ask the readers: how to refuse to share your salary history

A reader writes:

I wondered if readers could share stories about successfully refusing to share their salary history. It’s advice I hear all the time, and that makes sense, but having just been hired by a sizable corporation, it’s hard for me to imagine getting companies to go against their own policies. Aside from simply not providing it with the initial application, what about when you’re asked directly, or given a form? I had to give salary history about three different ways for my new job–I tried to demur but there was really no way around it.

Hopefully one day it’ll be illegal to ask everywhere in the U.S., but I imagine that’s a long time coming!

It might not be as far off as you think — the tide is really starting to turn on this issue. In fact, New York City is expected to make it illegal to ask for salary history very soon (and Massachusetts banned it last year, and California is considering legislation to do the same).

But yes, let’s gather stories about people doing this successfully.

I’ll start: I’ve taken the advice that I give here and have declined to share my salary. Both times when I did it, it wasn’t a huge deal; I was asked what I was making, and I just sidestepped the question and answered by saying, “I’m looking for something around $X.” But that worked out easily — the harder situation is when you say that and the employer still insists on knowing your current (or last) salary anyway. My advice for handing that is here (basically, you can say it’s confidential, but in deciding how firm to be, you need to factor in how willing you are to lose the opportunity if they’re rigid about it).

Readers, it’s your turn. If you’ve refused to share your salary with a prospective employer, tell us what you said, what they said, and how it all went down. The more specific you can be, the better.

{ 340 comments… read them below }

  1. Dawn*

    There was a comment on AAM a few years ago that was so good I wrote it down, and I’ve used it when I’ve been asked for salary history since:

    “I wouldn’t consider leaving my current position for less than $X [or you could say for less than a range of $X-Y]”

    I love that wording because it makes it about what it would take to make you LEAVE, not what you currently make.

    1. Anonymousaurus Rex*

      This is exactly what I did — I loved my previous job, but I knew I was severely underpaid. That said, I wasn’t willing to leave a job I loved for anything less than a serious salary bump. When asked by the HR recruiter at my current position how much I made, I simple said “I’m looking to make $X-Y at my next position and wouldn’t like to leave my current job for less than that.” She pushed back saying “We really need to know what you are making now” and I said “I’m sorry, that’s not something I disclose. However, I know that in my next position I’d like to be making $X-Y.” I had to repeat it a few times, but I ended up getting an offer I was happy with. I should add that I did have to disclose my salary as part of the background check for the position, but that was after their offer had already been made and accepted. (So I suppose now the company knows that I got a 30+% raise when I took the job, but it’s not like they could go back on their offer at that point!)

      1. Adam*

        Good on you for sticking to your guns. I probably would have waffled after the second or third push from the interviewer.

        1. Anonymousaurus Rex*

          To be honest it probably helped that I wasn’t super excited about the new job itself. I really did love my old job, so I was totally willing to let the offer go if they couldn’t come up with a really good compensation package. I don’t know that I would have had the ability to stick to it if I had desperately wanted (or needed!) the offer.

            1. VroomVroom*

              Yea, once when I was job hunting due to a reorg at my current company a few years ago potentially putting my job in jeopardy – I turned down an offer that was a pay cut. (They were all pay cuts, I was going from an external contractor to a full time salaried employee, even when I was brought internally to stay at my own company I took a cut, which is fine because I got benefits).

              After I turned them down (their offer came in about 10k under what I’d told them my bottom dollar was to keep up my standard of living) they came up another 2500 and offered a 7k signing bonus. The VP of their company called me and tried to convince me to take it. I told him it wasn’t just about money, there were other factors, but a signing bonus doesn’t make up for a ‘bottom dollar’ since it’s highly taxed and is a one time amount anyway.

              Kind of made me be like… I should play hard ball more often!

      2. Lizabeth*

        How did you keep the annoyance out of your voice when they kept asking? I know that’s going to be a problem for me….

        1. Effie*

          Smile. It really changes the tone of your voice. I keep my voice airy and matter-of-fact, no edge to it, and my best advice is to smile (although years of customer service/support experience is a factor too).

        2. Formica Dinette*

          I haven’t tried this before, but when it’s time to job search in the future, I know I’ll be asking friends to role play this kind of thing with me.

      3. stk*

        I tried “I’m sorry, that’s not information I disclose” once, and the hiring manager pushed back on that and it was just super awkward because I didn’t have a follow-up response when they asked again except “I’m sorry, as I said, I’m not happy to tell you that”. The repeating just seemed super awkward. (Or at least it seemed like that to me, and I didn’t get that job.) Do you have any suggestions around that?

        I love the “I wouldn’t leave for less than x” framing though, that’s fantastic.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think that got extra awkward because you weren’t giving any context. It’s easier to say that your employer considers it confidential (which they probably do) or something like that.

          1. Anonymousaurus Rex*

            Yes, that’s what I went to after the 2nd push-back. “I’m sorry, but my employer really prefers to keep salaries confidential. I’m not at liberty to share that at this time.” etc.

      4. Stranger than fiction*

        Oh I’m so glad that worked out for you. You clearly must’ve done it with more finesse than my Bf when he tried it a couple months ago. He said he could tell the corporate recruiter went really chilly after that…and then completely went silent.

      5. Leigh*

        Had you been offered the job verbally or in writing before the background check? I had a verbal offer that I accepted, and when current salary came up in the background check — and not at any point in a month of interviews, the offer was tabled (i.e. we’re not proceeding forward and we’re also not pulling it, but please wait another month while we [whatever]) so I walked. Their policy was not to extend a written offer until background check was completed. HM was floored but unable to combat it.

    2. Elle*

      Thanks for this! This is exactly my mindset in job hunting. I do really like my current job but I’ll leave for the right price.

    3. BF50*

      That is EXACTLY the wording I used when I got my current job. Fortunately, I got no pushback.

    4. WerkingIt*

      I say something similar. I have a few levels depending on how many times they ask.

      1 “That’s very personal. It would be helpful if you’d like to share your budgeted range for this position so we can tell if we are in the same page.”
      2 “I’m really not comfortable sharing that. As I’m sure you can understand. I’d like to focus on what the salary range is for this position.”
      3 “You know, Massachusetts recently made it against the law for potential employers to ask this information for a lot of reasons. Many of them I’m sure you can support, like basing pay on salary history continues to solidify the wage gap. New York and California are likely to consider similar legislation soon. I hope [our state] and others follow suit. ”

      Frankly, by the time they’ve asked me a third time to answer a question that I’ve clearly said I’m uncomfortable with I really DGAF how they take it when I recite #3. It’s only happened a couple times, but both time the interview and interviewer were already unimpressive.

      However, I did have one guy actually ask me a 4th and 5th time and even circled back to it again later! I seriously said “Look, I’m not telling you my salary history, in any way form or fashion, any more than I intend to tell you the balance of my checking account. Would you share your salary with some faceless voice on the other end of the line who might use it to pay you less than you deserve or for all you know could be on speaker phone with 10 other people? Let’s move on.” He was a doofus. I regret nothing except that it wasn’t a Skype call so I could have seen his face.

      I will say that depending on the situation, I have shared ranges — low $XXs, high $XXs, etc. Depends.

      This is a big deal to me. Obviously. And I’d rather walk away from a job that doesn’t respect that than feel crappy and like I’ve been interrogated and wondering if I painted myself into a corner.

      1. WerkingIt*

        Actually, I’ve been asked other things that I didn’t feel things like revenue or budgets or whatever. I’m allowed to say, hey I think your questions are getting into specifics that I don’t feel comfortable disclosing. Funny how interviewers respect your current employer’s financial status more than they can respect yours sometimes.

        I also mentioned that I knew someone who worked at the organization when asked why applied. I said “I have an aquaintance who said it was a great place to work.” I had not had a chance to chat with her before the interview and I wasn’t sure what her situation was or her relationship with the person I was interviewing. I really didn’t feel comfortable throwing her name around without speaking with her for a lot of reasons. In the same way I wouldn’t use someone as a reference before speaking with them. The interviewer said “what!? that’s weird but ok I guess.” Again, insert eye roll here.

      2. Pineapple Incident*

        I’m sorry you’ve even had to get to the 3rd one, but it’s a good thing to have a script for. Good for you to have the cohones to call someone on their completely ridiculous crap when they asked a 4th and 5th time for your salary- that spiel is awesome!

        1. WerkingIt*

          Thanks! It’s crazy sometimes. I one had someone ask for my salary history during an interview that included two of my potential coworkers. Not supervisors, coworkers. It was highly inappropriate.

      3. Liz*

        You are my hero. This only happened to me once, about 20 years ago. I was at the end of the interview, having done pretty well, spoken with probably 3 or 4 people.

        They asked for my salary history (usually a good sign, I thought) but I said, “Instead, let me tell you that I currently have an offer which will pay me $X.” It WAS a lot more than I was making currently, but it was true! I did have that offer. And honestly, I thought that was more valuable information for them. Why perseverate on how much I make now, when I’m telling you how much you need to offer me if you want me?

        But perseverate they did. The one person interviewing me brought in reinforcements. They didn’t exactly strap me to a chair and waterboard me, but dang. It became THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN THE WORLD. It was awkward and horrible, and if it’s that damn important to them, they should just tell you it’s a deal-breaker instead of ruining your afternoon.

    5. Nola*

      Ditto to what many others here have said. I was in a role that I was severely underpaid. After changing jobs a few times, telling the hiring managers my salary expectations and salary history. I realized that as long as companies know your salary history most will try to use that as a point of reference for the offer stage. I changed roles to something more in line with my experience and a considerable pay increase last fall. When asked about salary I answered with my salary expectations are in the range of $XX,000 – $xx, 000. That is negotiable based upon other benefits available but $XX, 000 is the minimum.
      I didn’t experience too much push back over the dozen or so interviews I went on, but if I had I have learned I probably wouldn’t enjoy working at those companies any way. I work in HR so that means I would have to follow the same line of insanity when recruiting. Especially, if they were unwilling to discuss their range for the role.

  2. Collie*

    When my contract was taken over by another agency, they wanted to know what Agency A was paying (it was $14.00/hr). I told them I was looking to make a fresh start with the rollover and I’d be happy to negotiate based on the job since I realized I was totally ripped off with a refusal to negotiate to begin with. They pushed quite a bit but I insisted I wasn’t comfortable sharing the information and I was interested in what they would offer. They offered me $19, I asked if they were open to negotiating, they said, “sure, depending,” and I asked to make it an even $20. It wasn’t a huge difference — I did it more on principle and for practice more than anything else, but I was scared out of my mind, this being my first “real” job. I got a call back a while later saying that would be fine. I received one COL raise since, but received my Master’s shortly after that, so I’m looking to negotiate again a little harder come the next review.

    And, a little more context: this all happened over the phone.

    1. Rogue*

      I once negotiated to go from $X.35 to $X.50, solely on the fact that it was an even number, I was happy with the initial offer, but the odd change annoyed me. Lol

    2. Green Goose*

      In undergrad I applied for a campus job. They asked me what I made previously and what my expected pay was. At the time I had come from a $10/hr student position in my home town so I put $10/hr. Then the two hiring managers said that all University of California student jobs were set at $8.50/hr (this was a while ago) and asked if it was an issue. I said it wasn’t but I thought it was so strange that they would even ask if they could only pay me a set amount. What was the point of asking?

  3. Jillybean*

    Recently I simply said I’m not sure if compensation is considered confidential information and it’s been no issue – I’m not lying, we do have confidentiality clauses in my employment agreement that are vague and sweeping so it would be fair to assume on both ends that it could reasonably covered. It’s also fair to say that your salary expectations are x with y assumptions moving forward but you’re flexible on x if y meets z, otherwise you expect x to increase for any lacking in y.

    1. Jerry Vandesic*

      In the US, the National Labor Relations Act forbids restricting employees from discussing salary and wages. As a result, any company policy that tried to keep compensation confidential would be null and void.

      1. Frances*

        I believe that would only apply to discussions within the company – they can keep it confidential from outsiders.

        1. Jerry Vandesic*

          There doesn’t seem to be any limitation to discussions among employees. In Service Merchandise Company, Inc. v. Priscilla Jones (1990), the NLRB required the employer to post “WE WILL NOT distribute, maintain, or enforce rules prohibiting you from discussing your wages or other terms or conditions of employment with others.” The rules apply to “others” rather than just “other employees.”

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          That’s exactly correct. Companies can’t prohibit wage discussions among (most) employees, but the law doesn’t prevent them from making it confidential outside of the company.

      2. Lurker*

        I thought that restriction only applied to employees discussing salary and wages with other employees of the same company, not with anyone anywhere.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Other way around. It allows employees to discuss wage information internally and among themselves, but not with those outside of the company.

          1. Lurker*

            No, I was correct, a restriction (of discussing salary) is forbidden among employees but not everywhere.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I apologize—we’re both saying the same thing but in different forms. I was trying to say it allows employees to discuss internally, and I had misread your original post. You were noting that it’s forbidden to restrict employees from talking to one another. Functionally, it’s the same outcome.

      3. Jess*

        I think the wording here still works though as simply a polite way to dodge the question. She’s technically just saying she’s unsure if it’s confidential & given that there’s enough language in her contract to make a reasonable person (who, like many, is probably unaware of the law on this) unsure if compensation is covered by the confidentiality agreement, that seems like a completely defensible statement. Now if the interviewer countered by saying that it’s illegal to make such info confidential, you might be left without a good response short of answering the question. But you’d be left in the same position if an interviewer pushed back on any polite attempt to demur providing the info.

