How to write a compensation history

How to write a compensation history

Do you have to give employers your salary history if they request it? What’s the best way to handle information about what you’ve earned in the past? Some job postings ask you to include your salary history when applying for the position.

It's important to be careful how you disclose your salary history, so you have flexibility when it comes to negotiating compensation.

If the job posting doesn't mention it, don't offer any salary information.

Also, keep in mind that it is illegal to ask about how much you earned in past positions in some locations.

What is Your Salary History?

A salary history is a document that presents an employee’s past earnings. Some employers ask job candidates to give them a salary history list when they apply for a job. Others may request it as part of the interview process when you are definitely in contention for the job. A salary history typically includes the name of each company, job title, and the salary and benefits package the candidate has received in the past.

Salary history is different from a salary requirement, which is the pay a job candidate expects for a new job.

Is it Legal for Employers to Ask?

Some cities and states have passed legislation prohibiting employers from asking applicants for salary information or setting conditions regarding such inquiries. Legislators in these jurisdictions believe that placing past salary information in the hands of employers perpetuates wage inequality since many women have historically been underpaid compared to men who hold similar positions.

The AAUW reports that some states and territories have restrictions in place curtailing inquiries by all employers about salary history including the following: Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Vermont, and Washington.

Several others including Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Virginia have provisions in place regarding candidates for jobs with state agencies.

In addition, the cities of San Francisco, New York, Kansas City, Cincinnati, Toledo, and Philadelphia, as well as the counties of St. Louis, Missouri and Albany, New York, all have regulations in place curtailing the practice of asking about salary history by most employers. Several other municipalities including Chicago, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Salt Lake City, New Orleans, and Louisville prohibit city agencies from making inquiries about the salary history of job candidates.

Check with your state department of labor for the latest laws in your area.

Also, some employers, including Amazon, Facebook, and Google have banned interview questions related to salary history.

How to Handle a Request

If you are asked to include your salary history with your resume, you could ignore the request, but that means you could risk not getting an interview. There is nothing employers like less than candidates who don’t follow directions. An alternative would be to include a salary range rather than a specific amount.

If you do include your salary history, be honest. It’s easy for potential employers to verify your salary with previous employers. However, you can also say that your salary requirements are flexible. That may help keep you in the running for the position and will give you some flexibility when negotiating compensation later on.

How to Provide Salary History

What's the best way to provide your salary history? You can list your salary history in your cover letter without itemizing.

For example, you could say, “I am currently earning in the mid-fifties.” That gives you some flexibility when it comes to discussing compensation if you get a job offer.

If you’re concerned that your salary is high enough to knock you out of contention for the position, what you might want to do instead is to include a salary range rather than a specific amount. For example, you could say “My salary range is from $40,000 – $50,000.” Here’s an example of a cover letter with a salary range.

Or, your salary history can be listed on a separate salary history page and enclosed with your resume and cover letter.

What is Included in a List

A salary history list includes the name of each company worked for, job title, and the salary the candidate has earned while working at the employer:

  • List your job title, company, and salary for each job in reverse chronological order with your current or most recent job at the top of the list.
  • List your gross annual salary (the amount prior to taxes being withheld) including any bonuses or other additional compensation over the base pay that you have received.
  • You may also want to mention benefits, in addition to salary.

Salary History Templates

The following are templates you can use to provide employers with salary history. The second example mentions benefits in addition to annual salary.

Salary History Template #1

Your Name
Address
City, State Zip
Phone
Email

Salary History

Benefit Representative
Baptist Medical Hospital
Little Rock, AR
12/16 – Present
Annual Salary: $42,000

Account Analyst
Baptist Medical Hospital
Little Rock, AR
1/13 – 12/16
Annual Salary: $35,000

Account Analyst
Carillon Financial Services
Tampa, FL
4/10 – 12/13
Annual Salary: $29,000

Salary History Template #2

First Last Name
Street Address
City, State Zip
Phone
Email

Salary History

Marketing Manager
Chrome and Partners
New York, NY
06/17 – Present
Annual Salary: $64,000 plus benefits

Marketing Coordinator
Metropolitan, Inc.
Patchogue, NY
12/14 – 06/17
Annual Salary: $50,000 plus benefits

Social Media Assistant
Prime Communications
Bennington, VT
6/12 – 12/14
Annual Salary: $29,000 plus benefits

The information contained in this article is not legal advice and is not a substitute for such advice. State and federal laws change frequently, and the information in this article may not reflect your own state’s laws or the most recent changes to the law.

When you’re looking for a new job, you may be asked to provide a salary history. Some employers ask for this information on the job application while others ask about salary during the interview process, before making an official job offer.

Regardless of when an employer asks for your salary history, you should be prepared to address the topic. You can also visit Indeed's Salary Calculator to get a free, personalized pay range based on your location, industry and experience.

Here are a few tips on how to share your salary history with potential employers, as well as a salary history template to help you format your response.

Why do employers ask for a salary history?

When an employer asks you to share your salaries from previous roles, it’s likely for the same reasons they might ask for your salary expectations. These reasons generally include the following:

They want to determine your market value. Your salary history — specifically the salary you earned in your most recent position — is one factor an employer can use to gauge your level of experience and the value you’ll bring as an employee.

They want to ensure your expectations are aligned with their budget for the role. If your most recent salary is significantly more than an employer is prepared to offer, this is an indication you may be too overqualified for the role.

They want to ensure they’re offering a fair amount for the position. For example, if a majority of applicants to a job provide recent salary histories that far exceed what they’ve budgeted for the role, they may need to increase their offering or adjust the job description to target more junior professionals.

Should I always share previous salaries with employers?

Not all employers will ask candidates to share their salary history and, depending on the employment laws in your state, you may not encounter the question at all. If an employer doesn’t ask you for this information, there’s no need to include it with your application or during any other phase of the hiring process. If an employer does not ask for your salary history, they may ask for your preferred salary range instead.

If you do not feel comfortable sharing your salary history or salary requests with an employer because you don’t feel you know enough about the role yet or would rather discuss it in person, you may choose to politely decline or deflect the question. In this case, you’ll want to give background on your reasoning.

For example: “I would prefer to learn more about the role and its responsibilities before discussing salary expectations.”

What’s the best way to share my salary history?

There are three ways you might choose to communicate your salary history depending on how much you want to share, how much detail the employer requests and what part of the process you’re asked to provide this information.

Here are the three ways you may choose to handle the request:

Use general terms. Instead of including an exact amount, you could provide a general number.

Example: “My current salary is in the mid-sixties.”

Use a range. If your salary has increased during your time in your current role, you may opt to provide a range or a starting salary and current salary. In addition to fulfilling the employer’s request, it also illustrates that you provided enough value to earn a raise.

Example: “I started my role at $55,000 and my current salary is $72,000.”

Provide an exact number. You can choose to provide your exact salary or round up to the closest whole number. For example, if you’re making $84,650, you may want to round up to $85,000.

Example: “My current salary is $85,000.”

You should also include any additional compensation you receive on top of your base salary such as tips, regular bonuses or commissions. If your additional compensation varies, use an average.

Example: “I currently earn a base salary of $60,000 plus an average quarterly bonus of $2,500.”

You may be asked to provide a salary history list or provided a salary history template to fill out. In this case, list your highest gross annual salary for each position. Your gross annual salary is the total amount of money you earned in one year in a position before taxes.

Salary History Example:

Social Media Manager
ABC Co.
Start Date – Present
Annual Salary: I started my role at $45,000 and my current salary is $60,000.

