In the March 20, 2012 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader worries that disclosing salary history to an employer is not a good idea…
What’s the best way to deal with an interviewer who wants to know my salary history and salary requirements? While I know employers always ask this, I feel it takes away from my edge when I divulge that information.
You’re absolutely right — to a point. When you show your salary cards at the wrong time, your negotiating edge disappears. When employers ask for salary requirements, they usually follow up quickly with a question about your salary history. Then they use your last salary to limit any offer they make. And that’s why you need to take control of the discussion.
You should avoid disclosing your salary history, while expressing your desired salary as a range you can justify and defend. The best way to negotiate a good salary deal is to demonstrate that you’re worth it.
Salary history is confidential.
In my opinion, discussing salary history is a no-no. It’s no one’s business. Some employers will object, but keeping your past salary confidential is pure common sense because it directly affects your ability to negotiate. Although an employer may suggest that your old salary is a good indicator of your value, the truth is that it’s up to her to make an independent assessment of your value to her business.
Learn to say NO firmly and with authority when employers demand your salary history — to make them say YES to the best possible offer.
It’s all in my new PDF book:
BONUS: I’m throwing in a special mp3 download, from my recent workshop at Cornell’s Johnson School of Management.
Don’t cap the job offer.
Employers claim otherwise, but once they know your salary history, they’re likely to use it to limit any job offer they make to you. They offer myriad excuses for why they need to know your salary, but I’ve never heard a legitimate one. (My favorite: “It’s the policy!” Gimme a break.) If they want to make sure you’re “in the right ballpark,” ask them what the salary range on the job is. If they continue to press you, ask yourself whether they’d disclose the boss’s salary — or anyone else’s salary in the department. Makes no sense, does it? Don’t help an employer cap the job offer by retreating to your old salary before you even begin to negotiate.
Turn any salary question around and ask what exactly the employer wants you to accomplish for her business. Then be ready to show how you will deliver. If this sounds like a lot to prepare in advance, it is. If you can’t do it, then you have no business in the interview.
Know what you want.
It’s legitimate for an employer to ask what you want, as long as it’s couched in a larger discussion about how you will contribute to the bottom line. As we said above, the more value you can contribute to the work, the more you’re worth. There’s no way to provide a desired range until you know what the job entails and what the expectations are — and that requires thoughtful discussion about the manager’s business objectives and how you will fit into them.
Salary negotiations can be challenging. But it’s easier to negotiate the right deal when you’ve demonstrated good faith — and firmness — by keeping your salary history private, by demonstrating your worth, and by sharing your goals with the employer.
How to handle demands for your salary history is such a hot topic on Ask The Headhunter that I wrote a 27-page Answer Kit that teaches how to say NO politely and with authority, so you can prove you’re worth more: Keep Your Salary Under Wraps!
How do you protect your ability to negotiate the best salary? Should employers demand your salary history? Should you disclose it?
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