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Do You Have to Give a Salary History During a Job Interview?

Topics: Negotiation

There are many ways for employers to ask candidates about their salary requirements, but perhaps the most-dreaded is to ask for a salary history. These days, you’re likely to have had at least one job in your recent past that paid below what you would have asked in better times. So how do you handle it?


(Photo Credit: cohdra/

First of all, understand that if the employer is asking for a range, odds are that they’re not going to be put off the question entirely, and that’s not a bad thing. Eventually, you’re going to have to talk cash, one way or the other.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

The best thing to do, especially if you’ve been underpaid for previous jobs, is to provide a salary range based on what you’d like, not on what you’ve made. Do research on the title, company, and duties, and come up with a range that would make you happy.

Most crucially, don’t give a low number that would make you miserable. Your prospective employer will likely start with that number, and you don’t want to begin negotiations feeling annoyed and undervalued.

But what if that technique doesn’t work, and the employer insists on getting an actual salary history — even if you’ve already explained that you’re not comfortable revealing that information?

“…[I]f an interviewer insists, you’ll need to decide whether you’re willing to hold firm (and potentially risk losing the job opportunity over it) or if you’ll give in,” writes Alison Green of Ask a Manager, in a column at AOL Jobs. “If you’re in a situation where you have plentiful options, you might decide that you’re not interested in working for an employer who would reject you for not disclosing your personal finances. But if you don’t feel you have many options, then you might decide that — annoying as this is — you’re going to play along.”

Most of the time, Green says, it shouldn’t come to that point. But if it does, and you’ve considered your options carefully ahead of time, you’ll be prepared to answer or not answer, as you see fit.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you provide a salary history? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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Not revealing your salary history is an effective negotiation tactic. You don’t want your past salary to influence your potential at your new job. To learn how to deflect those salary probing questions, check out this blog post:

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