Social Media Coordinator
XYZ Co.
Start Date – Last Date
Annual Salary: $40,000

Digital Marketing Specialist
123 Co.
Start Date – Last Date
Annual Salary: $35,000

If the employer hasn’t asked for your desired salary, you may opt to include it with your salary history.

Example: “I currently make $70,000 and am seeking a position that pays between $75,000 – $80,000.”

Finally, remember to provide your total annual salary before taxes. If you give your after-tax amount, you may give the impression you’re paid a lower salary, which could make it more challenging to negotiate for the higher amount you want.

Providing your current salary to your next potential employer does not mean this will be your salary at your next job, nor does it remove the option to negotiate for a higher amount. Employers understand that many job seekers are seeking to increase their income when moving to a new job, especially if the new role comes with additional challenges or more responsibilities than the job you currently have.

Companies can take one simple, immediate action to substantially reduce pay disparities for Black and female employees: Stop asking job applicants about prior pay. Salary history bans have been enacted in 14 states during the last three years, and the authors find that these new laws generated substantial pay increases for Black (+13%) and female (+8%) candidates who took new jobs. Instead of asking for salary histories, companies can ask what candidates hope to earn or post salary ranges in job postings — both of which are becoming more common. The authors’ analysis, based on the states that banned employers from using salary histories, shows that employers can hire just as effectively without using salary history — rates of turnover, for example, did not increase in states with bans. At the same time, employers who avoided asking for salary histories were able to significantly reduce unfair pay differences.

How to write a compensation historyJeffrey Coolidge/Getty Images

In response to nationwide protests, CEOs have committed to fighting discrimination and intolerance and have renewed pledges to increase diversity and fairness within their organizations. But how can they demonstrate that these are more than just empty promises? New research (by Bessen, Denk, and co-author Chen Meng) shows that CEOs can take one simple, immediate action to substantially reduce pay disparities for Black and women employees: Stop asking job applicants about prior pay.

We know that this policy has a major effect on pay disparities because 14 states have banned this practice during the last three years. We have analyzed differences between areas with salary history bans (SHB) and neighboring counties in states without bans. We find that these new laws generated substantial pay increases for Black (+13%) and female (+8%) candidates who took new jobs.

Why do disadvantaged groups see higher pay offers when employers don’t use salary history information? Simply put, that information gives employers a bargaining advantage. Knowing that a job applicant is currently underpaid, employers can offer a bit more than their current pay level, confident that the applicant will accept. But the applicant may still be paid less than they are worth. In this way, pay inequalities are perpetuated. But when access to salary histories is limited, Black and female job applicants see a more level playing field.

There appears to be a growing trend towards including a salary range in help wanted advertisements, even among employers not subject to an SHB, which suggests that many employers have voluntarily decided to stop asking about salary histories. This is a welcome trend, and more employers should follow it for the sake of reducing pay disparities. An employer voluntarily deciding to stop asking about salary history represents a deliberate, specific action that can help reduce pay inequity and, for first movers, serve as a brand boost to make the company a more attractive employer to women and minorities, showing that the employer is actually taking concrete steps to combat institutional discrimination.

There have been arguments both for and against the use of salary history information. Companies and HR professionals have argued, for example, that knowing an applicant’s salary history was imperative to save time for both the applicant and the company during the interviewing process. If the company could not afford the salary the applicant was likely to seek — typically 10-20% more than the current salary — then there would be no sense in making an offer that was not in that range. However, employers can — and increasingly do, as our data show — simply include a salary range with a job posting, and allow the applicant to self-select whether that range is acceptable to them when deciding to apply.

Employers can also gauge the applicant’s pay expectations without asking for their salary history. Even with a salary history ban, an employer can ask what an applicant hopes to earn. And nothing prevents highly paid job applicants from volunteering their current salary to set employer expectations.

Some HR professionals have also argued that the salary history was necessary to determine the applicant’s career trajectory. A track record of steadily increasing salary in previous positions would demonstrate that the applicant was worthy of increasing responsibility and pay. Of course, that information could also be determined qualitatively from the applicant’s resume and from interview questions, or quantitatively through market research of what other companies pay for that same position, or from what the company has paid previous employees in that or similar positions.

Another concern is that salary histories might reveal the quality of the applicant generally, aside from their career trajectory. The worry is that without this information, employers will select lower quality candidates on average, leading to poorer job matches and greater turnover. Our data show that this does not seem to be a significant concern. Turnover rates have not increased in states with salary history bans in general nor have they increased for workers who were relatively underpaid in their previous jobs. In short, our analysis, based on the states that banned employers from using salary histories, shows that employers can hire just as effectively without using this information. At the same time, employers who avoided asking for salary histories were able to significantly reduce unfair pay differences.

Not asking about salary histories is related to a growing trend towards greater salary transparency. Our data show sharp increases in the use of salary ranges in job postings after state-wide enactment of SHB legislation, and not just by employers subject to the ban. Applicants, too, can learn about an employer’s salary range from websites like Glassdoor, which allows current and former employees to post information about their salary and work environment. The greater transparency offers applicants a level playing field, thus reducing discrimination and other inequities both in the hiring process and over time on the job.

Greater transparency benefits both employers and applicants, and also satisfies the needs of HR professionals and CEOs. Arguments on both sides of salary history bans saw the need for transparency and starting the employer-employee relationship on the right foot and in the proper spirit. Although employers are more likely to name a salary range in a job posting because of a salary history ban, they would have not have posted the job if they did not know what they could afford to pay for it. The SHB simply encourages the employer to make explicit what it likely already had in mind when posting the job. Clearly, employers can go beyond the requirements of these laws and voluntarily provide greater information to applicants and employees. That transparency creates a culture that sets the right tone as open and welcoming for employees, helps attract a greater diversity of candidates, and reduces the pay gap for women and persons of color.

AzmanL/Getty Images

What is your current salary?

Whenever that question comes up during a job search, you’re stuck wondering if you should answer honestly (which could result in an offer that’s lower than you want), lie (which feels shady and could easily backfire), or perform some interview gymnastics to get out of sharing it.

So you might’ve been relieved to learn that a growing number of cities and states are fighting back against it (including California, Delaware, New York City, and more). No, it’s not just because it’s awkward, but because it might perpetuate pay gaps.

As Ariane Hegewisch, employment and earnings program director at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research explains, it’s pretty typical for companies to hire somebody and give them a percentage increase from their previous salary, say 10% or 15%. Groups that face discrimination in the labor market are more likely to come in with a lower previous salary and therefore start their next job behind as well—to be repeated on and on throughout their careers with almost no hope of catching up.

“The wage gap between women and men in New York City is unacceptable, especially for women of color,” says Seth Hoy, spokesperson for the NYC Commission on Human Rights, which enforces the law in the city. The goal of the ban is “to break this cycle of pay inequity and ensure that people who have been systemically underpaid their entire lives are able to negotiate competitive salaries based on their actual skills and qualifications rather than their previous salaries.”

The good news is that the laws can give an advantage to anyone who feels they were paid unfairly in their previous role. But we all know that just because something’s illegal doesn’t mean it’ll never happen.

So what can you do if you get the question anyway?

1. Avoid Putting the Number in a Form

You’re filling out the application for a job you really want and it’s asking for your current salary.

