Refusing to Reveal Your Salary May Not Work in Your Favor

Salary negotiations don’t have to be hard.

When interviewing, one of the most sensitive topics can be pay: you want a lot of it, and your company wants to keep it as low as possible. A new study shows that interviewers ask your level of income fairly often, and refusing to answer may not always work in your favor.

PayScale queried professionals across a variety of job titles and disciplines, and came back with some interesting – and sometimes alarming – results. As industries go, Finance and Insurance interviewers are more likely to ask about your level of income (or rather, your pay at your last job). This is possibly a cultural normal for those industries, which also had the highest rate of “asked and answered” responses from respondents (45 percent), and the lowest rate of refusal to answer (18 percent).

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The number-one job title reporting they were asked and answered the salary question? HR Manager. Non-profits and other “values-driven industries” are the least likely to ask what you’re making in your current job. Those whose income is a direct reflection of job performance, such as sales representatives, are most likely to disclose their income straight away.

Overall, 23 percent of us refuse to say what we make in an interview setting. PayScale reports that more senior positions are more likely to be asked, and just as likely to refuse to answer. Experience may play a role, too; PayScale says ‘Baby Boomers’ are most likely to steer the salary conversation elsewhere (something it equates to being “experienced in interview situations”) while ‘Millennials’ are most likely to comply.

PayScale Salary Survey
PayScale Salary Survey

Gender also plays a huge role in the findings. Amongst men, those who refused to say how much they made actually earned more than other men in the same position who did say how much they made. The opposite is true for women; when a female refuses to say how much she makes, she’s paid less (on average) than other women who will report their earnings.

PayScale theorizes that this may be unconscious bias on the part of hiring companies, or women may be undervaluing themselves in an effort to land a job. While hard to pin down, it’s still a very curious finding.

Overall, about 43 percent of respondents say they were asked about salary in an interview. PayScale notes such a sensitive question (happily) “isn’t quite as pervasive as we’d think.” For companies that do ask, PayScale cautions it may set a negative tone, possibly costing companies skilled workers: “Whether overtly or not, you’re passing along information about how your organization makes decisions about pay, how open your organization is to discuss the rationale for pay and ultimately how transparent and innovative your organization is about rewarding employees.”

Rather, PayScale says companies should lead the conversation by letting candidates know the salary range (and why they choose to pay what they do), asking leading questions about a candidate’s “salary expectations,” and reinforcing satellite benefits that may entice new hires to take a slightly lower-paying job. The lattermost may result in less cash in a tech pro’s pocket, but a company-paid transit card, stock options or gym membership might be more interesting.

61 Responses to “Refusing to Reveal Your Salary May Not Work in Your Favor”

  1. Ex-job seeker

    For one, asking about your current salary is unethical. But IMHO, it can be resisted and in a completely non-offensive way.

    One can always reply with a non-answer answer such as, “I am getting paid less than what I deserve. May I know what the budget for this position is?”

    “Budget is open.” could be a response to which you can say, “So the question of my salary does not arise then.”

    “How much do you expect to make in this position?” to which you can reply, “I think I would be most interested in a compensation of $250K…… …… a month.” and then chuckle.

    “Oh I don’t think we can pay that much.”

    “So is there a budget or an upper limit then?”

    Now the shoe is in the other foot – get that number and reply appropriately.

    Especially if that number is much above what you thought you would get, DO NEGOTIATE mildly.

    Remember, the reason why you are still talking to the recruiter is because the recruiter thinks you are a hot candidate – use it to your advantage.

    • None of those cheeky responses will work in the real world. In nearly every interview I’ve had recently, they’ve asked my salary, and I’ve avoided the question. I do believe it’s hindered my progress.

      • Interesting…I’ve been asked in every conversation and have revealed the salary every time, which I think has hindered my progress. I like some of the suggestions above and will try them.

      • Bottom line is the question is asked so they can cheap shot you with a lower offer as bait and see if they can get your skills and experiences for less, which it sounds good from a business stand point but not from the cost of living stand point. We are working and have jobs because we have to make a living so why employers do not see or consider that aspect of life??? because they only care about their profits an not how you will manage to feed yourself or loved ones. So is best to ask upfront what’s the highest to not waist each others time.