      4. Kindling*

        Well, I think there’s a difference between ‘my company wants to keep it confidential’ and ‘my company will literally sue me if I tell you’. An employer should still respect a ‘my company wants to keep it confidential’ and leave it at that, even if it’s not strictly illegal.

      5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        That’s actually not true. Particularly for the vast majority of workers who are not covered by the NLRA.

    1. pinyata*

      I like the strategy in this article (enter your desired salary in every spot, and then create a section for one more job and write “the salaries entered here reflect my desired salary of $xx”) better than what’s mostly being suggested here: enter 0 or the lowest you possibly can. Many times you can’t enter 0 in job applications, and at least this shows that you have a number in mind. Is there something I haven’t thought of that makes choosing your preferred salary and entering that, with an explanation, a less preferable decision than entering an obviously low/wrong number?

    2. CmdrShepard4ever*

      What how dare you mention she who must not be named!
      There is only one HR Blog God, remember thy 1st Askamanager commandment: Thou shall not worship false idols!

      Sorry couldn’t help myself.

      1. Frozen Ginger*

        I just read through her spiel on them and I couldn’t agree more with your “Ugh”.

  4. Recruiter*

    I do interviews every day and I just don’t make it a big deal if it’s not on their application. I only push for it if someone was in a higher position (i.e. supervisor) and then on their application says they will accept $10/hr. as their desired salary. They sometimes say that they are just trying to get a foot in the door, but realistically, if I offered them a job at $10/hr and they were used to making $22/hr, they wouldn’t stay at the job and then I would have to replace them again.
    I just try to focus on what they are looking to make and go from there.

    1. Shadow*

      The problem is that it’s frequently not clear that someone is willing to take less no matter their job title. Yeah I’d also be hesitant to hire someone willling to take less. I’d want them to tell me why.

      1. Epizirco*

        How about someone who was laid off and needs a job, or wants a job that is less stressful or consuming than their last one? It is really unfair to exclude someone from consideration because they will be making less than in a previous position.

        1. Shadow*

          Depends. I might not hire someone if the learning curve is high and I don’t think they’ll stay long. if the learning curve is small then it might make more sense. If my salary is aligned with their long term goals then of course that’s a lot better

        2. Marci*

          This is exactly why I took my current job. I was laid off and wanted a less stressful job than my prior one, not to mention a shorter commute and great benefits. I got all of that, although I am making significantly less money. Yet I have ZERO regrets and love coming to work each day.

    2. NJ Anon*

      I have never asked interviewees their salary. What’s the point? We know the range we can offer and it has no bearing on what they were making at their last job.

      1. Shadow*

        Well it is relevant from a cost perspective. Don’t you prefer to pay as little as possible for anything you spend money on regardless of your budget?

        1. Gadfly*

          Which isn’t even a good plan for disposable items most of the time. The better formula is pay as little as you can for something of appropriate quality regardless of your budget. Otherwise you get paper plates that can double as tissue paper. (And that is without considering moral and turnover issues from having widely disparate wages/salaries)

          Either way, knowing a previous salary tells you exactly bupkiss and diddly squat about what you need to pay. It might tell you that once upon a time the company (that this person is choosing to no longer work for) got a good deal–but you don’t have that coupon and the sale is over. They are telling you their current price.

          1. Shadow*

            We know thats not true. Lots of people, in fact I’d argue the majority of people will seriously consider a job offer if it’s just a few more thousand than their current salary. It’s bargaining 101. I’m not saying that’s the smartest thing to do but let’s not pretend like current salary has nothing to do with the equation.

    3. General Ginger*

      But they really might be happy with a less demanding position and truly be willing to accept that paycut.

      1. Clinical Social Worker*

        Then they will have the opportunity to state that in the interview and make their case.

  5. ThatGirl*

    I’ve been filling out ATS forms where salary was a required field. For the one I did yesterday, I just put 0 for all of them. I *did* fill out the expected salary, though? So hopefully that won’t be a red flag… I thought the job itself sounded great.

    1. Liane*

      Not all ATS forms will accept that. I ran into something similar with one at a good company here. I include my copy editor/writer side gig for a variety of reasons, but my stipend was apparently lower than the ATS would take. I tried xxx, “varies,” leaving it blank; I finally ended up trying out numbers until I found the lowest it would take, although I didn’t like doing so. Have had a couple interviews there, and never been asked about my pay.

      1. Mmmmmk*

        See the link to article above. It suggests you but your desired salary number (eg. $50k) in each field and repeat and then add an explanation where you can that this is your desired salary and not the historical number. Thought this was a pretty good strategy.

  6. Murphy*

    Being asked the question out loud, I would definitely do the “I’m looking for something in the X-Y range.” In a form, it’s trickier. I’ll leave it blank if I can, put the above answer if I can’t, or just put the truth if I’m really interested in the job and the form won’t let me put anything in other than a valid number.

  7. BRR*

    If the interviewer presses has anybody tried pushing back by asking why it’s relevant and subsequently that you want to discuss salary specifically for the position you’re applying for? How would you all phrase it? Would you avoid doing that at all? I have a feeling it wouldn’t go over well a lot of the time but it would be so nice to just shut it down.

    1. Persephone Mulberry*

      I’ve never been asked to provide a salary history but if I were asked in person (vs on a form), my reflexive reaction would be a polite but quizzical “why do you need that information?”

    2. all aboard the anon train*

      I’ve asked why they need it and if they kept on pushing asked if there had been a history of unhappiness over the salary with past employees or candidates?

      In my experience, if they’re extremely persistent and pushy about the salary, it’s because it’s very low. The one times the recruiter relented and told me why she needed to know my salary was because they had trouble attracting the type of candidates they wanted for their salary range. The salary itself is something most people wouldn’t scoff at, but for the education, experience, and level of work they wanted in an otherwise high-paying industry, it was pretty low.

      1. fposte*

        Oh, that’s an interesting approach. I have reservations out of the straight-out “nuh, not going to say” that gets suggested sometimes, but framing your response as a concern about the question is one worth considering.

      2. Mabel*

        Then they can publish the salary range for the position and waste less time interviewing people who can’t/won’t work for that range. Problem solved without trying to get irrelevant (and personal) information from candidates.

        1. Anon Anon*

          The problem is, naturally, that they don’t get the type of candidates that they want applying when they advertise the range. I think most of those organizations are hoping to wow a potential employee with how amazing the mission, organization, people are, with the idea that those potential employee’s will overlook the salary offered.

          1. Hey Nonnie*

            Apparently this tactic isn’t working anyway, since they stated that they’re still having trouble attracting the candidates they want. Frankly, I wouldn’t expect good high-level talent to be “wowed” by anything once the bait and switch comes into play.

            1. Gadfly*

              Even if I had been interested and willing to make that trade, I run from bait and switch tactics. Makes everything else too questionable for a long term interaction.

            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Totally agreed. The problem is that they’re paying too little, and it sounds like their current approach is more likely to poison the well.

              It’s one thing to underpay. It’s another to try to hide the ball and waste a candidate’s time knowing that they’re likely to have concerns about the low salary. I’d be much more irritated with an employer who I felt strung me along than one that was upfront about their compensation limitations. And I have a feeling other candidates would be annoyed, too, and I’m sure word gets around. Now instead of a bait-and-switch problem, the employer also creates a reputation for being slightly shady.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I came with funding at my first law job, but I still had to negotiate my starting salary. My future boss wanted to pay the base rate provided by the fellowship (that’s not how it’s supposed to work—it’s supposed to subsidize the cost of a new attorney, but not to limit compensation or serve as the only source of compensation). Asking about my prior salary history would have been kind of dumb because it wasn’t at all comparable, but she asked, anyway.

      I knew the base rate I was being offered was below the market rate, and after adjusting for inflation, it was almost the same in real dollars as what I had made before law school. So I asked two questions:

      1. “Will [salary offer] place me at parity with other attorneys of comparable experience?” and if not,
      2. “How extreme will that pay inequality become at five and ten years?”

      The answer to question #2 was pretty alarming—I would have been paid $30K lower at year 5 than someone who’d been hired entry-level without external funding. I told her that all I wanted was to be brought in at parity and ideally at a rate higher than my pre-law-school salary. So she came back with a $5K increase, which was about a 15% increase over the original offer and brought me within the market rate’s range.

      [I found out later that I had still been lowballed—I was being paid $9K less than a comparable attorney should have been paid at that organization. They corrected my salary after the first year, but they lost a ton of credibility with me.]

      1. Naruto*

        I don’t understand why people do that. If they’re underpaying you, eventually you’re going to find out. Presumably they don’t want disgruntled employees or high turnover, so why not just treat you fairly from the start? (I also think it’s particularly egregious that they paid you unfairly compared to their own internal salary guideposts — it’s different if for whatever reason they just can’t meet the market rate externally.)

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I agree. It was a big factor in why I left. When they corrected my salary, they called it a “performance raise,” and I told them that my understanding was that any raise in excess of 10% was a salary correction. Granted, I was feeling really salty, and they were surprised I didn’t collapse in gratitude.

          I think they knew I was going to leave and had given me the raise to try to retain me without saying that explicitly.

          1. Pantsonfire*

            Any raise in excess of 10% is a salary correction? Is that a standard practice, or just how you saw your raise? I’m not criticizing your wording or anything, genuinely curious because I’ve never heard of that before

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              At the time and in that specific job and in that specific field in that specific geography, a raise in excess of 10% (with no change in job responsibilities or title) was considered a salary correction. It’s definitely not applicable across all jobs/regions/sectors, although raises above 15% at a non-start-up usually signal that you were being significantly underpaid.

        2. Stranger than fiction*

          Oh you’d be surprised how arrogant some employers are, ’cause you know we’re all so easily replaceable.

    4. NoMoreMrFixit*

      My previous position was in a different field as I am changing careers. My old salary would not be relevant as it was for a significantly different position. If they still push for a number then I’ll provide what the typical range is for that position in my neck of the woods.

  8. Katniss*

    This is so great. Scripts for this kind of thing are so useful just because of how much I resent even being asked (I feel like I’m basically being asked “how can we best cheat you?”) so anything that keeps that resentment completely out of my refusal to answer is needed.

    1. Neosmom*

      I had a recruiter insist that if I did not share my salary history with her, it was a sign I did not trust her (of course, she would not disclose my salary history to her client companies). I said that I was unwilling to share my salary history and wished her well.

      1. Anonymous Poster*

        I could see from a recruiter’s perspective where they simply won’t pass jobs along that won’t interest you because you’re not looking for a pay cut. You might fit, but if it were a ~10k reduction in salary, you probably wouldn’t be interested.

        I’m not saying whether you did right or wrong. I’m saying I can see for a recruiter where that might be valuable information so they aren’t wasting peoples’ time.

        1. lowercase holly*

          but an easy fix would be for a recruiter to ask the lowest salary that would interest a candidate and go from there.

          1. Anonymous Poster*

            You’re completely right. I wish they would do that. And ask what sorts of benefits you’re looking for too, all of those would be great conversation topics.

            1. Mabel*

              You just inspired me to make a list of the benefits I want in my next position. It’s easy to forget these things in the midst of interviewing.

          2. Liane*

            There are valid reasons why someone might be interested in a lower salary–moving to a lower COL area, wanting a job with less responsibilities than the current one, etc.

        2. jamlady*

          I usually counter with asking for the pay range of the position – I’ve pulled out of quite a few potential jobs and I appreciate recruiters who are willing to be transparent about that.

        3. Burned by too many recruiters*

          Maybe. Then again, I had a recruiter who was getting ready to present me as a candidate for a position that was budgeted at the starting point in my range. However, because I wouldn’t give her my salary history, she told me her client requires it for their records and the fact that I wouldn’t disclose my salary history made me appear dishonest and if I didn’t disclose, then she couldn’t present me as a candidate.

          I thanked her for her time and told her I would work with another company.

          My suspicion is that given my salary was about $24K less than what the role was supposedly budgeted at, then at some point that budget would mysteriously fall to less than what she had originally presented to me.

      2. Hey Nonnie*

        “… if I did not share my salary history with her, it was a sign I did not trust her…”

        “If you’re asking for my salary history rather than advocating for me to get compensation based on my current value to the company, I think that lack of trust is warranted.”


      3. Rogue*

        I recently saw a recruiter publish something similar on LinkedIn. She said she asked a candidate for their pay rate and when they refused, she said she told them that she couldn’t work with them if they didn’t trust her and told them to go work with a recruiter they trusted. The post had 1000s of comments, including recruiters agreeing that they won’t work with candidates that refuse to provide this info.

    1. LW Here*

      Whoa!!! I’m in NYC so I wonder what would’ve happened if they’d offered me the job now instead of 6 weeks ago!

      (BTW I have inside knowledge that makes me believe I was NOT low-balled, but my staffing agency did use my salary history as a major reason why I shouldn’t try to negotiate.)

  9. Bend & Snap*

    I’ve used “I’d rather discuss the range” twice. Both times the recruiters said “Okay, give me your range.”

    Recruiter #1 (external): asked me for a number and I point blanked asked “What’s the range?” and he told me.

    Recruiter #2 (internal)” Asked me for my range and wouldn’t give me the range for the job. I named my highest number and he said it was in line.

    Why would you keep the salary range from a candidate? like why is the job I’m assessing to support myself top secret as far as pay?

    1. Turtlewings*

      “Why would you keep the salary range from a candidate? like why is the job I’m assessing to support myself top secret as far as pay?”

