The question, “What were you last making or currently making in your job?” is so simple, yet so powerful. In salary negotiations, the person who states a number first often is typically the one who sells themselves short. This question has become a major issue that has prompted several states and cities to ban it from the application and interview process. RELATED: The Key to Winning the Salary Negotiation BattleWhy The Previous Salary Question Hurts You

Let’s review why divulging previous salaries can be highly disadvantageous for candidates:

  • Women are known to be paid on average 80 cents per dollar to their equal male counterparts
  • Candidate may be currently paid below market value
  • Candidate may be making an industry, title, or location change where previous salary doesn’t equate (i.e. – non-profit to for-profit; education to tech)
  • Candidate may have a robust benefits package that increases their total compensation
  • The new role candidate is applying to may have more responsibilities and qualifications required

Introducing the Salary Privacy Bill

Companies know exactly what range they have budgeted for the role based on their internal and external market data. A candidate’s last salary has no impact on their qualifications nor the new responsibilities. Fortunately, law makers are recognizing the need to move towards transparent and fair pay practices and the following cities and states have banned private employers from asking this question:

1. California – Yes, as of October 12, 2017 the state with the largest workforce just declared they will be banning this question throughout the application process! The salary privacy bill will officially roll into effect January 1, 2018.
2. Massachusetts
3. Oregon
4. Delaware
5. New York City
6. San Francisco
7. Philadelphia
8. Pittsburgh

“I would feel more comfortable skipping this question pursuant to the Salary Privacy Bill.”Salary Negotiation EtiquetteSo far, we have 4 states and 3 cities who have adopted this banned question. In the case you find yourself in an interview or filling out an application for a position in one of these locations, you can politely decline with, “I would feel more comfortable skipping this question pursuant to the Salary Privacy Bill.” Their HR should understand what this is and if not, they will be grateful you have educated them as they should be aware of this labor law.

I hope all 50 states will follow suit soon so candidates can feel confident employers are paying them at fair market value. Better yet, companies should be transparent about their salary grades as government job descriptions list. This would drastically improve the hiring process to attract candidates that match the salary range instead of dancing back and forth between unknowns.
Salary Negotiation PowerIf your previous salary is actually much higher than the offered salary, now is a good time to disclose what your salary actually was. The banned salary question from employers is to protect candidates from being low-balled. I’m thrilled to see these cities and states correcting undervalued employees with this small step.
I’m curious: what your thoughts are on these measures? Do you think private employers should display salaries? What are the pros and cons of taking this action? Would you, as a candidate, want your salary known to the world and easily researched like government databases? Leave your comments below and join in on the discussion.

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