Career Advice, Salaries, Salary Transparency

Employers, Please Stop Asking For Our Salary Histories

Dear Employers,

We are thrilled to discuss a future with your organization. We are willing to be open and transparent. We understand that sharing information may help us discover a fit that advances both of our agendas. Like you, we want that.

But why are you so eager to learn about our past compensation? How is what we earned at another company doing a different job relevant to our candidacy now? When we started doing that job, we had less experience than we do now. Not just relevant professional experience, but we were also younger professionals when we nailed down the particulars of that deal.

We’ve grown. If you become our employer, you will reap the benefits of our professional evolution. We expect to be compensated for our skills plus the professional prowess and maturity we’ve cultivated.    

The professional world, too, has evolved since we’ve been off the market. Conversations that now dominate the landscape were less prevalent in years past. The salary history that you request may reflect a disparity: the female candidates among us may have been earning 76 cents, 60 cents or 55 cents for every dollar our white male colleagues make. Undoubtedly, you don’t want our relationship to begin by perpetuating this injustice.

Let’s start a fresh salary conversation, based on the skills and experience we have now and what the current market looks like. We want to be able to count on you to pay us what we’re worth rather than angling to score a deal on us. Can we please talk about that?

Put some of your skin in the game

It would help if you would share your range for this position. This way, all the disclosures don’t have to come from our side. Many employers request salary histories and expectations, often upfront. While we want to be compliant,  we clearly recognize that you’re asking us to tip our hands. You say you need this info to confirm that we’re in range, but if you share your range in the job post, we would all be on the same page from the start.

HR guru and Forbes contributor Liz Ryan reflects: “Most job ads don’t include a salary range because employers want to keep the salary range private. It gives them a negotiating advantage when they do. . . It is unprofessional and immoral to ask job-seekers to supply their salary details and/or salary history but to keep your approved salary range confidential.”

Please don’t start our relationship by angling to get the upper hand so that you can score our talent and loyalty at bargain prices.  No future perk, prize or wellness program that you dream up can undo what that says about the questionable culture you’re trying to entice us into.    

Let’s talk market value

Josh Doody, author of Fearless Salary Negotiation describes efforts to get us to disclose our salary histories: “It’s a salary negotiation tactic disguised as a gatekeeper-type interview question.”  Liz Ryan warns us:  “You lose most of your negotiating leverage when you give up your old salary, but sitting in the hot seat as a job seeker, you feel that you have no choice but to do that.”

Can we start from a better place than this?

Glassdoor provides the Know your Worth personalized salary estimator which generates our refreshed value in the current market. The tool calculates “specific work-related attributes and factors relating to each person: current job title, base salary, employer, work location, industry, typical job transitions, years of relevant experience, and the current state of the local job market.”

This way, if our pay was below market value at our last job, we have the information we need to amend that in future salaries we negotiate for ourselves.

Requesting our salary histories is becoming illegal

New York City, New Orleans and Philadelphia and the state of Massachusetts are among the first localities limiting potential employers’ access to this information about candidates, but many more are slated to follow suit.

You don’t want to be the employer that makes a potentially illegal move. You want to be trailblazer that says, “we stopped doing that years ago because we were concerned that it was unfair to our employees.”

A successful professional culture champions its citizens, and in so doing it earns their loyalty. Isn’t that the kind of employer you want to be?    


Job Seekers and Candidates Everywhere

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