      That’s one of my biggest job-hunting pet peeves! I only work in exchange for money, pal.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        There was a recent twitter kerfuffle about a Canadian company that cancelled a second interview when the candidate asked about salary and benefits. They only want people with passion who don’t care about such things.

        Now I think you can work treating pediatric cancer patients and still want to know the salary, but the company created online takeout menus.

        1. Turtlewings*

          I read an article about that kerfuffle! Yeah, very rage-making. How dare people need to support themselves.

        2. General Ginger*

          I just have so much trouble processing this. I would wholeheartedly love to work for an org with a great mission, but they’d still have to pay me so I can, you know, live. I don’t think I’ll ever understand how “hey, can I survive financially if I work for you” is unreasonable to ask.

    2. NonnyNon*

      “Why would you keep the salary range from a candidate?”

      To avoid a situation where they tell the candidate the range is from $X-Y but then end up offering something closer to $X because [reasons] and the candidate feels cheated and resentful that they weren’t offered the “full amount”.

      To be fair I think this is ridiculous. Employers should be willing to share ranges and, if they can only offer a candidate $X instead of $Y, explain that decision as best they can. But I’ve had my sister complain at length to me about not getting $Y even when she knew the reasons (not having enough experience in Z to justify $Y) that I can sort of understand employers wanting to avoid that sort of “negotiation” with candidates, even if I don’t agree with it.

      1. jamlady*

        I see your point – and man that’s annoying. Like you said, there are many many reasons and I can see it getting old when people both understand AND refuse to accept that.

        I negotiated yesterday and they met my top number – I realized after the fact that they might have been willing to pay more, but my top number was closer to their bottom number and that’s fine with me (it’s still a really really good number). Plus it leaves room for bonuses lol

      2. hbc*

        Had that conversation with an employee recently. He thought he was due a raise because he knew he was in the lower edge of the range, but he was under-performing *and* pretty clearly belonged at the lower end.

        But I’m still glad we shared it.

      3. Adam*

        I’ve wondered: rather than give the candidate a range and set yourself up for the unreasonable ones who think they deserve every available penny, why not start by listing the very bottom of the range only and go from there? When I apply for a job I want to be sure I can expect to make at least a certain amount. If I can feel confident in that and know there’s a negotiable range after that I would be fine.

        Granted this wouldn’t be perfect as it leaves the window open for pay disparity if the applicant never learns just how wide the range could potentially be, but I feel it at least gives them a starting point when thinking about what to negotiate for.

        1. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

          At least in theory, I’m onboard with employers offering a range slightly lower than their actual range. If their actual range is 50-60k, I think it’s kind of smart to advertise 47-57k. Its close enough to the actual range to provide the relevant info and this way no one is getting the very bottom of the range.

          It’s a silly headgame, I realize, and maybe there are more compliacted factors at play in real life, but sometimes a polite fiction goes a long way to making everybody’s lives easier.

      4. Alice*

        If your sister is complaining to you in her personal life, it might not be very fun for you but at least it’s not happening at the office. If she were complaining in the office, despite knowing the reasons, then that would be unprofessional.
        What I don’t get is hiring managers who worry that their new hires would react badly in the professional context to learning that they are getting a salary at the low end of the range. If the person is immature enough to make that a problem, why are you hiring them at all? If the person is mature and professional, and if you really do have a good reason for paying at the low end of the range, why are you worried about their reaction?

        1. Mabel*

          This! I was thinking the same thing.

          And if you’re the candidate: If you’re offered the low end of the range, and the hiring manager explains why you were offered that amount, and you don’t agree with their reasoning (or can’t afford to take that salary), then don’t accept the job.

        2. Bend & Snap*

          Oh PS I don’t even know the range of my current job. I know I’m “in the middle.” But I don’t know what that means. Is there 20K above me? 40? 60? WHAT IS THE NUMBER.

      5. Artemesia*

        I know someone who was told the range was X to Y. She had good experience and felt she should be near the top of the range and they offered X. She pushed. They said, everyone was going to get X. She pushed some more and got a one time signing bonus of 5K. But the managers were forever negative and pissy with her because of her attempts to negotiate. I believe this is part of the gender discrimination women who push get — but it can be an issue. The business should not announce a range of X to Y if they are going to offer everyone they hire in the role X. Duh. (or maybe the Y was reserved for a really special bro in case he came along; the company was run by friends hiring friends in the top slots and they did run it into the ground after a promising start.

  10. Callifleur*

    Love this question, and so relevant. I’ve been in non-profit for a few years now and I’m interviewing Monday for a job in the private sector. Doing my own research and asking my colleagues what they make has made me realize how truly underpaid I am. If asked, I plan to say something like, “Of course, it’s general knowledge that non-profits aren’t competitive with the private sector when it comes to salaries. While what’s most important to me in a new position is finding a good fit, I am also seeking compensation that is more commesirate with my training and experiencing. After doing some research, a rate of $X seems fair.”

    How does that sound? And should “$X” be a range or a solid number?

    1. Gandalf the Nude*

      That seems overly wordy to me, especially for a spoken conversation. I’d probably cut it down to, “Well, non-profit salaries aren’t terribly competitive with the private sector. But I’m looking for something in the $X range.” Adjusting for voice, of course.

      1. BRR*

        I agree it’s wordy but I would also leave out the nonprofit part. I would just say what you’re looking for. I always give a range and say depending on benefits.

        1. Not a Real Giraffe*

          I tend to agree. You can save the nonprofit bit for if they truly push to know your current salary, as a way to signal that, in this case especially, your current salary is not relevant to their offer.

          1. Gandalf the Nude*

            Also agreed. I think I thought she was asking about if they pushed, but definitely just keep it about expectations to start. Unnecessary verbiage puts you on the defense because it makes you look defensive.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Also agreed, just because they should hopefully know you’re coming from a nonprofit.

      2. Artemesia*

        I agree that a range should be used, ‘depending on the job itself and the benefits.’

    2. anoncmntr*

      Just wanted to let you know that the word you’re looking for is “commensurate”, not “commiserate”. Hope that was helpful and not obnoxious! Your script sounds great.

    3. animaniactoo*

      I wouldn’t say “X seems fair” as that just sounds awkward and less confident to my ear. I would go with something more along the lines of “Having researched market rate for the position and my skill level, I would be looking for X.”

    4. Happy Lurker*

      Dawn the first comment on the post said it best:
      “I wouldn’t consider leaving my current position for less than $X [or you could say for less than a range of $X-Y]”
      Your script is excellent for when/if they push back.

      1. Callifleur*

        Thanks for all the good feedback! These are all great suggestions. Keep your fingers crossed for me that I get to have this conversation!

    5. esra*

      I always do an $x-y range, where x is what I’d be happy with and y is what I’d be really happy with.

  11. Audiophile*

    I encountered this question a few times in phone interviews and how I handled it, depended on a few factors. If I was very interested in the job and thought it might be a barrier to moving forward if I didn’t answer, then I’d answer honestly, usually giving a range instead of a specific number. If I was only somewhat interested, I’d usually just give a range.

    Interestingly, the last time I answered this question, I said my salary was confidential and gave a range, which didn’t seem to be a huge deal. I was stunned into silence when the interviewer immediately responded by saying she couldn’t provide any salary information but the range I’d given would likely line up with the specific department I’d be working in. I hadn’t even asked her to provide a range and couldn’t believe she wasn’t going to at least confirm that it lined up with their salary band.

    1. OhWell*

      A similar thing happened to me, except they said they weren’t even certain of the range. The terrible part was that this was an internal interview and clearly, the interviewer was STILL trying to low-ball me. It didn’t work out for other reasons, but I can’t say I’m upset about it.

  12. finman*

    My biggest issue is when the recruiters you are working with won’t let it go and I’ve had 20 minute arguments with recruiters I was working with to find me jobs on the fact that salary alone is not something I will analyze a job on and I won’t be sharing my current salary. To me salary is one part of a total compensation package. If a company was giving me 100,000 in salary, with an additional 5% put into my 401K and healthcare that cost me $5,000/year in premiums that comp package (~$100,000) would be commensurate with a company giving me a salary of $115,000 with no 401K provision and healthcare costing me $15,000/year in premiums. But, if I worked with company B in my scenario, I would be at a big advantage if a company were to demand I provide my salary.

    1. Mabel*

      Me, too. A recruiter called me a while back, and during the conversation, he asked me for my current salary. I hadn’t planned to refuse to tell him, but I guess I got a bee in my bonnet about it because I said that I didn’t think it was relevant. He was stunned that I didn’t just answer the question. I must have been the first person to refuse. He wanted to argue about it, and I explained my position, but he basically said I was unemployable if I wasn’t willing to give out my current salary to recruiters. That’s when I decided I didn’t want to work with him. What a jerk. It’s not my problem if he can’t figure out how to do his job when everyone doesn’t follow his script.

  13. Julie*

    This is more of a question than advice. What do you do if the job posting asks for your salary history?

    1. De Minimis*

      Especially if it’s a form based application that won’t take no [or zero] for an answer.

        1. Frozen Ginger*

          I think a string of 9’s would make it more obvious it’s the real number.

          “Teapot Inspector Annual Salary:$999999”

      1. Persephone Mulberry*

        How about if it’s “please include your salary history in your cover letter”? Do you ignore it and possibly get flagged as “can’t follow directions” or do you specifically address the request without actually disclosing? And if the latter, what wording would you suggest?

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      Refuse to give it. And if an online form insists you put a number in, just put in 0 to get out of putting in a real number.

    3. Brett*

      Read the form though.

      At last job, their ridiculous application stated “Any false, misleading or incomplete information substituted for accurate information will be grounds to disqualify you from further consideration in the application process” with a notarized signature acknowledging that.

      And they enforced it, to ridiculous levels. Every employee had to provide a 4506-T after receiving a conditional offer and most employees were polygraphed including verifying their work and salary history on their application. Every year several people would lose their jobs a couple of weeks in because of false information on their application (mostly work history or criminal record).

  14. Lizard*

    The last time I negotiated, I was moving interstate from a high COL area and couldn’t find good data on the salary bands in the new city for my somewhat niche field. I also wasn’t sure how they were going to structure their offer so I said something like, “Well, it’s variable depending on bonuses and quality incentive programs,” which was in fact the case. I’m pretty sure they were mostly concerned that I was coming from a higher salary and didn’t want me to have unrealistic expectations, but in fact the city where I was living at the time had a glut of people in my field so salaries were relatively low. The offer was just about what I had been making in the HCOL city but with lower expenses, it ended up being an effective raise.

  15. minnesnowder*

    What are the advantages to withholding your salary history? Is it so you don’t get low balled when seeking employment for more money? The only way I can relate this to my own situation is that I’m currently working two jobs and am seeking employment that totals the combined salaries. I’m salaried at one and hourly at the other, but if they want me to move to an exempt status I’ll need to quit my side hustle and make that total salary (which is also totally reasonable for the position and industry).

    I personally want more salary transparency, though I suppose that is more when you’re actually part of the organization.

    1. minnesnowder*

      What I meant to say is that I suppose it’s irrelevant what I make at each, and that my combined salary defines the worth of my time.

      1. animaniactoo*

        What my time is worth to me might be more than the value of the work being done. I do some work for my godmother and I am currently continuing to push her to find someone to do some of the niddling stuff because it just doesn’t require my expertise and she shouldn’t be paying me my computer tutor/other skilled rates to help put something back up on a shelf she can’t reach and reset the microwave clock. Also, enough of those niddling little things and to me it is actually not worth the loss of my free time to do them when piled on top of the skilled work that I do for her.

        So, the value of the work is the value of the work, regardless of how much you have previously been paid. If you were underpaid before, then being able to not have your value assessed on that salary is a benefit to you. If you have previously made more, than the value of the work may mean that the job is not for you unless you’re willing to take a paycut. The benefit to you there is also that if you’re willing to take a paycut, you don’t want to scare them out of offering you the job over concerns you’ll be unhappy with it and don’t believe you when you say “No really! I’m looking for less responsibility!”.

    2. BRR*

      Many employers will offer your salary +X% which is often times less than what a position should pay. It also severely impacts people who are underpaid and just feeds the gender pay gap. Companies should offer the amount that they value the position.

    3. SouthernLadybug*

      Also, for groups that traditionally are underpaid or face wage discrimination (such as women and racial and ethnic minorities), basing salary on a previous salary perpetuates that. Often times when previous salaries are asked for, it does impact the offer being made.

    4. Anonymous Educator*

      It may not be “low balled” in the sense of your being offered less than you want, but it may be “low balled” for the industry or the company. If you were perfectly fine with $65k, and they offered you $70k, but you later found out that all your colleagues at the same level were making $80k, wouldn’t you then think that disclosing your salary history had something to do with that?

    5. Dzhymm, BfD*

      It’s a widely held belief that in any negotiation of this sort, whoever quotes the first number ends up in a weaker bargaining position. This is because one side now has a piece of information that the other lacks (e.g. “I now know what Jane will settle for so I don’t have to reveal that we were prepared to pay more”). It can go the other way too; if the interviewer gives a salary range first the candidate might not realize that they were worth more than they were prepared to settle for.

      1. John B Public*

        True, and it really goes against the whole philosophy of what the purpose of hiring is: for both parties to meet needs/wants and start a mutually beneficial relationship. If one party (employer) is trying to screw the other (future employee), then the second party is not very likely to give 100% or stay very long. It starts the relationship off in a dynamic of resentment and is counterproductive.

