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Start Here: “The Ultimate Guide to Asking for a Raise and Negotiate Your Salary”

Why you shouldn’t reveal your salary history in a negotiation

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Two days ago, I saw a post on the New York Times’ personal-finance blog, Bucks, where a woman recommended lying about your salary history in an interview.

Now, I’ve taught thousands of people how to negotiate, but lying is something that only amateurs do. They lie because they don’t realize there are other, more powerful levers to pull — without the huge risk of getting caught in a lie.

Bonus: I wrote a huge free guide to salary negotiation and getting paid what you’re worth that goes into detail on better ways to get a raise.

As for ethics, I’m not even going to comment on it except to say I wouldn’t do it.

So I jotted off a quick note to the New York Times about a better way to negotiate, including the scripts for what people should say if they’re asked about their salary history.

Less than 24 hours later, I had spoken to a NYT reporter and my responses were posted on their blog.

Read it here: On Refusing to Disclose Your Salary in a Job Interview

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56 Comments on "Why you shouldn’t reveal your salary history in a negotiation"

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Rich
Rich
6 years 1 month ago

Boom. Good job.

Keith
6 years 1 month ago

Ramit –

You are completely right – there is NO reason to lie. People are afraid that if they don’t give a ‘number’ they won’t get offered a job. I say bullshit. Since I realized that giving away salary information was a losing proposition, I haven’t done it at all, and you know what? I still get offered the jobs.

Keep it up!

Keith

Mneiae
Mneiae
6 years 1 month ago

You should do a webinar with Penelope Trunk about salary negotiations.

Single Mom Rich Mom
6 years 1 month ago

Three of the last four jobs I’ve had have been through my network. Everyone that hired me away knew the ballpark of what I was making already. Every time I was offered 1.5 times or more than what I was making before to make the move to work with them. What I was previously making isn’t an issue in those situations. It’s just damn hard to find somebody really good these days.

Tiffany
6 years 1 month ago

This is such a tricky topic I always get uncomfortable whenever the subject comes up.

Doug Warshauer
6 years 1 month ago
When I am interviewing candidates I always want to know their prior salary because it is to MY advantage to have that information when determining what salary to offer them. I can offer a reasonable increase and feel confident the offer will be accepted. Thus, by providing the salary history, the candidate effectively caps the salary he’ll receive. Withholding that information could dramatically increase the offer. Also, while it seems like a risky strategy for an job applicant, I’d be impressed by it. It would show him to be an effective and shrewd negotiator, someone I’d want in my company.
little timmy
little timmy
6 years 1 month ago

My brother got himself a trophy wife, apparently not first place

Ryan
Ryan
6 years 1 month ago

This makes so much sense and I’m surprised that more people don’t realize this…

impertinent
impertinent
6 years 1 month ago
Jeff Miller
Jeff Miller
6 years 1 month ago
I love how Ramit always declares things as fact without backing it up with evidence, or in this case, even with argument. What is the huge “risk” in representing yourself well? 20% chance they adequately background check? In that case, I lost out on a mediocre offer. It reality, negotiations are a poker match in which both sides are bluffing the other. Silence is not enough; you need to “represent” a hand. After receiving my current job offer, I learned it was company policy to offer exactly X percent above the current salary of a desired employee. My number was… Read more »
impertinent
impertinent
6 years 1 month ago

I think it’s unclear that refusing to disclose your salary history outright–or even negotiating–is less damaging to your chances than lying. As illustrated by the HR professional in the article above who considers candidates who don’t readily disclose their salaries ‘a waste of his time’.

And as regards the ethics … it’s not something I would do, personally, but we’re talking about dealing with corporate HR people, here.

