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Do I Have to Provide a Salary History?
By: Angela Betts

Often you see job postings with a request such as “Send resume with salary history to…” I don’t know about you but the first thing that pops into my mind is what do they expect to pay? The next question I ponder is whether or not it’s legal to request this information. Who will see my salary history when my resume and accompanying documents are received? Will it be the hiring manager, someone in the human resources department, or will it be a notoriously nosy employee whose job it is to open the mail? Will that individual broadcast my confidential information to other employees?

Some employers use this tactic to save themselves time and weed out applicants that expect more than they are willing to pay or, based on their view of your past compensation, don’t appear to have the skills or experience necessary. The keyword in the second statement of the preceding sentence is appear. You may very well have deserved better, but for whatever reason you may not have been compensated as well as you should have been.

Unfortunately, it isn’t illegal for employers to ask for a salary history even though your income is a highly confidential matter. Therefore, you need to develop a plan to deal with the ones that expect it or worse, require it. That plan should include a method to address the issue without revealing too much information to just anybody that may have access to your job search documents.

The first thing to do is determine how crucial an opportunity is to you. If you are in a position to be choosy with job opportunities, don’t waste your time and energy. Some postings will warn you that if you don’t send your salary history with your resume you will be cast into file 13. Ignore the job postings that require it and move on to the next opportunity. If the job appears to be a very lucrative prospect for you and you believe you absolutely must give it a shot or if you can’t afford to pass up the chance at the opportunity, you can turn the tables on them and use this to your advantage to screen them, too.

Secondly, if you don’t already know how much you should expect to be compensated you should do some research before applying. Do a search for salary wizards on any of the search engines to locate wizards. You will find salary wizards that will provide a low to high range of compensation for different professions and positions based on experience levels and geographical locations. Some of them include information about benefits and perks as well as monetary compensation. Most employers have done their own research and know the ranges for the geographical area where they are located.

Respond to the request for your salary history in your cover letter after highlighting the benefits of hiring you. Instead of detailing what you were compensated by past employers, address the issue by including a statement indicating your expected salary. Use general numbers such as “mid 50’s” without giving a top or bottom range, i.e. 50 to 60k annually. You don’t want to state a range because it could still limit your ability to negotiate. You want to leave the door open to be able to negotiate monetary compensation as well as other benefits and perks.

If you don’t hear from them, move on and don’t stress over it because most likely they didn’t intend to pay what you need or expect. You have succeeded in turning the tables and making sure you didn’t waste your time and energy on a job less than favorable to you. If you do hear from them, be prepared to negotiate for compensation that will be reasonable for you and the employer.

Angela Betts is a member of NRWA and has over 8 years of experience writing targeted, compelling resumes that will open doors to a world of new opportunities for you. Email Angela at or call 501-467-8768 for a FREE resume critique and to work one-on-one with Angela to develop your resume. Sign up for the FREE Career and Job Search Tips Newsletter at

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