      2. Anonymous Educator*

        It makes me sad that some employers view salary as “How low can I get away with paying this person?” instead of “What is appropriate compensation for this person?” Even though I’ve worked in at a few cash-strapped organizations, I’ve also worked at well-off organizations that balk at paying employees well but will happily waste $30k here or $50k there on ridiculous abandoned projects.

        1. AnotherHRPro*

          I just want to say that not all employers do this. I have worked at an organization that was always trying to “get a deal” (non-profit with limited budgets) and for a company that has a very competitive compensation strategy against similarly situated organizations. At the later, we do ask what people make (to make sure that our offer will work for them) but we do not “go low” just because we can.

          1. Anonymous Educator*

            No, I fully agree. Even though there are orgs and companies trying to get away with how little they can pay people, many other places do try to do right by their employees, because they aren’t shortsighted—they know well-compensated employees will be more invested in doing well and want to stay around longer.

            That said…

            we do ask what people make (to make sure that our offer will work for them)

            … there isn’t any reason you need to ask what people make in order to make sure your office will work for them. Ask them what salary range they’re looking for, not what their current salary is.

            1. Chaordic One*

              I’m increasingly starting to believe that if a nonprofit can’t afford to pay people living wages, then it should probably shut its doors. Balancing their budget on the backs of the employees is NOT cool.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                I subscribe to this philosophy. Given that many non-religious non-profits frame their work as informed by social justice, I think it’s incumbent on them to try to practice that in their management and dealings, including in how they compensate their staff.

                1. Gadfly*

                  Although that backfires at fundraising time when people go and look at charts of how much is spent on things like staffing versus “the work”. A non-profit with people getting paid close to market rates risks being labeled all but fraudulent.

                  How many times have you seen articles like “This charity claims to be helping XYZ, but look how much the CEO makes!” (The answer being significantly less than a non profit peer…”

                2. Anonymous Educator*

                  I don’t want the CEO to be making $1,000,000 while the workers below her are making $25,000-$40,000. As a potential donor, I would be fine with actual workers being paid a good wage ($60-80k) if the CEO would take a “pay cut” to make “only” $200,000 or even $150,000. If it’s such a noble cause, why can’t the rich be slightly less rich for that cause?

                  What annoys me isn’t my money going to paying hard-working employees but my money going to mailings asking me for more money. Save the trees, the ink, the postage, and put that money to good use—the actual cause, the actual workers helping the cause.

                3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  I’ve seen donors really shift their thinking on this, which I think is the right thing to do. When you frame overhead as an issue of paying people fairly, donors have indicated they’re more willing to cover “overhead.” With the exception of the Red Cross and nonprofits of that size, donors have indicated they’re not willing to pay market rates for exec compensation, and they prefer to keep exec pay within a single-digit multiplier of the pay for the lowest-paid staff. That all seems reasonable to me.

            2. Anonymous Educator*

              there isn’t any reason you need to ask what people make in order to make sure your office will work for them.

              Sorry. That should say:

              there isn’t any reason you need to ask what people make in order to make sure your offer will work for them.

    6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I encourage you to frame your salary not as “what your time is worth,” but rather, what it is worth to the employer to hire you. So it’s important and valuable to know what the market rate is for your specific job, experience, qualifications, etc. In my experience, some employers will want to use your prior salary as a basis for depressing your offer—they want the best person at the lowest cost to them. But your current salary doesn’t say anything about your worth to the hiring company, and relying on prior salary can lock you into an artificially low compensation level that will cause you financial harm over your working life (especially if you are a woman, POC, differently abled, LGBT, or any combination of those identities).

      Particularly because you’re currently working two jobs, I worry that you might low-ball yourself by tying your salary history to your current combined income!

  16. all aboard the anon train*

    “I’m not comfortable offering private and personal financial information, but I’m looking for a base range between $X and $Y, though I would be willing to negotiate. Is there a range you had in mind for the position?”

    If they press I generally go with, “Can I ask why you need to know my salary?”

    If they’re incredibly rude about it and I don’t mind the interview process not moving I say, “Well, what does the person in the position currently make?” For me, this has always gotten them to stop asking. If they’re not going to tell me how much someone makes in the position or what the range is, I’m certainly not going to give them my salary.

  17. all aboard the anon train*

    Also, I should add that the Massachusetts law doesn’t go into effect until summer 2018. As someone who lives and works in Boston, not many people I know are even aware of it, and I’m worried some recruiters and companies are going to use this to their advantage.

    1. Bend & Snap*

      I’m in Boston and I pushed back on a recruiter by citing the pending law.”She was like “but not till 2018!”

      Lady, if you know about it, stop asking now. It’s unethical.

      1. all aboard the anon train*

        Yeah, as soon as the news about the law came out I knew some recruiters were going to use “not until 2018” for as long as they could. Some are definitely going to continue to ask even after the law goes into effect.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        You would think someone would realize how tone-deaf they sound by saying, “I know this thing is against public policy and will be unlawful, soon, but I wanted to figure out how long I could do it, anyway, and I’m so brazen that I’m not even ashamed of myself.”

      3. General Ginger*

        Why does this make me think in 2018 her answer would be “oh, but it only just went into effect!”

  18. K.*

    Great timing. I just listened to a TED talk yesterday about women asking for what they’re worth. The speaker said “No one will pay you what you’re worth – they’ll only pay you what they think you’re worth, and you control that narrative.” Important for all of us to keep in mind, I think.

        1. K.*

          Yes, that’s it! The speaker said that after she started her business, she realized she needed to DOUBLE her prices in order to be paid what she was worth.

  19. LoiraSafada*

    It drives me batty when you have to apply online and the salary field is mandatory but doesn’t have enough characters to allow for the kind of language mentioned here. Or worse – when it’s coded to only accept numerical values.

      1. LoiraSafada*

        Yep. That’s what I do. Although I did have one form that wouldn’t accept zero…so I didn’t apply.

    1. miss_chevious*

      I’ve put in what I’m planning on asking for for the position. It’s not accurate, of course, but neither is 0 or 10000.

  20. CynicallySweet*

    I was wondering about a way to answer it when they ask you even if it’s banned?
    Because I’m job searching in MA right now and have noticed 2 things:
    1. Companies that have offices in MA but are based out of another state often have boilerplate submission forms that make you enter your current salary in order to even send in your resume.
    2. People will still ask you about this in interviews, and DO NOT like to be reminded that it’s illegal to ask that now.

    1. CynicallySweet*

      Annnd I just read that it doesn’t take effect until 2018. Somehow I did not know this, then again neither did the jerk interviewing me (He wasn’t a jerk because of that, there were other factors). But for the future it would still be useful to know

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I actually think it’s ok for you to note that it’s going to be unlawful to ask this, even if it doesn’t take effect until 2018. The delay is to allow people to do things like change their ATS forms, not to encourage them to wildly violate public policy as much as possible before it becomes unlawful.

        If I were asked, I would respond with something like, “It’s my understanding that state law does not allow me to disclose my salary history.” If they push back because of the date it enters into force, I’d ask them what information they’re seeking by asking for your salary history. But if someone is getting all bent out of shape or trying to say “but not until 2018!” that’s a bit of a red flag in terms of what they think is ethical/reasonable practice during hiring.

        1. Persephone Mulberry*

          Yup, this, although I might tweak the wording; the law doesn’t prohibit you from disclosing if you choose, only prohibits employers from asking. “It’s my understanding that state law protects my right to privacy about my salary history.”

          And then yes, if they push back that the law isn’t in effect yet, take that as a big fat flag.

  21. Anononon*

    I sidestepped the question for my current job. I said something like “[my then current job] is a very tiny firm, so I’m looking to expand and for more opportunities.” They tried to push me once but didn’t really press. I really did not want to disclose because it was an embarrassingly low amount. My salary now, which is very fair and not excessive, is literally double.

  22. Purple Wombat*

    I just did this recently for two different companies, by simply saying, “My current salary is confidential, but I’m looking for a range of $XX-$XX. Is that within the range for this position?”

    I lucked out- neither one pushed further. I’ve gotten around requests for salary history in online applications by just writing “confidential”- the forms, in most cases, aren’t smart enough to reject a non-number!

    Also, since it’s come up above, I currently work in MA, and people definitely are still asking about salary history, and I’m pretty sure we’ll see it continue even AFTER it’s illegal.

  23. De Minimis*

    I was asking this elsewhere….does this apply only to asking the interviewee or does it cover conversations with other people. We already don’t ask the interviewee, but we do always try to ask when we’re doing reference checks. We have a set range for all of our jobs, but someone who is already making a certain amount is going to start on a higher end of the range than someone who doesn’t.

    I’m in CA, and am surprised my state doesn’t already have a similar law….

      1. AndersonDarling*

        None of my references know what I was paid. Does anyone answer with an actual number? I wouldn’t trust any number a reference gave, they could be making up a response based on their perceptions and not in reality.

      2. Havarti*

        I do find that very interesting. It sounds like it’s being spun as a positive thing, but all I really am seeing is the negative. “This person wants $X but the reference check said they earned $Y.” Does that mean they don’t deserve to be paid $X? If someone is already making a certain amount, then it’s up to them to decide whether the amount you propose is high enough or not. Going behind their back just makes it look like you don’t trust them and don’t want to pay more than the minimum required to make them jump ship.

        1. De Minimis*

          Some people give a number, but most don’t. I just ask because it’s a section on the official list of reference questions, and I’m always instructed to try to find out.

          We are a non-profit [but pay very well] and have a fairly set range within each salary band. In our process, the candidate wouldn’t propose a number until they heard our offer [which would be made after the reference check.]

          It would probably be different for senior level people or cases when we were recruiting for a key position, but the variation between staring salary for most of the positions is maybe a few thousand dollars. We would be hesitant to start someone too high within the salary range because it would be difficult to raise their salary very many times before they were out of range for their job.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      California’s currently considering a bill that would parallel MA’s bill. I expect it to pass given the current composition of the Legislature.

      But my understanding is that the MA bill doesn’t allow you to ask for someone’s prior salary, period, including when you’re checking references (I don’t remember if it bars companies from releasing that information, also). If I’m wrong, though, I hope someone will correct me!

      1. Persephone Mulberry*

        The exact text of the relevant MA statute (emphasis mine):

        It shall be an unlawful practice for an employer to…seek the wage or salary history of a prospective employee from the prospective employee or a current or former employer or to require that a prospective employee’s prior wage or salary history meet certain criteria; provided, however, that: (i) if a prospective employee has voluntarily disclosed such information, a prospective employer may confirm prior wages or salary or permit a prospective employee to confirm prior wages or salary; and (ii) a prospective employer may seek or confirm a prospective employee’s wage or salary history after an offer of employment with compensation has been negotiated and made to the prospective employee.

        1. Mabel*

          Wow, it sounds like once they’ve made you an offer, they can try to find out what you were making at a previous job. Am I reading that right? What’s the point of that?

          I’m also suspicious of “voluntarily” disclosed.

    2. Caro in the UK*

      This is not meant to be snarky (honestly!) but why is “someone who is already making a certain amount is going to start on a higher end of the range than someone who doesn’t”?

      I mean if they’re already getting paid more because they have better skills and experience, than sure! But that’s paying them more for their skills and experience. Why would you pay someone more just because their current employer pays them more? Or, from another angle, why would you pay them less just because they’re already being paid less (all other factors being the same)? To borrow an example from elsewhere in the thread, what about someone who’s coming from a low paid non-profit job?

    3. General Ginger*

      My references either don’t know what I’m paid, or it’s as confidential for them as it is for me. I wouldn’t really trust a figure a reference gave.

    4. 2horseygirls*

      Wow! I have references that can speak to my performance at a particular position, but would not necessarily have any reason to know what my salary was. People leave positions all the time — kind of cheeky to assume that every reference I give you is a direct supervisor who would have access to that information.

      My last position, I was terminated due to a personality conflict with my supervisor. However, I have three department chairs that have acted as my references, because I rarely interacted with my supervisor and she is no longer there.

  24. jamlady*

    I work in contracting, so our positions are paid out for a really high number by the federal agency and then we’re paid a fraction of that (depends on the company whether it’s good or not). If I get asked this question, I say “my position is billed at $X an hour” and the company can make their own conclusion. They don’t usually push after that because they understand I’d prefer to be discreet about how their competitors are paying employees in my region. Unfortunately I’ll have to change tactics once I leave contracting haha

  25. A.*

    Those of you who have a choice are very fortunate. As a public employee in my state, my salary is public record and anyone can go to a website, enter my name, and see exactly how much I make. I don’t see that changing in my state, because the prevailing sentiment here is that taxpayers have a right to know, but it sure puts me in a bad position to negotiate when potential employers have my salary information at the press of a button.

    Don’t even get me started on the busybodies at work who keep tabs on their colleagues and cry foul about someone who makes more than they do or gets a rare raise when they don’t.

    1. Justme*

      I was going to post something similar. Not that mine is public record associated with my name (I checked, and it’s not) but there is a salary grid for each position that is publicly available.

    2. Alex*

      I also work in the public sector, and my salary is online. However, some of my coworkers (including my manager) don’t seem to be aware of this. I don’t know how that information managed to escape them. Fortunately most public sector jobs list a salary range, or more specifically a hiring range.

      1. A.*

        I do think having a known salary range for public jobs I’m applying to is helpful, but even within the range I’ve been told a couple times I’m too expensive because they want to hire at the bottom of the hiring range. It stinks when I might have considered it based on the job itself but don’t even get a chance to discuss it.

        For private sector jobs I just hope they don’t check and if they do, I emphasize the whole compensation package.

