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What to tell your employers about your salary history

What to tell your employers about your salary historyImage Credit: Supplied

This past week, Massachusetts became the first state in the US that will prevent employers from requiring job candidates to disclose their salary history. The law that goes into effect in 2018 makes it illegal to end an application process if a candidate doesn't provide information about their current or past compensation.

Anyone who has looked and interviewed for jobs in the past may recognise how this can be a relief. And although it may not be on the cards for many places outside Massachusetts, it does bring to attention some of the practices that job applicants have to endure during their job quest.

The biggest concern — that is totally valid — is that disclosing your past and current salaries could hurt your negotiation. Employers may use this salary information as a baseline for determining the new one. If you have made compromises on salary and benefits in the past, these will stick around and haunt you until to come across an employer who is open to provide a fair market package regardless to where it stands compared to your salary history.

If you're in a situation where you feel disclosing your salary history would hurt you, here are some options to deal with the negotiation.

Explain your concern

If a hiring manager is requiring your salary history as a condition for proceeding with the process, you may feel pressured to provide it. In this case, which is of course unpleasant, you need to note clearly that you're cooperating with the request, but you recognise that your current salary is below the fair market range for your position. You can even go as far as requesting that this is not used to determine future pay or benefits.

Although this may not change the situation, you would have more leverage in negotiating whatever offer you receive, especially if it is ever presented as a certain percentage higher than your past salary.

With that in mind, remember you'd be walking a very thin line. Talking about money before you even get an interview request may mean being excluded. The question you'd need to answer for yourself is whether you'd like to continue to compromise on your pay. If you don't mind, take a lighter tone. If that is a deal breaker, then lay out your thoughts clearly — still in a professional, but decisive tone.

Send a salary range

If your job change is driven by your desire and hopes for a better package and you can define this in a number, send it along with your current salary. This strategy works best if you know the salary ranges of the employer from insiders or if these are public information. Doing so has one drawback, however, which is whether you'll be selling yourself short — if your estimate is much lower than what is being offered.

Many employers will try to keep some internal equity among employees who are at the same grade, experience, etc. So even in this case, you may get a higher salary to ensure that you will be retained in the long run.

Don't lie

Under pressure and so early in the process, you may be tempted to fudge your salary history especially for the most recent position to position yourself for a higher package. That is not a good move. From an employer's point of view, a lie is a lie. If you're caught, you will at least be excluded from the hiring pool.

Instead of lying, make a good argument, for example, about the benefits that you received in past jobs, a shorter commute or more paid-time off. All of these benefits and perks translate into money, and if they are not matched in the new package, use them to push for a higher salary. Again, to do so, you will need some information about what the prospective employer may offer.

Manoeuvring salary questions

- Note your concerns about future salary and package

- Be truthful but negotiate

- Find out the range that is acceptable to you

- Get information about the employer's pay scale

Find out why seeking a higher position in an interview may backfire

Source: Rania Oteify, Special to gulfnews.comGN

The writer, a former Gulf News Business Features Editor, is a Seattle-based editor