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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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  1. Boom. Good job.

  2. 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!


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

  4. 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.

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

  6. 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.

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

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

  9. 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 inflated already, boy I wish I had given an even higher number! Pull ALL the levers you can friends!