How To Provide Your Salary History

By Chris Kolmar - Oct. 27, 2020

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Somewhere throughout the job search process, you’ll be asked to provide your salary history. This could be a question on the job application or one asked directly by your prospective employer during an interview.

You might feel some anxiety when the question presents itself— we understand.

Maybe you’re aiming for a higher-paying position and you’re not sure how your past experience measures up. Or maybe you’ve never been in a position to negotiate your salary before, so this situation takes you by surprise.

In either case, you should seriously consider the answer before throwing out just any figure. The more careful you are in disclosing your salary history, the more flexibility you have in negotiating a salary in your new job.

Read further for some tips on how to respond when employers ask about your salary history. Hopefully, by the end of it, you’ll feel confident enough to approach the question however you see fit.

What is your salary history?

Much like how a resume is a record of an employee’s work history, a salary history is a record of an employee’s past earnings in those positions. This record should include the name of the company, the job title, and the exact number for the salary received by the employee.

Note that a salary history is different from a salary requirement, which is the amount of money an employee needs to be paid to accept a job offer. A salary requirement depends on what you’ve decided is a suitable salary for yourself, so consider it carefully. You might do some research on the market value of the job you’re applying for and measure that against your own experience and accomplishments.

Discussing salary requires a delicate approach. You don’t want to demand too much from a prospective employer right off the bat, but you don’t want to undersell your worth as an employee if your salary history is a little underwhelming.

If you’ve never been asked to disclose how much money you made in the past and this sounds iffy to you, you’re certainly justified.

Some cities and states have established salary history bans that prohibit employers asking for salary information or requiring it during the hiring process. The American Association of University Women has reported such a ban in the following 15 locations: Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Vermont, and Washington.

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There are even a few companies that have banned interview questions about salary history, including Amazon, Facebook, and Google.

Employers having access to salary information could perpetuate wage discrimination and inequality, which is why bans like this exist. Historically, women and people of color have been paid less than white men in the workplace, and their salary histories likely reflect this inequality.

You’ve likely heard of the gender pay gap in the United States. Research from Census Bureau data in the past two years shows that women make $0.82, on average, for every $1 earned by men. This, of course, varies even further between white women, black women, latin women, and asian women.

Bans such as the ones in the aforementioned locations offer a potential buffer for unequal pay.

However, there are still plenty of places where it is entirely legal for an employer to ask for your salary history. If you’re uncertain of where your state or city falls on this issue, contact your state department of labor for clarity.

How to handle a request

You might be wondering, “Why does my employer want to know my salary history?”

Employers could ask for salary history and salary requirements for any of the following reasons:

  • To determine market value. Your salary history correlates to your level of experience in a given career field.

  • To align your expectations with their budget. This is how an employer could determine if you’re over or underqualified for a position. If the salary you earned at your most recent job is well above what the current employer is offering you, it may not be the best fit for you.

  • To guarantee a fair amount for the position. Employers might need to adjust their salary offerings or jobs descriptions depending on the kind of applicants that gravitate toward their opening.

    For example, if a company receives a lot of applications from people with high average salary histories, they might have to reevaluate their budget for that position.

You could be prompted to include your salary history in your resume or as an answer to a question on the job application. You can either give the exact figure or provide a salary range.

Be as realistic and accurate as possible. Prospective employers can verify with previous employers while reference checking— so, no throwing out high figures just to make yourself look good.

If you don’t feel comfortable disclosing this information, you could decline or deflect the question. It’s easier to do this in response to an interview question. You might consider mentioning that you’d like to learn more about the position before discussing salary history and expectations.

This could buy you some time to become a little more informed about what the value of the job is to the employer.

How to provide salary history

Now that you have some context for the impact that your salary history has on the hiring process, how do you disclose the information?

There are a few possible methods for providing your salary history, depending on the specificity requested by your employer or how much detail you’re willing to give.

The three best ways to approach the question in conversation are:

  • General terms. If you want to leave room for negotiation or just don’t want to share the exact figure, a general number will suffice.

    For example, “My current salary is in the high fifties.”

  • A range. This is the best course of action if your salary has increased since your start date. It works as an accurate answer to the question and shows that you bring significant value to your department, if you’ve been promoted.

    For example, “I started my position at $42,000 and my current salary is $58,000.”

  • An exact number. If you remember it off the top of your head, give the exact number. Otherwise, it’s general practice to round up to the nearest whole number.

    For example, “My current salary is $58,000.”

Though salary history and expectation are something you’re more likely to discuss with a prospective employer during an interview, you can also attach it as a file in your application documents. You might also tack this onto a line in your cover letter, if that’s what the employer asks for.

What’s Included In A Salary History List

Providing your salary history in a list is a little less stressful than doing so while face to face with a hiring manager. You can curate this ahead of time and it will help get your thoughts together.

A list of your salary history follows a similar format to a resume. Include the job title, name of the company, location of the company, start and end dates, and the salary earned. Each job should be listed in order of most recent to oldest.

When you list the annual salary, you can also opt to add benefits, bonuses, commissions, or additional compensation you received beyond the base pay. This might vary, so an average is the best indicator.

Note that the amount listed for your salary should be your gross annual salary— the amount you earned before taxes were taken out.

Salary history templates

The following is a template to model your annual salary history report after.

Your Name
City, State Zip

Salary History

Production Editor
Blue Swamp Publishing
City, State
Start date – Present
Annual Salary: I started my position at $42,000 and my current salary is $58,000.

Editorial Assistant
Gator University Press
City, State
State date – End date
Annual Salary: $39,000

Copy Editor
Writers Literary Magazine
City, State
State date – End date
Annual Salary: $27,000

Here is a template for if you choose to mention benefits:

Public Relations Director
Beauty Edit Company
City, State
State date – End date
Annual Salary: $140,000 plus benefits

Here is a template for if you choose to mention regular bonuses:

Social Media Coordinator
Beauty Edit Company
City, State
State date – End date
Annual Salary: $40,000 plus an average quarterly bonus of $1,100

If an employer doesn’t ask for your salary history, you’re under no obligation to provide it. But in the event that you do, the information mostly serves as a gauge for your value and experience as an employee.

It doesn’t guarantee that your potential job will match your previous or current salary, but it does open the door for negotiating a higher amount. As you move further in your career, you likely want to see increases in the wages you earn.

Arrive at interviews prepared to discuss both the history and the future of your salary.

Take the hassle out of your job search & get an offer faster
Chris Kolmar


Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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