Is Asking for
Salary History … History?
The Truth About the Salary History Question
Legally, interviewees are under no obligation to answer it. In fact, doing so may suppress their salary for the duration of their career. For this reason and others, a campaign to ban employers from asking prospective employees for their salary history has recently been gaining momentum.
What You Were Paid Doesn’t Matter
The market value of an employee is not based upon what he or she made at past jobs. Rather, it’s based upon what workers in the same job, who possess a similar skillset and experience level, are making in the same labor market (metro area, company size, industry, etc.)
PayScale’s research has shown employees who are paid fairly are more likely to have a higher level of satisfaction at work and consequently stay with their employer for a longer period of time. Other studies have shown happier employees are more productive, and, as reported in Forbes, “there’s plenty of hard evidence that shows that happy employees lead directly to better performance and higher profits.”
In an effort to learn more about how commonly the question is asked of prospective employees, whether it is asked more or less for certain types of workers, how likely interviewees are to answer the question, and whether refusing to answer has any effect on an employer’s salary offer, PayScale surveyed our users. This is what we learned:
43 percent of respondents were asked about their salary history during the interview process. Nearly one quarter of those who were asked declined to answer.
A woman who is asked about her salary history and declines to disclose earns 1.8 percent less than a woman who discloses. If a man declines to disclose, he gets paid 1.2 percent more on average.
This is a disturbing double standard that may be the result of ingrained gender bias. Are women who refuse to disclose their salary penalized because they’re seen as unpleasant? And are men who refuse seen as confident?
Industry & Job Title
Refusal rates by industry