Muse Career Coach Emily Liou recommends putting “N/A” or “Flexible” in that field. If it forces you to enter a numeric value, she suggests writing “0” and finding an appropriate text field elsewhere on the application where you can add something like, “Note: I entered $0 on the salary question however I want to clarify I am flexible if we determine there is a mutual fit.”

2. Deflect or Reframe the Interview Question

Theoretically, you can simply tell an interviewer politely and respectfully that you’re not legally required to answer that question. “But that response is intimidating,” says Muse Career Coach Arik Orbach. “The important thing here is to not overreact or let your emotions get the best of you if you feel that you are being targeted.”

Liou adds that you can always deflect the question, and make sure you end on a positive note. “If asked, ‘What were you last making?’ a savvy candidate can answer with, ‘Before discussing any salary, I’d really like to learn more about what this role entails. I’ve done a lot of research on Company and I am certain if it’s the right fit, we’ll be able to agree on a number that’s fair and competitive to both parties,’” she says.

You can also answer a similar question instead of the one you’re being asked. Applicants “should not disclose their previous salary but instead reframe their answer to express their salary expectations or requirements for the job,” according to Hoy. In other words, tell them what you expect to make, not what you’re currently paid.

3. Do Your Research

“Companies love data and the more you can come prepared with factual information and evidence, the more likely you are to convince an employer you deserve $X,” says Liou. (And this article can help you get as close as possible to a realistic figure.)

Give a “well-researched salary range with the lowest point of that range being a salary offer you’d still be willing to accept,” Orbach says. “A fun little tip is to provide an uneven range to demonstrate you’ve done your homework,” such as $47,000 to $51,000 rather than $45,000 to $50,000.

4. Know Your Worth

Research is crucial. But “it’s also important to back up your reasoning with your own personal qualifications, which include years of experience, certifications or degrees if applicable, or anything else that may separate you from other potential candidates,” Orbach says. “Know your worth before an interview.”

If you’ve already shared the number or feel you can’t get out of stating it, you can also be ready to explain why you feel it was low or below market rate for your position or experience, Hegewisch says.

5. Share Your Salary (if It’ll Help You)

Hear me out. It may be illegal for employers in some areas to ask about your salary history, but that doesn’t usually mean you can’t volunteer the information. If the new offer’s significantly less than your current pay, you can use the higher number as leverage in your negotiation.

6. Report the Incident

Even if you sail through the online form or the interview with one of the strategies above, you can always report the incident to the appropriate city or state body. In New York City, for example, you can contact the NYC Commission on Human Rights at 718-722-3131 or online, and you can choose to remain anonymous. Just a few months in, the commission was already pursuing more than a dozen cases involving violations of the salary history provision.

So check if your city or state has a salary history law and prepare to face the question anyway with the strategies that feel most comfortable to you. Next time you hear those dreaded words, you’ll be ready to fight for the salary you want and deserve.

In our previous discussions on compensation analytics, we discussed why taking the time to review the effects of your compensation plan is valuable to a company and, also, how to perform an analysis of your salary ranges. In this next post on compensation analytics, let’s consider the company that has made a commitment to paying for performance and see how that company can assess whether it is really doing so. Do you really have a history of pay for performance at your organization?

Compensating Your Top Performers

I think that ensuring that you pay for performance is one of the most critical areas in compensation analysis because if you find and hire top talent, and promise them you’ll pay them well, you need to do so. Otherwise, you’ll quickly lose those innovative folks to competitors.

Here is a common way that pay-for-performance gets watered down. Perhaps you are using the common pay formula of making standard cost-of-living adjustments and then adding merit increases on top of that. But, your budget for doing so is only 4-5 percent and the market is moving an average of 3 percent. How can you move top performers through their range? You don’t have a lot of room to reward them.

If this is the case for you, it may be time to consider challenging the status quo by eliminating across-the-board increases if you want to stand out as a true pay-for-performance company. Keep in mind, this approach isn’t appropriate for every organization. But, if your organization says it rewards, pays for and relies upon top performers, then your actions should back that up. And, your compensation analyses should back that up, too.

Using Compa-Ratios as Guideposts

One way to check on the health of your pay-for-performance practices, and create a documented history of pay for performance, is to look at compa-ratios. Your top performers’ pay should stand out when compared with their peers’. I recommend that you create a system that seamlessly integrates performance and compa-ratios if you want to have that balance. For more information on this process, see our blog post The Salary Review Process.

Below is an example analysis of performance ratings and potential ratings matched to compa-ratios. Performance ratings show how the employee is rated for their current performance. Potential ratings tell you how much that employee is expected to contribute in the following year. A compa-ratio lets you know how that employee’s base salary compares to the midpoint of their assigned salary range. For example, a compa-ratio of 1.2 means that a person is at 120 percent of the midpoint of their range.

You can see that the compa-ratios in red are for employees who have low performance but are already high in their salary range. In contrast, the compa-ratios in green are for employees who are performing well but have not arrived at the midpoint for their pay range.

Job Title Performance Rating Potential Rating Compa-Ratio
Controller 2 Low 1.2
Account Manager 2 Medium 0.691
Director of Marketing 3 Medium 1.661
Product Manager 4 High 0.908
Account Executive 5 Hign 1.286

Ask Questions First

You may want to assume that the employees with compa-ratios in red do not deserve merit increases and the employees in green do. But, don’t jump too soon. There may be a history to the situation that you don’t know.

It is important to use your compensation analysis as a reason to ask questions, not make declarations. Before you take action based on these numbers, talk to these employees’ managers and other people in leadership positions at your organization. You can ask, “Why is this person at a low performance rating but has a high compa-ratio? And, if there is a proposed increase for this person, why is there?”

Compensation Analysis Helps You Walk Your Talk

Hopefully, if you are a pay-for-performance organization, once you get in the habit of looking at your compensation patterns for high versus low performers you’ll better ensure that you are walking your talk. Plus, you’ll have a documented history of pay for performance to prove that you practice it.

In our next discussions of compensation analytics, we’ll look at how to use it to ensure external and internal pay equity.

Stacey Carroll
Director of Customer Service and Education
PayScale, Inc.

Related Posts:

  • Compensation Budgeting: Determining Merit Pay Increases
  • Writing an Employee Compensation Policy

Do you have a topic you would like Compensation Today to cover? Write us at [email protected]

Are you paying your best employees enough to retain them after the economy picks back up? Get up-to-date and make sure your external compensation data is specific enough to the education, skills set and experience of employees you want to keep. Give a PayScale Demo a try.

On Wednesday, June 14, 2017, Delaware Governor John Carney signed into law a new bill prohibiting employers from asking about a job applicant’s prior compensation history. This new law amends Chapter 7, Title 19 of the Delaware Code relating to unlawful employment practices. Beginning in December 2017, an employer may no longer seek information about, or screen an applicant based upon, the applicant’s past wages or benefits.

The purpose of the new law, according to Governor Carney, is to assist in closing the gender wage gap. Proponents of the legislation believe that by prohibiting an employer from obtaining information about a job candidate’s past compensation, the employer will be unable to take such information into consideration when drafting the candidate’s offer and terms of employment. Senate Majority Leader Margaret Rose Henry noted the salary history law takes “real steps to protect women in the workforce where it often matters most: the hiring table.” Governor Carney Signs Legislation to Address Gender Pay Gap (June 14, 2017), News.Delaware.gov, http://news.delaware.gov/2017/06/14/governor-carney-signs-legislation-to-address-gender-pay-gap/. Senate Majority Leader Henry believes that this new law will help prevent the proliferation of long-term wage discrimination.

