What is your salary history?

Talking too openly about your salary early in the hiring process may eliminate you. Don't say too much too soon.

What is your salary history?

Asking someone, "How much money do you make?" is considered a rude question in most circumstances. Normally, the answer would be, "None of your business." But when applying for a job, especially one you are interested in, you should prepare for questions about salary

Recent changes have made it unlawful for employers to ask candidates about their salary history during the screening and interview processes. Massachusetts adopted a salary history ban in 2016 (it will go into effect July 2018); and in 2017, California (in effect January 2018), Oregon (in effect January 2019), Delaware (December 2017), and Puerto Rico (in effect March 2018) did the same, along with the cities of New York, Pittsburgh (for city employees only), and New Orleans (for city employees only). Other states and cities are expected to follow suit sooner rather than later. 

The best way to deal with the question in a job interview is to defer the subject of your salary history until you have more facts. Take these two examples:

Arlene is applying for a position as director of community relations at a major hospital. The ad asks applicants to include a salary history with their queries. Arlene dutifully adds a salary history to her resume and sends it off.

Debra is applying for the same job. She takes a different approach and writes on the bottom of the cover letter, "Salary history is confidential information to be supplied in the interview."


In Arlene's case, her letter and salary history will be opened by the receptionist, picked up by the HR coordinator, copied and then sent to the hiring manager for review. The hiring manager will make a judgment based on appropriate experience and salary expectations. If he decides Arlene is not the right fit for the job, he will tell HR he is not interested. By this time, three people will have viewed Arlene's salary history, and she will not even get an interview.

Debra's letter will be handled in the same manner, but the salary history will be missing. Now the hiring manager will have to judge Debra based on her experience and background. He may call Debra and ask for her salary requirements, but she can still postpone the discussion and inquire about the salary range budgeted for the position.

Consider this first

  • Verify the job's scope before you talk about salary. It is difficult to discuss compensation before you have sufficient information about the position and level of responsibility.

  • Research the job market before the interview to give you an idea of what the position is worth. You should know the going rate for the same position for a person with your experience and skills.

  • Consider the timing. Depending on where you are in the interview process, it is best to delay giving your salary history or expectations until you are sure of the employer's interest.

  • Be prepared to reveal your past salary or history at some point in the interview process. But by postponing the discussion, you have more control. Once you feel there is a sincere interest or an offer is forthcoming, you will be on firmer ground to discuss compensation.

What does your resume project?

Your resume can be a powerful tool in conveying your expected salary range—even without explicitly stating how much you make. Make sure your skills, experience, and accomplishments are presented in such a way that a hiring manager could get a fairly reasonable idea of what someone with your background earns per year. Could you use some help with that? Get a free resume evaluation today from the experts at Monster's Resume Writing Service. You'll get detailed feedback in two business days, including a review of your resume's appearance and content, and a prediction of a recruiter's first impression. It's a quick and easy way to make your resume look like a million bucks.