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How to Answer the Salary History Question Without Answering It

Topics: Negotiation

There are several reasons why you might prefer not to provide salary history information during a job application process. Perhaps you’ve been underpaid, and are looking to get a significant pay increase. You may even want to keep this information private, simply because you consider it nobody else’s business.

salary history
Image Credit: Joshua Ness/Unsplash

Whatever your motives, there are a few ways of getting around the issue without jeopardizing your chance at an interview. Whether it’s while filling out an online application form, or negotiating face to face, these tactics will allow you to keep your current salary private while searching for a better opportunity.

Navigating the Online Forms

Online forms will often force candidates to enter a number before progressing to the next step. Try typing in “N/A” — or if a number is mandatory, enter something that’s obviously so low it isn’t your real salary. This will mean your application still gets to the next step without the field being a factor, but you keep the salary under wraps.

Avoid the Forms Altogether

Instead of filling out online application forms, take a more proactive approach and reach out in your network directly. Ask for informational interviews, invite someone for coffee, or send an email introducing yourself. It’s far less likely that you’ll be asked to divulge sensitive information when communicating with people like this, as opposed to via an online form. You’re also more likely to make a bigger impression.

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Focus on Your Requirements

It’s possible to spin the question when asked, and place the emphasis on what you’re seeking from future opportunities. Present the current rate based on the skills and experience required, by doing your research with the Payscale Salary Survey. It doesn’t matter what you’ve been earning if you can illustrate how much more you’ll be worth in this new position for a new employer.

Ask for Their Requirements

If the hiring manager broaches the subject again, simply ask for the salary range that they’ve attached to the position in question. That way, you both know where you stand and what the general expectations are for either party. Usually, the purpose of them asking for your salary history is to gauge what number you’d be happy hearing in a job offer anyway, so having that range established should fulfill that.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you ever share your salary history in a job application process, or are you a pro at evading the question? Share your tips for getting around it, in the comments below or by discussing with us on Twitter.

Kirsty Wareing
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Leslie Bryant
Leslie Bryant

Having attended several preparation courses for job hunting, I have repeatedly heard “don’t provide your previous salary” unless it’s a discussion about salaries. Then ask as Kirstey advises to see the range they are offering. As a 28 year USAF veteran retired looking for a civilian job, I will use Kirstey’s advice as opposed to Peter’s advice. HR and the company can ask as much as they like about salaries but an individual is not required to provide that until… Read more »

peter barrett
peter barrett

While there is some good advice here, I think it is dangerous to ‘play games’ with the hiring authority regarding current salary. As some who has hired hundreds of people, I expect a straight forward answer to any question I ask. Thank you.

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