How to Answer Questions About Your Salary History

When interviewing for jobs, employers want to know a lot about you. We’ve heard employers ask all kinds of questions, ranging from standard things related to the job to more creative questions like, “If you had a theme song, what would it be?” But there’s one question that always throws candidates for a loop: “What was your previous salary?”

In some cities and states, this question is illegal. Many places are adopting laws to ban employers from asking about salary on applications and during interviews. The argument is that this helps employees earn fairer wages; if they were underpaid in their last job, they may be underpaid in this job.

Minnesota has a history of progressive laws that tend to benefit workers; however, it is still legal for employers to ask about your salary history. The next time you hear this question, here are a few responses you can have lined up.

“I’m glad you mentioned salary. I’d love to talk about the expectations for this role.”

Redirect the conversation away from your salary history towards your expectations for this job. Be prepared to mention your education, experience, training and any certifications. Do some research ahead of time to see what others in similar roles earn.

“This is my first role, but I’m eager to share what I bring to this position.”

If you’re fresh out of school or don’t have much salary history to provide, be honest. Use your (lack of) experience to redirect the conversation to what you can offer and how you’ll use the skills you have in this position.

“My salary range is between $40,000 and $50,000.”

If you don’t feel comfortable saying a number but want to answer the question, provide a range of what you’d expect for this position. This is particularly helpful when the question is on a job application in a required field. Providing a range helps the interviewer better understand your expectations without limiting your options.

“My salary history is personal and confidential. I’m happy to discuss how I’m qualified for this job.”

If the interviewer insists that you provide a direct response, you can say no. However, you may want to reconsider if you truly want to work somewhere so pushy. Ultimately, you want to make it clear that what’s more important is your value to the company, and not what your prior employer once paid you. Your previous salary may have been based on an entirely different role, a different cost of living or a different industry and should not impact your new salary.

Job applications and interviews are stressful enough without worrying about how you might be limiting your own opportunities with this question. Employers are learning that this question is not best practices and may soon be illegal. Still, it’s best to be prepared for any question so that you can nail your interview.

Ready to take this advice to the real world? Award Staffing has you covered. Check out our latest job opportunities.