by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
Here’s the scenario: You’ve found the ideal job, but either the job ad or your contact from the human resources department has asked you to forward your salary requirement and/or your salary history. What do you do?
Before we look at your options, let’s examine why employers ask for these things. Most often, the simple reason is that employers want an easy screening device to help sort applicants, and those applicants with a salary requirement too low or too high are discarded. Other times, the employer is looking to save money by hiring a job-seeker at the low end of a salary range. In either case, it’s not really fair to the job-seeker. With a salary history, employers also want to see frequency and size of raises and promotions.
What can you do about it? Well, first you need to decide whether you want to work for an employer who would screen you out of the hiring process based on salary. What does this method really say about the employer?
Assuming you still do want to work for the company, the next step is determining your response to the request. With salary histories, you don’t have many options. You can attempt to make the point that previous salaries have no bearing on your potential salary — especially if you are changing careers or recently received a new degree or certification, but it’s often not going to fly. So, if you really want to work for the company, bite the bullet and prepare a salary history. Don’t lie about any of your previous salaries, but if you feel you’ve been underpaid in the past, make sure you make a case for a higher salary — both in your cover letter and in your salary history. Use a Salary Calculator to know your true worth. Be sure the paper, style, and typeface of your salary history matches those of your resume and cover letter. See two examples of salary histories.
Then there is the question of your salary requirement. Before you even think about answering that question, you should do some research and make sure you know how much you’re worth. Go to our salary negotiation resources section to find links to several great Web sites that provide salary information.
What are the factors that go into determining your worth?
Finally, assuming you have determined you really want the job, how do you respond to a salary requirement request? There are a number of strategies, each with its own level of risk:
Whenever possible, do not volunteer information about your salary history or your salary expectations or requirements in your cover letter, resume, or during a job interview. Information is power in job-hunting, and your goal should always be to hold on to your power as long as possible by delaying discussions about salary as long as possible.
Read more strategies and tips in our Salary Negotiation Tutorial.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
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