Can Prospective Employer Ask Past Employer about Your Salary?


Angela writes:
I recently went on a job interview where the person conducting the interview
asked me how much I made in both my current and previous job. I told the interviewer
who then called my past employer and asked him how much I made
as well. I was appalled that they did this and don’t really even think it’s legal.
Is it okay for a company I am applying with to contact my past employer
and ask him or her how much I was making while employed there? This past
employer was not a reference of mine and in my opinion should not have
been contacted and asked how much did so and so make when they
worked for you.
The Career Doctor responds:
You have to remember that in job-hunting knowledge is power. That’s why early
in the process it is critical for job-seekers to research prospective employers.
But employers always want the upper hand and in salary negotiation having
your previous salary information means the employer can possibly offer you a
lower salary.
I have had job-seekers tell me that some prospective employers demand to see
pay stubs as proof of compensation. Never offer salary information until requested to do so.
I understand the value of information but I detest the idea that a job-seeker’s
worth is dependent on the amount of money s/he is currently earning. I believe
employers should pay not only what the job is worth but what the job-seeker’s
potential is worth.
So the lesson here is not to lie or inflate your former compensation just to try and
obtain a higher salary. Instead be aware of your strengths and achievements –
and demonstrate the value you’ll bring to the employer.
Employers typically do not divulge much information for fear of lawsuits but they
do provide starting and ending dates and some will verify salary information as
well as the circumstances under which you left.
Find lots of good information resources and tools in the
Salary Negotiation
and Job Offer Tools and Resources
section of Quintessential Careers.