How to ensure you avoid divulging your salary history for better salary outcomes


The number one reason that employers want your salary information, is so they can negotiate low, or they use it as a ‘screening tool’.  Most employers will greet you with recruiting methods that slash your freedom to negotiate, even before you are interviewed.

The reality is, there is no good reason on earth, why an employer needs your salary history, before or even during the preliminary process.  There is a ton of information out there on ‘medium’ salaries and wages for each occupation and they can determine themselves whether you offer good ‘value’ to their company.

If you divulge your old salary, then straight away, this number will directly influence any salary negotiation and will usually push down the salary.

‘While I may request salary histories from others, I never comply with that demand when I’m in the job market. Why not? I know a guillotine when I see one – I design them’ – HR Executive, Showing You the Money, Job Interviews for Dummies

So keep your salary history under wraps.

Online Forms that require salary history

For online applications, when asked for a previous salary history, just leave blank, or if you can’t leave the salary history blank, just put in the numbers 99,888 for example, with a note saying that you would be very happy to discuss what you are worth in detail, once they determine whether you are of value or not to the company.

Online Job Portals such as SEEK

Many job portals and major players such as SEEK Profiles, will ask you for salary requirements or expectations. This is used as a way to cull out job candidates.  Don’t play the game, simply leave the information blank, or give a very wide figure based on salary averages for your profession.

Revealing what you require, before you even know what the requirements of a specific job are – is lunacy. How can you really gauge what any job is worth, before you have viewed the scope and requirements of a position?

Phone Screening Interviews / HR / Recruiters

When asked how much you make or need at a screening interview, there are a couple of strategies can you can use:

The first is to simply let them know that your salary is confidential, as you have a non-disclosure agreement with your employer, so you are unable to divulge this information up-front.

If your company does have confidentiality/non-disclosure agreement with you, then remember, your salary could be deemed to be confidential.  How much a company pays its employees is information a competitor would be interested in, so should not be divulged.

You will be able to use this position throughout the entire process.

However, if you DON’T have a confidentiality/non-disclosure agreement, then you cannot use this as a reason not to provide the information. To do so, is dishonest and if you get caught out in a lie, this will undermine your chances with the company.

If you don’t have a confidentiality/non-disclosure agreement, then simply state:

That with respect, you prefer to keep your salary history confidential but you would be happy to talk about this, when it is clear that there is a mutual interest in working together, if that is OK?

Remember to state, ‘is that okay’, as you have just declined to answer their question.

If they come back with the “We just want to make sure we’re in the range’, simply respond with – ‘I’m certain you’ll be fair’.

This statement should stop them in their tracks.

Now, at the phone interview/recruiter stage, this could impact your chances of getting through to interview (it happens).  But if you are clearly demonstrating your VALUE to an employer, then it is very likely that this will NOT impact on the process.

You will however need to make a judgment call on this, as things could get prickly!

If you decide that you are going to divulge what you earned in the past, you need to already know the number.

The number you provide should be your salary, PLUS all other forms of compensation, including superannuation, commissions, bonuses, stocks, medical cover, company car, laptops computers, gym memberships, entertainment allowances etc.

So if you have a base salary of $50,00, but with your bonus and company car, your overall package is $70,000, then this is the number you use – that is my current package is $70,000.

When providing this number, avoid disclosing specifics in terms of what is included in your salary package, or what it would take for you to leave you current job, as this will force a potential employer to extend their best offer.

Since they raised the issue of salary, it is also OK to follow up with a question that since the topic was raised, what range did they have mind for the position.

You should also outline your desired salary range and work this out in advance (make it a wide range and provide a figure higher than what you want to allow some flexibility).  So for example:

I’ve researched the industry and I think my next move should be a compensation package of between $85 and $105, comprised of a good base and performance incentives.

The reality is you are not going to change an employer’s budget by delaying discussion about what you want, so put it out on the table.

BUT keep in mind that if the employer raises money very early in the process, it is being used as a ‘screening process’ and if you divulge at the early stage, this WILL impact salary negotiations, and result in a lower salary offer.

If raised in a later stage, when an offer is made, it is more likely that they are asking, because they want you. However, no matter what stage, divulging this information does impact on salary negotiations, so if possible NEVER divulge your current salary.

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