Salary & Benefits, Screening, Assessment, Interviewing

Rethinking the Salary History Question

“How much are you currently earning?” It once seemed like an innocent enough question, and until recently was very common.

Increasingly, however, employers are discovering that job candidates find questions about salary history irksome. In fact, according to a new survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of job site Glassdoor, more than half (53 percent) of U.S. workers believe employers should not ask candidates about their  current pay or salary history when negotiating a job offer.

It May Be Illegal

Several states and cities are considering laws that would ban employers from asking about salary history, following similar laws recently passed in Massachusetts, Delaware, Oregon, New York City, Philadelphia, and San Francisco.

These laws aim to address inherent gender bias in long-standing hiring practices.

Wage Gap

Women especially favor eliminating the salary history question. Significantly more women (60 percent) than men (48 percent) responding to the Glassdoor survey believe salary history questions should not be asked.

Income inequality in the workplace is a very real issue for many women.

The most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that, on average, women in the United States earn $0.82 cents for every dollar paid to men. Glassdoor Economic Research finds the gap is even greater, that women earn $0.76 for every dollar men earn.

Initially lower earnings can put women at a long-term disadvantage, particularly when prior salary history is used to determine starting pay in connection with job offers.

A Salary Conversation

With this in mind, Glassdoor recommends that hiring organizations have a two-way conversation with job candidates about compensation.

From the employer side, this conversation should focus on the role and pay expectations for that role, while taking into account the job responsibilities, skills, experience, and current market value of the position. The company’s overall pay philosophy should also be considered.

Asking a simple question, like, “What are your expectations for pay in this role and why?” will lead to a conversation that will allow the employer and candidate to each share their thinking and rationale, and better understand one another.

In order to be prepared for this conversation, hiring managers should work with their HR and recruiting teams to determine the value of the role, get very clear on what will drive a higher or lower compensation package (e.g., specific skills, management experience, etc.), and focus interview questions around those topics.

Moving Forward

“The time of looking backward to go forward to determine pay is over. Asking prior salary history questions can trigger unintended consequences and introduce bias into the hiring process that disadvantages women from day one,” said Dawn Lyon, Glassdoor chief equal pay advocate and senior vice president of global corporate affairs, when releasing survey findings. “We need to reframe the conversation to pay expectations around the value of the job and the skills and relevant experience required to do it. Many companies are already doing this without legislation or regulation because it’s the right thing to do.”