Bringing up the Past: The Do's and Don'ts of Salary History

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Posted by Liz Seasholtz on May 9, 2011
Bringing up the Past: The Do's and Don'ts of Salary History
Providing a salary history can be tricky, because it serves as an early screening tool for recruiters and a strong indicator of what your next salary should be. By revealing your past salaries, you're essentially plotting the course to your next one. And your potential employer may not have the same destination in mind.

Just like all money conversations, discussing salary can be awkward if you don’t approach it with confidence. To make sure you know what you’re talking about when it comes to salary history, we talked to Paul Barada, salary and negotiations expert for Monster.com and president of pre-employment screening company Barada Associates Inc.

DON’T Skip It
If you’re applying for a job that specifically asks for salary history on the application, don’t ignore the request or put ‘not applicable.’ An incomplete application is the quickest way to the trashcan, says Barada, so don’t give the hiring manager an easy excuse to throw yours away.

DO Show How Your Salary Has Progressed

If you’re asked to outline your salary history, include a separate sheet from your cover letter and resume devoted to salary. Include all fulltime, professional positions you’ve held post-graduation (no need to include short-term, hourly stints like serving tables, transcribing, etc.).

The best way to organize your salary history page is to state your position, employer, time spent in the position, and then your annual salary. (See below for an example.) This is a great way to show how your salary has steadily increased with your professional status—and what you expect your next salary to be.

Second-Year Audit Associate
Deloitte and Touche LLP, New York, NY
8/2008 - Present
Starting Salary: $45,000
Ending Salary: $55,000

DON’T Lie or Exaggerate About Past Salaries
This is an absolute no-no: Lying about your salary will discredit you as a candidate and burn a bridge with the potential employer. Barada says it’s simple to check up on an employee’s salary history, and many employers will ask for a copy of a recent pay stub or W-2 form to verify past payments.

Barada says companies check up on salary history more often than you’d think. “A company asked us to do a report on a candidate, and the applicant had about 20 years of professional experience, but he lied about how much money he was making at his last job,” says Barada. “He would have been hired if he’d been honest, but he didn’t get the job. The $5K he lied about wasn’t worth it.”

DO Know What Your Next Salary Should Be

If you’re apprehensive about sharing your salary because you think you’ll get less than you’re worth, include what you expect your new salary to be. For each advancing position, it’s fair to assume you should receive at least a 10- to 15-percent increase in salary.

Take a candidate making $40,000. When applying for a new job, this candidate could state in her cover letter “My most recent salary was $40,000, but my anticipated salary is negotiable within the $45,000 to $50,000 range.” Most people change jobs because they have more experience and want to make more money—and there’s nothing wrong or unethical about asking for a bump in pay to reflect that. Just make sure your desired salary is realistic: That $40,000 candidate should not be requesting a $75,000 salary if her experience and skills don’t warrant it.

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