Salary History Dilemma

I’m speaking with a perspective employer who has asked what I currently earn. Unfortunately, my salary is structured as a base plus bonus and then a series of freelance contracts that, although are paid on the books, aren’t considered part of my “salary”. It’s not super, super complicated, however if a perspective employer were to do a background check through HR, admittedly it may take a bit of explaining and could potentially raise a red flag… on the other hand bringing it up out of the blue without any prompting seems equally as dangerous.
I guess my question is, do companies really consult with your HR department about salary history, and if you think this could be an issue, any ideas on how I might handle it?

I would be completely shocked if an HR department gave out your salary history without your written consent.

Most U.S. corporate HR departments try to give out as little info as possible because of fear of lawsuits. Most won’t even give out ANY information without a release form with your signature.

It’s really of no business of the prospective employer. They have no right. They can ask and you can volunterily give them the information but I’ve always felt it’s like playing poker. Hold your cards close. Have them pay you what they feel your worth, not what your current company feels your worth.

In other words, lie. Doesn’t really matter. It’s all bargaining at this point.

Basically all you can ask a former employer is “did they work here from this time to this time.” And they really can’t say anything negative for fear of lawsuits.

wow- a couple responses different than I have heard before. I wonder how this string will play out.

I had always taken the line of ranges. ie- under 40 with full benefits, 50-60 depending on/if the bonus, ect. This gives them an honest look at where you have been paid, but doesn’t take away from what your new responsibilities might be.

I think NURB is right, I was under the impression that by law, a company can only release information whether you actually work/worked there- and for how long. Everything else is too murky and would make most labor lawyers salivate.

The above posts are correct. I have been asked this question a few times and there are many ways to respond without turning your hand. I usually tell them something like this…

Let’s see if you guys like what I have to offer. Once you determine that you like what I have to offer you, then we can talk salary. (At this time I try to turn the tables and determine what their salary window is.) I usually end by telling them a fair market value of my skills is where we can start the salary discussion. To which point I start discussing what other designers are currently making in my prospective job position. This allows me to steer them away from what I used to make.

You can also tell them that what I made in the past is irrelevant. My new prospective job has new duties, responsibilities and potential growth oppurtunities than my last.

This salary question is used to lock you into the HR 15-20% rule. Once they determine what you used to make their offer will typically max out at 20% more than what you make. They will also be able to offer you more than what they claim they can offer you. That’s only if they really want you though. Just remember once your hired it’ll be even more difficult to make more money. So try to come in high and stay high.

I have avoided/postponed this question numerous times. Here are some examples of the benefits. The first time I got a $15k bump from their first offer. (Passed on that job.) The second time I got a 40% increase over what I made. (Took that job.) The second time I recieved an offer in writing over 50% what I previously made. (Took that letter and showed it to my current employer to get a bump an perks.) That have been times that I’ve priced myself out of reach. There have also been times that it has ended the interview process. But if you’re being fair to yourself, it will end up in your best interest. Play the game and watch for the traps.

We use W2 stubs.

If they fail to produce one they don’t get hired. Simple. The game of poker is over. No more bluffing with fake salary demands.

I would walk away from a company that demanded a W2. I just don’t think that is the right thing to do and it starts on a bad note of distrust. Salary information is private, corporations have a budget for their position and demanding a W2 seems like an easy way to take away a potential employee’s ability to negotiate, getting the candidate to accept an offer below the company’s budgeted salary…

In my experience, HR is not technically even able to ask what your specific current salary is, they can ask what your potential salary needs are, what your salary range is, but anything more gets sticky legally.

[quote=“one-word-plastics”]We use W2 stubs.

If they fail to produce one they don’t get hired. Simple. The game of poker is over. No more bluffing with fake salary demands.[/quote]

And I think that is my point… I have W2’s stating my salary and bonus’ on which the freelance work does not show up. I also have invoices indicating services and fees for the freelance portion. There is a paper trail for everything, but it’s just how that is perceived by someone who were to inquire with HR ratehr than inquire with me. And even still… it’s just not as cut and dry an answer that i worry would make a perspective employer apprehensive.

I appreciate all the feedback. I’m horrible at these things and already showed my cards enough by answering “the” question instead of rebuffing it. I probably should have explained it at the time when they asked, but again…I’m bad at these things and was quite flustered.