    3. miss_chevious*

      In situations like this, I think the comments about “competitive” salary for the nonprofit commenter above would be useful, if you were looking to move the private sector. Sure, you make $X now, because you’re a public employee, but a private sector position for your level should start at $Y regardless of your current salary.

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      This is true for me, also, but I’m curious about how this affects you if you go onto another (non-public) position? Folks generally understand that states/civil-service has strict rules regarding compensation that are not applicable when a person transitions back to the private sector.

      As for busybodies, I’m not as bothered by this because salary transparency has, at least at my institution, uncovered systematic gender and race discrimination in pay which the university now has to address. I know there are staff who complain about one another’s salaries or feeling cheated, but that would be true even if salary information weren’t available through a publicly accessible online database (the public access just makes it easier to find out).

    5. Sal*

      I used to be in the same boat as a federal employee, although it’s typically understood that government employees make less and if you go private you should get a decent pay bump (similar to profit/nonprofit). When I was negotiating to leave federal service and take a DoD contractor job, I gave them my number, they came back with a lower number, and I said that it wasn’t enough of a raise to leave the benefits of civil service. They met me at only $1k lower than what I wanted so I was happy.

      1. Justme*

        Yes to the benefits part. I know I make crap, but my health insurance is inexpensive for great coverage and I get off holidays plus two weeks in the winter.

    6. Bend & Snap*

      it’s like that here. I have a friend who worked for a public official who was caught in a financial scandal, and her name and salary were published in the paper.

    7. Althea*

      Yes, but conversely government tends to disclose the range up front – and even if they don’t, a prospective employee can look it up. Changes the power dynamic.

  26. Rachel*

    FYI, the NYC law was voted on yesterday and passed, and is currently awaiting the mayor’s signature. He’s expected to sign, and according to some research I just did on the NYC Council Legislative Research Center, the law will go into effect 120 days after it is signed. So that gives us roughly four months after the mayor signs it, which I assume will be in the coming days.

    1. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

      That’s fantastic news (I’m in NYC)! Does anyone know the specifics/mechanics of the law? Does it apply to external recruiters or just the actual companies/internal recruiters? Also, what about companies that ask for salary history as part of a background check (I was required to disclose this info for my current position – but it was after an offer was already made and verbally accepted).

      Also, I’m super curious – are there any credible cons or negatives to laws like these? Maybe contributing to slightly higher salary costs for businesses? I’m obviously very much in favor in these sorts of laws, but I’m curious if there’s anything I’m overlooking.

      1. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

        Sorry if these are questions more appropriate for a Friday chat! Got a little excited when I read that.

      2. Lily in NYC*

        One thing I don’t understand is how this is going to work considering our salaries our public info. It’s on a website that anyone can visit – so even if employer’s can’t ask my salary; if they are remotely savvy they can look me up pretty easily.

        1. Rachel*

          It sounds like you’re thinking about public employees? This law will apply to all employers in NYC, not just the government. My salary is not public information, but taxpayers aren’t funding it! Obviously public employees are in a different situation.

  27. Mazzy*

    I don’t think this is the way to fight salary discrimination as some localities believe. For me if someone is not hurting that much it makes them seem like a good candidate because they will appreciate the higher salary we are able to pay. If it is the opposite situation than I know from the get-go that they won’t be happy. And I don’t want to rely on salary expectations because some people have given me crazy ones, that seem to have nothing to do with their history or qualifications or skills or what the job is. In short, our range and the candidates range should be in line. If they aren’t it isn’t because your current job isn’t paying well.

    1. animaniactoo*

      I think you’re missing that you’re getting valuable info from the people who have given you crazy salary expectations: This person’s notion of reasonable is not based in reality and that will likely play out in other areas like expectations of work duties, input, etc. In a real sense they are self-selecting out of your candidate pool with that expectation.

      You also *don’t* know that someone really wouldn’t be happy with less. I’ve seen many situations where people were happy to accept a lower salary if it meant that a) they could focus on a new area of work and build skills, or b) they were doing a work-life balance tradeoff and looking for less responsibility and less stress, or c) it meant they could keep paying the mortgage/rent and willing to put their all into a company that hired them, even for less than they were making before.

      1. Connie-Lynne*

        This is so true, about ridiculous salary requests giving you information about candidates.

        I once had a candidate that we were kind of on the fence about, but leaning toward no. Then he asked for a number that was 30% higher than what anyone else on the team was making, and had bonuses on top! His explanation for this was that he needed this to match a retention deal that he had received when his current company had been bought out. Yeah, dude, that’s *why* retention deals are so sweet. You don’t get something commensurate when you move on.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Very much agreed. It’s also somewhat unhelpful to try to draw conclusions based on someone’s salary history, because you have no idea what the total compensation package is. I took a $10K paycut when I took my current job, but my benefits and 401(K) matching are exponentially better at NewJob, so my total compensation is slightly higher than it was at OldJob.

        If you’re worried about whether someone will be happy/satisfied with the salary you have in mind, then why not just ask them that? If they say no, then all the better, because now you have an answer. If they say they need to understand the full compensation package, then let them know the full compensation package. I feel the same way about this as I do about credit checks, etc.—these are poor proxies for the information employers are seeking.

    2. BPT*

      But you’re assuming that all jobs have a specific amount (or range) for a job and will offer that to the chosen candidate. Some employers base candidates salaries on their last salary + X% (so some won’t offer over 10% more than your last salary). Some are trying to find the lowest amount they can offer someone, so if they were originally planning $90k for the role, but a great candidate comes in currently making $60k, they’re likely to offer something like $70k. That would cause a major difference in starting salaries between people who used to be underpaid and people who didn’t.

    3. hbc*

      “In short, our range and the candidates range should be in line.” I completely agree, as long as the candidate’s range you’re talking about is the salary they *want*, not their current/previous salary, which doesn’t sound like the case. There are all kinds of reasons why someone might have an elevated or repressed salary compared to your company, and a willingness to take less or a requirement to get much more from you. Besides the stuff already mentioned here, I would definitely take a 10% pay cut to drop my commute by 80 minutes each day. I can afford it, quality of life increases, less money on gas and auto stuff, and my personal Time Doing Work Stuff (time at work plus commuting) is close to a wash. Or, heck, maybe I just know I’m grossly overpaid but my job is being eliminated, so I’ve got to get off the gravy train.

      1. 2horseygirls*

        ^ x 1,000 on ” take a 10% pay cut to drop my commute by 80 minutes each day. I can afford it, quality of life increases, less money on gas and auto stuff, and my personal Time Doing Work Stuff (time at work plus commuting)”

        Other than every other weekend (if I am not working), the only time I have seen my spouse, teen child, or horse in the last six months is while they are sleeping (humans), or vet and farrier appointments, and the two emergency vet calls :/ which are the first two he’s had in his 11 year life (horse).

        I have a phone interview on Monday for a position in my town (vs. the 30+mile, 60+ minute commute one way now) that I would take, with a 17% paycut back to what I was making at my last position, in order to have normal hours and time for a 5 to 9 life (to reference to this BRILLIANT post >

  28. Jokeyjules*

    When they ask what I’m making currently, and I already known what they’re thinking for salary offer, I just say “around what you guys are offering .” Maybe I’m wrong but I feel like it gives off the sense that I don’t care to share, and maybe they could up their offer a bit more.

  29. plain_jane*

    Recently, because I’m really very flexible on my salary needs right now and I’m applying for jobs that are diagonal or a sideways move, I’ve been saying that for me I’m looking at the entire job package, not just salary and benefits, but the type of work I’ll be doing, the people I’ll be working with, and the learning/growth opportunities.

    They usually push back once or twice, and I speak to my priority being the right job fit has lead to the person on the other end of the phone giving me their ranges several times now. It probably helps that I’m more willing to “waste” my time talking about an opportunity where salary expectations aren’t aligned than they are, and I am not frantic about any one opportunity.

  30. always in email jail*

    I work for a state government that absolutely requires your previous salary, including either verification from your previous HR or your last two pay stubs, before setting your salary and extending a formal offer. There are very strict rules about how much of a percentage we can offer over your current salary, even if the roles aren’t comparable. It’s very, very, VERY frustrating from the hiring side of things.
    If someone refused to disclose, they would not be hired. If left blank on an application, it is considered an “incomplete application” and they are not considered.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      But I think it’s fair to categorize this as “civil service is different,” no?

    2. Eleanor Abernathy*

      So I also work for a state agency that also says they “require” a copy of your pay stub from your current employer before you can be hired. But when I was hired, I followed Allison’s advice and just said that it was confidential. They didn’t push back and I was hired anyway. Now it’s possible my boss went to bat for me behind the scenes with HR, but either way, if it really was some kind of state law, they presumably wouldn’t have hired me. It is absolutely an established practice that they *treat* as though it’s the law . My coworkers were shocked when I told them I’d just refused to provide a pay stub – they clearly believed it was a legal thing too.

      So this makes me wonder how much of a requirement it really is. I’m sure it varies by state. But just sharing my example because my agency absolutely acted like this was a hard and fast requirement, but as soon as I said, “sorry, my company doesn’t give me permission to disclose confidential salary information” they backed off. So I’d say even with state jobs, it’s worth a shot. :)

      1. Brett*

        If it was a state agency, there’s a distinct possibility they pulled your state income tax filings after your initial offer (assuming you agreed to a background check as a condition of your offer). If you last worked out of state, then they probably just gave up and moved on :)

    3. De Minimis*

      When I was offered a federal job, they said they could offer me slightly more depending on what I was currently making. Unfortunately, I was unemployed at the time so I had to start at Step 1….

  31. k*

    I’ve only tried getting around this question once and it went poorly. It was a phone interview and I first used the “I’m looking for X range”. Interviewer pushed back, and I again tried to redirect (don’t remember my exact words).

    The interview, with some attitude in her voice, said “So you’re just not going to tell me?”

    I ended up just telling her, though in my head I had some other choice words. Needless to say I didn’t get the job, nor did I want it at that point. I still get annoyed thinking about it.

    1. MillersSpring*

      I think I spoke with the same recruiter. :)

      I replied, “No, I’m not going to share my current salary.” She ended the call. Fine.

  32. Reverend(ish)*

    I’ve recently moved from full time to part time, and was able to keep my current pay level and get some teleworking benefits. I was able to emphasize the confidentiality of my salary from my most recent job, plus they realized asking would not be that helpful do to my last job not being in the field. I emphasized my experience and my training, and worked in the telecommute because office space is very expensive here so I offered to desk share (I knew prior that this organization prefers it). Desk sharing is not for everyone, which gave me quite a bit of negotiating power in this instance. Sometimes it is knowing what you’re willing to give up front to dodge the salary question that really gives you the edge you need.

  33. M_Lynn*

    This is really relevant to me! I’m finishing up a graduate degree, so my last position was a (thankfully) paid internship. My job before that was a part-time job at a nonprofit, but by no means a competitive wage. Now that I have the degree, I’m applying for higher level jobs that require an MA. Just yesterday I had an interview for a job as a federal government contractor, and it required me putting my salary history on the form. There was language about refusing to consider my candidacy if I didn’t fill it out completely. How will they determine my salary in this case? I keep seeing the “take your salary and increase by X%” but my last job was literally poverty wages.

    Anyone have advice on government contractors? Or refusing to fill out a form that requires it?

    1. NP*

      There are so many government contracting firms of all different sizes in many different markets, and just because they do work for the government doesn’t mean that different rules apply in this process. I would go with the advice upthread: put in zero. If you already had the interview, they are already considering your candidacy. They’re going to pay you what they want to pay you.

    2. Sal*

      I’m a government contractor as well and when I applied I put in 0. It was not a big deal. Government contractors are not bound by the same rules as civil service in this type of instance. Maybe the company is dumb about it but afaik there’s no law or anything.

    3. AnotherHRPro*

      I would expect that if you were to get to the salary negotiation stage you can discuss how your previous positions were not comparable.

  34. Robin Gottlieb*

    When asked for salary history in a job posting, I state that my salary requirements are negotiable. When asked for this information on a job application I enter the amount I’m looking for and in the first available space I write that all salary figures in the application reflect my current salary target.

  35. anon for this*

    I always put zero if it’s a fill-in-the blank question. If I can. In the preliminary online application, Stanford has a pull-down menu with $10,000 ranges for what salary is desired. Underneath is a check-box that you can mark if the range you’ve selected is negotiable. I was a bit flummoxed because I like to leave a little wiggle room when it’s early in the process. Also, your selected range might remain (???) if you apply to other positions in the future.

    I hope CA *does* make it illegal soon. Negotiation is so important when the cost of living/cost of real estate is so high.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I’ve done the same. And if the application won’t accept zero, I try 1.00. And I keep increasing until the lowest possible amount is accepted.

  36. Anonymous Poster*

    I’ve used the “Like anyone, I’m looking for an increase in my salary and or benefits when moving to a new opportunity. My salary is X” for a recruiter. That let them know I wasn’t gonna take a cut when they passed opportunities along.

    Smaller companies I’ve applied to never really asked about the salary. Another I provided a range.

    I will say, it’s a lot less scary than it looks, and good places, in my experience, won’t press too much on it because they already know what they’re willing to pay and will just make an offer instead.

  37. Very Anon For This*

    “At (X-Company) the salaries are confidential and they are extremely generous. I can’t share the numbers and I don’t expect you to even come close to meeting them. Please just give me your best, reasonable offer — the job sounds wonderful and I’d love to join your team.”