      • The person that talks money first loses in negotiations. You really don’t want to work for a company that wants to screw your over or nickel and dime you. Again, read Liz Ryan. She’s a breath of fresh air with this stuff and not employer centered liked the author or someone like jt O’Donnell. If you don’t stand up for yourself, no one else will.

    • Recruiter

      I’ve been an IT Recruiter for agency and corporate for 14 years. Those kind of responses would have you out of consideration for one of my jobs immediately. I don’t ask what your current salary is, I don’t care. But I do ask about your expectations. I’m too busy to waste time getting to the end of the process and being miles apart on salary. Smartass or cutesy answers aren’t helpful. Put your expectations on the table, I can meet them or I can’t.

      One last point. Don’t try to be slick. I have negotiated thousands of offers in my career, you have negotiated 1-5 offers in which you have personal interest. I’ve seen every variation of behavior, you’re not going to impress me.

      • So, you will overlook all other skills and experience the candidate brings to the table, and the litmus test is how compliant the candidate is? If you want to know the salary expectations of the candidate, ask “What is your salary expectation” and NOT “how much you are currently making”. Asking an irrelevant question and expecting answer to some other (unasked) question is the height of stupidity. You may have negotiated “thousands” of offers in your career, but if your way of weeding candidates out is solely based on the fact that they did not answer your questions the way you want, you are doing a big disservice to your clients.

        If you want good candidates to work for you (or your clients), first learn to treat them with respect and professionalism. Ultimately, you get what you deserve.

      • I am not buying the “miles apart on salary” premise. The best way to avoid that situation is to inform the candidate of the posted salary range. Disclosing salary history puts the candidate at disadvantage for several reasons.

      • darryl

        revealing ones salary expectations is fair. however revealing one’s current salary isn’t. it is also counter productive because an employer coming back with a low ball offer would be refused.

      • Debi Vans Evers

        YOU may not ask what I’ve made in the past, but LOTS of recruiters still do. I’m PERFECTLY happy to tell you what I expect and the caveats that go with it (benefits, travel requirements, unusual work hours, etc). There are the recruiters who tell me that they can’t work with me unless I tell them what I made at my last jobs even after that.

        The problem is, there is NO WAY but to be biased by telling you what I made at my last job. None. Good or bad. There are many perfectly valid reasons that I’m worth $50K a year more than I made at my last job: how long I was at a job that gave miserly raises; new certifications/education I’ve received; new location; job requires 75% travel. You may not bat an eye if you just ask “what are your expectations”, but if I tell you what I made and THEN what my expectations are, I’ve got a LOT more work to do. Unfairly.

        There are many perfectly valid reasons I’m willing to take $30K less per year: moving to non-profit from a lucrative commercial industry; moving into to a different part of the industry where I need to take a slightly junior job; moving into a job with less stress because I’m tired of the rat race; I was simply overpaid at my last company and that’s part of the reason it folded. My ask is PERFECTLY within my well-researched market value and within your budget. But when I tell you what I made at my last job? Well suddenly I’ve got a LOT of explaining to do about why I don’t think I’m worth as much as I used to be. If I even get the CHANCE to explain.

        Your way isn’t the only way. And to lambast others as if it is? Well, it comes off as “slick” and continues to give recruiters a bad name.

      • Mike Lawrence

        So, you just confirmed one of my long-standing suspicions about I.T. recruiters. The most important thing to you is the money, not my skills, experience, temperament, track-record, accomplishments or potential benefits to your customer. So, if I start out with something too high, you’re not even going to continue further without me having more knowledge about the position, people and expectations. Frankly, telling you how much I expect based on a job description is ludicrous. You know what is the number one determinant for my requested pay? The interview with the person I’m going to work for. Not you.

        When I first entered the work force many years ago, we were taught to always say “negotiable.” Even today, sales people will avoid the price discussion until they’ve painted a benefits picture. There’s a reason for that. A piece of paper with pretty words cannot tell you what the job is really going to be like. Only a conversation with your future boss can start to give you a realistic clue.

