Once a person asked me if it was okay to talk about their salary history with an employer during an interview. They were concerned about discussing their history because it was a little low and they thought it would have a negative effect on their salary negotiation. They were wondering how they could avoid the topic with the employer until the right time. My rule is to never be dishonest with an employer, however it is a good idea to avoid this topic until you have nearly closed the deal with getting the job.
When I have been pressured by HR for an response to that question in the past, my preferred approach is outlined in the following checklist.
1) My first response would be to try to defer the topic until later. Because we haven’t really gotten through the responsibilities of the job, nor the contributions I can make in the new position. The new job is somewhat different from the past job because the company’s market, product or industry are somewhat different than the past companies. Therefore the past salary history is not all that applicable. I would prefer to be paid in accordance with the market and the company’s hiring practices.
2) If I am pressured for an answer in an interview where the request is to provide my previous salary, I set out the total value of what I expect the compensation package will hopefully include. That is cash value for the time and effort (salary), list the benefits in as much detail as I can, how much holiday, and other working conditions such as flex time, or time off in place of worked overtime. I also prefer to reiterate that the job I am looking towards is not with the same company and thus my previous earnings not very relevant. In reality, there are so many things to consider, such as home life balance, health benefits, vacations, overtime, etc,etc, that factor in. What is most important to me is that my salary will be aligned within a margin of my past job, and does the package I am offered match what is reasonable for the current job market which can be totally different.
3) While you may feel you are a high performer, you also may be somewhere above average but not commanding the highest pay. Know the salary range for the job you are applying to, but be realistic when setting your percentile level for your salary expectation. The majority of people are between the 25% and 75% level. Remember that the employer will confirm your performance level with your past employers at reference checking time.
4) Even if you had been making a lower than average salary before, possibly even well below the average for that job in that market, you should expect to be paid within that fair market range when you go to your next career opportunity. You may have one of many reasons for accepting a job at a lower salary than at your previous job. It doesn’t explain your value to the new company. The end analysis is that your value to the market is what the market is currently defining as the salary range for your talent, your level of performance and experience in the industry.
5) If you disclose your salary history information, remember to state your case about the relevance of the information. You may give your personal reasons for accepting the lower pay, but most important is to explain you want the outcome of the salary negotiation to be one where both parties are respected, and that they feel a sense of win-win in the outcome.
Honesty is imperative when doing interviews. Employers have many means to determine whether you’ve been honest with them in the hiring process. What is most important is to be clear about what you can contribute to the company first, and that you expect fairness in the hiring process.
About the Author:
Trevor Davide Grant is a project manager in the software development field and has considerable experience in salary negotiation. Trevor has worked for large telecom, power generation, software project consulting, and a prolific social networking website. He has learned how to negotiate a salary in the most effective way. Learn great tips on the topic of salary negotiating at www.HowToNegotiateASalary.com.