    1. Aunt Vixen*

      “I know I’m going to have to take a pay cut to join you, but I’d prefer not to go too far below $X” – where X was my starting salary at a job where I was miserable but where I’d pulled in a 2% COLA a couple of months after I got there. The hiring manager straight up came back and said “Look, my max budget for this position is $Y,” where Y was about 4% below X and “take it or leave it” was heavily implied. (I took it and I’ve never really been sorry.)

  38. nbbuyer*

    I work for my state government, so my salary information is public information, as per the Freedom of Information Act. Applying for other state jobs, I’m required to put in my salary information; even if I don’t, though, or put in $0, they can still find out what my pay was/s.

  39. Nanc*

    Honestly, if companies would just post the salary on the job description it would save everyone so much time in not having to dance around the topic. Since I took over our hiring I insisted we post the actual salary, firm, in every posting. We also list exact benefits and holidays. That way folks know and if it’s below what they want, they don’t apply.

    At the end of the day, folks are trying to hire good employees and applicants are trying to find good employers. Why make both sides dance through fun house smoke and mirrors?

    Full disclosure: I’ve had no coffee and am crabby this morning.

      1. Nanc*

        Our next new hire will be taking over this role–we’re growing too fast for me to keep doing this on top of my normal job. The big boss totally acknowledged this by throwing me a giant bonus for keeping up while on-boarding so many new folks this past year but I’m at the point where no amount of money can make me do this for much longer!

    1. Lizabeth*

      Did posting all the information change the quality of or the amount of submissions? Just wondering…

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Speaking for myself,when I was at a nonprofit we switched from not listing to listing ranges. For the most part, it improved our applicant pool. In circumstances where we weren’t getting great applications, we would do more research on whether our range was competitive/appropriate for the industry and region, and if it was not, we adjusted it and then got the caliber of applicants we sought.

      2. Nanc*

        We got more submissions because we pay a higher than average wage for our area–but it’s lower than what you’d get for the same skills in a big city. We’re in a rural county in the PNW. However, we get a better quality of the folks who meet the qualifications because they’re aware of the salary up front and if they’re from out of area they are usually familiar with our town as we’re a big tourist destination.

        What’s time consuming is we’re a very niche business and we have an extended application/interview process which also involves completing an actual job-specific assignment (for which we pay at the going freelance rate!). It takes about 6 months from placing the ad to having someone in the role. I’ve brought on some great folks this past year but hats off to all you HR professionals out there–I could never do this as a career (I’m looking at you, various pesky government regulations that seem to change on an hourly basis and how much do I love our accountant as she is on top of this stuff).

    2. DDJ*

      We don’t post the range, but I recently hired for two positions (as the hiring manager) and we’ll give salary range information. We only ask for salary expectations, and a few people gave them. A few people asked what the range was that we were offering, which was totally fair. I personally wouldn’t have even asked about expectations, but it’s the standard practice in our company. I’d rather give the range and let people know that previous experience and specific skills will determine where in the range our offer would land.

      But asking for the salary expectation works better, I think. I don’t care what someone used to make (and I’m not going to ask because it’s not going to factor into my decisions). I mean, it can factor in when you’re hiring with a range of $Y-$Z and you get an applicant who, based on their current position, you could reasonably estimate that they’re probably currently making $Z x 3. And I had more than one applicant state that they were excited about the opportunity to work for the company, and that this seemed like a good way to get their foot in the door. Which, as hiring manager, tells me that if I hire someone who’s overqualified for the position (which is another thing that salary expectations can filter out), there’s a good chance they’re biding their time until they can move into something else.

      And hey, I’m all for career advancement, but I’m not going to hire someone if I’m pretty sure they’re going to want to move along within a year or two.

      But I found that salary expectation was a quick way to determine if it made sense to continue through the interview process. If I’m hiring for a job offering a range of $Y-$Z and the salary expectation is $Y x 2, then the applicant either hasn’t read the job posting or doesn’t understand what it is we’re looking for. Or they think that’s what the job should pay, in which case it’s not going to be a good match.

      Not that salary expectation is the absolute deal-breaker, either. One employee I hired actually had a salary expectation that was $15K higher than the absolute top of our range. She had missed out on a couple of other opportunities in our organization because of her salary expectation but I asked if we could go back to her with our range and talk about our benefits, vacation time, work/life balance, those kinds of things. When we hired her, there were other hiring managers who were a bit jealous because they’d disqualified her based on her expectation. She told me that the work/life balance was a lot more important to her than just salary.

      That being said, it was an expectation we could work with, versus someone whose expectation is twice as much as the top of our range.

  40. drpuma*

    I’ve openly told outside recruiters (not a hiring manager, obviously) “I’m looking to make a step up so I’d prefer not to say, but I’d like to end up around $XX.” Another line I used with a recruiter is “I’ve been submitted for a similar position at $YY an hour.”

    I’ve also dodged the question by honestly pointing out that I’m looking to transition into a different industry. That can make it feel easier or more natural to follow up with a desired range or target number, rather than current salary.

    1. Connie-Lynne*

      Similarly, my work history includes jobs in two fields which have widely differing rates of pay: theater production and computer tech. When asked for a salary history, I simply say, “due to working in both theater and tech, there’s not a lot of consistency in my salary rates; this is what I’m looking to make for this role…”

      I’m lucky enough that I’ve not had to deal with a form that wanted salary history.

  41. RFan*

    It’s always so interested to read here about for profit vs. nonprofit vs. government positions. My salary is posted publicly for anyone to look up, even if a few years out of date. In my field people look up everyone if they want. We also still have many union contracts that specify salary, and even if not, posting salary on job descriptions is standard. I think you just get used to that as the norm and it’s much better.
    I also always think that the ‘reveals’ that men are being paid more than women doing the same job could be eliminated in a better way toward equal pay if publicly posted. Of course, getting promoted and job opportunities by gender are still skewed.

  42. Emi.*

    What do you do if your past salary *isn’t* confidential? E.g. what if you’re moving out of government and the company you’re applying to didn’t bother to check OPM for the pay tables, but you still don’t want that number being part of the negotiation?

    1. Pwyll*

      You could always breeze past it by referencing OPM but not the exact salary you make: “Oh, I’m a GS-9, but in the private sector I’d be looking for $x-$y. Is that range in line with your expectations?” And if they ask what GS-9 means, something like “Oh, the government pay scales can vary based on location, time of service, whether Congress has frozen our budget, etc. But in the private sector I’d be looking for . . .”

  43. MC in NJ*

    I’m currently unemployed and looking for work in a field with an extremely wide salary range for someone with my number of years experience. I was paid toward the high end for the average person in my field. I’ve applied for jobs where I can reasonably expect to be offered literally half my final salary at LastJob, I’ve applied for jobs that’d pay a smidge more that my final salary, and I’ve applied for jobs paying at all spots along the range. I absolutely HATE when I’m asked my most recent final salary, as it terrifies certain employers while other employers probably feel as if they’re getting a bargain.

    When I rule the US, I plan on mandating that job ads provide an approximate salary range in the ad. It’s only fair – it makes a LOT of things very clear for both potential employer as well as potential employee. (Oh, and a pox on job application web forms that require a current/final salary entry, and only allow numerical nonzero entries.)

  44. oleander*

    The last time I was in negotiation, the employer (a university) had posted a $10K range for the job. The bottom of their range was a little more than I making in my then-current job. While we were negotiating the offer, the HR manager asked me if I would share my current salary. I said (and I’m sure I got some version of this wording from AAM), “No, I’m can’t do that, but I can tell you that because of ongoing state budget cuts, compensation at [my institution] is below market rates, and part of the reason I’m looking to move is to earn a salary that’s more in line with my skills and experience.” She hurriedly agreed that of course that made sense, and I ended up with an offer near the top of their range.

    1. DDJ*

      Wow, that phrasing was excellent. Because it’s highlighting that you want to be paid what you’re worth. And since they’ve listed their range, they can reasonably assume that your expectations are in line with that.

  45. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

    Not exactly a salary refusal story, but a rule of thumb that has served me well… I try as hard as possible not to disclose salary with actual companies/internal recruiters. However, I am very open about my current salary when working with external recruiters. My reasoning is: from what I understand, external recruiters are generally paid a per centage of the salary their candidate is hired for, so I figure we both want me to be offered as high a salary as possible.

  46. AndersonDarling*

    Interviewer: What is your current salary?
    Me: I apologize, but I don’t want my current salary to influence my future salary. I’m aware that I am underpaid for my position and that is part of why I am looking for new employment.
    Interviewer: Sure! Could you tell me what salary you are expecting?
    Me: $xx-$yy

    I was very nervous about refusing to disclose my salary, but it really wasn’t a big deal. I think 80% of the time, the interviewer just needs to know if they should continue the interview process, or if you are looking for a salary outside of their range.

  47. Green Tea Lover*

    My company does have a NDA in place which says salary information should not be shared. I told future employers the amount I am looking to make, and if they press for previous salary info, I told them I have a NDA so I cannot share. It works for me so far.

  48. BabyBeluga*

    The one time I was in this situation, I was borderline rude to the HR lady doing my phone screen. She asked me my current salary, and I said, “that’s not relevant, but I’m looking for something in the range of $X-$Y.” She said, “ok, that’s within the range, but I really need to know your current salary too.” I said, “Since the jobs are different, I expect the compensation will be different. There are also things that matter to me just as much as salary, like cultural fit, the level of challenge, and the bonus structure.” She said, “I understand that, but I really need to know your current salary or we can’t move forward.” I said, “honestly, my current salary really isn’t relevant. I’m happy at my job now, and I’m not really looking to leave. I’m really excited about this opportunity, but if we can’t move forward, I don’t lose anything. I still go back to a good job with a great boss and a fair salary.”

    She told me she’d check with her boss and see if they’d make an exception (eyeroll). In the end, not only did I get $2k more than the number I asked for, it ended up being a 50% raise in the first year after my fat bonus (and even more the next year!).

    It helped that I knew I was a really strong candidate, and that I honestly was happy at Oldjob and would have been fine staying. But I’m really glad I didn’t, because the new job turned out to be my dream job, and not just because of the stupid-high money. XD

    1. Lily Rowan*

      The part about being happy in your old job is so critical, though — you (generic you) are such a stronger position when you aren’t desperate! I kind of think it’s a social good for those of us in that position to take a strong stand against disclosing, for the benefit of the people who really need that job.

  49. Aphrodite*

    I work for a two-year college in California so I am considered a public employee. All public employees in my state have their salaries published (Transparent California). So even I wanted to change jobs, and I don’t, my salary as of 2015 would be readily available.

    I read on here that California may soon prohibit companies from asking applicants about their salaries but any public employee is vulnerable.

    1. Aphrodite*

      Added: Jobs here have a posted salary range (in steps) as well as all the benefits listed so anyone looking to apply has all the information they could want up front.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I’m also at a CA public university, now, Aphrodite, and the salary listings haven’t impacted job offers/salary ranges for me, including offers from private universities and from firms/foundations. I have no interest in leaving my job, but there seems to be widespread understanding that public employees are relatively underpaid, and especially so at the state’s higher ed institutions. (Caveat: My experience may not be true for folks at California Community Colleges, though.)

    3. Chaordic One*

      Even if someone is a public employee and their salary information is public record, most prospective employers still want you to provide that information for them and they are usually not going to bother looking it up themselves.

      Not to be rude, but maybe they’re not bright enough to figure out how to look it up, or maybe they’re just lazy.

  50. Greg*

    I’ve mentioned this in earlier comment threads, but worth repeating here as a somewhat cautionary tale:

    A few years ago I was let go from a job and had spent about six months doing consulting work before I applied for a full-time job that I was moderately interested in. I had the HR screen, he asked for my salary requirements, which I gave, and then I asked him if that was in the range they were considering, which he confirmed was the case.

    THEN, after all that, he asked for my salary history. I think I said something like, “I don’t see the relevance of that information.” I probably could have handled it better, but it just made absolutely no sense to me why they would need that considering we had already confirmed we were in the same ballpark. He did not respond well to my refusal, said he had never received pushback on that question before, and that it was making him wonder what I was trying to conceal. At that point, I decided it wasn’t worth passing up the opportunity for a point of pride, and told him. Not sure if that was the reason why, but I was not moved on to the next round.

    My two main takeaways from the incident:

    1) If you do refuse, you need to do so in a way that doesn’t come across as confrontational. Something like, “I’m very sorry, but I’m bound by an NDA and not able to give out that information.” I think the way I answered it came across as me telling him how to do his job.

    2) At some point, you have to decide what’s important to you. If you really want/need the job, you may just have to swallow your pride (though you are certainly free to silently judge the organization and their HR practices). On the other hand, if you’re not all that thrilled with the job, or if you know that they are very interested in you, it might be worth standing on principle. I think about that HR rep telling me no one had ever refused to tell him salary history before. Maybe if more people did, companies would start to figure out that it’s a dumb question to ask and is potentially turning off attractive candidates.

    1. Pwyll*

      The other way to handle this is to shift the conversation to a background check, which isn’t too uncommon in many fields. “Oh, I’d prefer not to share my private financial information at this stage. That said, I’d be happy to provide HR and salary verification if I receive an offer.”

  51. insert pun here*

    I say that I signed an NDA and can’t disclose my salary — which has the advantage of being true. I also say that my compensation is in the form of a salary and a bonus, the latter of which is unusual in my industry. That puts people on notice that they should offer me real money. Though there are certainly positions that I would take a pay cut for, they are the exception and I certainly don’t make a big fuss about it.

  52. JessA*

    I’m just curious, what about when you are interviewing for a new position with your current employer?