        But, no, if I’m looking for a job, I need to guess correctly on what you’re willing to pay before I waste your time with the rest of the process. Gee, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to get in your way.

        THIS is why I do not deal with recruiters any more. (Well, that and ghosting and padding H1-B numbers with “offers”)

      • Candidate

        I feel for the recruiters! Going through thousands of profile, shortlisting some and then going ahead with unclear expectations surely hurts. But, having said that, I don’t understand this –
        The recruiters can simply expose the pay range for the job they discuss/publish and when they do this, they can certainly get the candidates who are expecting the salary between that range. wouldn’t that be more simpler option than asking each prospective hire to bring his/her expectations to table?

        Probably, this would save time and energy of recruiters and they can focus easily on their targeted range.

        Why would recruiters not do this and rather ask candidates to do it(sternly, if I may say) as if only job seekers are in need?

      • BambiB

        Recruiter said:
        But I do ask about your expectations. I’m too busy to waste time getting to the end of the process and being miles apart on salary. Smartass or cutesy answers aren’t helpful. Put your expectations on the table, I can meet them or I can’t.

        Alright – then explain why you’re being a jackass and not revealing your range. Then the job applicant can say, “That’s not enough” or “That range works” – whichever is appropriate. You get to the same point and because your “don’t care” what they’ve made before, why don’t you just put YOUR expectations on the table?
        (Because you’re a jerk – that’s why. And a dishonest one at that.)

      • BigFanOfTheseArticles

        This comment is directed towards the IT recruiter and is based on you making first contact with me about a client opportunity which you are recruiting for.

        When I as a candidate ask ‘What does your client have budgeted for salary and benefits for this position? I as a candidate want to hear an answer so that you are not wasting my time either. For privacy issues, I as a candidate should not have to reveal my current salary and benefits packages. HR departments subscribe to services which provide this type of information at a summary level by many different variables. These services all the employer to see if they are in line when it comes to current salary trends for the positions which they are trying to fill.

        When I ask the question about clients salary range and benefits package if it is not in my range then I am going to tell you what my range is and ask if your client can meet my expectations. If your client cannot meet my expectations then I am going to politely decline pursuing the opportunity for which 9 times out of 10 you have called me about and not the other way around.

    • I would tell the truth. My last employer paid me too low, but I would inform them that the previous contract jobs paid me at a higher wage. That way they will know that my recent contract house under bidded me, but the previous contract houses knew how to negotiate for proper salary.

  2. Mark Koontz

    It’s very easy to answer, and not answer this at the same response:
    “I leave that open to you, but I can give you my salary history up to now.”
    And if you’re moving to an area that’s significantly different on ‘cost of living’, that might push things up or down.

    In the end, it’s all about what you’ll accept, and what other “payments” you’ll receive while working there. (ie: experience, insight into an industry, connections made)

  3. What i do is tell them how much a make and what im looking for, some say its a big jump, they i politely tell they to get back to me when they have that budget.

  4. Got great job

    As a woman I need to tell my salary, otherwise i am loosing everybody time. It justifies my high expectation and explains why I cannot work for half of my salary.

  5. Bronze

    I’ve always wondered what’s stopping you from lying about this question. Will employers actually disclose this information if asked? Obviously, lying is bad, but it’s an inappropriate question meant to see if they can pay you less, which is also bad.

  6. Barry Howard

    Frankly, one’s previous salary is between oneself, God, and the IRS, and likely to be completely unrelated to the position under discussion.

    In addition to the fact that the employer runs the risk of comparing apples to oranges, does this mean the employer also has a right to know of your bank holdings, investments, college fund accounts?

    If so, then what about other things such as one’s sex life, politics, or any other “fact” unrelated to the job?

    This is precisely what the various Title VII laws and subsequent rulings are meant to protect, unless one is to handle large amounts of money.

    Whether one has the knowledge, skills, and Abilities (or Attitude) to perform a task is the only critical information that is “owed” to the employer.

