Should You Disclose Your Salary History?

As more states and cities ban employers from asking for a salary history, should you disclose your past salary and compensation?

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This is a tricky question and, unfortunately, there is no single “right” answer. In fact, the answer actually depends on the location of the company where you’re interviewing since several — though not all — states have banned asking for a salary history.

So what are the pros and cons of revealing this information to potential employers?

The Pros of Disclosing Your Salary History

So you decided to play ball. You answered “yes” to the question “should you disclose your salary history?” and filled in the requested information about your earnings with one or more of your past employers.

Hopefully, by appearing to be cooperative on your job application and filling in all the requested fields, it’s possible that the hiring managers will consider you for a future interview.

Furthermore, if you demonstrate a strong salary history that shows progressive growth over time (both within a single company as well as among several other), then your disclosure will let employers know what you expect in terms of a minimum salary. This is great if you earned a lot of money in your prior role because it keeps your “market value” from decreasing.

But this can be a double-edged sword…

The Cons of Disclosing Your Salary History

Initially, life seems good after disclosing your salary information. You were called back to the company. The interview went well and you’ve received an official offer letter by the hiring manager. Your dream job is almost within your grasp.

However, the offer is for much less than you’d originally expected. Huh?

You learn that because of your “experience level” (a.k.a. earlier salary levels, which were never as high as you’d liked), the company has decided to offer you a starting salary on the lower end of that role’s range.

Although you’re free to try to negotiate for a higher salary, the truth is that your odds of success are very low. They hold all the cards. Say “yes” and you may be severely crippling your earning potential for years to come. Say “no” and risk them turning around and extending the offer to the next qualified candidate in line.

What To Do If You’re Asked For Your Salary History

So, should you disclose your salary history? There’s no simple answer.

Regardless of what you choose to do, you can (and should) be strategic about the information you reveal to any potential employer. Keep your salary history private if possible. If that isn’t an option, then be truthful. Not just about your past earnings, but also about your salary goals for the future.

Which States Still Allow Salary History Inquiries?

When should you disclose your salary history? If you live in one of the states or cities where asking for a salary history is banned, then you won’t have to discuss it. At least 11 states and 12 cities have banned the practice, citing its negative impact on gender equality in wages. Similar bans are pending in four other states.

But some states are taking a stance against the trend of imposing bans. Michigan and Wisconsin, for instance, have forbid municipalities from imposing bans against asking for a salary history.

The bottom line is sharing your salary history is an intensely personal decision. Whatever your choice, know your rights before handing over the details.

This article is intended only for informational purposes. It is not a substitute for legal consultation. While we attempt to keep the information covered timely and accurate, laws and regulations are subject to change.

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