How do you respond to an employer’s request for past salary information that is by its very nature . . . history? It is not only an uncomfortable question to answer but can also be an unfair question for the applicant.
Salary requirements and salary history are a quick way for employers to cull out applicants who are beyond the pay scope of the job. Having this information early in the interview game offers employers the advantage of seeing if a qualified applicant might be available at a highly reduced rate, based on their past pay.
With a salary history, employers are looking at the frequency and percentage of raises and promotions over an applicant’s career in order to gauge their potential for growth. The problem with this is that not all organisations provide salary increases based on merit or accomplishments.
Either way, it’s a question you want to gracefully avoid.
When asked to give this information on an application, it is best to maneuver around the topic by writing, “Will discuss during the interview”. Providing potential employers this information before meeting gives them the opportunity to judge your accomplishments simply on a pay scale, rather than your actual past contributions.
Not answering, or avoiding, early in the game gives you the upper hand. Biding your time until you have the opportunity to explain your strengths, accomplishments, and future contributions is the safest approach to take. It is in your best interest to hold off answering this question as long as possible, avoiding giving a specific number until negotiation time.
Once they are clearly interested in you for your specific skill set, attitude and personality, then you are in a position to talk salary—preferably in a face-to-face interview.
First, lead with your salary requirements, giving them a broad range of what you will accept. Make sure that you have researched the marketplace and know what a fair market value is for the specific job in which you are interested. With that information in hand, you also want to consider the requirements for the position and the actual functions of the job. Once you have an outline of what the job entails, you are in a better position to put a number on it.
Remember: what you accomplished in your previous jobs is more important than what you were paid. Be willing to push your strengths and abilities, while saving the money talk for the appropriate time.
Finally, don’t get so caught up in a number that you miss the overall scope of what the company has to offer you. Getting a salary that benefits both parties requires negotiation, not assumptions. Beyond pay, there may be other benefits offered that make up for a smaller salary. Be willing to negotiate and compromise, and make that clear.