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States are increasingly passing laws that bar companies from asking about a candidate’s salary history. The goal is to eliminate the gender pay gap and compensation bias based on gender, something that can be perpetuated when a business knows how much a job seeker makes.

Even if a company believes in equality, most salary offers are based on a candidate’s previous compensation. If a person ever worked for an organization that gave them a lower salary because of their gender, the discrepancy could continue solely because other businesses used that number to determine what they would offer. In effect, the practice of making a job offer based on prior compensation history could create a cycle that perpetuates the gender pay gap.

As a result, asking about salary histories is becoming increasingly illegal in some states, and a practice that is becoming increasingly discouraged in others. In states where it isn’t outright banned, it is at least becoming taboo, and many candidates don’t view being asked about their prior compensation kindly. This means companies need to take care during salary-related discussions and seek out other alternatives for understanding what a competitive market pay rate is for their positions. We thought it would be helpful to provide some suggestions on the dos and do nots of asking about salary history.

Do Not Ask About Previous or Current Salaries

Even if you live in a state where it isn’t illegal, requesting salary information isn’t going to be well received. Most top talent understands it allows companies to craft offers based on what they used to earn, not what is fair for the role and workload.

When faced with this question, many candidates might end up with doubts about your company’s culture, their future prospects for growth at the company, as well as other possible motivations for asking the question. Asking about previous salaries now seems underhanded, so it may cost you an exceptional job seeker.

Do Ask About Salary Expectations or Requirements

If you wanted to learn about a candidate’s previous salaries to make sure what you have to offer will meet their needs, then it is better to use a different approach. Asking a job seeker about their salary expectations or requirements is usually allowed, and it can accomplish the same goal. Just make sure you carefully phrase the question, as you don’t want to imply you are trying to find out what they used to make.

Alternatively, you can present them with information regarding what you are able to offer to assess whether you can meet their needs. For example, listing a salary range on a job posting increases the odds of attracting qualified applicants who are willing to perform the job at that amount. Similarly, mentioning the anticipated range during the interview can give the candidate a chance to assess whether the opportunity is a good fit for them, all without having to worry about violating the law or causing the candidate undue, unfounded concerns.

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Ultimately, the suggestions above are just a few of the possible alternatives for dos and do nots of asking about salary history. If you would like to learn more about interviewing strategies or competitive compensation rates for your job openings, the skilled and knowledgeable team at PrideStaff can help. Contact us to speak with one of our recruitment specialists today and see how our candidate screening expertise and compensation research can benefit you.

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