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HR manager is requesting the salary history of job applicant

A Guide To Understanding Employers' Salary History Requests

The job application process can be a daunting experience for many individuals seeking new employment opportunities. One common aspect that can create anxiety for job seekers is the employers' request for salary history. While this practice was once widely accepted, there has been a shift towards eliminating it due to its potential to perpetuate pay gaps and inequalities. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the concept of salary history requests, understand its implications, explore the legal landscape surrounding it, and provide effective strategies for handling such requests.

Understanding the Concept of Salary History Request

A salary history request is a query posed by prospective employers to candidates, soliciting details about their past earnings from previous positions. This information is typically used to establish a benchmark for determining the candidate's future salary or compensation package. Employers may ask for salary history during the application process, interviews, or as a requirement to move forward in the hiring process.

Implications of Salary History Requests

While on the surface, salary history requests may seem harmless, they can have significant implications, particularly concerning pay equity and diversity in the workplace. Here are some key implications:

Perpetuating Pay Disparities: When employers base salary offers on previous earnings, it can perpetuate pay disparities, especially if a candidate's past salary was influenced by discriminatory practices or lower compensation in previous roles.

Stifling Career Growth: Candidates who were underpaid in their previous roles may continue to face lower salaries if their new employer bases compensation on their salary history, rather than their skills and qualifications.

Impact on Diversity: Salary history requests can disproportionately affect minority groups and women who, historically, have faced lower pay. This can further widen the existing gender and racial pay gaps.

Inequity in Negotiation: Candidates who were underpaid in the past may have limited room for negotiation, as employers could use their previous salaries as leverage to offer lower-than-deserved wages.

Discouraging Applicants: Candidates might be hesitant to apply for a job that requires disclosing salary history, as they fear being disadvantaged or discriminated against based on their previous earnings.

Legal Landscape Surrounding Salary History Requests

Recognizing the potential for pay discrimination, some jurisdictions have taken measures to regulate or outright ban salary history inquiries. Several countries and states in the United States have passed laws prohibiting employers from asking about salary history during the hiring process. These laws aim to create a fairer job market and promote pay transparency.

It is essential for job seekers to understand their rights and the laws in their respective locations regarding salary history requests. Some areas where such laws are in effect include California, Massachusetts, New York City, and the United Kingdom.

Strategies for Responding to Salary History Requests

Politely and professionally redirect the conversation away from salary history towards your qualifications, achievements, and what you bring to the table as a candidate. If legal in your jurisdiction, consider deferring salary discussions until after receiving a job offer. This allows you to showcase your skills and experience before compensation is discussed.

Instead of disclosing your past earnings, offer a salary range that aligns with your research on market rates and industry standards. This demonstrates that you are informed about fair compensation. Highlight your future salary expectations based on your qualifications, the value you will bring to the company, and the responsibilities of the role.

Showcase your accomplishments and how they directly contribute to the company's success. Demonstrating your value can bolster your negotiating position. Prior to any negotiation, research salary ranges for similar roles in the industry and location. This knowledge will empower you to negotiate from a position of strength.



In conclusion, understanding employers' salary history requests is crucial for job seekers to navigate the hiring process effectively. While such requests have historically been common, the tide is shifting towards eliminating them to promote pay equity and diversity. Job seekers should be aware of their rights and the legal landscape in their area and use strategic approaches to handle salary history inquiries without compromising their negotiating power. By focusing on qualifications, achievements, and future expectations, candidates can foster a fairer and more transparent job market. Let us move towards a future where compensation is determined by merit and value, rather than past earnings.

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