W2 stubs are not asked for at the time of negotiation. You should be negotiating your salary with the hiring manager not HR. W2 forms are asked of you AFTER negotiation. Like said above, I would not work for a company that is asking for W2’s before hand.

It’s not a matter of a game of poker. It is getting the salary that you are worth. Simply taking low salaries just so the company can save a buck is not ok in my book. We all work hard and get what we deserve. It’s a matter of coming in at the right salary to begin with.

Show them your salary history only if they show you how much they paid their industrial designer before. This either shut them up or get you kicked out of the interview.

I do not discuss my salary history EVER! There is only one reason they ask you for salary history and that is to f-uck you over.

Demand what you think you are worth and not settling for how much you were worth before. It is the employer’s job to do their homework finding out what the market rate is. It is not your responsibility to do this resarch for them by handing your balls and salary history to them on a silver platter so they can lowball you.

And yes I do practice what I preach most time I win and sometime I don’t once I was escorted out of the interviewers office less then 3 mins into the interview for refusing to discuss my salary history.

And HUGG you Core77’s Ms Manners

For what it’s worth, the context of my original message was pertaining to a sitaution in which my current HR dept. was contacted/w2’s were submitted AFTER an offer was made and accepted. I’m more concerned with the employer reacting and rescinding an offer after I have accepted, because the situation isn’t as simple as “submit a W2” and probably should have been explained more clearly upfront. I made a mistake of not being more forthcoming when asked (kind of a knee jerk reaction to the ‘how much do you make’ question), and now find myself wondering how/if I can fix this without raising a red flag. All things considered, perhaps they ask, I explian, and that’s it. I’m just wondering if there is anything pre-emptive that I should do and/or if it’s even worht worryign about to begin with.

PS - I WOULD never even consider doign anythign until an offer is made.

There are seriously people out there demanding to see W2’s? And also people who hand them over?

Does that strike anyone else as completely wrong?

There is no way I would ever let a company see a W2 from a previous employer. You’re just asking to get screwed.

To distortion:
If they come back confused about your W2 (now that you’ve shown them your cards) just explain that you also made more in other areas that aren’t reflected on your W2. A good employer will understand (and hopefully at least match it) a bad one won’t and you don’t want to be there anyway.

Apology for my previous rant that had nothing to do with your question.

I would be proactive and contact the hiring decision maker and explain the situation to them. At this point it seems you want to work there and not have some overlooked bookeeping issue cast a shadow on your situation You could also think that this is an oppirtunity to demosnstrate to your future employer that you’re an upfront honest person.

You have your freelance work agreement and top stub of the check that your client used to pay you as your proof of total income.

I still stand by original statement though “F” salary history.

So, have any of you ever been asked to produce W2’s after accepting an offer…? It seems so intrusive. Like having to produce the obituary of your dead grandmother to get out of work or something, no?

Many companies ask for salary history – for corporate companies, they sometimes put it on the official application, and ask for your salary history going back several jobs (yuck). If asked point blank, I have evaded the question before – the problem is DISPARATE INFORMATION. Why should the company have my salary history but I don’t have a history of what they have paid the last several people filling the position? Of course, the same company will probably turn around and tell you not to reveal your salary to anyone (a directive that by law, they cannot enforce – it is your discretion to reveal your salary, if they punish you, you can sue).

I have worked for some truly noxious companies, but no one has ever asked for W2s. Maybe that company is great, but I suspect this is in the same category as murky grey carpet in the lobby, no coffee available on premises, and companies that refer to their employees as “the ___ co. family”… minor things, but all indications that the job will generally suck (or that there is a Republican in the white house… companies love to torture people during economic downturns).

Yes I have. I had negotiated an offer with the hiring manager. I was then written a formal offer to which I accepted. After all of that I was asked to supply my W2’s to HR. I did submit my W2’s because an agreement had already been made. The difference in salary was well beyond 40% increase. At no time did anyone ever say anything. Everything was fine.

I have been asked to supply my credit report to a company. To which I outright refused. My credit report is fine, but I did not believe that had anything to do with my work performance and didn’t see the connection of that to the job offer. I always take that as a good sign that I shouldn’t want to work for a company that gets that involved in their employee’s personal life.