Actually, Asking for Salary History is a Mistake

I see many “issues” with the reasons presented in this article. These are outdated thought processes that do not apply to the new talent-driven market we are in. Add on the fact that jobs have changed dramatically and there is no standard “ladder” that most people follow.

Here are 10 issues I have.

  1. Growth in salary is an indicator of continued performance improvement. This is not always 100 percent true. Some organizations recognize great performance are are unable to pay for additional performance. Just because someone is earning more money doesn’t mean that they are a more solid performer.
  2. It might indicate that someone is a hungry candidate. The key word here is “might.” Why not have a conversation with the candidate rather than assuming we know what is important to them?
  3. It provides an outside/second opinion on a candidate’s value. No, the wage they are making could provide an opinion of how the job they are doing is valued. Most companies benchmark the position. If we hired based on how we think we value individuals, we would have no standard compensation structures.
  4. It reveals if a candidate can successfully negotiate. There are other ways to measure if someone can negotiate. This is not a good reason.
  5. It quickly reveals those who we can’t afford. Here we go again with assumptions. There are many candidates that I talk to who are looking for a job that offers other things of interest, and taking a salary cut is not a key driver of the decision. They know what the position is valued at and they have made the decision to continue having the conversation.
  6. It shows that compensation matters, which attracts money-driven people. If that is your compensation philosophy, then go for it. I don’t think that applies much outside of sales roles.
  7. The question shows how a candidate can handle stress. Again, there are better ways to measure how someone handles stress than asking this question.
  8. Knowing the history of both genders allows a firm to take proactive action to fix inequities. It is not your job to fix the history of what people made prior to working for your firm. It is your job to have a pay philosophy in place which compensates people fairly and without bias.
  9. Recruiters will guess anyway and that may hurt candidates. Good recruiters won’t guess. Good recruiters can use market data to have a general idea, but the history doesn’t matter as much as if the individual is qualified to do the role for the particular salary range they are applying.
  10. It helps recruiters refine the firms they target. While they may not compete direct on salary, they might have something better to offer that is more attractive. This is another assumption that candidates won’t leave a role unless it is more money.

We can’t afford to assume things about candidates in today’s market. There are many motivators people have which are all unique to the individual. Don’t guess.

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Beth Mathison is director of employment services at MRA. She enjoys identifying improvements and new opportunities to help industry colleagues be successful in the primary areas of recruiting and retention. She looks to connect the talent strategy with the organization’s business strategy. Her primary area of expertise is partnering with C-suite and senior leadership to identify and implement actionable changes to advance the talent lifecycle. She enjoys partnering with leaders to build the business case for desired talent strategies and help companies ensure the best return on investment for their talent acquisition and offboarding strategies. She was recognized as No. 1 sales executive in the U.S. for an international staffing firm.