The Salary History Request

How Should You Handle the Salary History Request?

When a company requests a salary history, they are doing so to use it as a factor in determining who is considered for a job interview (and who is not). Salary histories are often used to weed job candidates out. If a particular job candidate was paid significantly more in his/her last job, and there is only a certain amount budgeted for the person who fills the vacant position, then the hiring manager is likely to move on to another candidate regardless of the individual's qualifications.

Figuring out what to share with the prospective employer sometimes becomes a balancing act.

Has this ever happened to you?

You've just found your dream job and then you notice at the bottom of the job listing that the employer requires job candidates to send in a salary history. This makes even hardened job seekers cringe.

What are you supposed to do?

There are several ways to handle this and each one has its own risks. Choose the way that best represents your desires and matches the employer’s needs.

It is absolutely true that some employers refuse to read the resumes of candidates who might be perfectly suited for the job, but who "fail to follow the directions stated in the job listing." It may seem a bit harsh, but it is their way of weeding out the people who do not complete the application process as requested. Their thinking is often "If they don't do this right, what else will they do wrong?"

One way to address the issue of a salary history request is to address the topic in your cover letter. Sometimes this is best if you are "overqualified" for the job you are applying for (and believe that your current income will omit you from being considered as you would have to take a pay cut). It is also a possible solution if you are a recent college graduate and have little in the way of full time experience to justify the paycheck you are expecting in your new job. Lastly, it can help if you have great experience, but haven't commanded the highest of incomes in your past positions.

If you opt for this approach, simply add a paragraph near the end of the letter stating the salary range you expect to be offered. Obviously, you will need to do some homework to find out what similar positions pay in the industry in which you will be working. Remember that this really does not satisfy the prospective employer's request, but it does sidestep the issue somewhat in that it does not lock you into a specific amount and you are not having to base your future payment on your past earnings.

Another way, and this is likely what most employers are asking for, is a separate piece of paper listing your current and previous employer(s) and the pay you received while working there. If you choose to do this, be sure that the same paper, font and format/style are used for the Salary History as you have used for the cover letter and resume. You can even use the same heading as you used in the resume as well as retaining the employer information and dates of employment. Under that information, list your salary, or if you have moved up within the organization, list your previous job titles and associated salary figures.

What about this?

If you are in a situation where you are seeking a position with a substantial change in salary and you want to respond to the prospective employer's request, you can easily offer the additional page with your Salary History with a paragraph as a closing statement. In that final paragraph, state the reason(s) why you feel the change in salary (from your previous salary) is warranted or desired. Sometimes people want to cut back in their lives and work fewer hours, so a smaller paycheck is desired. At other times, you might have completed a Master's degree and your past earnings history does not paint the complete picture. No matter what the reason is, just be sure to explain yourself to the employer.

If you are jumping up in salary, be prepared (on paper and in the interview) to convince the employer why you are worth the additional money. Again, consider the situation of a recent college graduate. If you have little in the way of full time experience to justify the dollar figure you are expecting in your new job, you may have to explain what you will bring to the new position that justifies the increase in pay.

Clarifying your goals – and income – is one way to help the prospective employer better understand you and your interest in the job.

If you are done reading about the Salary History, click here to read about Resume Related Articles 

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