To Ask or Not To Ask For The Salary History?


“What do you currently make?” a question we’ve all heard at least once in our lifetimes.


“Why does it matter?” a response we’ve all thought more than once in our lifetimes.


Salary talk is cringe-worthy—there’s no doubt about that. It’s awkward on both the recruiter and the candidate ends.


Unfortunately, a salary discussion has to be had to find the best candidate for the job. Plain and simple.


The good news is, it doesn’t have to start out with “what do you currently make?” or “how much were you making in your previous position?”


Because honestly, that actually doesn’t matter.


What matters is the current expectation.


If you are a recruiter, you’re told by the hiring manager the position you’re recruiting for has a budget of $XX-$XX salary range. That’s that. Now it’s your job to find a solid piece of talent who can fit that number.


Think about when you ask a candidate for their salary history—what if they were grossly underpaid considering their experience, skills, and market rate? And they know that? How are they going to step up if they’re being paid $40K for a job that should be paying them at least 60K, but you only want to offer them 45K because “it’s still more than their salary now, but 20K under budget.”?


It’s all a bunch of beating around the bush, lies, and not being straight to the point. It’s annoying, honestly.


The question that matters to ask a candidate is “what are your salary expectations?”


That’s it.


No digging in the past. No low-balling. No salary history checks.


Do the candidate’s expectations meet the salary expectations of the job? Do they fall within the salary range? If so, GREAT! Now you can move on to see if they’re a good fit on a cultural and motivational level. Keep it moving.


And though I’m targeting primarily recruiters and hiring managers in this post, I have a note for job-seekers as well:


If you’re asked to give your salary history, especially at the beginning of the hiring process, do not hesitate to respond saying “I’d be happy to discuss compensation as soon as I learn more about the position.”


Now, you should do extensive research on the type of position you’re applying for, your market rate, etc. upon applying so you have a solid salary range expectation in mind, but if you’re waiting to learn in detail the responsibilities you’d be taking on, that’s just smart business.


So here’s the TL; DR: Stop asking for salary history. Ask for salary expectations. If it’s a match, then it’s a win-win.




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