Not all companies will ask for your salary history, but some may. Employers pose this question for a few reasons: to see if your salary expectations align with what they are willing to pay, to gauge your work history and to gain the upper hand in salary negotiations.
Discussing your previous salaries with a potential employer can be intimidating. But if you know how to answer the salary question tactfully, you can steer the interview in the right direction without giving up your negotiating position.
Do I have to disclose my salary history?
You’re not technically required to disclose your salary history to a prospective employer. Salary history is considered personal information.
However, not answering the interview salary question could result in a negative reaction from the interviewer, which could compromise your chance of getting the job.
Because of this, it’s helpful to have a plan for how to answer the interview salary question.
How to answer salary questions
The way you answer a question about your salary history depends on a variety of factors, including:
The job you’re applying for and how closely aligned your skillset is with the duties required
Your past salary and whether the new job is likely better-paying or lower-paying than your previous jobs
Your relationship with the employer/interviewer
The typical pay range for similar positions
If you’re seeking a similar salary to your previous roles, then there is generally no harm in providing your salary history. If you’re seeking a higher salary in this new position, then you may want to be a bit more cautious about providing concrete salary details.
In many cases, it’s perfectly fine to say something like, “I prefer not to disclose my salary history at this time.”
It’s also acceptable to ask the employer what they expect to pay for the position — this will usually be a range. In many states, employers are not obligated to answer this question, but it’s worth asking to potentially gain some useful information.
If the interviewer presses you further or requests your salary expectations for the role, explain that you’re seeking a salary that’s in line with the market value of the position.
Ultimately, it’s best to come prepared to answer this question in the most strategic way possible. Here are some steps you can take prior to the interview to prepare yourself.
Do your research
Employers will also be familiar with these salary ranges. By knowing a rough range of what the employer expects to pay, you can be better equipped to discuss salary expectations.
Consider your worth
Ultimately, your worth as an employee relates to your skills, personality and commitment — not your past salary. Come to your interview prepared to explain why you would be a great employee and to quantify the value you could bring to the company.
Consider your true salary expectations
Ask yourself a couple of important questions: What do you believe is a fair salary for the position you are applying for? What salary level would you be thrilled with, and what level would satisfy you? It’s important to closely consider these questions before interviewing.
Are employers allowed to ask about previous salary?
In many states, yes, employers can legally ask you for your previous salary history and your salary expectations. Generally, you aren’t required to answer directly.
Some states, and even local jurisdictions, have their own laws related to salary history. WorkplaceFairness.org maintains a list of these local laws. It would be wise to research the rules in your area so that you know your rights going into the interview.
Employers may ask for salary information in just about any stage of the recruiting process. Keep in mind that salary questions earlier in the process are often used for prescreening. In some cases, if you refuse to answer a salary question in the initial application, the employer may automatically disqualify you.
On the other hand, if you’re asked later on in the process — when you’re already in serious consideration for the role — you may have more flexibility in how you answer salary questions.
Can a prospective employer verify previous salary records?
In general, employers cannot verify past salary records. An employer cannot ask you for tax returns or any other proof of salary history. They can call your previous employers if they are listed as a reference, but previous employers are under no obligation to disclose salary information.
With that said, employers can access public records and online databases to glean information about your past. If you worked for a state, local or federal agency, chances are your salary is publicly available on the internet. Employers can also check sites like Glassdoor to determine typical salary ranges for workers with your past job titles.
Skillfully navigating salary conversations with potential employers can help give you the upper hand in salary negotiations, helping boost your overall financial health.
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