Though an employer may not seek information about a candidate’s pay history, the law expressly permits an employer to negotiate compensation with the candidate, and a candidate may volunteer pay history information (although one can readily foresee a dispute over whether such disclosure was, in fact, voluntary). Additionally, an employer may seek an applicant’s compensation history for verification purposes after the candidate has accepted an offer and terms of employment. If an employer is found to have violated the prohibitions of the salary history law, the employer is subject to fines ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 for the first offense and $5,000 to $10,000 for each subsequent offense. Employers are not liable, however, for non-employee agents, such as recruiters, who are seeking candidates on the employer’s behalf, provided that the employer informs the agent of the restrictions on obtaining salary history information and instructs the agent to comply.

To ensure adherence to the salary history law, Delaware employers are advised to phase out questions and recruiting policies that probe compensation history, and train interviewers accordingly. Employers also should instruct their outside recruiting firms to avoid compensation history questions (and document such instructions in writing). We will continue to update you on any developments with the implementation of this new law and other employment-related legislation.

In general, you should NOT include salary information on your resume. Sometimes your prospective employers may ask for your salary requirements or salary history, but unless there is a penalty for omission, such as your resume will be rejected, do not include the information.

By including salary requirements on your resume, you could convey a false impression or create restrictions for your prospective employers, causing them to bypass your resume and there is usually room for negotiation at a later stage of the hiring process.

If you include a salary requirement that is lower than what the position you are applying would generally receive, you mark yourself as cheap or lacking experience and may not get the offer you would like. On the other hand, if you indicate a figure that is too high, then you mark yourself as too expensive and may rule yourself out of the runnings.

So what should you do if a prospective employer has specifically requested you to include the salary information? Here are 5 tips to help you out:

1. Don’t be too specific:

If you really wish to include salary history on your resume, try to avoid including specific salary figures and use a salary range instead.

“In my past positions, I have earned between $40,000 and $60,000. I will be pleased to discuss this further with you during the interview. I have been making mid-$40,000. I am sure that your company pays a competitive salary.”

2. If you are asked to include a salary requirement, you can follow the same rule:

“I am hoping to make $45,000 to $55,000 per year. But I am flexible and open to discussing compensation amounts.”

3. Talk about benefits instead:

I am flexible as to monetary compensation because other benefits such as health insurance and pension are just as important.

4. Avoid misunderstandings:

You should make sure that you differentiate between salary and other benefits such as bonus, paid vacation, and health benefits. When asked for your salary requirements, you should not include these side benefits, or your resume may be rejected because your figures are too high.

In addition, it is important that you do thorough research and know exactly what the average salary for someone with your skills and experience is in the industry before you state your salary requirements on your resume.

5. Don’t focus on the money:

When you include your salary information, do not put it on a separate sheet of paper because this may give your prospective employer the impression that you focus too much on money.

When you submit your resume, you want the opportunity to interview with the company and demonstrate your strengths and attributes you can bring to role. You can discuss the money issues during your interview or after you receive a job offer.

Have you ever lost a job opportunity due to stating a salary requirement? Let us know in the comments below!

When you’re looking for a new job, you may be asked to provide a salary history. Some employers ask for this information on the job application while others ask about salary during the interview process, before making an official job offer.

Regardless of when an employer asks for your salary history, it’s important you’re prepared to address the topic. Here are a few tips on how to share your salary history with potential employers, as well as a salary history template to help you format your response.

Why do employers ask for a salary history?

When an employer asks you to share your salaries from previous roles, it’s likely for the same reasons they might ask for your salary expectations. These reasons generally include the following:

They want to determine your market value. Your salary history—specifically the salary you earned in your most recent position—is one factor an employer can use to gauge your level of experience and the value you’ll bring as an employee.

They want to ensure your expectations are aligned with their budget for the role. If your most recent salary is significantly more than an employer is prepared to offer, this is an indication you may be too overqualified for the role.

They want to ensure they’re offering a fair amount for the position. For example, if a majority of applicants to a job provide recent salary histories that far exceed what they’ve budgeted for the role, they may need to increase their offering or adjust the job description to target more junior professionals.

Should I always share previous salaries with employers?

Not all employers will ask candidates to share their salary history and you may not encounter the question at all. If an employer doesn’t ask you for this information, there’s no need to include it with your application or during any other phase of the hiring process. If an employer does not ask for your salary history, they may ask for your preferred salary range instead.

If you do not feel comfortable sharing your salary history or salary requests with an employer because you don’t feel you know enough about the role yet or would rather discuss in person, you may choose to politely decline or deflect the question. In this case, you’ll want to give background on your reasoning.

Example: “I would prefer to learn more about the role and its responsibilities before discussing salary expectations.”

What’s the best way to share my salary history?

There are three ways you might choose to communicate your salary history depending on how much you want to share, how much detail the employer requests and what part of the process you’re asked to provide this information.

Here are the three ways you may choose to handle the request:

Use general terms. Instead of including an exact amount, you could provide a general number.

Example: “My current salary is around 5 lakhs per annum.”

Use a range. If your salary has increased during your time in your current role, you may opt to provide a range or a starting salary and current salary. In addition to fulfilling the employer’s request, it also illustrates that you provided enough value to earn a raise.

Example: “I started my role at INR 3,50,000 and my current salary is INR 4,80,000.”

Provide an exact number. You can choose to provide your exact salary or round up to the closest whole number. For example, if you’re making INR 4,80,000 you may want to round up to INR 5,00,000.

Example: “My current salary is INR 5,00,000.”

If you’re earning additional compensation on top of your base salary such as regular bonuses or commissions, state this information as well. If your additional compensation varies, include an average.

Example: “I currently earn a base salary of INR 4,80,000 plus an average quarterly bonus of INR 50,000.”

You may be asked to provide a salary history list or provided a salary history template to fill out. In this case, list your highest gross annual salary for each position. Your gross annual salary is the total amount of money you earned in one year in a position before taxes.

Salary History Example:

Social Media Manager
ABC Company
Start Date – Present
Annual Salary: I started my role at INR 4,45,000 and my current salary is INR 5,50,000.

Social Media Coordinator
XYZ Company
Start Date – Last Date
Annual Salary: INR 3,50,000

Digital Marketing Specialist
123 Company
Start Date – Last Date
Annual Salary: INR 2,95,000

If the employer hasn’t asked for your desired salary, you may opt to include it with your salary history.

Example: “I currently make INR 5,00,000, and am seeking a position that pays between INR 6,00,000 – INR 6,30,000.”

Finally, remember to provide your total annual salary before taxes. If you give your after-tax amount, you may give the impression you’re paid a lower salary, which could make it more challenging to negotiate for the higher amount you want.

Providing your current salary to your next potential employer does not mean this will be your salary at your next job, nor does it remove the option to negotiate for a higher amount. Employers understand that many job seekers are seeking to increase their income when moving to a new job, especially if the new role comes with additional challenges or more responsibilities than the job you currently have.

Meet Grammar Coach How to write a compensation historyImprove Your Writing

How to write a compensation history

Origin of compensation

OTHER WORDS FROM compensation

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How to use compensation in a sentence

The case ultimately came to the Supreme Court, which in 1988 unanimously rejected Falwell’s claim that he was entitled to financial compensation for a parody calculated to inflict ridicule and emotional distress.

It also intends to expand the prohibition on confidentiality and nondisparagement clauses to cover employment agreements that tie these clauses to severance compensation .

