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Submitted by dougp on


Hello there,

I've got a little debate going on in my head about asking for salary history when looking for potential candidates. Should you ask for it or not?

My theory is: Asking for Salary History doesn't buy you a whole lot of additional information.

If I'm filling a particular position in my company, the role has a salary range. This is generally defined by the industry. I don't want to offer the new hire something too low (they won't take the position) or too high (wasting valuable $). The salary range has been defined and salary history won't change it.

Instead of asking for their salary history, I'll opt for asking about expected salary. This will at least give me the knowledge about whether to continue the interviewing process.

The reason I'm asking is my boss pushes for it. He uses it as a tactic in an offer to make the offer as low as possible and still hire the new candidate.

What do you folks think about asking for salary history when interviewing candidates?



jhack's picture

I ask for their current compensation: salary and bonus. That figures into my offer calculations. I avoid "expectations" because they have the whiff of negotiation to them, which tends to make them less useful.


wendii's picture
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There was a long debate about this a while ago.. I'm not sure it's conclusive, but it might help you think about the issues:


stephenbooth_uk's picture

BLUF: Ask about the whole package, not just the salary.

Whilst I do see the desire to get someone for the lowest salary you can so as to cut costs, my gut feeling is that it smacks of poor employee/industrial relations.

My experience is that previous/current salary is not as perfect an indicator of the offer to make as some people seem to think. You can improve the value of the predictor by enquiring further as to what other benefits the person gets and other aspects of their life. Someone might be on quite a low salary but have really good benefits, that you don't offer, which compensate for that (e.g. if you currently get medical cover through your employer how much would it cost you to procure that yourself, if you were changing jobs to an employer that didn't offer medical as a benefit you'd probably factor that cost into any salary requirements &c) so if you based your salary offer on their current salary (and don't pitch in the benefits) they might decide that you're a cheapskate employer and turn you down. On the other hand they might be on quite a high salary but looking to downshift or where you're based has lower costs of living/is a shorter commute so they can afford to take a salary cut, if you based your offer in their current salary you might decide you can't afford them or end up paying them over the odds.

I'm not suggesting that you try to work out their thinking or break out the crystal ball and tarot cards, just ask a few sensible questions. Ask about the whole package, not just the salary.


Mark's picture
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I think asking about Salary History buys you ALL KINDS of interesting information. I don't think most managers have a CLUE how to use it, but that's a different issue.

I think your boss's approach is ABSOLUTELY REASONABLE. His job - AND YOURS - is to help the company be profitable, now and in the future. If you can hire someone for 50 rather than 60 - look, you can't hire them if they don't accept - OF COURSE you would do so in most situations. I would do it in most situations I have ever been in...and we're talking THOUSANDS for me.


Please don't attempt to defend the idea of paying more by citing turnover fears. Starting salary is rarely a factor in turnover...but low increases (the possibility of which is notably increased by HIGH offers) DO show up as a factor.

I think asking about expected versus history are two completely different questions. One is often a guess likely tempered by market knowledge (a widely scattered, non rational distribution), the other is a set of facts (assuming truthfulness, which one cannot, in my experience, without detailed probing.)

All this said, I have two more thoughts:

1. Asking about this is largely irrelevant in most cases (though valuable in the right ones), because most managers are making poor hiring choices based on incorrect information gathered through poor interviews, from which no amount of cash will recover one.

2. We need a whole SERIES of casts about salary and hiring and administration. I think next year.


And, just for the record, regarding the reference to another thread (which I always appreciate - thank you Stephen) - the comments about salary in the forums prove to me repeatedly that most folks have not thought about them outside of an emotional response related to self-worth (no vantage could be less illuminating). Care is warranted, in my opinion.

dougp's picture
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This is why I love reading these forums. As a high "S" in the land of high "D" and high "i" folks, most of the responses are very different from my line of thinking.

The varying insights everyone has added here has helped me immensely.

Thanks for the feedback.