It’s that cringe-worthy job interview question you’d love to dodge:

“What’s your current salary?”

“And why does it matter?” – A response that we’ve all thought more than once in our lifetime.

Employers who inquire into salary history often claim that knowing what a candidate has earned in the past helps them to establish a framework for future negotiations over compensation and benefits, or to screen out candidates who are above the available budget for a position and presumably won’t be willing to take a pay cut.

But neither of these reasons holds water.

As a hiring manager, I don’t ask potential employees their current salary because it’s irrelevant and inappropriate.

Consider this: When you call a plumber to unclog your tub drain, do you ask what he charged the last person? No! You ask the plumber’s hourly rate. And if you don’t like the quoted cost, you simply don’t hire the plumber!

Second, if you’re really concerned that they’ll be unhappy with the salary you’re offering, why not consider a bold step and post the range for that position from the beginning or ask about a candidate’s salary expectations rather than their salary history.

Transparency and trust cut both ways.

They would love to know what you paid the last person in the job, too, but you’re not about to give them that information – so why do you deserve (or need) to know what they got paid in their last job?

Compensation should be a data-driven decision based on the current value of a given position in the talent market.

Furthermore, it’s worth remembering that asking about salary history perpetuates the cycle of income inequality.

Some employers use salary history to determine a new hire’s starting pay, providing a standard percentage increase over the new hire’s previous salary or otherwise directly correlating the new hire’s pay to her salary history.

What if a talent was grossly underpaid in their first job? They’ll continue to be underpaid in every job after that…forever!

How are they going to step up if they’re being paid $50K for a job that should be paying them at least $80K, but you only want to offer them $60K because it’s still more than their salary now, but $20K under budget?

It’s time to stop asking the question. It’s time to change old-school hiring practices.

No digging in the past. No low-balling. No prior salary checks.

Price the job, not the person. 

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