How do I handle salary history question?

Caila SongCaila Song Member



  • CareerServicesCareerServices Member, Sofi Team

    Hello Caila,

    Recruiters ask the salary history question to determine whether a candidate falls within an acceptable range. In other words, they don’t want to waste time with a candidate that would never accept an offer given the different in compensation.

    Similar to salary expectations, the elimination risk remains in place. However, we still recommend answering the question by providing your most recent compensation, because not doing so could come off as evasive and potentially damage your relationship with a potential employer. The best way to mitigate the elimination risk is to close your answer with a fair market value statement. For example: “I make $X in my current role, but this is about opportunity for me. It’s very important that I find the right fit, so I would only expect to be paid fair market for the role.”

    The recruiter may respond by asking if you would take less than your current salary. Your response should restate your position: “As I mentioned, I’m more interested in finding the right fit. If fair market means I need to consider less, then I would be willing to discuss the possibility.” Remember, our goal is to survive the cut. The employer doesn’t really know you yet. A lot can happen between the phone screen and offer stage. Give the employer a chance to fall in love with you, and great things can happen.

    Although there is an elimination risk with this question, there is no limit risk. Unlike salary expectations (the future), salary history is the past. You are a different candidate today than you were yesterday. It is much easier to get around salary history than it is salary expectation.

    We hope this information helps!


    SoFi's Career Services Team

  • Michael KMichael K Member

    If your goal is to negotiate a fair salary then you should never share your salary history. It may even be illegal in your state for employers to ask about your salary history.

    Instead of providing salary history, provide your salary requirements.

    Telling a potential employer what you make in your current job stakes negotiations at your current salary since your current salary is usually the starting point for what your new employer might pay you. In the best case you're giving away negotiation power. In the worst case, especially for women, you're unintentionally helping to reinforce unfair wage gaps. If you are already undervalued in your current job then starting salary negotiations based on your job history will result in a similarly unfair, under valued salary.

    Better employers will provide a salary range up front (because they know this is a fair way to stake negotiations and avoid wasting everyone's time). You can also easily find salary information by job roles and locations online through websites such as Glass Door or LinkedIn.

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