How to Answer Questions About Your Salary History

How to Advance Your Career


Any time you apply or interview for a job, there are certain questions you can expect to be asked, such as why you left your last job, what attracted you to the position in question and what unique skills you bring to the table. Unless you live in Massachusetts, Philadelphia, New York City or Puerto Rico -- which have banned them -- you also can expect questions about your salary history.

"Asking for salary history provides an easy way to sort applicants into an employer's desired price range and helps the employer calculate the lowest offer that will still entice a candidate," author Karla L. Miller writes in an article for The Washington Post.

So why have the aforementioned jurisdictions banned employers from asking about salary history? Discrimination, according to Miller.

"Candidates who start their careers underpaid because of the gender or race wage gap, a bad economy or a cheap boss find that this lowball figure continues to weigh them down throughout their career," she explains. "At the same time, senior victims of layoffs or age discrimination have difficulty being hired because employers assume they're not interested in or are overqualified for lower-paying positions."

If you're worried that disclosing your salary history could hurt your career ambitions more than it could help them, the best answer you can give to questions about it might be a non-answer.

"In an interview, you can deflect salary history questions by steering the discussion to what you're looking to make," Miller says. "On an automated form … enter $0.00, or some other number that is clearly intended not to deceive, but to demur."

Although doing so could cost you opportunities, it's not likely: If you're a good fit, Miller concludes, employers won't let you get away because of one unanswered question.

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