Job Candidates Should Not be Judged or Screened Based on Salary History

In years past, it was common for recruiters and some hiring managers to ask about a job candidate’s salary history. That is no longer the case. It is now illegal to do so in California, and in a growing number of cities across the country. Smart employers have changed the conversation. Mastering it, however, can be tricky. Here are some tips.

Smart employers will individuate a pay range, or starting salary, for the position up front. The conversation starts about the salary for the position, not the salary the applicant is worth. This will help a hiring manager keep the conversation where it belongs. It will also help candidates self-select as to which positions they believe best fits their careers at the moment and make a sound decision that is likely best for both parties.

There is increasing evidence using past compensation as a benchmark for current salary is one reason women are often paid less than men for comparable work. Women start jobs at lower salaries because they were paid less at previous jobs, a cycle that quickly compounds. Some companies are doing salary audits to look for gaps and making adjustments where necessary. Having good policies about how compensation is discussed in the hiring process is another way to protect a company from pay equity gaps and the discrimination claims that can sometimes follow.

Candidates should come to interviews armed with enough market information to have a knowledgeable discussion. Good companies will not force a candidate to badger them into sharing a salary range. That said, be prepared to deflect questions about salary. You can say you would like to learn more about the position and its responsibilities first, or talk about what the company believes a quality candidate is worth in the current marketplace.

Bottom line, start an employment relationship off right. Rather than basing pay off of a past salary, it’s significantly better for both parties to determine a fair value in the job market by accounting for experience, location and other factors.