    If publishing your financial information makes you uncomfortable, and yet the employer “demands” it, them perhaps you are dealing with a culture that will find other ways to use paternalism and guilt to control you.

    Won’t that be fun 50 weeks per year?

  7. More often than not, the problem here is when the recruiter asks you what you are looking for, which can quickly knock you out of the running. I always counter with asking what the Employer’s range for that position is. They should have that info. And if they don’t, they should not be using recruiters to do the research using the candidate as fodder, because usually, after I’ve told them what I’m looking for, I never hear from them again.. no chance to even negotiate.. I find that annoying..

  8. I never had a problem answering what my current salary was even with the acknowledging that as potential “job-provider” they have upper hand over me as “job-seeker”. Also, they clearly use their position to take advantage of me and easily gather market data on salaries. Even recognizing this I never saw it as a problem or a hindrance. If my salary was low, obviously the intent of my search for new job is to improve on it, not to match it (and thus answers obvious question why you are looking for new job). If my salary was high, then let’s save everyone’s time and not pursue this opportunity if they can’t possibly propose a competitive offer. So, never viewed it (low or high prior salary) as a negotiating disadvantage. If hiring party fails to ascertain your market value based strictly at your resume, performance during interview and position they consider you for, it is on them. What I do have problem with is when you are in room with a relatively junior techie for a supposedly technical interview, and then they start prodding you inappropriately on what your current salary or some other “no-no”s. To me this is red flag of that organization internal culture and controls.

  9. As far as the article title: Anything and everything “may not work in your favor” Drive the wrong sort of vehicle. Wrong colors in wardrobe, wrong shoes, wrong scent, wrong look, refusing to reveal last salary, etc etc etc etc etc etc.

    Now the question being – is if your potential NewCompany who is hiring you insists they have to know that level of detail in your life or they won’t hire you: do you REALLY think that is going to work in your favor? Let me help you – no. They are figuring out what is the lowest they can pay you.

    And if they INSIST and it is a deal-breaker – walk away. You are about to be employed by a company that believes they own you.

  10. Vocalone

    I simply say “My salary expectation is $$$/hr, or $$$,$$$/yr plus benefits, bonus etc…”

    If they continue to prod I say “I don’t see my salary history being relevant to the compensation I am expecting for this position.”

    If they continue on. I end the interview. There are many jobs, out there…

    Never give salary information. Let them get it on their own. They can you know that -right?

    Employers can find out salary information when they do a background check, because a large number of employers report employee information. Then use service such as “” So never give them your salary history…

  11. Happy in my current job

    When I’m asked for this information, I usually respond that I’m compensated fairly for my current position, and I’m confident that you will compensate my fairly for this position if I’m hired.

  12. Tom Johnson

    Now illegal to ask in Massachusetts. Recruiters still ask though. I refused to answer the last few interactions I’ve had. It has been generally difficult and I believe my candidacy has been halted because of my refusal to answer. One refusal stretched several days and several emails with me finally insisting I did not have an answer for the recruiter.

  13. Kimberly Mors

    As a woman, I’ve disclosed my income and told that I was out of their price range (I wasn’t). I always check out for salary information for the company and/or jobs similar to what I’ve applied to.
    Based on my research, I will usually craft my response as, “I’m currently making xxxxx, and am looking to make xxxxx, based on muy research and current market value”.

    • Good Ole Boy From Texas

      Most of them are whatever you called him. They perceive themselves as the Top of the Corporation. Typically they do not even know what is going on at a company. The Engineering Company HR is the worst these days and used to be the best in the past, a long time ago.

      Ever get into some conversations with Accounting folks at bigger company? They think they are the top as well.

      Someday Engineers will again be in charge of Engineering companies.

  14. Good Ole Boy From Texas

    Some of these comments appropriate…Some not so much.

    I have owned business many years. at times it has been very lucrative and other times not so much. All this due to economic conditions. In late 1980s USA was pretty broke, some of you may remember. Other times have been tough as well. There is a cartoon of one’s life and career anticipated and then a comparison cartoon of actual. Peaks and Valleys is reality.