This really is an assertion that needs evidence to back it up, not merely an appeal to authority.

halfnine
halfnine
6 years 1 month ago

I looked at the NYT blog. And I agree, (when I was an employee) if they wanted a number it’s was an after comp range I’d be looking at. Because, I wanted to know after vacation, retirement plans, health care, taxes, etc. what I am going to net. I wasn’t negotiating salary, I was negotiating everything as a package. And on those lines one’s previous salary is meaningless without a discussion of everything else.

jw
jw
6 years 1 month ago
It is unrealistic to think you shouldn’t or won’t have to reveal your salary. I also think recruiters realize it’s unrealistic for them to assume they are getting an honest answer as well… And don’t worry, Human Resources can’t reveal salary information. It’s most important to be self-aware. You need to know what number it takes for your to work/switch/etc. So although it’s 100% lying, I think the number that you reveal needs to reflect ‘what you cost’ – not where you are currently at… If you are currently happily employed and a recruiter calls, your number will be higher,… Read more »
AP
AP
6 years 1 month ago
Ramit, My question relates to salary negotiation, but from a different perspective – how to effectively negotiate an increase in salary which you feel effectively mirrors your personal worth, valuing yourself in accordance with your market value/university peer comparison/effectiveness in achieving prior results BUT in a new role within your present company. Let me attempt to briefly explain the situation: I am already 7-8 weeks into working in a new role in my organisation – the launch and then upkeep of an online project which ties into the top 3 strategic objectives of the company’s Senior Execs (i.e. supposedly high… Read more »
Jack
Jack
6 years 1 month ago
The only problem with what this article suggests is that it’s a bit of a rapport killer. If you’re in an interview with somebody, things are going well, you’ve certainly developed rapport, and then he/she casually asks what you’re currently making, to roll off a political, vague answer like you suggest might make you seem like more of a phony. I have a hard time picturing myself saying something like that to someone who I’ve developed legitimate rapport with. I agree that lieing is wrong, and I agree (for the most part) about trying to conceal your salary as best… Read more »
Jon
6 years 1 month ago

I agree with single mom rich mom. It is very hard to find talent these days, especially with a new generation that feels a sense of entitlement. If the talent, work ethic, and proven track record are there, the rest will take care of itself.

Recruiter - Headhunter
Recruiter - Headhunter
6 years 1 month ago

Make it easier for me to pay you less than what you’re worth by revealing your salary history and compensation expectations.

amandalee
6 years 1 month ago

Glad you answered the question about putting your salary in online engines. While I’ve never received a job offer from filling out applications on Taleo/Careerbuilder, I’ve had some success finding freelance clients through those sites. They require a numerical entry into the “Salary” field, so writing N/A is out. Total comp, though…that’s a good alternative. Thanks!

stratamarr
stratamarr
6 years 1 month ago
The only way to deal with an HR person who asks what your salary was is to turn it around and say “what is the range of salary for this position?” That way you can base the rest of the interview around what they expect to pay. Out of your range (low side) you may be able to convice them to pay you more, but nowadays that’s very unlikely. Out of your range (on the high side) you are golden. If they start making excuses such as “The pay range depends upon experience” (or skills) or if the range is… Read more »
AP
AP
6 years 1 month ago

Hi Ramit,
Thanks – will do this weekend – sadly I didn’t bring my copy into work, otherwise Chapter 9 might well have helped in my later conversation! Still, a learning point for later.
Cheers,
Alexia

eugene yee
eugene yee
6 years 1 month ago

sweet! congrats man

Jason
Jason
6 years 1 month ago

Some employment applications I’ve filled out have an employment history and starting salary and final salary of each position that you’ve held.

Of course, I could not leave it blank, but then my application might just be thrown into the trash.

What would you do when they ask you for your salary history on the employment application?

Thanks.
Jason

Steve
6 years 1 month ago

Great advice Ramit! When you start a relationship with lying it can only go down from there.

joewatch
joewatch
6 years 1 month ago
Here are some thoughts: 1. People looking at their first job straight out of college shouldn’t be negotiating too hard for a higher salary. If you get multiple offers from different employers, then you have some leverage. But otherwise, you have no track record. 2. Someone suggested it’s safe to tell a recruiter/headhunter your salary history, but that’s wrong. I told my recruiter specifically that he should not reveal my salary history. When I was a given the job offer, the HR person made the mistake of saying, “you should be happy becuase that’s 13% more than your current salary!”… Read more »
Roger
6 years 1 month ago

Excellent example! People often take the easy way out and repeating the past (past salary as baseline) is the easy way out. Moving the discussion off the calculator makes it messier and more real.

