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Ask the Headhunter: When job interviewers ask for your salary history, do this instead

Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979 and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community.

In this special Making Sen$e edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.


Question: You always advise against divulging past salary in an interview because it might prejudice an employer’s offer. (“Never, Ever Disclose Your Salary to an Employer”) I disagree with you.

After going on over 25 fruitless interviews (most were second or third round) in the past nine months, I suspect most people would gladly reveal their salary history if required, as a sign of cooperation, and so as not to be disqualified. What do you say to this?

Nick Corcodilos: I would suggest that you’ve had 25 unsuccessful interviews because you’re too concerned about appeasing an interviewer. Instead, try to focus on projecting a clear impression of what’s important to you and what you’re worth.

That’s the message behind my advice to withhold your salary history. It forces a candidate and an employer to negotiate based on the candidate’s future value. Why get stuck defending what your last employer paid you? (I’m sure you’d like to earn more in your next job than in the last, so don’t start with a disadvantage.)

This salary issue is more than a question of being cooperative. It’s about making sound judgments. In my opinion, an intelligent disagreement and discussion about salary reveals integrity and stimulates an important dialogue.

Employers who rely on salary history to judge you are trusting another company’s judgement of you. Think about that. It’s a tacit admission that they don’t know how to judge a job candidate’s value for themselves. How can any company claim to have a competitive edge when it doesn’t know how to calculate your value without your last employer’s cheat sheet?

What really matters is what you can do for this company now and in the future. Is the company able to make that judgment? Why does it need your last employer’s judgment about your salary?

Declining to divulge salary history is not about being uncooperative. It’s about shifting the interview to a higher plane. Don’t worry so much about getting disqualified. Any candidate can be cooperative, but few can demonstrate their value and get paid what they’re really worth.

Your value lies in what you can do next; not in what somebody paid you to do last year. If you learn to hold your ground properly you will earn a manager’s respect, and maybe the offer you deserve.

Please see “Revealing my salary earned me a lower job offer!” for tips about how to keep your salary confidential — and for an attitude adjustment.

Dear Readers: This issue comes up again and again. Do you disclose your salary history when applying for a job? If not, how do you avoid it?


Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth “how to” PDF books are available on his website: “How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you,” “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps,” “How Can I Change Careers?” and “Fearless Job Hunting.”

Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!

Copyright © 2018 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark.

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