Should You Reveal Your Salary History During a Job Interview?

CareersPersonal Finance
Posted By Terri Williams on August 10, 2017 at 8:05 am
Should You Reveal Your Salary History During a Job Interview?

A recent survey by Payscale reveals that women who decline to reveal their salary history during a job interview tend to earn slightly less, on average, than women who do disclose this amount. And if men decline to disclose their earnings? They tend to earn slightly more, on average, than men who reveal their salary history.

According to the survey, 43% of respondents were asked about their salary history, and 25% of them declined to disclose this information.

However, women who are asked and decline to reveal their salary history earn 1.8% less than those who comply with the request. Men who decline to reveal their salary history earn 1.2% more than men who comply. That might not sound like a lot – unless you’re the person earning less.

While pay transparency might help to close the gender gap among employees, during a job interview, it’s downright intrusive. Some members of Congress have introduced bills banning hiring managers from asking questions about a job candidate’s history, and several cities and states are also addressing this issue.

A recent GlassDoor survey reveals that 53% of workers (both employed and those who are unemployed and looking for a job) don’t think that employers should ask questions about salary history. Working women were more likely than working men to share this opinion (60% versus 40%).

But are these workers being unrealistic and possibly jeopardizing their chances of success?

Salary history response: Truth or dare?

Roberta Matuson, president of Matuson Consulting and author of The Magnetic Leader: How Irresistible Leaders Attract Employees, Customers and Profits, believes that job candidates should be honest but also explain their circumstances. “When asked about salary, be prepared to provide what you earned, followed by a brief statement as to why you may have accepted an offer that is lower than your current expectations.”

Matuson explains, “For example, if you took a job at a lower pay rate in order to gain experience in an industry you’ve never worked in, you may respond by saying, ‘My current salary is $40,000, which we both know is considerably less than market rates, but I agreed to these terms, given my desire to gain experience in the industry.”

But, she says that you should make your expectations clear. “Now that I have experience and can add considerably more value to my next employer, I expect that I’ll be compensated accordingly.”

The gender pay gap persists among dentists, physicians, and lawyers, as well as many other professions. However, Carolyn Thompson, managing principal of the Merito Group, a talent acquisition and consulting firm located in Vienna, Va., and also a founding member of the Washington Women’s Leadership Initiative, doesn’t think the salary question is gender-related. “Revealing one’s salary history during a job interview isn’t a man versus women issue – it’s an interview versus corporate HR issue,” she tells GoodCall®.

She advises women and men to be honest and factual when discussing salary during an interview.  “If you have a base salary plus an annual bonus that represents a percentage of your salary, discuss that in concrete terms – or if you’ve been paid a bonus consecutively for a certain number of years, be clear about that too.”

To job candidates who may be concerned that revealing their salary history could negatively affect them, Thompson says, “Facts are facts, and your salary history has nothing to do with how much you will end up getting paid or how much you ‘should’ be getting paid to do a certain job.”

Regardless of gender, she believes that failing to comply could be problematic. “For women and men alike, failing to give information makes you look cagey and like you have something to hide.”

Thompson also believes that there’s a simple explanation for why women may earn less than men. “Women place different value on the entire package in comparison to their male counterparts,” Thompson says. “Men focus on the salary and cash bonus parts, whereas women sometimes negotiate for more work life balance perks that they place high value on, and this is one reason why salaries are sometimes lower for some women.”

But, she doesn’t think that it’s inevitable for women to earn less. “I was one of the women who made double what her male counterparts made, but I asked for what I wanted and got it,” Thompson says. “It has more to do with transparency and putting some faith in the process and your own negotiation skills.”

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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