Tim Rosanelli
6 years 1 month ago
Great article. Yes, lying is unethical and very risky. Also, inflating your salary too much could knock you out of the running if they don’t think they could afford you. Another problem is I can almost guarantee that if you need to lie about your salary that you’re also the type that will not be able to establish why your worth the extra value. Negotiating a salary is more about establishing the extra value then just asking for more money. It’s best to concentrate on developing an image of huge value in the employers mind and seeing what they feel… Read more »
Mike
6 years 1 month ago

I am a HR executive for a big corporation. Lying about your salary is bad and is seen in a bad light. What else are you lying about? We always ask for references and we confirm not just performance, but salary and other benefits. If you are in an interview, you need to sell yourself and your abilities by refering to successful projects or achievements.
Business do not just pay salaries, because you are an accountant. We look at what extra value you can create for the business and what other skills you have or networks.

Judy
6 years 1 month ago

I always inflate my previous salary amount. That is how i tripled my salary. I call it climbing the corporate ladder without sleeping your way to the top. However, in retrospect, after reading this article I might do things differently in the future. Thanks for a great article that makes sense and an a great eye opener.

Jason
Jason
6 years 1 month ago

Illegal??:

“We’ve heard from a number of HR executives in the DailyWorth community that even slight salary history inflations are illegal and could jeopardize your job application, and to that extent, we will be retracting this post completely.”

Fahad
Fahad
6 years 1 month ago

Ramit, that is horrible advice. You dont want to sound like a prick about your salary. This shouldnt be a sticking point where you piss off people trying to help you get a job or employers. I would recommend asking the employer what is the salary range of this position and say I fall into this area as well without getting into specifics. And recruiters are trying to help.

Chad
Chad
6 years 1 month ago
It’s okay for an interviewee to try to deflect the question, or put the ball “back in their court.” Just remember, these tactics don’t always work, so it’s important for a candidate to determine how far they are willing to push the matter, especially for a desirable job opening. I have interviewed dozens of candidates for sales positions over the last few years. Not one applicant makes it past square one without providing proof of their compensation via two years W-2’s. Those that are unwilling to do so will not get a second look from me, no exceptions. Just remember,… Read more »
Seth
Seth
6 years 1 month ago

How many salary negotiations have you done for your own employment Ramit?

Aida
6 years 1 month ago

I agree. There is not a reason to lie. Being honest is a big plus when you are looking for a job.

ML
ML
6 years 1 month ago

@Chad

2 years of W-2, wow i would not want to work for you. I think for a employer-employee relationship to work there has to be some trust on both sides. I think this is a bit invasive. A W-2 has a lot of other information such as 401K contributions, transportation benefits, health care contributions, bonuses and overtime that frankly is not the business of the potential employer. I think it is best to research what comparable positions pay and give the employer a range.

John M. P. Knox
6 years 1 month ago
I find the comments on the NYT articles fascinating. Check this out: “…I can recall only one instance in a face to face meeting that a candidate declined to give comp specifics. I explained we couldn’t proceed without, to no avail, and left since he was not at the level of sophistication required for the position in question.” – SD As if surrendering your negotiating advantage is “sophisticated.” let’s turn the tables. Why isn’t this recruiter sophisticated enough to disclose the highest salary they can offer? Another one: “If you make them guess, and they guess wrong, the embarrassment (on… Read more »
cheapskate sandy
6 years 1 month ago

It’s great to be able to negotiate but with so many people out of work employers are looking for people that would have been thought to have been “overqualified” before at entry level rates. When it comes down to it, some employers will offer the lowest that they can get away with no matter what you do.

Lee Hauser
Lee Hauser
6 years 1 month ago

Ramit, I still am waiting for a clear response to the questions raised in the comments to the NYT article… how do you fill in the salary field in an online application that requires a numeric response? If you can’t get into the Applicant Tracking System, you’ll never get an interview.

Lee
Lee
6 years 1 month ago

You’re right on all counts, Ramit, and I am getting more and more contacts using more advanced methods. But those of us drawing unemployment still have to make at least three applications or job contacts a week, and sometimes that means applying through an Applicant Tracking System.