    This salary question is bogus to be polite.
    I am supposed to tell them I have made over $400K a year previously and today I might accept $90K at your company?

    People’s situations change. The day of when we got a job and salary increased over time and ultimately retire are long gone.

    How can a boy in HR understand I used to make more than her ever considered possible? The boy thinks…Why is this guy here? Why confuse the boy that never owned a business or will ever? He thinks he is the top of the heap…”Nobody can ever do better than me”.

    Answering current salary and/or past salary is a new thing I can assure you and it has nothing to do with why one is at an interview seeking employment.

    Bigger companies never go with this technique as they know market and salary of candidates they interview as well as the candidate does, unless they are a fresh-out. Those guys/girls get stuck pretty hard coming in but they begin. Of course Universities give them some idea but that is based on previous salaries obtained by fresh-outs.

  15. I made the mistake of revealing my salary once. Job was advertised at $120-150k/year DOE. I had previously been working at a financially constrained startup, so salaries were substantially sub-par (like lower 10th percentile, something in the ball park of sixth sigma below average for my job titles). I disclosed I had been earning $50k a year as a senior software engineer for 5 years.

    Recruiter: “Oh. We simply cannot put your resume in front of the hiring manager for any more than $59k/year.”
    Me: “The position is listed at $120k to $150k. I was working for a financially constrained startup that cannot afford to give raises. What does it matter to the value of the position what I made previously?”
    Recruiter: “Well, they care about your career path, so you cannot get more than 20% raise at hire.”

    • I hope recruiters are reading this. As a former recruiter and also job seeker, I find all kinds of questions.
      I think as a recruiter, one of the first things you should mention aside from the job description is the salary your client is going to offer. It wouldn’t waste time between both you and the job seeker if those two items were on the table first.

      I had an experience with a recruiter that just blew my mind. After I lost my job during the recession, I had to get a part-time, seasonal, minimum wage job. My goal was to get back the salary I had before the recession. After moving a few through a few more jobs and my salary was moving up, I was contacted by a recruiter looking to fit me into their database. When salary was mentioned, I told him the amount I wanted, which was the amount I made before the recession. He said there is NO way that I could have that amount, from where I was (I wasn’t that much off, about 20k more than I made from the part-time job.) I said, I made that much before the recession. Why can’t I expect to move up that much, especially now with 3 degrees? I went down that much, why can’t I move up that much? He kept going on and on that there was some kind of rule that someone couldn’t move that fast, that high. Well, I proved him wrong and found my own job that DID pay me even more than I made before the recession. Sometimes you just gotta skirt around the recruiters. Recruiting companies make millions on one client, filling part-time, seasonal jobs. They charge high bills to the companies and try to get very low paying employees. Not all, but many do. Good recruiters understand that good people stay with good companies and that should be their goal. A good recruiter listens to both clients and perspective employees, especially if employees are already working for another company. When these don’t happen, recruiters aren’t taken seriously. I have yet to find a job with the help of a recruiter, but I have found hundreds of jobs for people when I was recruiting-and most stayed and many moved up in the company.

      • I ultimately ended up securing multiple job offers in the $105k-$120k range (more than double my previous salary) and went with a position at $110k and full-time remote, proving the recruiters completely wrong, jobs are worth a specific amount to hiring employers, and they will pay you what they are budgeting, regardless of your salary history. If a recruiter is dogmatic about salary, they are probably going to get a gap bonus if they can get a good candidate in at a lower salary.

  16. Currently Seeking

    A universal answer: “I am looking for a job and a company that I will be comfortable with. My salary history and current expectations are low on my criteria list for my current search.”

    • Good Ole Boy From Texas

      This is a great response.
      Virtually what I say when presented with their foolishness.

      Years back I had a Tech Recruiter drilling me on the phone…A kid I could tell with no tech knowledge…Just reading his script crap.

      He asked me what my last salary was and I said something like what you mentioned. He went on and on demanding to know. I told him past salary is no matter and I suspect this job you have posted could be good $. He continued asking and finally I told him. He said he would not submit me to employer as I was $20K yr too much. I told him that was silly. He said I would just run off for more $ soon.