That change would make workers’ compensation available to those who die or are disabled from the disease.

The costly compensation contributes to the state’s top rank for property taxes.

She believes salaries will start to level out as workforces become more geographically dispersed thanks to remote working, so companies better get on top of their compensation methodologies, quickly.

That precludes paying much mind to attribution or compensation .

At first glance, it might be tempting to interpret this extravagant level of compensation as a victory for the once-humble intern.

An industry source said Pippa’s compensation will be in the Chelsea Clinton range.

This allows for artist compensation based on revenue rather than royalty, as Spotify does.

Sociologists refer to this sort of in-midair rapid switch as risk compensation .

My schooling was shocking but, as a blessed compensation , my college stage was rather exceptionally good.

She had expected personality, magnetism, as a compensation for nature’s external economies.

First, a voluntary undertaking to work for another without compensation cannot be enforced.

Directors in most cases receive no compensation though the practice is growing of rewarding them.

A director who performs a different service, serves as an attorney, for example, may receive compensation for it.

It’s best to steer clear of discussing a salary until you’ve received a job offer. Here’s how to handle compensation conversations with finesse.

During the hiring process, it’s not uncommon for HR or hiring managers to ask job candidates for their salary history. But doing that can put women and people of color at a serious disadvantage. Basing future compensation on past pay carries forward the effect of any previous discrimination.

The good news is that, these days, fewer employers are requiring candidates to disclose prior salaries. That’s in part because AAUW and other groups are advocating for fair-pay laws that don’t allow the practice. Such legislation is now in place in some form in 18 states and Puerto Rico, at least four counties and 13 cities. A proposed federal law called the Paycheck Fairness Act would ban the use of salary history nationwide.

In the meantime, if you’re asked for your salary history on an application or in an interview, practice the art of deflection. That means doing your best to avoid discussing your salary or negotiating until you have received a job offer. It’s a skill AAUW teaches in its free Work Smart Online salary-negotiation course. To follow are a few tips AAUW recommends.

At the application stage …

  • If prompted to provide your salary history on an initial written application, use dashes, “zero” or “N/A.”
  • You may be asked about compensation in a different way — through a question about your “salary requirements.” As with salary history, try to hold off on giving a number until you’ve received an offer.
  • If the job posting requests your salary requirements, you could write “negotiable,” or “I am looking for a fair and equitable salary based on my skills and experience.” Or, if you’re responding to a post that asks you to send in a resume and salary history, consider sending only the resume. If the employer is interested, someone will call to request more information.
  • Some online forms might not accept an application without a numerical answer. If you decide to move forward, consider using your target salary or target salary range. AAUW’s Work Smart course walks you through how to determine your target salary based on market values, job duties and your qualifications.

In an interview …

  • If you’re asked for your salary expectations, you could deflect by saying “What do you usually pay someone in this position?” or “I’d like to learn more about the role before I set my salary expectations. I would hope that my salary would line up with market rates for similar positions in this area.”
  • If you’re asked to share your salary history, you might try “This position is not exactly the same as my last job. Let’s discuss what my responsibilities would be here and then determine a fair salary.” Another option: “I’d appreciate it if you could make me an offer based on whatever you have budgeted for this position, and we can go from there.”

And remember, a growing number of cities and states prohibit employers from even asking about salary history, so make sure you research local pay-equity laws prior to going in for an interview.

No. Effective January 6, 2020, Labor Law Section 194-a prohibits an employer from, either orally or in writing, personally or through an agent (directly or indirectly), asking any information concerning an applicant’s salary history information. This includes compensation and benefits. The law also prohibits an employer from relying on an applicant’s salary history information as a factor in determining whether to interview or offer employment at all or in determining what salary to offer. Please note that additional protections under local laws may also apply.

An employer may ask an applicant for their salary expectations for the position instead of asking what the applicant earned in the past.

Who is an “applicant?”

An “applicant” is someone who took an affirmative step to seek employment with the employer and who is not currently employed with that employer, its parent company or a subsidiary. This includes part-time, seasonal and temporary workers, regardless of their immigration status.

Does this law apply to current employees?

Yes. Employers cannot request prior salary history information from current employees as a condition of being interviewed or considered for a promotion. However, employers may consider information already in their possession for existing employees (i.e. a current employee’s current salary or benefits being paid by that employer). For example, an employer may use an employee’s current salary to calculate a raise but may not ask that employee about pay from other jobs.

What should an employer do to comply with the new Section 194-a of the Labor Law?

All employers should review their job applications and related processes and train hiring personnel to ensure compliance. For example, an employer should eliminate questions seeking an applicant’s current or past salary from all job applications, unless required by law. Additionally, an employer may wish to proactively state in job postings that it does not seek salary history information from job applicants.

May an applicant voluntarily disclose salary history information to a prospective employer?

Yes. The Labor Law permits an applicant to voluntarily disclose their salary history information to a prospective employer, for example, to justify a higher salary or wage, as long as it is being done without prompting from the prospective employer. If an applicant voluntarily and without prompting discloses salary history information, the prospective employer may factor in that voluntarily disclosed information in determining the salary for that person. An employer may not, for example, pose an “optional” salary history question on a job application seeking a voluntary response.

May an employer ask someone other than the employee or applicant about the employee or applicant’s prior salary history?

No. Employers may not seek or obtain such information from a separate source of the information, such as by asking an applicant’s former employer.

An employer may seek to confirm wage or salary history only if an applicant voluntarily discloses such information. An employer, however, is prohibited from relying on prior salary to justify a pay difference between employees of different or various protected classes who are performing substantially similar work as this violates Section 194 of the Labor Law.

Is an employer required to provide the pay scale or salary range for a position?

The Labor Law does not require an employer to post or set a pay scale for an open position. However, collective bargaining agreements may include such requirements.

Is an applicant protected from retaliation for complaining about a potential violation or refusing to provide their salary history?

Yes. The Labor Law specifically prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee for refusing to provide their salary history or complaining about an alleged violation of the Labor Law.

What should an applicant do if they believe they have been retaliated against for refusing to provide salary history information?

An applicant who believes that they have been retaliated against should contact the Department of Labor’s Division of Labor Standards: Phone: 888-525-2267 E-mail: [email protected]

May an employer inquire about salary history information required by Federal, State or Local Law?

Yes. However, employers may require salary history information only if it is required pursuant to Federal Law, State or local law in effect as of January 6, 2020, the effective date of Section 194-a of the Labor Law.

Does this law apply to New York City employers or to public employers?

Yes. It applies to all public and private employers in New York State, including New York City and public authorities.

Does this law cover independent contractors?

This law does not apply to bonafide independent contractors, freelance workers or other contract workers unless they are to work through an employment agency.

Does this law apply to jobs based in New York State even if the employer is not based in New York State?

Yes. This law applies to any position that will be based primarily in New York State, even if the interview process takes place virtually, via telephone or in another state.

How is the law enforced and what is an employee’s right of redress?

Individuals believing an employer violated this law may bring a civil court action against such an employer or they may contact the Division of Labor Standards.

Discussing salary and compensation with job candidates can be tricky. To keep from wasting your time or the candidate’s, you need to make sure you’re both in the same ballpark.

At the same time, while you do want to put a best foot forward and be honest, a salary compensation discussion is not the time to reveal everything.

Staff members involved in the screening and hiring process need to know what to say about compensation, and how to say it. Otherwise, you risk turning off potential candidates.

