What’s with the Request for a Salary History?

Anne writes:
I’ve been looking around at job postings and am put off by those which ask for a salary
history along with the usual information. I currently work for a company which is at the
upper end of the pay spectrum for my field and I don’t want a potential employer to
eliminate my application for a job based on the salary information I provide. What’s
with this new question and how should I respond if I don’t want to be judged by what
I’m earning now?

The Career Doctor responds:
I totally agree with you Anne. I don’t support employers who ask for salary
histories because the information is often used for the wrong reasons and can potentially
screen out some strong candidates — as in the situation you are facing.
As a job-seeker you should always attempt to push any discussion of salary
to as late I the interviewing process as possible when you’ll have more
negotiating power. Of course employers want the information upfront so that
they keep the power.
The bigger problem you face is that most employers have salary ranges for
every position and if you are already being compensated at a higher salary
than the top of the scale for the position you are seeking your application
may very likely be discarded as someone the employer cannot afford. From
the employer’s perspective why would a job-seeker want to take a pay cut?
From the job-seeker’s perspective of course there are many reasons why you
might be willing to take a pay cut — because you are relocating because it’s
your ideal job/employer because you are changing careers etc.
You could ignore the salary history request but chances are that will move you
to the “incomplete” application” pile where it’s unlikely you’ll get the chance to
have an interview. The better solution is to include your salary history as requested.
Then in your cover letter be sure to explain that your salary requirements are
within the current salary range of the job opening.
Learn more about salary requirements histories and strategies for negotiation in the
Salary Negotiation Resources section of Quintessential Careers.

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