Do You Have to Give Your Salary History?

Do You Have to Give Your Salary History?When you’re applying for a job, do you have to give your salary history? How can you avoid providing it without taking yourself out of the running? More and more cities and states (NYC, California, Oregon, Delaware, etc.) have moved to target the gender pay gap by preventing employers from asking for salary history during screening and interviews, while Amazon and other companies are making the change on their own. (Note that, depending on the particular law, it’s still legal for companies to ask for your salary history post-offer.) So let’s talk about it today! What are your strategies for answering salary history questions on job applications and in interviews? What do you think about these new laws, and do you live in a city or state that has passed one?

We even got a question recently from Reader F, who had gotten burned by giving her salary history. As she explained:

I had 3 interviews with a large firm. I have 5 years experience in the exact field I was interviewing for. The firm has their 1st year associate salary posted online. At end of the 3rd interview they asked my current salary at my small firm. After pushing I gave it to them — it’s $40k less than their 1st year associate salary. Through the recruiter they then offered me my current salary, and then upped by $20k. I declined, citing their advertised first year being way more. Why would this happen?

That totally stinks, reader F, and this is exactly the kind of problem all of the new legislation is aiming to prevent. (In this exact situation it might have been because she was interviewing for a non-partner track position — without knowing more about the job as listed and negotiated it’s hard to say.)

The best defense is a good offense — and knowing how to respond to salary question. Here are a few recommendations from career experts on how to carefully navigate the salary question:

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When Is a Lower Salary Worth It — And What Will You Put Up With For a Higher Salary?

When Is a Lower Salary Worth It

2018 Update: We still stand by this advice on when a lower salary is worth it — but you may also want to check out our latest advice on whether you have to give your salary history.

Here’s a fun question for today: when, if ever, would you take a job with a lower salary — when is a lower salary worth it to you, and to what extent? Put another way: what are you willing to put up with for higher pay? If a job paid 20% more but demanded nights and weekends regularly whereas your current job didn’t, would you make the switch? (What if there was room for advancement? What if the commute was better, or you were working with a good friend?) On the flip side — if a job paid 20% less but promised a 9-5 existence (with face time requirements) — would you take it? What if the new job was at a nonprofit or had another component of you doing “good” in the world, whereas your current job felt soulless — how much is the “doing good” component worth it to you?

(Do you believe in the idea that there’s a perfect salary for happiness, either in general or for you specifically? If a job paid $75,000 — the supposedly perfect salary — and it gave you more control over work-life balance than you have right now, would you run to take the job — or hesitate? Why?)

Psst: We’ve talked in the past about the person who took a flexible job even though she was overqualified for the job, how some of the worst career advice we’ve ever heard was along the lines of “follow your passion,” how much your career affects your happiness, and when to quit your career.

Pictured at top: Shutterstock / By Syda Productions.

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Negotiating a Salary (and Other Benefits)

negotiating a salary

2018 Update: We still stand by this advice on negotiating a salary, but you may also want to check out our most recent advice on salary negotiation.

Ladies, have you ever negotiated your salary or other benefits? Share your tales from the negotiating table with us — we want to hear your wins! This probably won’t be terribly relevant for all of the summer associates out there about to accept job offers, as those are usually lockstep/nonnegotiable offers — but perhaps one of you has a story about someone who actually did negotiate that offer.

(Pictured at top: As You Pass, originally uploaded to Flickr by Brian Talbot. Some social media images via Stencil.)

Some thoughts out of the gate on negotiating a salary:

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How to Ask For a Raise

Money on the Table, originally uploaded to Flickr by tuchodi.

2018 Update: We still stand by this advice on how to ask for a raise — but you may also want to check out some of our more recent discussions on salary negotiation.

How DO you ask for a raise?  Reader K asks this classic question…

I am looking for tips on how to successfully ask for a raise! I have a unique situation – I was promoted just under 1 year ago, and got a significant raise in my salary. However – I actually took a pay cut, since I went from base salary + commission. The powers that be don’t view commission as part of your salary, so I essentially took a 20k pay cut if you look at my W2’s, but on paper I earned a significant raise. Now, looking online at salary ranges for my position and the company’s pay grade chart, a 15% raise would put me smack dab in the middle of nationwide salaries in positions like mine, and my company’s pay grade chart. Asking for a 15% raise seems ballsy to me, especially in this economy, but I have received a LOT of praise this year, including from the CEO directly. I feel I have earned it. Suggestion or tips on how to go about this? I actually have never asked for a raise before! Thank you!

Congratulations on your great year, and the bump (on paper, at least) in salary.  A lot has been written about how women don’t negotiate raises the same way men do — we hesitate to do it, we ask for too little, we don’t do it often enough (to say nothing of employers who have a bias against women). (Pictured.) [Read more…]

Tales from the Wallet: Negotiating a Great Salary

salary negotiationReader A, a CPAA with 12 years of experience, writes with some great questions…

How does one negotiate a good compensation package? I have only ever worked for local firms. The salary data online seems to reflect “big 4” or equivalent pay scales. I have talked to a few headhunters and they all seem to think I should be making more than I am. What do I do when a prospective employer asks point blank what I am making now? I don’t want to lowball myself.

This is a particularly apt question in light of this post on the Bucks blog, calling attention to another blog posting wherein the author admitted to “bumping” her current salary up $5,000 when her interviewer asked what she was paid, and then asking for another $5,000 when they offered her the job with a “matched” salary.  Long story short:  it’s illegal to lie about your salary in job interviews! So… don’t try that tactic.

Pictured:  Fossil – Weekender Checkbook Clutch (Bright Orange), available at Zappos for $48 in orange, black, camel, espresso, green, and fun florals. Love the colorful insides and all the pockets.

Our recommendation would be twofold.  First, let’s say that you’re at Company X.  if you can get TWO job offers from Company Y and Company Z, you can sometimes play them against each other — we would probably avoid naming names, at least unless pressed, and see if company Y will increase your salary to match what company Z is offering.  Don’t leave Company X out of the mix, either, unless you’re looking for a new job because you hate your old one — rather than quitting outright, talk to the Powers that Be at Company X and say, “Company Y has offered me $__ to jump ship!”  And see if Company X will match it… and then go forward from there.

A second recommendation would be to really look at what your lower-salary job is actually giving you.  Do you get four weeks vacation?  How are your health insurance benefits?  Are there other perks, like discounts to a local gym, or on-site daycare?  We would factor that into the discussion, once the interviewer raises the issue.  For example: “I currently make $__ in dollars, but there are a number of perks that I’ve enjoyed for years and that you don’t offer.  To be honest, I would probably put a pricetag of $5K on those perks.”  Be totally honest — and KNOW what perks the interviewer does and does not offer.  In fact, this discussion might be a good time to assess those intangible perks.

This great article from CBS MoneyWatch also suggests classics like asking for a signing bonus, a performance bonus, stock options, or asking for more perks.

Readers, what are your best tips for salary negotiation?  Any great victory stories to share?