    1. Lily in NYC*

      I think that is very different and they will probably already know your salary. If you are asked, you should tell them – if you don’t tell them they will just ask HR.

  53. smtech*

    For those who live or work with employers in Massachusetts, how have you handled when employers ask about salary history even though it’s now illegal? Is there a nice way to tell them they can’t ask that, or just try to avoid the question with some of the tactics mentioned by other commenters?

    1. Pwyll*

      Unless you’re applying to be a lawyer, I like the idea of playing confused, but with a smile: “Oh, I thought I read an article about Massachusetts passing a law that doesn’t allow the collection of that kind of data. Anyway, I’m looking for a salary in the $x to $y, is that in line with your expectations?”

  54. pomme de terre*

    I’ve said something to the effect of, “Well, the two positions are so different that I don’t know that what I’m making now is relevant to our discussion. But for this position, I’d expect something in the mid to high X range.”

    I work in comms and have bounced around a few industries which has worked to my advantage, because usually New Employer don’t have a sense of what’s standard in Old Employer’s industry. However, almost all positions are different in SOME way so hopefully people can use this even if you’re looking to move between similar positions at different orgs in the same field.

    1. General Ginger*

      Oh, that’s a good idea (different positions/potentially wildly different salary ranges). Thanks!

  55. DragynAlly*

    I’m in an accident unfortunate place because all of my jobs were contracts for short periods and no salary. So I can’t even answer the question if I wanted to. However when I asked that’s what I say. I say I worked contracts that were individually tailored to each client.

  56. Everlynn*

    A Question (about this topic) for AAM:

    How does the law work when you live in one place but the company or organization recruits from another. The law in NYC has just passed. So is an applicant or candidate living in NYC protected by that law for jobs with employers in other cities or countries the recruit in NYC? Or the flip side, what about NYC employers recruiting in other cities or countries?

    My confusion is this: I’ve read, perhaps here, that if a telecummuting employee lives in one state and the headquarters is in another, the labor laws of the state that person lives in apply to them. But recruiting… that kind of exists “in the air”. The employer is in one place, the applicant/candidate is in another. At what point, does one place take jurisdiction over the other in terms of what law applies?

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Letitia James says it applies to private and public employers. I’m having trouble tracking down the actual wording in the law, but I’d say if it applies to the employers, it wouldn’t matter if the employee was telecommuting.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The laws of the state that the employer is operating in definitely apply. I’m not as sure about if they’re talking to a remote candidate.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        A lot of it may depend on how the law is worded. Again, I tried to track down the actual text of the law, and I couldn’t find it—only news stories referencing the law, and not the law itself.

      2. Everlynn*

        Right, like what if they are in NYC and recruit in City XYZ, and have a thelent recruiter based in that state due the interview there for a job in NYC. This is all of interest to me because I workin in a field where it definitely happens like that.

    3. Mazzy*

      I really wonder how this is going to play out in certain industries. I mean, financial services are in NYC. What is the range for a job is $200K-$400K? Seems like the conversation is going to take a lot longer to get to the point if you can’t come out and ask about these things.

      And I know alot of folks in the position where disclosing their salaries gives them a leg up. How can you fit it into the conversation without it being awkward, as it won’t come up in a natural way?

  57. Lauren*

    Ok my response is for recruiters vs. employers. If they insist, I say: I’m a big believer in pay equity. Having experience being underpaid by 10 – 40K below market rate over the course of my career, I will not be answering your salary history as it perpetuates the pay gap even further. If you continue to insist, I will have to end this conversation.

    And then I end the conversation. If enough people say this, it will get people thinking about not asking for it.

    But also, I live in Mass and I am not going to let that new law be side-stepped after it goes into effect. Come July 2018, I will be stating that it is illegal to ask that question, and when I end the conversation – I will tell them I am reporting them to the EEOC for attempting to get around the new law. I’m done being nice, and we now have the law on our sides.

  58. PinkCupcake*

    I work in a bit of a niche area where reliable salary information is a bit difficult to find and the salary might vary widely depending on the “role” within the organization. I was recently contacted by a recruiter (corporate, not a third party) about a position in the field. This was a large, publicly-traded company and they hammered hard on wanting to know what I was currently making. While the job description looked great, and I was highly-qualified (both academically and experience-wise), I felt that I really needed to know what range they would offer so that I could determine what the position was “really worth” to the organization. They simply wouldn’t budge. First, the recruiter lied and said she couldn’t release the information via email. I said OK, fine, I’ll give you a call and you can tell me over the phone. Then, she lied again and said it was “not her place” to release the information and her supervisor would have to do it. I just said, OK, have your supervisor contact me if you wish to continue the discussion. Never heard another word from them. It’s all good though as I’m sitting pretty good where I’m at. I still can’t escape the feeling that this was a bullet dodged in terms of wasted time.

  59. anon for this*

    Such a good question posted by Everlynn! I would like to know:

    “How does the law work when you live in one place but the company or organization recruits from another. The law in NYC has just passed. So is an applicant or candidate living in NYC protected by that law for jobs with employers in other cities or countries the recruit in NYC?”

  60. Anon Anon*

    Like others I always say that I’m looking for a specific range and then I always qualify that as being depending on benefits. Making any range dependent upon benefits is critical to me. Because there are some jobs that if I find out the benefits are crappy I’d want more money than my range. If the benefits are exceptionally generous then I’m more willing to take a little less than the low end of my salary.

  61. Ferris*

    In my industry (software), it’s rare to be asked this up front (before the interviews). However, I’ve been asked it when they start signalling they want to make an offer. I usually just try to deflect and when they ask about my salary expectations, I just say “I hope you’ll make it worth my while”. That comeback, since it’s so cheeky, is usually good for a couple of rounds if they keep pressing.

    I will say, though, that I do share my current salary when I know it is probably at the high end of what they are going to be willing to pay – since that actually helps start the negotiation from a stronger position. (And I’ll always tell them that I don’t want to make a “lateral move” and am expecting a big bump if I go elsewhere.)

  62. FormerOP*

    Banning questions about current/former salary might have unintended consequences. I know this is a little different, but Washington State banned checking a candidate’s credit score with the rationale that these checks disproportionately affected minority candidates. A study found that this ban actually ended up increasing unemployment for minority workers. It did pretty much the opposite of what was intended. This is an article about the study: . I actually heard about it on the wonderful podcast, but can’t find it on their website. It is great to want to help women, POC, etc make more money, but given the evidence, the public should be wary of these interventions. Good sample responses to these questions will likely help more people.

    1. Sue Wilson*

      Well two things:
      1) That study says that essentially companies associate credit scores with qualifications, which is terrible. And revealing that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and allowing the illusion that credit scores are useful isn’t necessarily a good thing. Exposing problems isn’t a problem in of itself.

      2) Black is subset of minority not necessarily a representative population, so this study is already suspect.

  63. anon anon anon*

    I had a weird negotiation situation 2 years ago because the HR rep I was working with reached out to my former company for a salary confirmation and they gave her my base salary info only. I’m not using my regular old username these days so I’ll just use real numbers.

    My current company, 2 years ago, offered me $85k to move to a full time permanent position (I’d been a full time contractor for a year, making an hourly rate that put me over 6 figures, and the agency I worked through paid my benefits and sick time and contributed to my 401k. the only thing I missed out on by not being permanent was personal/vaca time and job security… so I wasn’t dead set on moving over and had the option to negotiate or turn it down and remain a contractor). They offered me the full time spot but with a 20k pay cut.

    I said, “I’ve been making $105,000 for the last year doing this same job, and I’d like to negotiate something a little closer to the 95-105 range before I’ll agree to come on as a permanent employee.”

    The HR rep was like, “WELL. I called [old company I’d left over a year before] and they told me you ONLY made $60,000 there so don’t you think you should just feel grateful about the $85k we’re offering you? Seems like you got a huge salary boost when you started here a year ago so I’m not sure why you think you should be negotiating so hard, seems like you really hit the jackpot when you started here, i’m not even sure how that happened or who authorized such a huge increase over your previous company’s salary!” (she made it sound like i’d tricked someone into giving me more than i was worth, when in reality i took exactly what they offered me when i got the job without negotiating because it was a better salary than i’d been making, for a much more challenging job and it seemed totally fair.)

    I was a little taken aback and stuttered for a sec but ended up responding that I’d been considerably underpaid by my previous company for the job I did, and yes, I was grateful that this company’s base salary was closer to market value for my role and 17 years experience. And that it was true I did make $60k when I left my previous company a year earlier… But that I also got a 10-15k annual bonus, 8 weeks of vacation time per year, a completely flexible 35 hour a week schedule with unlimited work from home time, free parking, and a benefits package that was considerably better and had fewer out of pocket contributions than theirs had. So it wasn’t quite as much of an outrageous boost as she assumed.

    Then she gave me the $95k salary I asked for! I was really proud of this because I tend to be the kind of person who thinks about what I SHOULD’VE said, after the conversation is over and I’ve lost my chance.

    My point here is that even if you don’t want to share your salary because it’s low, and you think it will force them to lowball your new salary, there ARE ways to point out the other things that factor into a total compensation package, in some situations.

    Now I’m job searching and I’d be fine with a 20k pay cut to stop waking up in a cold sweat every night because of work stress. I’m not sure how to tell people that when I start interviewing. I don’t want to be priced out of certain roles because I make 95k now; I’d rather make 80k and not work 14 hour days. But also don’t want to lowball myself if a company WOULD continue to pay me what I’m making now. I definitely don’t need more – because at this point in my industry I’ve fully realized more money does equal more problems. I’m not sure how I’ll negotiate going forward, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out.

  64. AMPG*

    I’m torn about this, honestly. When I moved states and was job-searching, it was to my advantage to disclose my salary because it was higher than the going rate for most of the jobs I was applying for. I had two jobs in quick succession (the first was a very bad fit, I’m still at the second) that offered me over their posted range once they heard my old salary. So I think that refusing to disclose is the right thing to do on principle, but in a practical sense it saved me from having to negotiate on two separate occasions.

      1. Greg*

        Yes, but I get what AMPG is saying. It’s a collective action problem. If every candidate was willing to stand up against this practice, companies would be less likely to ask. It’s a bit like asking someone their age (in any context, not specifically interviews). Anyone is, of course, free to answer that question, but there is enough of a societal consensus that it is rude to ask that no one is really expected to answer. It would be great if we reached that point with salary history.

        But as I said, it’s a collective action problem. It’s very difficult for one person to make that much of a difference. Which is why I think these various state laws are a good idea. They start shifting the consensus, and allow more people to get away with standing up for themselves.

        1. AMPG*

          Right – in principle I feel like I should refuse to answer because it’s a bad practice that should be discouraged, so I feel sort of bad that I was willing to do it because I knew it would help me.

          Of course, I did end up taking a pay cut (even though it was above the posted range for the position), so now it won’t help me anymore as a negotiating tactic.

  65. Greg*

    Curious to hear people’s thoughts on something: Alison has said many times (and I completely agree) that you should not lie on your interview about salary, titles, etc. What do people think of lying about whether your organization forbids you from disclosing your salary? That would be far more difficult to disprove (although I suppose there is some risk that someone in the new company formerly worked at your current one, or is friends with someone there). And one could argue that it’s a lie told in support of a just cause, namely, discouraging companies from asking a dumb interview question in support of dubious hiring processes that artificially depress salaries.

    But, of course, it is still lying. Thoughts?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think most companies have broad enough confidentiality stuff in their employee manuals, etc. that in most cases you could feasibly believe it would be covered.

    2. Pwyll*

      I agree with Alison, but I would avoid the word “forbid,” as unless you’ve signed an NDA your employer probably can’t forbid you from disclosing your own finances. I’ve used “My employer considers compensation to be confidential information, and I don’t want to breach policy. But I’m looking for . . .”

  66. Crinoid*

    A question for you all– do you handle this question any differently when you’re looking for jobs in a different city or state where the salary ranges are significantly different?

  67. Hey Anonny, nonny*

    I’m very lucky in my profession that my professional organization does an annual survey of the member’s compensation (and every 5-10 years validates this data by getting members permission to have employers disclose compensation).
    The survey results are presented broken down by education (Master’s v. PhD), and certified v. non-certified. Within those four categories they break it down further by type of institution (academic, government, clinical, etc), private v public, years of experience and on and on. Overall it gives a really good idea of what is normal for your education, experience, certification, and institution. They used to do by state or metro area too but have reduced that to saying a few areas where salaries are on the really high end of the spectrum and few where they are on the really low end.
    They also break it out by (self identified as) male v female for each degree/certification level which I like, it allows us to see that even for the same experience, degree and certification women make an average of $7,000 less.
    So when I’m asked in an interview what my current salary is I have replied in line with the salary survey or below the salary survey and when asked for what salary I expected I always reply inline with salary survey (most positions are advertised as compensation inline with salary survey). When negotiation for my current position they low-balled the initial offer and I was able to confidently come back with “You advertised as inline with salary survey which is $X.” which they met so I am now making the median salary for my profession with my degree and my years of experience, which happens to be the median salary for the men and $5000 more than the median for women (and no median and average are not the same thing).

  68. kem110*

    I have been job searching for the past year and imo, people are MUCH pushier about this today than when I was fresh out of undergrad (2010).

    I had an experience last year where I was interviewing with a company. At my current company I am 20k below market value. So, I am looking to switch. Was interviewing with one company and they asked my salary. I told them that the range I preferred was “x-x”. The woman kept pushing and I told her this was information my company would prefer I kept confidential.

