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There's an interesting discussion going on at Ask the Headhunter:, where Nick C is telling anyone who will listen that candidates shouldn't provide their current and past salary history to HR or hiring managers as a part of the process.  Information is power, and Nick recommends that candidates simply say no.

I get the argument, but if candidates follow Nick's advice, only the superstars are going to survive notUncleSamSalary-250x providing salary data when asked. Click through and take a look at the past posts by Nick to get a vibe for what he's saying, but here's his most recent advice for HR pros who think they have to have the past pay data on a candidate, STAT:

"But I don’t think HR managers are dopes or even disingenuous. I think they’re brainwashed and can’t see past their own bureaucracy. So I’ve been trying to figure out how to turn the tables and help HR solve the problem without waiting for candidates to cough up their salary info. That way these employers won’t have to pass up good candidates.

So here’s what HR should do. Following the same logic and rationale, at the point where HR would ask for the candidate’s salary history, HR should instead share:

  • The salary range for the position in question.
  • The salary history of the person who is now doing the same job, or who used to do the job.
  • The salary history of others in the department who do similar jobs.

The company’s salary history is a crucial element that helps a candidate assess and judge a company. It enables a candidate to determine whether there is a realistic opportunity to make a match, and whether further discussions are reasonable. It’s legitimate to share the company’s salary information in the context of the interview and application process."

Some of this argument circles around the concept of pay transparency, so it's obvious that you can't give up data on what others make in the same position in the company.  Anyone who disagrees with that statement doesn't have to live with the employee relations ramifications of complete pay transparency. Period. 

With that said, here's the reality.  You don't have to tell me what you make, but you have to tell me what it's going to cost me to hire you.  Without access to that information, unless you're a superstar I can't live without, I'm wasting my time - especially if I'm working a lot of open positions.

So, here's my alternative, which strangely enough meets a lot of what Nick outlines above.  I use this approach when I'm feeling soft and don't want the direct confrontation of asking someone what they make now, or as is more likely the case, when they've already told me (or at least taken a position, truthful or not) what they currently make.  Here's the talking track:

"Jen, I use the first phone call to get to know you, tell you a little bit about the position and let you ask questions.  I don't want to waste your time with the next step if we can't afford you, so I want to let you know that if we got to the offer stage, you could expect an offer to come in somewhere between 55K-62K.  If we get to that point, is that range one in which you could see yourself accepting the offer if everything else you needed was in place?"

That's my talking track.  Without disclosing what others make, I've given a range that provides a strong vibe for how the organization values the job, and what we're willing to pay based on Jen's background.

Jen can say yes or no to that.  If she says yes, I've found that framing it in that way dramatically increases the probability of an accepted offer.

But you've got to at least answer that question after I've valued the job in that manner.  If you don't, you're out.


Hayli @ Rise Smart

That sounds like a happy medium to me! And I agree with you. As the employee already on board, I wouldn't want my boss disclosing my salary to a potential new-hire.


Finally someone who wants to not enjoy the fight but move beyond it! Thank you for a post explaining it so eloquently.


Yep, it's really not as hard as it sounds. There is a number for both sides of the equation. Making sure we're not wasting time is good for both sides. Disclosing ranges and disclosing salary expectations is the best way to go.

I find that absolutes....never do this or that, don't help foster conversation.

Mike Haberman, SPHR

I am in accord, however, I pose the following, which has happened to me. The range is $55-62k. After all the due diligence offer is made at $57k. Applicant now disappointed because the "heard" $62k. Relationship starts on a sour note.

Has this happened to anyone else? If so, how did you handle it?

Ask a Manager

I actually think that's exactly in line with what Nick is saying. He says it's totally reasonable to insist that a candidate talk about salary EXPECTATIONS, just not salary history.

Ask a Manager

Mike, I think the answer there is to explain to the candidate why they fell into that part of the range (less experience in ___ or whatever).

Shawn Miller

This would be a wonderful start to the 'courtship' also known as hiring process. The candidate can get a sense of what the budget also opens the door for a discussion of 'total rewards,' because it may be, particularly today, that a candidate is (or was) making more salary, but is interested in other non-traditional rewards offered by the hiring organization. If the company makes a snap judgement that a candidate is 'above the range' and dismisses based upon current salary, they may have disqualified a good fit unnecessarily.


That's perfectly acceptable. What too many HR people want, though, is for the candidate to tell them the range they'll work for but be unwilling to divulge the range that the position is budgeted for which leaves the candidate with less leverage.

In your scenario you're getting past the power games and to the heart of the matter - are expectations aligned? Too many HR folks refuse to do that, instead insisting that candidates divulge information but refusing to reciprocate. That, I think, is the core issue in this debate.

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