Further, it is unlawful to ask about a candidate’s salary history in some jurisdictions, so it’s important to educate those hiring about best practices specific to their location.

Another risk is that by revealing too much, too soon in the process, you may limit your options when it comes time to make an offer.

An important exception to this guideline is for jobs that have a set salary for everyone, such as all salespeople start at $50,000 a year, or all cashiers start at $15 an hour.

But when there’s a salary range, some common questions for hiring managers are:

  • At what point do you discuss compensation with a job candidate?
  • How much do you reveal, and when?
  • If they seem to have reservations, do you try to negotiate?
  • Do you give them a breakdown of the value of employee benefits?
  • What are some mistakes recruiters and hiring managers make when discussing compensation with candidates?

When and how to discuss salary

A compensation discussion should be a two-part process. In the initial screening interview, the recruiter should ask, “What salary range are you expecting for this position?” If your candidate states a number that’s within your budget, your reply should be, “That’s within our range.” Then move on to discussing aspects of the job and the interview process.

Save more detailed discussions and negotiations about salary until you’re ready to make an offer.

If you screen several candidates, and each gives you a higher or lower range than your budgeted salary, it’s time to conduct a compensation review. The job market is much more fluid than in years past, and you may have to adjust your expectations to find the right candidate.

If you’re hiring more than one person and have a salary range in mind, be careful. Paying applicants differently for the same position or for comparable work will run afoul of discrimination laws in certain jurisdictions unless the salary is based on legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons, like geographic location or experience.

It’s important to keep your initial compensation discussions about salary honest, but general, keeping any specifics for when you make an offer. You may need to move your salary range up or down, depending on the market. If you find during the screening process that salaries have fallen for a given position, and you’ve revealed a higher-than-average salary range, you won’t be able to negotiate down later.

When to discuss benefits

As health care costs continue to rise, your benefits package may factor heavily into a potential candidate’s formula for whether your company will be a good fit. That’s why you should volunteer information about benefits during the initial screening interview.

However, depending on the candidate’s needs, you may be asked to discuss benefits in some detail early in the process. To prepare for such questions, get a summary of your benefits package and think through some of the best aspects of those benefits so you can highlight those in any discussion.

If your company doesn’t offer any health care benefits or a 401(k), that should be clearly stated in the initial screening call.

Preparation is the key to success

Probably the biggest mistake any recruiter or hiring manager makes is being unprepared for the interview.

If you don’t have an idea of the current salary range for a job, refer to online resources, such as Glassdoor or Indeed. This can give you a feel for whether your idea of a good salary fits your region.

Then, write down your interview questions, and be sure to include a mix of behavioral and skills-oriented questions. Before you can make an offer and discuss salary, you need to make sure this person is a good cultural fit for your company and its future team.

Another common problem: searching for a candidate for months without success. If you can’t find the right person after an extensive search, accept that you may be looking for a purple squirrel. Purple squirrels don’t exist (in nature). Be open to changing the job description or salary to fit your available candidate pool.

Once you’ve made an offer, be prepared to discuss any out-of-pocket expenses in detail. While your salary may not wow them, your benefits may offer more coverage or cost less, which will make your company more attractive.

Remember, this is a prospective employee’s first impression of your company. The more upfront and honest you can be now – even in the midst of a compensation discussion, the better you’ll set the tone for their entire experience, whether you hire them or not. Create a good impression, and even if you don’t hire them, they may refer a friend who is perfect.

Keep your hiring process hassle-free. Download our free magazine, Building a better team: how to attract, recruit and hire top talent.

PHILADELPHIA – The City today announced that on September 1, 2020 the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (PCHR) will begin enforcing the Wage Equity Ordinance, which prohibits employers from asking job applicants for their salary histories or using salary history to set their wages.

The goal of the Ordinance is to help close the wage gap for women and people of color. Philadelphia was one of the first jurisdictions in the country to pass such a measure. Mayor Jim Kenney signed it into law on January 23, 2017, following unanimous passage by City Council. The legislation was championed by former Councilmember William Greenlee, who introduced the measure on September 29, 2016 (Greenlee retired from Council at the end of 2019).

In February 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit overruled a lower court decision that had prohibited the City from enforcing the Ordinance after a First Amendment challenge was brought by the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia. The three-judge panel found that substantial evidence supported the City’s conclusion that banning salary history inquiries would help close the pay gap for women and people of color whose salary histories are tainted by prior discrimination. The decision has implications for states and cities across the country that have passed similar laws or are considering them.

Instead of seeking review before the United States Supreme Court or a rehearing by the Third Circuit, the Chamber elected to collaborate with the City on drafting a set of Frequently Asked Questions and provided input on PCHR’s Regulations, which were approved by the PCHR Commissioners on July 31, 2020.

City Solicitor Marcel S. Pratt:
“Bans on salary history inquiries are a critical component of the equal pay movement and Philadelphia’s law was seemingly the national test case. With the legal proceedings completely behind us now and an enforcement date set, job applicants in Philadelphia will soon begin to reap the benefits of the Wage Equity Ordinance. Recent studies show that jurisdictions with salary history bans are seeing increases in salaries for women and people of color when they change jobs, proving that these laws actually work and strengthening the case for passing them,” Pratt said, citing a recent study by Boston University. “The City is extremely grateful to the Chamber’s leadership and its members who participated in this collaborative effort, which will help ensure that employers receive clear direction on how to comply with the Ordinance so that job applicants are protected.”

Rue Landau, Executive Director, PCHR:
“The pay gap is the result of systemic workplace discrimination. Enforcing this Ordinance will help ensure that discriminatory pay history will not affect workers when they apply for jobs in Philadelphia and that workers are paid based on objective factors, like skill and experience. I am excited that PCHR can finally begin enforcing the Ordinance because it provides us with another tool to protect workers in Philadelphia. We prefer voluntary compliance by businesses over enforcement, so we urge employers to review the law, regulations, and FAQs and revise their policies and procedures accordingly. We also encourage job seekers to familiarize themselves with the law’s protections and to contact PCHR if they need our help.”

Rob Wonderling, President, Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia:
“The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia is very appreciative of the collaborative effort put forth by the City Solicitor and the Kenney Administration that enabled the interests of our membership to be represented in the process to draft the regulations necessary to implement the City’s Wage Equity Ordinance.

“As a result of the global pandemic and the dramatic and negative impact that it has had on the business community, we are also very appreciative of the ample time that was afforded to develop a balanced approach via the regulatory process. It is our hope that the Wage Equity Ordinance will help in closing the gender pay equity gap, while at the same time not placing a difficult regulatory burden on the business community.”

It may be questioned whether the ban is truly effective or merely symbolic.

How to write a compensation history

The ban on asking candidates their salary history has been a hot topic for quite some time now. Already 18 states in the US have banned employers from asking candidates the question. In Germany, employers are prohibited from asking ask candidates about their past earnings unless they volunteer to reveal the information themselves. The goal behind the move is to bring an end to gender pay disparity and unequal remuneration among employees in the same role. However, it may have its own limitations.

At the outset, a ban on asking salary history is only going to help employees in the junior to middle- management range. It is common for candidates who join to seek parity and compare their earnings with their batchmates or their fellow employees. This tendency has always existed, and starts from the time an individual bags the first job, and goes on till mid-managerial level. Compensation remains a benchmark of success or satisfaction, but only up to a certain point of time. Once a person moves into a leadership role, the importance of remuneration diminishes. This is because, the focus shifts to the role one occupies and the kind of impact one has on the organisation.

