How should I deal with employer’s request for salary?

Question: “How should I deal with an employer’s request for a salary history or salary requirements?”

by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.

Requests for a salary history put job-seekers at a distinct disadvantage because you are providing the employer with very valuable information and getting nothing in return (unless you feel being considered for the position as something of value).

This salary history information becomes critical if you become the applicant that the employer wants to hire because with your salary history, the employer can lowball your job offer, offering you a salary that is higher than your present salary (but not at the level you want). Your negotiation ability is severely limited. And for job-seekers making a major career change or jump, past salary becomes even less important.

Employers are interested in salary information for any number of reasons, but the biggest one is the fact that knowledge is power in job-hunting. The employer who knows your salary history and salary requirements has power over you when it comes to making you a job offer. Your biggest issue will be deciding whether to include any salary information when you submit your application. Either decision carries risk, so take the time to consider this issue carefully. Don’t include salary information and risk being eliminated immediately; include it and risk being seen as over- or underpaid. If you do decide to include a salary history, please don’t fudge the number because lying is always worse than not providing the information.

A request for a job-seeker’s salary requirement is used by employers in the same way as salary histories are used — often as a screening device by employers. When I was a hiring manager for an employer who requested a salary requirement from applicants, we placed job-seekers into three categories: job-seekers who requested a salary that was below the minimum for the position (and were perceived as not qualified), job-seekers who requested a salary in the range for the position (and were perceived as being the best candidates to interview, assuming they had the skills and experiences we desired), and job-seekers who requested a salary well above the range (and who were perceived as being over-qualified for the position or just people who thought too highly of themselves).

So what’s the moral of this story? As a job-seeker, you MUST do your homework! You need to conduct some research before you submit your salary requirement. The ideal situation is when you have a contact within the organization who can provide you with the actual internal salary range for the position, but if that is not an option, then look at your own company for the salary ranges for a similar position, use your network to determine salary ranges for similar positions in other companies, and use one or more of the salary guides (such as to develop an estimated salary range. Keep in mind that the size of the company, the industry it operates in, and the geographic location of the job will all need to be factored into the equation. Find additional salary resources here.

Read more about the whole issue of salary histories/requirements in my article, Responding to Requests for Salary Requirements or Salary Histories: Strategies and Suggestions, published on Quintessential Careers.

This article is part of a series from The Career Doctor’s Cures & Remedies to Quintessentially Perplexing Career and Job-Hunting Ailments. Read more.

See a list of all the most common college, career, and job questions — and Dr. Hansen’s solutions.

Who is the Career Doctor? Learn more, read his current career column, or browse the column archives when you visit the Career Doctor’s homepage. Founder Dr. Randall Hansen Dr. Randall S. Hansen is a nationally recognized career and job-search expert. He is founder of Quintessential Careers, one of the oldest and most comprehensive career development sites on the Web, as well CEO of He is also founder of and He is publisher of Quintessential Careers Press, including the Quintessential Careers electronic newsletter, QuintZine. Dr. Hansen is also a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. He’s often quoted in the media and conducts empowering workshops around the country. Finally, Dr. Hansen is also an educator, having taught at the college level for more than 15 years. Visit his personal Website or reach him by email at randall(at) Check out Dr. Hansen on GooglePlus.

Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.

Maximize your career and job-search knowledge and skills! Take advantage of The Quintessential Careers Content Index, which enables site visitors to locate articles, tutorials, quizzes, and worksheets in 35 career, college, job-search topic areas.