Salary History

by Evil HR Lady on July 31, 2007

I have an HR person (probably not evil) insisting that I must provide my salary at each previous employer so they can do a background check before I start. This is all after I’ve already accepted a written job offer (they asked me to complete an application at the same time they sent me an offer).
I went a head and provided the info because I want the job, but it just strikes me as unnecessary and inane.
Any comments?
Thanks,
Texas Boy

It would be unnecessary if all your fellow job seekers weren’t a big pack o’ liars. People lie about their titles, their salaries, the companies they work for, their level of responsibility and their degrees (or lack thereof).

So, unfortunately, companies have learned that they cannot trust what a candidate says.

As a matter of fact, the next question I’m going to answer is about a person who “made a mistake” on their resume.

And if your HR person isn’t at least slightly evil, you probably don’t want to work there. I mean, policies that make sense? Career development? Benefits you actually need? Bah! Who needs it?

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Blogosaurus August 1, 2007 at 4:18 am

I’m not in HR at all so forgive me if this sounds totally ignorant… but why is it anyone’s business what your salary at previous jobs was? I can see why titles and responsibilities and training need to be known, but salary…?

It seems to me that the only purpose of revealing your salary is to benefit the employer, who can then give you the bare minimum raise necessary to woo you to the new job. It seems like an unfair advantage to the employer, and the employee gets nothing out of it. What’s the deal?

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Evil HR Lady August 1, 2007 at 10:23 am

Blogosaurus–I actually agree with you on one level. Companies should offer what the job is worth, for most positions and you can take it or leave it.

However, the real world doesn’t work that way. First of all, a salary history of increasing salaries tells me that you have been increasing your responsibility and that your last company saw your value increase over time.

The other part of the real world is that there are tons of jobs out there (especially upper level jobs) that end up being structured around the candidate, and not the other way around.

You may need, at a bare minimum, someone who can do X. You are delighted if you can find someone who can do X and Y and overjoyed if someone can do X and Y and Z. I’ll pay more for the X, Y, Z person than I will the X. When making an offer, I need to ensure that it is more than your previous job.

Additionally sign on bonuses often take into account performance bonuses and stock options you would give up by leaving your current job. I can’t structure my offer unless I know that.

Titles, in my humble opinion, are relatively worthless. Salary tells me more about your true level of responsibility.

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Just another HR lady August 1, 2007 at 2:58 pm

Just one HR person’s perspective, but I have never asked for salary history as I know often when people are in a role for long periods, they sometimes tend to be under-valued dollarwise. Salary depends on a lot of factors, some outside the “performance” reasons…what you negotiated when you first started, how much you have grown the role, are you doing 2X what you were hired for but your salary was never adjusted, is your job totally different than what you were hired for but it was never properly evaluated? What are the current market conditions? Did your previous company have a 2-year salary freeze on?

Unfortunately it’s true, sometimes people are not paid appropriately.
Yes, a current Job Evaluation and Compensation System sometimes catches these overlooked people, but sometimes not. And many companies still do not have a proper Job Evaluation/Compensation System in place at all.

My preference is to do my own research up front…what are market conditions..what is everyone else in the role in my company earning…what exactly will this person be responsible for…what is our budget, etc. And then I don’t need a person’s salary history, I just need their salary expectations to determine if they fit our range.

Coming from a personal perspective where I once left a company and they actually hired two (yes, count ‘em..two) people to fill my one job, I know salaries don’t always tell the story.

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Anonymous August 1, 2007 at 4:03 pm

As a hiring manager, a salary history helps me to judge whether you are at roughly the right experience level for the job and whether or not you are a good fit for my organization. If you’ve been making $80,000 a year and I’m offering $30,000, why waste your time or mine in an interview? If you’ve been making $20,000, you probably aren’t the right person for a $100,000 per year opening.

The other thing that stuns me is the number of people applying for jobs in accounting who misspell or misuse industry specific terms. Your application is automatically in the round file. Oh, yeah, or lie about professional licensing or degrees. I always check. Always.

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Karen August 1, 2007 at 9:35 pm

We have a major client, a Fortune 500 company, that insists on copies of W-2′s to varify recent salary information.

I’ve seen this pan out two ways:

1. The client has given candidates significant increases relative to their current salaries, especially if that pay is crappy.

2. A candidate that misrepresented her current salary had her offer “adjusted” to reflect that. (basically putting her in the midpoint of the range instead of the top end.)

Fair or not – that’s the way it goes!

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Anonymous August 2, 2007 at 5:39 pm

“First of all, a salary history of increasing salaries tells me that you have been increasing your responsibility and that your last company saw your value increase over time.”

What planet do you live on?? In a perfect world, people’s salaries increase with responsibility. In the REAL world, however, people’s salaries can stay the same or increase only slightly because a company’s revenues are down the overall budget is tight. Salary history is an inaccurate way to assess the job applicant, because it may reflects corporate situations that the applicant had absolutely no control over.

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Anonymous August 2, 2007 at 7:31 pm

I’d love to see research that connects salary to anything meaningful. It seems to be a poor element to base anything on, despite how convenient it might be to the process.

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Anonymous August 4, 2007 at 2:19 pm

Is it ok to put less than your current salary? I’ve been working for ~85k, but most of the open jobs in my field pay ~75k. If I put down 80k so I can get an interview, will that hurt my chances when they verify salary?

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Ira M April 8, 2008 at 8:35 pm

A Company who is looking to ADD an employee to their staff wants to make sure they get value for the $$ they spend. Even when a Company is doing POORLY, in fact even more so, they need a star, not some lackluster person who will just get the job done.

Salary history is a gauge of you as a person and as an employee. Like a previous poster said, it is to show you are advancing in your industry and worth the investment of time/resources to hire.

Not being truthful about salary history or work experience or certifications is like sending a blind date a picture of your brother/sister instead of yourself. It might get you in the door but once discovered, very doubtful you will get the job!

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Anonymous May 12, 2012 at 10:29 pm

This is BS….previous salary is none of anyone’s business. Other assessments/testing or further interviews should be done to see if someone is competent. Basically it sounds like the hiring manager doesn’t trust his own judgement of an applicant’s value but must rely on what another employer decided to pay. The employer should list the salary range and not waste everyone’s time. Then only people willing to accept that range would apply.

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