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Getting In Front of the Salary History Ban — How to Shift Your Comp Conversations With Job Candidates

Although we’re only a month into 2018, we’ve already seen the passing of new laws and policies that have the potential to close the gender pay gap. The latest news comes from Amazon, which has banned its hiring managers from asking prospective hires about their salary histories, according to BuzzFeed.

On January 1st, a new law in California took effect banning employers from posing the question to potential employees in the Golden State. Though the law technically applies only to those who work in California, most companies — including Google, Facebook and Cisco — have proactively applied the law to all of their U.S. hires. Massachusetts, Oregon, Philadelphia, New York City and San Francisco have passed similar laws over the past couple of years. In the middle of January, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order banning state agencies (not private companies) from asking the controversial question. New York City, Delaware, New Orleans, Pittsburgh and Albany already have similar laws in effect.

If you are still asking the salary history question, now is the time to find ways to have more meaningful conversations about pay with job candidates. Asking for a prospective hire’s salary history can unintentionally perpetuate the gender pay gap. PayScale’s most recent research on the gender pay gap found that women still face a 2.4 percent pay gap in comparison to similarly qualified men — holding all else constant except for gender.

The way you communicate about pay matters. Whether directly or not, you’re passing along information about how your organization makes decisions about pay, how open your organization is to discussing the rationale for pay and, ultimately, how transparent and progressive your organization is about rewarding employees.

To have meaningful conversations about pay, you’ll want to start by clarifying with the candidate your organizational priorities, your culture and values. You’ll also want to ask questions that help you set the tone for a win-win relationship between the candidate and your organization.

“What are your salary expectations?”

By asking about this question, you’ll be able to find out:

  • Whether you can afford this candidate or not
  • Whether this person has done any research on the role, on your organization and knows the market value for this type of role
  • What the candidate values. This person may voluntarily provide information on what else they value in addition to pay, which can help you determine how to present the value proposition of this role to best appeal to the candidate.

To facilitate an honest conversation, you may share your organization’s pay philosophy, the hiring range for the position and why the range is set where it is. For example, say something such as “we’re trying to grow sales at our organization, as a result, we’ve targeted very competitively in the market. Our hiring range is X to Y. Let’s talk about where you’d fit into that range based on your experience, skills and project results.”

“What attracts you to this role and organization? What matters to you most in your next role?”

These questions will help you figure out what motivates this potential hire and what else in addition to pay you can offer that’s of value of him or her. For example, you might say something like: “This position helps us ensure our customers get the best service, which is core to our organizational values. We recently did a market study and found that X amount is typical for the role. What attracts you to this role and organization? What matters in your next role?”

You can also get more specific, and ask “Knowing X amount is typical for the role, does this align with your expectations?”

Want to get more tips on how to talk about comp with prospective hires? Sign up for our upcoming webinar, Is the Salary History Question History? How to Shift Your Comp Conversations With Job Candidates.

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What is your organization doing to prepare for the salary history ban? We want to hear from you. Tell us your strategy in the comments.


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