Is the ban truly effective or merely symbolic, to make the interview less awkward for the employee?

How to write a compensation historyRavi Mishra

Salary should not be negotiated but it should be an authentic and holistic reward for the candidate’s competency

Salary history ban came into significance because salaries happen to be negotiable, and not fixed by title and experience. They do not follow a set rate. This adds a confrontational element to the hiring process. There is also the trade-off that candidates want to secure the highest salary possible for a role, but the employers do not want to pay more than they have to in order to secure an open position. If salaries were standardised or equal pay was the norm everywhere, this would not be an issue. Historically, women have been paid much lower than their male counterparts. Also, some candidates may be stuck in an unfortunate cycle, whereby, because of their historically lower salaries, they are unable to catch up with a better range in their later jobs. The same may hold true for women.

In the 2019 Pay Scale Survey, it was noted that conducting a gender equity pay audit was a top priority for less than five per cent of the organisations surveyed. Less than 10 per cent organisations looked at providing fair minimum wage as the top priority.

In 2018, it was noted, that women who refused to reveal their salary history, ended up receiving lower salaries as compared to their male counterparts. Men ended up receiving a higher compensation instead.

How to write a compensation historyAmit Das

IN THE ABSENCE OF SALARY HISTORY, There will be a total mismatch in terms of WHAT THE CANDIDATE EXPECTS and what is GIVEN BY THE ORGANISATION.

Merely banning the question does not stop employers from offering less pay to candidates. Nor does it protect employees who are seeking a higher wage in their current or subsequent organisations. Moreover, women and men who have been historically underpaid, will anyway be unable to estimate what their worth in the job market is.

Do we need a salary history ban in India?

According to Amit Das, CHRO, Timesgroup (BCCL), salary history is required for a correct estimate of what to pay the candidate. “The organisation will not be able to pay the candidate as per the expectation in the absence of a salary history. There will be a total mismatch in terms of expectations and what is given.”

Employers may offer less than the hike employees expect based only on what they assume to be the worth of the role, even if the candidate was receiving a higher wage in the previous organisation.

Ravi Mishra, SVP-HR, epoxy business, Aditya Birla Chemicals, has a different view in this matter. He opines, “Salary should not be negotiated, but should be an authentic and holistic reward for the candidate’s competency.”

Mishra goes on to say that if an employer knows the salary history, there is a chance for bias to creep in. And if someone has a historically lower salary range, they may end up accepting a lower amount than others in the same role. The employer, in this case, gets the power to decline any hike asked by the candidate and simply attribute it to the lower market rate. “Knowledge of salary history becomes a negative liability in such cases,” concludes Mishra.

1 COMMENT

I am a software developer in IBM India who makes 2.4 LPA. My peers who I mentor make 12 LPA. Don’t we need the salary history ban?
Your expectations of what your future salary must be can be shared with the company, who can decide whether they can afford to hire you.

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With another Labor Day approaching, employers are once again thinking about the many tasks that need to be completed before year end. Let’s add one more – remembering to add Delaware to the list of jurisdictions prohibiting employers from asking applicants’ compensation history pre-offer. The synopsis of the law states that when an employer affirmatively asks about pay history, it perpetuates gender disparities from one job to another.

Delaware’s compensation history ban goes into effect in December 2017. At the pre-offer stage, employers are not permitted to inquire about an applicant’s “compensation,” which includes salary as well as benefits and other forms of compensation. Once an offer is extended and accepted, then a Delaware employer can obtain such information for the sole purpose only of confirming the applicant’s compensation history. (Note the term compensation is much broader than just “salary.”)

The law, similar to other compensation history bans, does not preclude the applicant’s voluntary disclosure of compensation during the interview process. Rather, the employer, at all times during the interview process, cannot affirmatively seek compensation history during discussions and any negotiations. What if an applicant uses an outside recruiter? Answer: The same “compensation history ban” rules apply. While there may be a discussion or negotiation about compensation expectations with the employer or employer’s agent, the applicant cannot be required to disclose compensation history. Employers should be pro-active and provide their outside recruiters and any other “agents” who may assist in the screening process with clear notice of this law’s requirements. Delaware law, however, provides an avenue for employers to avoid liability for the actions of their agents who seek compensation history from applicants pre-offer if they can demonstrate that their agents were informed of the compensation ban requirements and advised to comply with the ban.

The Delaware Department of Labor enforces the salary ban law. Civil penalties can be steep, with $1,000-5,000 for the first offense, and not less than $5,000 nor more than $10,000 for each subsequent violation. While the authors recently were told that typically the State Department of Labor attempts to give warnings first before imposing civil penalties as a way to educate employers about new laws, employers should be aware that any actions by the employer or employer’s agent relating to screening an applicant based on his or her compensation history or inquiring about compensation history can be considered a “single” violation.

The take aways from Delaware’s law are: 1) clear notice should be provided to employer’s agent as described above to avoid liability under the compensation ban law; and 2) the employer should take steps by the law’s effective date to make sure any discussions about compensation history are not affirmatively engaged in by employer pre-offer, including asking such information on an application form.

As more states and cities ban employers from asking for a salary history, should you disclose your past salary and compensation?

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How to write a compensation history

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This is a tricky question and, unfortunately, there is no single “right” answer. In fact, the answer actually depends on the location of the company where you’re interviewing since several — though not all — states have banned asking for a salary history.

So what are the pros and cons of revealing this information to potential employers?

The Pros of Disclosing Your Salary History

So you decided to play ball. You answered “yes” to the question “should you disclose your salary history?” and filled in the requested information about your earnings with one or more of your past employers.

Hopefully, by appearing to be cooperative on your job application and filling in all the requested fields, it’s possible that the hiring managers will consider you for a future interview.

Furthermore, if you demonstrate a strong salary history that shows progressive growth over time (both within a single company as well as among several other), then your disclosure will let employers know what you expect in terms of a minimum salary. This is great if you earned a lot of money in your prior role because it keeps your “market value” from decreasing.

But this can be a double-edged sword…

The Cons of Disclosing Your Salary History

Initially, life seems good after disclosing your salary information. You were called back to the company. The interview went well and you’ve received an official offer letter by the hiring manager. Your dream job is almost within your grasp.

However, the offer is for much less than you’d originally expected. Huh?

You learn that because of your “experience level” (a.k.a. earlier salary levels, which were never as high as you’d liked), the company has decided to offer you a starting salary on the lower end of that role’s range.

Although you’re free to try to negotiate for a higher salary, the truth is that your odds of success are very low. They hold all the cards. Say “yes” and you may be severely crippling your earning potential for years to come. Say “no” and risk them turning around and extending the offer to the next qualified candidate in line.

What To Do If You’re Asked For Your Salary History

So, should you disclose your salary history? There’s no simple answer.

Regardless of what you choose to do, you can (and should) be strategic about the information you reveal to any potential employer. Keep your salary history private if possible. If that isn’t an option, then be truthful. Not just about your past earnings, but also about your salary goals for the future.

Which States Still Allow Salary History Inquiries?

When should you disclose your salary history? If you live in one of the states or cities where asking for a salary history is banned, then you won’t have to discuss it. At least 11 states and 12 cities have banned the practice, citing its negative impact on gender equality in wages. Similar bans are pending in four other states.

But some states are taking a stance against the trend of imposing bans. Michigan and Wisconsin, for instance, have forbid municipalities from imposing bans against asking for a salary history.