      I told him again there is so much more to a job that the salary. I told him maybe I could get in there and they see I am worth more $. Maybe I could get a raise even someday.
      I told him $20K yr less would be better than no job…NO SALARY!

      He was a quack job….kid at the helm at nationwide contract shop.
      Run away train I see them now. I have hired people via them in the past and they were way different back then. I guess their good recruiters moved on…Making more $ I am sure!

      Most good employment agencies are gone. I guess ate up by internet job board BS?

  17. I’m very glad that several states are going to make this illegal to ask in the application/interview process.

    Any organization that has an open position has a salary pay band or a specific salary that they are willing to pay – period!

    What is dumbfounding to me is the archaic process in which seemingly many HR operations still work. Long and irrelevant application forms – seriously? You are not filling a Top Secret Clearance based position (unless you are) and the question of my social security number? YOU DON’T NEED THIS!

    You do realize of course that we are in the millennial stage? If an employee is not pleased they leave. So what makes you think you will get qualified employees if you disengage them with your long-winded applications?

    Have a job that needs to be filled? Post it – ask for resumes and then have your recruiters review – NO SIX SECOND BS scanning either… or hire Recruiters who will complete proper due diligence.

    So make it easy for them to stay. Pay well enough to keep them interested, provide incentives that meet their needs and they will meet your expectations.

    Thus, you should not be blowing smoke up anyone’s ass in the recruitment process – tell the candidate exactly what the requirements are, what the expectations are and what the pay scale is.

    They will accept and continue – not wasting your precious time – you know, that time…that you are getting paid for? Either that, or they will tell you no thanks – and you can get on with the business at hand.

    • Good Ole Boy From Texas

      IT is BS as you said.

      Why would a kid even consider me when I have so much more experience than he? Why when I have owned businesses? Why me when I have much more education? Why me when I have more years experience than he has been alive?

      Why consider a Principal applicant?

      Some big companies have in their Online Apps all their required data fields and one cannot submit til you fill it all out. I ran across one that you had to list your past salaries at every job???

      I wasn’t sure if I should lie and low ball my past salaries or be truthful best I could remember.

      Internet BS has taken the human element out of HR and has suffered so much for all especially the companies quality of employees.

      • Ms. Techie

        When those online applications FORCE you to fill in the blank for “past salary” or “expected salary,” simply put in the number 1. It will be seen as a valid answer, as it will be filled in with a number. Most of the time you can’t put in “negotiable” or any other word; only numbers are accepted.

  18. I have had a company that tried to force me to reveal what I was getting paid and I didn’t take that job. Usually I just ask what the pay range is for the position. But if they ask me I give them the range I’m looking to get paid.

  19. Ken Carson

    The salary question is a trick. If you say, $90K and the top of their budget is $85K, you lose. If the top of their budget is $120K, you left money on the table. Again, you lose. If you say, “If I feel this position is a great fit for me and you feel the same way, then I assure you, compensation will not be an issue”.

  20. My last job was a low level technician position that I took as a favor to help a friend out. The salary was 1/3 of my normal salary requirement for an IT management position. How the heck is this relevant to any future position I apply for?

  21. I am in a position where wages are falling (10 – 15% in the last year) in my area and thus am consided out of salary range for most senior level roles. When I am asked my current salary I cringe as I know the next response will be that is out of their budget. I have yet to figure out how to keep myself in the running despite salary. Even telling them I would consider a 10 -12% pay cut for the right role still makes me ” overpriced” by 25 – 40K. It is incredibly frustrating and I know several people recently laid off in our organization that either took a massive pay cut or opted for retirement due to falling wages. Some were coached by recruiters not to disclose salary and they were “taken out of consideration for the role”.

  22. the dude

    I would suggest that if you currently have a job if asked, tell the interviewer that your current salary is more than what it actually is, but be realistic about it. In other words if you are currently making 50 K a year, tell the interviewer that you are making 55 or 60K a year. You can vary the amount depending on how bad you want the job or how much the average salary is for that position. But don’t inflate your salary too much. Obviously if you don’t have a job you don’t want to go this route because it may eliminate your chances. But if you have a job and your looking for another one, it doesn’t hurt to inflate your salary a bit in order to make the move to a new job worth wile.

