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May 2008
Answering the Salary Question...

by Susan Reynolds

Attention employers! (Both decision-makers and screeners.) Attention job seekers! We have a strange and bad mannered habit in this country. It doesn’t happen to people in almost any other modern society in the world. The ungracious habit of insisting on compensation history from individuals inquiring about employment is really quite a problem in this society. A person’s prior compensation package is a confidential business deal that that person elected to make with another organization. While that information might be an indicator of the compensation deal that might be joined with a new organization, it should still be considered private information that could be volunteered but not demanded.

Many employers use compensation history logically to save themselves the time of accidently spending time interviewing talent that ends up completely out of their price range… kind of like shopping for a Chevy and discovering that they’re looking at a Rolls Royce! But excuse me, but how about researching fair compensation for specific job activities and situations based on industry, geography, and business model? Don’t attempt to make your candidate share private family information. The money a family has opted to accept should remain confidential, especially when transitioning from self-employment or different industries! Be prepared to offer a competitive compensation package for the talent and abilities needed for productivity in your organization.

Job seekers! You need to know that your talents are worth in different industries and situations. Then you’ll be prepared to enter into a fair negotiation based on your abilities and contributions, rather than the other compensation situations you’ve experienced. After all, in this economy, many individuals are shifting industries and compensation concepts, so the salary history question is almost never an “apples to apples” comparison. Everyone needs to do their homework instead of resorting to “bad manners”!

Susan Reynolds is a senior partner at Newmarket Careers in Santa Clarita, a job search and career strategy firm geared toward managerial, executive, and senior level professional careers.  She can be reached at or

Other Job and Career Success Related Articles:
Don't Be So Obedient!

Keep Your Career Out of the Kiddie Pool!

Impressing Potential Employers

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