The bottom line is sharing your salary history is an intensely personal decision. Whatever your choice, know your rights before handing over the details.

This article is intended only for informational purposes. It is not a substitute for legal consultation. While we attempt to keep the information covered timely and accurate, laws and regulations are subject to change.

How to write a compensation history

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There’s nothing particularly extraordinary about the content of the 27th Amendment to the Constitution. In full, it stipulates that, “No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.” In other words, members of the United States Congress are not allowed to raise or lower their salaries mid-term. That might seem a like a common sense regulation, but its path to becoming law was anything but conventional. From its original proposal to its ratification in 1992, the 27th languished for 202 years and seven months—longer than any Constitutional amendment in American history. Perhaps even more remarkable, its revival was largely credited to a Texas university student who only became aware of it while researching a school paper.

How to write a compensation history

The story of the “compensation amendment” dates to the first session of Congress in 1789, when James Madison introduced a mid-term pay raise ban as one of several amendments to the Constitution. The Constitutional Convention had previously decided that Congress would set its own pay rate, but Madison and other critics maintained that the rule carried a potential for political misconduct. “There is a seeming impropriety in leaving any set of men without control to put their hand into the public coffers, to take out money to put in their pockets,” he noted during discussion of the issue. Supporters considered the compensation amendment a roundabout method of allowing voters to weigh in on congressional pay hikes, but opponents countered that legislators could be trusted to grant themselves a fair and reasonable salary. Some even argued that lawmakers might reduce their pay to a pittance in an attempt to curry favor with their constituents.

Congress approved Madison’s Constitutional amendments in September 1789, but while 10 of them later became famous as the Bill of Rights, the compensation amendment failed to win ratification by the necessary three-fourths majority of the states. For the next two centuries, it hovered in political limbo, resurfacing only periodically during public outcries about lawmakers’ salaries. In 1873, for example, the Ohio state legislature ratified the amendment to protest a congressional pay hike dubbed the “Salary Grab Act.” A century later in 1977, Wyoming followed suit after Congress gave itself another pay increase. By then, a total of nine states had ratified what would later become the 27th Amendment, but it was still well short of the required 38 state total.

How to write a compensation history

Portrait of James Madison. (Credit: Public Domain)

The compensation amendment would likely have become a mere footnote of history if not for a young student named Gregory D. Watson. In 1982, the 20-year-old University of Texas at Austin sophomore happened upon the story of the lost amendment while conducting research for a government class. “This one pertaining to congressional pay raises immediately leaped off the page to me,” he later told the Austin American-Statesman. Sensing that he had unearthed an interesting topic, Watson wrote a term paper asserting that the compensation amendment had no expiration date and could still be added to the Constitution if the required number of states ratified it. Despite his enthusiasm, however, his professor didn’t buy his argument. When he got his paper back, he found he had received a “C” grade.

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Disappointed, Watson decided to prove his case in the most extreme way possible: he started a one-man campaign to have the amendment added to the Constitution. Though burdened by a job as an aide to a Texas state legislator, he spent the next several months sending letters to members of the U.S. Congress in the hope of recruiting supporters. He achieved his first breakthrough in 1983, when one of Maine’s senators forwarded his proposal to the state legislature, which promptly ratified the amendment. The following year, the state of Colorado also threw its support behind the measure.

Buoyed by his early successes, Watson spent several thousand dollars of his own money on a new letter writing campaign to state legislators across the country. Thanks in part to fortunate timing—Congress had been chastised for giving itself multiple pay raises during the 1980s—his cause eventually won wide bipartisan support from politicians and activist groups. Five states ratified the 27th amendment in 1985, and nearly 20 others joined in by the end of the decade. Finally, on May 7, 1992, Michigan became the 38th state to ratify the 27th Amendment. After over 200 years, James Madison’s proposal had crossed the three-fourths finish fine.

How to write a compensation history

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Watson—who later described the ratification as the happiest day of his life—told the New York Times that he always knew in his “heart of hearts” that he would succeed. “The American people want a Congress that is honest, that has integrity,” he said at the time. “This Amendment is one vehicle by which some degree of decorum can be restored.”

Even after the 27th Amendment was ratified by three-fourths of the states, there were still many who doubted that it would actually become law. A number of legal scholars argued that the amendment had expired after being shelved for so long, while other critics claimed that existing statutes made it unnecessary. Nevertheless, when the Archivist of the United States reviewed the measure, he concluded that the 27th Amendment had met all the necessary requirements. Following a vote in Congress on May 20, 1992, it officially became the law of the land.

Several other would-be amendments have been proposed since 1992, but to date, the 27th remains still remains the most recent addition to the Constitution. Gregory Watson, meanwhile, has continued to work in the political field. Along with serving on the staff of several Texas lawmakers, he spearheaded a 1995 campaign to persuade the state of Mississippi to belatedly ratify the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery. Watson also received some personal vindication regarding the college assignment that kicked off his quest to resurrect the 27th Amendment. In early 2017, following a request from his former professor, the University of Texas at Austin officially changed his term paper grade from a “C” to an “A.”

Many companies ask job candidates to provide salary expectations as part of the interview process. Responding can feel intimidating. Ask for too much, and the hiring manager may pass you up for someone more affordable. Suggest a salary that’s too low, and you may come across as unqualified. If the employer wants you to give your expected salary, you’ll likely find the request in the job posting. But sometimes, you might get an email from the employer after you apply asking about your salary expectations. Figuring out how to respond to salary requirements via email may help you land the job.

Provide an Informed Response

When an employer sends an email asking for your desired salary, don’t just rattle off a figure. Instead, provide a well-informed response. Because the employer is not asking you this question over the telephone, you have time to prepare your response. Use market research tools to determine what the average salary is for a person that has your same education level, experience and geographic location. An example of free resources you can use include the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Economic Research Institute. When responding, let the employer know that your desired salary is based on recent market research.

Salary History

Another way to respond is to mention your salary history, if applicable, but avoid locking yourself into a certain salary. If the employer looks at your salary history and sees an exact figure, it gives him power. He may offer to pay you exactly what you are used to receiving, even if the prepared to pay more. Instead of listing an exact salary history, give a salary range. As an example, you might mention that your salary history has remained in the mid $50,000 range, or in the $35,000 to $40,000 range. Let the employer know that you desire a salary that is comparable to your salary history.

Fulfill the Request

Do not ignore an employer’s request. It is possible that the employer requested salary expectations in a job announcement, but you got the lead some other way and didn’t submit the information. If you neglected to send this information and the employer reached out to you anyway, it indicates there is an interest in your application or resume. If you ignore the email request, it can cost you the job, as it shows an inability to follow instructions.

Not Set in Stone

To increase your chances of getting a job, let the employer know that your desired salary is not set in stone. Let him know that you are willing to negotiate. If you fail to mention that your salary is negotiable, the employer may move to another job candidate who is willing to negotiate. Being willing to negotiate gives you options. When you sit down at the negotiation table, you can always walk away from the offer if you feel it is too low.

  • Fast Company: What’s the Right Way to Ask Job Candidates About Their Salary Expectations?
  • Fox Business: How to Best Answer: What Are Your Salary Expectations?

Faizah Imani, an educator, minister and published author, has worked with clients such as Harrison House Author, Thomas Weeks III, Candle Of Prayer Company and "Truth & Church Magazine." Her dossier includes JaZaMM WebDesigns, assistant high-school band director, district manager for the Clarion Ledger and event coordinator for the Vicksburg Convention Center.