  23. Lynelle

    It’s none of anybody’s business what my pay was in the past. As a matter of fact, most companies have policies that states you are not allowed to talk about your salary. So, when a recruiter or an online application asks how much did you make in your last job, I’m almost breaking the law, and most certainly going against the policies that most companies have, by answering that question. On online applications that require it I put down $1 or N/A (if allowed) just to fill in the form so I can go on (too many errors if you leave it blank). It’s a preposterous question and has no bearing on my abilities to accomplish the job. If I’m asked that question in an interview I’ll reply with “how much did you make in your last job?” Most managers, directors, interviewers will not answer the question themselves (I got slight embarrassed chuckles out of two interviewers), so why should I? As for cold-calling recruiters, tell them it’s irrelevant and you do not wish to answer. 90% of the recruiters are from India and are looking to underbid you for that H1B position (“my client says she made this much money last year, I can get someone from my country to work for you for less than that, saving you money”). This is how good working Americans lose their jobs (layoffs are so the company you are working for don’t have to give you a payraise next year, so they hire young kids for less money) and can’t get back to work. The question of how much I made previously should be illegal.

    • Lynelle

      Funny, Glassdoor just posted an article relating to this very subject. Apparently it IS illegal to ask that question in NYC, Philadelphia, and Massachusetts. Hope the trend to make it illegal in other states continue. Here’s a small excerpt from their article:

      “Before heading into an interview, prepare to talk about salary expectations. Even if it isn’t against the law for them to ask in your state, you don’t have to tell them (and most times it’s in your best interest not to tell them). Instead, talk about the value you’ll bring to the position they’re interviewing you for, and what that’s worth. Discuss your expected salary, not your current or past.”

    • Good Ole Boy From Texas

      Man oh Man you are right on target.

      I have suspected the indian “recruiter” is a scam as well to get their H1B guys in. Touche’…someone else is onto this as well.

      Where oh where are the good ole head hunters of yesterday that had a clue and spoke comprehendable English?

      The indian and chinese and manilla folks surely did well in English class…right? But their teachers were from their country taught by their countrymen.

  24. Brian P. Henchey

    I’m in High Tech and have been looking for another job since my company’s RIF 4 months ago. In my 2017-laid-off-experience, EVERY SINGLE RECRUITER ASKS WHAT I MADE AT MY LAST ROLE. My advice to the commenters complaining (read: bitching) that recruiters are asking this question is: get over it.

    In my case, I’m looking to do FIVE different roles in THREE states! Each role has a different salary range (vastly different, BTW!) and each state has different pay (jobs in New Hampshire compared to Massachusetts pay ~40% less!). So recruiters asking me what I made at my last role in Sales Engineering when I’m interviewing for a Customer Success role is, frankly, IRRELEVANT. AND especially when that role is in Maine, not in high-paying Boston, Mass. …yet everyone…I mean EVERYONE!!!!!! asks me what I made for salary in my last role and the *second* it’s not in the range that they’re looking for, *poof!* — they don’t want to talk to me anymore.

    So what do I say now? — I politely ask, “Well, what does the role pay?” Sometimes the recruiter’s answer is what I’m looking for. More often, it’s much lower than what I’m looking for, however, I’m very, VERY willing to take that pay! — but! — it doesn’t matter because, IMHO, employers want employees that made the same or less in their last role so that the employee will stick around.

    I find it simply incredible that employers supplant what I _know_ I’d be happy to take for salary for what they _think_ I’d be willing to take!!! I know me, which roles I’d like to do next, and I’m aware that basket-weaving pays less than Sales Engineering, so why would I ever “demand” (or the like) the same pay for a job that anyone who looks at BLS numbers KNOWS pays less?!? …it’s simply annoying.

