This evening at Cornell University’s Palisades, NY facility we talked about How to Work With Headhunters. Executive MBA students in the Johnson School of Business joined headhunter Deborah Matson and me for an hour and a half of Q&A. We covered a lot of topics — but the seminar sizzled over one question: Should you disclose your salary history to an employer?

The purpose of this posting is to continue the discussion.

We’ve covered this topic on the blog many times, and opinions sizzle here, too! Check out the controversy, which includes dozens of comments from readers:

How to make more money: Withhold your salary history

Salary History: Can you afford to say NO?

Salary history: Will HR put up or shut up?

The real reason employers want your salary history: Hiring is a crapshoot

How to negotiate with a headhunter

At today’s seminar, an HR manager from Johnson & Johnson made a good point: If you decide to withhold your salary history from an employer, how you say it counts a lot. If your attitude is uncooperative, an employer can read a lot into it. If you decline politely and respectfully, an employer might let it slide. What’s your take on disclosing salary?

Do you have other questions that we didn’t have time to cover? Comments and observations? Please post them here, and we can continue our discussion.

Many thanks to Cornell for its hospitality, and for the opportunity to talk shop with Johnson School EMBAs.

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  1. I thought this quote: “I would like a salary in line with my responsibilities and within the departmental structure” to be enough.

  2. @Lucille: Not sure what you mean? Did someone say this at the presentation?

  3. @Nick,

    Sorry about being unclear.

    I have used this sentence often when I’ve been first asked my salary. I repeat the answer over and over until the person gets sick of re-asking what my current salary is.

    However, the sticky situation here isn’t that my reply isn’t polite. It is that the person asking my salary feels the need to re-ask 5 or 6 times. So that makes them frustrated.

    So I thought this sentence is enough, but I believe I need a second sentence that says, I’m not going to reveal my current salary because I don’t believe it is germaine.

    I don’t believe it is germaine, but also especially because it is the first thing someone asks, rather than waiting until there is some mutual interest.

  4. One thing we discussed during the seminar was what’s confidential. “The salary my employer pays/paid me is company confidential. I can’t disclose it. But I agree it would make no sense to invest our time talking about working together if we’re not in the same ballpark. What’s the salary range on the position?”

    Alternately, “I’d be happy to discuss the range I’d need to make a job change, but I don’t disclose my salary history.”

    Or, “You tell me yours, and I’ll tell you mine. Howzat?”

  5. Well since my sentence isn’t working, I’ll use yours. Thank you for your advice.