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Why Do Employers Want to Know Your Salary History?

Salary can be a very touchy subject when it comes to negotiating a job offer. It's an issue that can cause candidates to walk away, force employers to spurn one candidate in favor of another who will work for less, and make for tense dialogue between employer and would-be employee.

Salary HistoryMany job seekers are uneasy talking about their salary history with prospective employers. In Learning Center articles and previous posts on the Pongo Blog, we've advised job seekers that the first person to divulge salary information is at a disadvantage when it's time to negotiate the job offer. While that advice still holds true, some employers insist on knowing your salary history or salary requirements before they'll consider your candidacy.

I've always believed that it helps to know what motivates the other side. That's why a recent post on the Careerealism blog made a lot of sense to me. The blog's writers were asked: "Why do employers ask job applicants for their salary histories?" The answers made a lot of sense:

  • "You are a business-of-one selling your services. Would you buy from a company that, when asked 'What does it cost?' responds by saying, 'We're not telling you until you agree to buy'? To make the sale, you are going to have to name your price."
  • " … I don't believe employers who ask for salary history do so as a negotiation ploy; rather, it is simply a part of screening. Give them the history, get in there and set the hook, get the offer, and then be a good negotiator."

Your best course of action is to do some homework before you send your resume. If the job description doesn't say anything about what the job will pay, research salary information for the job title and similar titles in your city. Cost of living varies by region and you should have a strong idea of how much salary you need to at least pay your bills and save a little. Two sites that can help you are Salary.com and PayScale.com.

How do you best prepare for the conversation about salary? Share your thoughts with us in a comment below.

RELATED LINKS

How Important is Salary When You Decide to Switch Jobs?
3 Ways to Address Salary in Your Cover Letter
The Interview: How to Answer the Salary Question

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