How to Answer Salary History Questions and Requests

How to Prepare for Salary History Requests

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When you are interviewing for a new job, it is common practice for the company to ask you about your salary history. Companies will want to know what the candidate’s base salary is if they receive any bonus, the average bonus amount, and any additional compensation or perks, such as 401k matching, stock grants or stock options, paid time off and how much they are required to pay towards their medical premiums. If you are expecting any further compensation, such as a sign on bonus, relocation assistance or green-card sponsorship as part of your decision to switch jobs, then that is something the company should know about up front. The salary history letter samples show how to put salary history information in writing.

The fears that candidates bring to compensation discussions are usually a result of feeling that they may price themselves too low, and therefore miss out on receiving a big increase over their current compensation, or they are afraid of pricing themselves too high and then having the company turn around and say “we can’t afford you”.

How to Answer Questions About Compensation

First of all, we recommend that you do your homework. Do some salary research to find out detailed information about what the market is paying for your skills and background. You may want to check out Glass Door to see if any specific compensation information is available for the company you are interviewing with.

Secondly, very importantly, be honest. Above all else, don’t make up the numbers. Give an accurate portrayal of your current compensation. If you are worried about you pay being too low compared to the market, say so. “I am currently making $xyz but feel this is low compared to others with my background. Going forward I will be looking for annual compensation in the $abc range”. If you are worried that your compensation is on the high side, you can let the employer know that the opportunity is as important to you as compensation. Saying “I currently make $$$ but am flexible on my compensation requirements, depending on the position and the opportunity for career growth,” tells the employer that you are not “stuck” on making a particular amount.

Why Don't Employers Tell Us the Range?

The answer really depends on the company. For many of companies, the position is opened at a particular level, but there is a huge amount of flexibility depending on what candidate we end up finding, as well as how that candidate compares to other team members. We may open a position up with an expected base salary of, say, $100,000, and then find that our best candidate only has 3 years of experience and, compared to others in the team, should really only be making $80,000.

What about salary requirements or salary history letters? Some companies may still ask that you write out your salary history, or put your salary requirements in writing. Again, be honest with your answers. It is very easy to verify past compensation and falsifying information can be grounds for rescinding an offer or terminating your employment (if hired). If you are not sure what the appropriate format is for salary requirements letters, please see the salary history letter samples.