Raina
Raina
6 years 1 month ago
Ugh, I am having this exact dilemma with salary negotiations. A few weeks ago, a woman contacted me about what I would charge for contract/project work, and I told her it really depended on the specifications of the project and what she needed done. She never gave up the details, insisting I give her a number. Finally, after a series of emails, I did come up with a number. Following that, she continued to send me emails, nitpicking things in my resume that would possibly lead me to concede on my price. I told her we could talk about it… Read more »
Cathy
Cathy
6 years 1 month ago
Chad, you sound like a complete prat. And that’s putting it mildly. I would rather poke my eyes out with a hot poker than work for you. Do you even honestly believe your “I have all the power” system is delivering you the best workers? Trust me, it’s not. But you’re obviously happy with the desperate people who have to take a job, any job, and are prepared to put up with your crap until they can find something better. Imagine having to come to work every day and deal with someone like you! Boy, you really are a piece… Read more »
PJ
PJ
6 years 1 month ago

@Chad
Wow. How desperate does someone have to be to work for a company like that? I *might* consider submitting some financial information like that as part of a background check if my finances were potentially relevant to my job performance (i.e. I was being given a large degree of trust w/ client’s money), but I certainly would never submit information like that before you’d even offered me the job!

Alli
Alli
6 years 1 month ago
I will say though, if you are working with an executive recruiter, I don’t see why you would withhold that information. I work for an executive recruiting firm, and our final fee is determined by how much the employer offers to pay you – ie, the more you make, the more we make. It is in OUR best interest to convince the employer to pay you more. So if you are at the executive level and dealing with a retained recruiting firm, I wouldn’t hesitate to give this information out – also including benefit information and other circumstances, like relocation… Read more »
JP
JP
6 years 1 month ago
I actually like the salary question. If you have done your homework you should know what the salary will be for the position, within 10%. I make a good salary and am happy at my job,and for me to work for another company would take a 20+% premium over my current salary, which I communicate to recruiters and hiring managers. Most hiring managers and recruiters will have an idea of what you are making, but will want to confirm. By not divulging salary information, you could be adding unwanted attention to your application and coming off as entitled. Being confident… Read more »
Treacle
6 years 1 month ago
I was wondering…do you have any tips for negotiating a better benefits package in the non-profit industry? Non-profit salaries are very often limited by grant funding, and they can be cut, reshuffled, or even dissapear entirely in a heartbeat. As a matter of fact, the hiring person at my last few interviews has been explicit with saying “We do NOT negotiate salaries,” which I imagine they started doing because a lot of profit-world people are sliding over to the non-profit world during the recession. Short of leaving the non-profit world all together (which is what all my for-profit recommend, but… Read more »
subester
subester
6 years 1 month ago

There is only one reason why I would go along with Submitting my W-2’s to a company like Chads. He was hiring for Sales Positions. I will assume that these sales positions are based on commission. A great salesman has proof of their work in the paychecks/W-2’s. Low W-2’s/paycheck, no sales were being made. Quite simple.

Chad
Chad
6 years 1 month ago
Interesting comments. Believe it or not, our employees are not coming to us out of “desperation.” Our positions are actually very desirable and I’m fortunate to have a talented and dedicated sales force. With respects to the W-2’s, subester is on the right track, but there’s actually more to it. My sales openings are hybrid base + commission positions. Our goal is that any new employee should be realistically be capable of earning 30-40% more in their first year they did at their prior employer. However, their additional revenue needs to be performance based (i.e. all commission driven). Setting an… Read more »
Siraj
6 years 1 month ago

I wouldn’t like to reveal my salary to the employer unless I forced to. But it is also unethical to lie about your current salary. I think the best way is to negotiate and get your desired salary. Employer would love to hire a good negotiator for their company.

Casey
Casey
11 months 1 day ago

It depends on your position how firm you can stand on this. I basically tell them that I’m not going to budge and if they don’t think we can work with each other because of that that’s fine. So far every time it has turned out that they actually didn’t need my salary after all.

Andrej
4 months 20 days ago

Great advice, for someone who’s so hot they would get hired anyway. As the ‘sure pick’ in the room full of people being interviewed mostly for show, almost nothing you say is going to matter one way or the other.

Anyone who’s going on an actual interview, that is, being considered for the position along with other equally viable candidates, trying these tricks will just make you seem difficult to deal with and get your resume trashed.

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