How to Avoid Disclosing a Former Salary

Massachusetts has just made it illegal to ask a job applicant’s former salary in a job interview. That action is a win for women who statistically are paid less for the same job as men. Of course employers want to find out compensation information to develop a floor for negotiating purposes. But, especially for women, that question can undermine their ability to be paid an appropriate amount for their job responsibilities.

So what do you do (if you don’t live in Massachusetts) and you are asked the question? It depends on how much a risk taker you are, how comfortable you feel about a possible offer, and how flexible you believe your future employer is. But you could answer the question by saying, “Not an appropriate amount for my contribution. That’s one of the reasons I am looking to make a move. Why do you ask?” Serving up the question to the employer will make them tell you why they want the information. They may be  honest and tell you it helps them determine the compensation they would potentially offer you or they may avoid the question by saying it’s something they always ask. Regardless, after listening to the response, you can discuss your “interest in receiving the fair compensation that your responsibilities would command”. You can even throw in, “Doesn’t that make sense?” to get them talking again. This conversation is tricky but if you follow the primary rule of negotiation for women, being “relentlessly pleasant,” you may be able to avoid the salary disclosure.