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How to Answer Requests for Salary History From Potential Employers

Q&A

I’m applying for a job and they want to know my salary history. Do I have to tell them?
“Salary history is such a fraught issue that Massachusetts and other states have made it illegal for employers to ask about it,” says Lelia Gowland, founder of Gowland LLC, a consulting firm. Good job, Massachusetts—also New York City and Pittsburgh—but what about the rest of us?

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“Regardless of where you live, I’m a firm believer that you should be paid based on the work you’ll be doing in the new role, your new company and your market value [the ‘going rate’], not what you were making previously,” says Gowland. Let’s say an application includes a question about “current salary” or “expected salary.” It seem as though you have to fill it out, but you don’t, she says. Similarly, you don’t have to answer the question via email. Gowland recommends including a friendly note that encourages future conversation: “I look forward to discussing compensation once I’ve learned more about the position.” If they keep pushing, pivot with “Based on my experience and research of positions with a similar level of responsibility and scope in [city], I’m seeking a salary range of [range].” In the meantime, hold tight. Other states are pushing to banish this question from the job interview process.

 

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