In recent postings (How to make more money, Why you should tell me your salary) we’ve discussed whether job applicants should disclose their salary history to an employer. This topic has taken wing elsewhere: On BNet (Should Jobhunters reveal salary requirements?), on PunkRockHR (Candidates, Salary, and Disclosure) and on Job Hacking (What happens when you don’t pay attention to statistics?).
Job hunters seem to clearly recognize why it’s not a good idea to disclose, even if some feel pressured to do so. (Hey, I don’t knock anyone who desperately needs a job and decides to disclose. But I think that’s a short-term fix and later the tire is gonna blow on you big-time…)
Some in HR offer all kinds of reasons to support their position that applicants should — or must — disclose salary history or forfeit their chance at a job. I find none of them compelling.
But I don’t think HR managers are dopes or even disingenuous. I think they’re brainwashed and can’t see past their own bureaucracy. So I’ve been trying to figure out how to turn the tables and help HR solve the problem without waiting for candidates to cough up their salary info. That way these employers won’t have to pass up good candidates.
So here’s my suggestion and my simple business logic. HR contends it’s legitimate to ask for an individual’s salary history and that the information is a crucial component when assessing a candidate. HR contends salary information should be shared in the context of a job application and interview to enable both parties to determine whether further discussion is realistic, and to ensure that if discussions lead to an offer, acceptance of the offer is a realistic possibility. HR contends that salary history helps an employer judge a candidate.
So here’s what HR should do. Following the same logic and rationale, at the point where HR would ask for the candidate’s salary history, HR should instead share:
- The salary range for the position in question.
- The salary history of the person who is now doing the same job, or who used to do the job.
- The salary history of others in the department who do similar jobs.
The company’s salary history is a crucial element that helps a candidate assess and judge a company. It enables a candidate to determine whether there is a realistic opportunity to make a match, and whether further discussions are reasonable. It’s legitimate to share the company’s salary information in the context of the interview and application process.
If HR managers don’t insist on knowing a candidate’s salary history, then I don’t expect them to disclose any of this information. But I do expect those who rationalize that candidates’ salary history is necessary to the interview process to eat their own dogfood and make life easier for everyone by disclosing all three data points above. What’s the big deal?
Put up, or Go pound salt. I’m anticipating HR managers who suggest that company salary information is confidential: Put up or shut up. And I encourage bold HR folks who barely give a rat’s batootie about a candidate’s salary history to pile on and tell us how you hire good people without making job candidates heel.
[UPDATED 3/17/09] Some of the dialogue here stems from today’s edition of the Ask The Headhunter Newsletter: HR’s salary moxie.