    Fast forward 3 weeks and 2 day long interviews later, HR calls me and tells me in order to proceed, they need a copy of my W2 so they can figure out appropriate compensation. Tells me it was company policy. I was so flabbergasted I sent it, red flags blazing. They turned around and offered me not the job I applied for, but an entry level one, at 1k a year/more than I was making at current horrible company. The woman was FLABBERGASTED when I turned them down and point blank told me I wouldn’t find a better offer elsewhere.

    Nope, bye.

    1. Chris*

      That’s a big time lie. It shows you dodged a bullet there. I had it worse when I was offered the same rate at a small company. But unlike you, I took the job. It didn’t go well.

  69. LW Here*

    Hi all! To give you an idea, here’s what happened when I was offered my new job:

    -My staffing agency (which had already made me give them salary history when I signed up) contacted me asking for details about what I’d already given, particularly with my most recent freelance job. I asked why, etc, and was told the company didn’t use it to determine compensation, just to make sure they were offering *enough.* (That, of course, is using it to determine compensation.) I really wanted the job, so I caved.

    -The employer gave me a form to fill out by hand that required me to list recent salary history.

    -A background check company asked me for *ten years* of salary history via online form.

    As I mentioned above, I don’t believe I was low-balled per se, but the same staffing agent who assured me this was benign then told me I shouldn’t try to negotiate the offer, in part, because I’d never made anything close to this amount before.

  70. Hiring Mgr*

    I give a range with my current number at the low end of a range. It’s easier to do that when you are in sales as I am, and the numbers will vary some from year to year

  71. HATE this dance*

    Probably late to the thread, but I’ve had some bad experiences when I’ve named a range and the person keeps pushing by naming a range that’s clearly on the very low end of what a position would pay (usually less experience and level of work than I have). I’ll use even numbers for example, but I say, “I’m looking to make $100 – $110” and they say, “Ok, but what are you currently making?” and I reply again with my range, so they come back with, “So you’re currently making $70 – $80?” What? No, I’m not making $70, I’m currently making like $90 and looking to move up, so now I feel like I have to disclose my current salary because they’ve intentionally lowballed their estimate. The range I’ve named is reasonable: spoken with friends and colleagues and they’re all in agreement/are currently making that range, Glassdor/Payscale put my skills and experience in that range, and other reasonable employers have said that range is in line. SO WHY DO SOME PEOPLE INSIST ON KNOWING MY CURRENT RANGE!??! Sorry for the all-caps, but it really annoys me. If my range is out of line, just say that. That’s what I want to make to leave my current role. Either that works for you, or it doesn’t, but insisting on knowing my current salary doesn’t change what I am willing to leave this job for.

  72. Chickaletta*

    Not much to add, but as a job seeker who has been freelancing for the past 6 years, it’s a very frustrating question to encounter. I cannot give an accurate answer because my personal income varies from year to year depending on how well business went (this instability is one of the reasons I’m going back to employment). Do I figure out my take home pay for last year or the year before? Because they’re very different. What about the fact that I’m not putting in a whole 40 hours a week? Some weeks I put in 37 hours, others I’ll put in 12… Or should I report what my LLC reported to the IRS last year? Or my average hourly rate, which changes depending on the client and the project, (plus that’s not my take home, it’s what my LLC makes per hour before taxes and everything else). So, if I’m filling out an online form where current salary is a required field, I just have to make something up, but the person reading the application doesn’t know what scenario I’m referring to, so it’s a meaningless number. So it’s a stupid question that assumes everyone fits inside a box and doesn’t provide a representation of what I’m worth as an employee.

  73. Greg*

    I ended up freelancing for five years, and even by the end of that process I still had people asking me, “OK, but when you *were* full-time, what was your salary?” (And by the way, I was living in a completely different market by that point, with a much different cost of living.) How is that even remotely relevant?

    I think it’s just a function of paper pushers whose only goal is to fill in a form so they don’t get yelled at.

  74. 2horseygirls*

    Just once, I want to be in such a bad interview (for a position I know I have no intention of taking) just so I can say “If you tell me what you make, then I will tell you what I make.” Just to be a brat.

    Undoubtedly, it will somehow end up in my Universal Permanent Interview Record for all future interviewers to see… ;)

  75. Katie*

    I just spoke with a recruiter who asked for my salary history. I said, “you know, I’m not sure about [employer]’s policy on disclosing salaries so I’d rather err on the side of caution. I can, however, tell you that I’m looking for something in the range of $X to $Y” and it went over just fine!

  76. Rogue*

    Recently, a recruiter contacted me out of the blue regarding a position she thought I might be interested in. I asked a few questions, such as the company the position was with, location of the job, and pay rate. In her response, she only answered the question of where the job was located (at least 4 hours away from my home) and asked for my current salary. I responded by saying that my salary history has no bearing on what I would require for a new position and in order to know if it made sense to talk further, I needed to know their pay rate. She then provided the pay rate that was extremely low and not inline with industry norms for those of us that travel. I explained that and told her it wouldn’t make sense for us to speak further, but I wished her well and hoped she was able to find an excellent local candidate.

  77. amy*

    Interesting. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten this question, and I think at this point in my life I’d be inclined to go all Steve Landesman on whoever asked me that. I wouldn’t get the job after that, of course, but it might be worth it for the pleasure of the monologue with the little zetz at the end.

  78. perplexed*

    My spouse had a preliminary interview with a recruitment associate who asked for salary. He declined to provide that information to the recruitment associate, saying that compensation should be based on role and the impact, linked to any position evaluation the organisation might have. There was a bit of back-and-forth and he wasn’t expecting a call back

    Except they did call back, organised an interview, which he cleared. The next interview was scheduled with the Director. At the end of the interview, the Director asked – how much is your current salary?
    Spouse – I am looking for this range
    Director – How much do you earn?
    Spouse – not comfortable sharing
    Director – How much do you earn?
    Spouse – $X but I would like this range

    This was the final interview. The exchange happened at the end. He left feeling like he did after the first call – there would be no call back. He just received an email asking for references.

    My question here is – what can a person do in an interview with a senior executive and they want to pin you down on an answer? Any tips would be great

  79. Kel*

    This happened to me when I was applying for a nonprofit job via a recruiter in 2016 in NYC. After my in-person interview, they asked for previous salary and I declined to give it. Apart from my basic disinclination to provide this info, my previous roles had been in a different country, so with the different market and exchange rate my previous salary was pretty irrelevant. I knew I’d be at a big disadvantage if they knew the number because they would ignorantly use it as a 1-2-1 without applying context.

    I told them that because my previous salary was in a different market with a different currency and benefits package, it was not directly relevant, and firmly let them know what I was seeking for this job, in this market, which I was confident was reasonable. The recruiter found all kinds of ways to try to pin me down and get me to disclose my most recent salary. I found this to be absurd and insulting, although obviously I didn’t say that in so many words. I eventually refused to give her the number, and they didn’t offer me the job. I was happy with this outcome because I found a better – and better paying – job elsewhere, which did meet my salary expectations for the market.

    I was able to take such a hard line because I was lukewarm on the position after the in-person interview, so I can’t say what I would have done if I had had my heart set on that role.

  80. Mira*

    My salary history has me in something of a pinch, and I would really love, love, love to not have to share it with any future employers. However, I live and work outside the US. In my country, the salary hike you get with a new employer depends almost entirely on what you were making at your previous job. They then calculate some X% of that, (25-35% is usually standard across most industries and roles), and that’s what they offer. In some cases, if you did exceptional work or are bringing exceptional value to your new employer, you may be able to negotiate for an even higher pay. Same if you are having to move to a city where the cost of living is very high.

    My problem is that until last year I worked for a startup where I was paid quite well. Then they went bust almost overnight, and I was left unemployed for about 6 months. In desperation, I finally took a job that, while interesting, is outside of my actual field, involves very little prospect of growth, and that also involved a fairly significant pay cut – think over 150,000 in my country’s currency.

    Now I am left with these options:
    1. Find another job ASAP, so that I don’t have to disclose my current employment or put it on my resume, thus avoiding the whole question of what I’m earning now. But this feels bad to me because I’m not ready to leave this job yet – and I’m still trying to figure some personal stuff out.
    2. In the event I find even a semi-decent job back in my original field – take that offer, stick to it for a year and then begin hunting again, hoping I land something better this time. It’ll be an awful year – worse if I DON’T get a new job quickly after it – but I’ll have to just struggle through it.
    3. Take my time to find a job that really appeals to me, and returns me to my original field as well. This comes with the risk that such a job may not exist, or that I may not get hired for it – it’s getting increasingly hard here to get hired without an internal reference pushing your application through to the right people. It also comes with the risk that I’ll *have* to put my current job on my resume and accept any consequences in future salary prospects.

    So…yeah. I have no idea what to do. All I know is that I LOATHE this system of calculating a new hire’s salary based on their old one.

    1. Chris*

      Exactly which country are you in? That doesn’t sound reasonable at all, and I thought it was bad enough in the US.

  81. Christine T*

    During my husband’s interview at his current job, they REPEATEDLY asked about his salary history. He shirked the questions as best he could, but they were really insistent. His current company was due to go belly-up within the next few months and he works in a highly specialized field with few openings, so he REALLY needed the job (we had just had a baby at the time too and my salary alone wouldn’t have cut it). After the 5th time asking during the 3rd interview he finally relented and told them his salary. He got the job.

    On his first day he was told that it had been between him and another guy for the job. Both has very similar qualifications, and both made it to the final interview. The other guy refused to give his salary history, so they ultimately went with my husband. Probably so that they could pay him less (he definitely was paid less than market rate at his previous job), but at the time it assured that he at least had a job.

    A super shady practice that I absolutely loath, but proof that refusal to disclose this info can cost you some jobs in the long run.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Well if they ask repeatedly, then obviously it’s important to them. And I don’t blame your husband for disclosing, since he really needed the job, but it is for sure shady, and you shouldn’t reward employers for doing this unless, like your husband, you really need that particular job.

  82. Clinical Genomic Scientist*

    As a recent immigrant, I found these requests interesting. Earning money in a totally different currency, even if you convert it, means literally nothing in a different market.
    I’d be tempted to state my past salary in lira or yen. They never specify currency and you’d get some nice big numbers…..

  83. VroomVroom*

    I referred a former colleague at my company to a recruiter at a competitor a few years ago. He was woefully underpaid at our company, but knew his Sh*t better than anyone.

    The recruiter asked him his salary and he told the $40k he was making (in NYC area no less) – he’d only been working for a year so he didn’t know any better (when colleague told me this I was like nooooooooo!!! and he was like ahhhh i’m sorry I goofed!!!). Recruiter decided he wasn’t going to disclose his salary history because the job was more senior and my colleague was SO qualified – and had a glowing review from me, a senior colleague who worked with him closely. I happened to know that the role paid up between $70 – $90k, because recruiter had originally contacted ME about it and I said I was not qualified/interested but referred someone who was.

    My colleague ended up getting $75k (I’m sort of a mentor to him so he shared with me and I helped him through the whole negotiation process). All because this recruiter was a good person and willing to pay what they thought he was WORTH not some increment off of what he was previously making. They didn’t even give him the bottom of the range!

    So I was really proud of that company and that recruiter for doing the right thing.

  84. kay*

    I just spoke with a NYC-based recruiter who tried to pressure me into giving my last salary. I said, “I’m looking for $X range.” He continued to press, but I stuck to my guns.

    Since the recruiter is in NYC, isn’t this illegal? Also, I am currently in MA.

    1. Chris*

      Unfortunately, the NYC law doesn’t take effect on October 31, 2017, and the MA law won’t take effect until July 2018. So until then, just try to dodge the question as much as you can.

  85. Chris*

    At my previous job, my now ex-boss demanded my salary history, so I relented and gave it out. Big mistake. That job turned out to be a total disaster. He paid me exactly the same hourly rate compared to my previous temp job and I was BITTER AS HELL. I was potentially lowballed by as much as $15,000 a year. I became a disgruntled employee and it got so bad that I was fired 5 months later.

    Fast forward, I now work for a different employer who is paying me what I am worth because I did NOT disclose my salary history. I am much happier and everything is working out well.

    The moral of the story is, no matter how much you need a job, unless you are in a financial pickle, DO NOT DISCLOSE YOUR SALARY HISTORY. You could be severely lowballed and it will never work out in the long run. For both you and your employer.

  86. Melanie*

    The first time I was asked about my salary history, my tone totally changed and I fired back “why… how is that relevant? like, why would you even ask that?” The woman on the other end (phone interview) went silent for a good 5 seconds, which is long for a real time conversation. Then she said “we use this information to get an idea of the expectations candidates have about salary for this position” blah blah blah. “Oh then you could’ve asked what I’m looking to make instead” and I gave her a number.

    The interview didn’t last long after that. The rest of the questions she asked I would answer curtly. Like she went “if money wasn’t an issue what would you be doing” (rolling my eyes at this stupid question) I said matter-of-factly “this,” she responded “can you elaborate” and I said “this line of work” in a umm-isn’t-it-obvious-that-I’m-applying-for-this-position-and-have-been-talking-about-my-self-taught-skills-that-pertain-exactly-to-the-position kind of tone.

    Such are interviews when you’re still new to them and go in thinking the other party is going to be totally professional and ask appropriate questions. You get caught by surprise and then start scoffing left and right making it obvious how ridiculous you find things. Still funny when I think about it. Definitely taught me a lot about managing my reactions HAHAHA.

  87. Danielle*

    I work in retail and my department manager asked me what my paycheck s were like. Is this legal? My response was “that’s private.” Thank you in advance.

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