Wednesday, December 7, 2016

When an Employer Asks for Your Salary History

When an employer requests a salary history, many job seekers find themselves at a loss. You don't want to price yourself out of a job, but you don't want the employer to offer less than the going rate for the position.

So what's the right answer?

  • Don't include salary history on your resume.
  • Handle the request at the end of your cover letter. First, highlight your skills, experience, and interest in the position—information that is far more important to your consideration as a candidate.
  • Respond to the question positively without giving a specific amount. (Example: "I'm earning in the mid-30s.")
  • Say "salary is negotiable."
  • If you know the market value for the position and for someone with your skills and background, give a $3,000-$5,000 range.
  • Be prepared to respond to this question in an interview. Carry a list of your positions in reverse chronological order, including the name of the company, your title, a synopsis of your duties, and, lastly, a general compensation amount (e.g. mid-30s).
  • Don't lie about your salary history. Employers may verify salary history through reference checks.

Salary requests are difficult for all job searchers to handle. The key is to shift the focus, politely but firmly, from what you made in the past to competitive compensation for the position you want.

Check out a host of additional salary resources including tips on how to negotiate a raise at WGU's Career & Professional Development Center.

Adapted from the National Association of Colleges and Employers.


  1. This should be clarified in one area. DO NOT omit your salary, when specifically requested, on applications. Even when salary is not a required field, this can still flag applications as incomplete. Incomplete applications are not generally view-able unless HR actually changes their default view when looking at applications submitted.

    Imagine an employer who gets 50 applications that do make it through the filters for one position. Why would they look at any other application types that are filtered out? All employers will use some type of filtration (filter for people with degrees, who live in a certain geographical area, etc..). Not including this on a resume is fine, but when filling out an application, be very careful to fill them out as completely as possible, even if the wage is a range as this article suggests.

  2. I think this is good advice. I used to get nervous about salary requests - thinking perhaps I should downplay it. Now I proudly give them a range and tell them I'm negotiable (not currently looking but in the past when this has come up) - but I've realized all future value and increases will be based off the amount we negotiate right now. If I low-ball myself, what does that say about the value I perceive of my skills and years of experience? I am my product and service to market and I want to get top value - or perhaps 'fair market value' for my services.