    So, what does asking the “What did you make in your last role?” question do? — it more often than not takes the candidate’s GREAT qualifications along with his great attitude — and shit-cans them. In the last 4 months I’ve been close to landing SO many roles but the salary issue — even though I’d be SO INCREDIBLY HAPPY to be working for that company at the pay they want to pay — often gets in the way.

    My unsolicited advice (that I have NOT been doing myself but I can ABSOLUTELY imagine doing this would save other job-seekers LOTS of headaches and save them A LOT of time being unemployed) is: (1) ask the aforementioned “Well, what does the role pay?” and then once they give that number, then (2) TELL THEM THAT IS WHAT YOU MADE (or $5k less) AT YOUR LAST ROLE. That will then give the recruiter beaucoup fuzzies and then make you their #1 choice, independent of your hard- and soft-skills. This will make you so attractive because that pay is precisely what they want to pay you!

    In the last 4 months, I’ve been bitten MANY times by this question and I’ve been excluded FAR too many times simply because I made great money at my last role. If I had lied and given the recruiter the answer they wanted (as my #1 and #2 instructions above), then I think I would have landed a job and been back to work 3 months ago!

    Will I implement my own, unsolicited advice? — maybe. If I’m still out of work in 2 more months (I had NEVER expected to be out for 4!), then I might start doing this.

    In closing, employers in 2017 _know_ that there are 95M people in the USA who are not in the labor force (Source: ), so they KNOW they have the upper-hand when it comes to hiring. Per, there are 325M people in the USA and with that BLS number, nearly 30% of them are not working. So the big take-away?? — be what employers _want_ you to be so that you _land_.

    • And on that note, I’m not willing to lie because they’ve got silly practices. I wasn’t entirely transparently last time and I feel kinda slimy about it. I told the recruiter what I was expecting and he asked: “is that what you were making at your last job?”

      I kind of mealy-mouthed “Eh…ish?” You can’t quantify benefits, but still.

    • Ms. Tekkie

      Don’t forget that millions of Americans NOT in the labor force are children, seniors/retired, the disabled, stay-at-home parents, students, etc.; they aren’t all involuntarily unemployed.

  25. Vivek Venkat

    Salary is a function of
    1. The particular industry
    2. Salary band for that position within that company
    3. Salary history
    4. Candidate’s desperation

    I have moved from Finance Industry to Higher Education and everything in between. So you have to make that compromise if you want to be employed and not be on unemployment insurance.
    My advice
    1. Don’t compromise on job responsibilities
    2. Have a minimum salary expectation that will pay your bills
    3. When asked, give the range of salary earned with explanation about the industry you worked in

    • Good Ole Boy From Texas

      You may have missed on criteria?

      Maybe #5 factor sill be Location.

      Some places in USA way high cost of living and then some way low cost of living. Georgia for one I am liking for the trees…hills…lakes…nice folks.
      Only a few high tech companies that way though. (that I know of)

      Who wants to move to New Jersey for $90K/yr?

      Prefer $45K in Georgia myself.

  26. Karina

    In the past I’ve always replied that my expectations are the going rate for the position and my experience.
    I’ve also added that salary is only part of the equation, there’s other things like advancement, corporate culture, training opportunities etc. Then as was said, ask your own question about range and what criteria they use to judge the difference.

  27. audiomind

    Not as pervasive as we might think? Almost every employer I interview with ask this question, particularly on their web job applications where you are almost always forced to put something in there (I generally put $0). As a seasoned professional, I do not reveal my current/previous salary and ALWAYS ask the salary range of the position I am applying for or showing interest in, with a range of various responses from recruiters and head hunters alike. Some obviously trying to low ball, by playing games regarding offering up that information.

    • audiomind

      To be fair, I do believe I have been passed over for opportunities because of my desire to learn more about the salary range, rather than initially succumbing to their aggressiveness about my current salary expectations.

  28. DeeplyDisturbed

    The most recent time I was asked some variation on “What is your current salary?” my response was “I’m currently working under two NDAs that specifically forbid me from discussing compensation details. I’m sure you and The Company can appreciate the delicate nature of that situation. What salary range is in the budget for [position]?”

    They offered me $10k more than I was going to ask for.