Category Archives: Salary and Compensation

Should You Provide Salary History if Asked?

if-you-make-pay-the-big-deal-2Been away for a couple months – first to London, Paris, and Amsterdam for a fabulous vacation with my wife, then took a a month off to regroup and readjust my efforts going forward. Good to be back in the saddle…

Should you have to disclose your previous salary/compensation history on cover letters or applications? I’ve always been against HR’s insisting on using salary and compensation history when vetting applicants. It’s a variable that has only minor statistical significance, and it’s just too easy for an employer to use a candidate’s salary history to screen them from further consideration for open positions or toss out a low-ball offer. If HR screened résumés based on salary/compensation history before sending them to me, how was I to know whether they represented the best possible candidates of all who applied?

I understand that some company HR departments screen for salary and compensation to avoid wasting everyone’s time. Well, that’s just great, HR, but should THAT be a consideration? How about the cost of hiring the wrong person because the BEST person was eliminated just because a salary was outside the boundaries of what HR deemed “acceptable”?

I have screened candidates from further consideration because of:

  •  Insufficient skills, knowledge, experience or expertise
  • A horrible interview evaluation
  • A terrible personality that would upset the team dynamic
  • Poor references

And I have fought for higher compensation (salary, extra week vacation time, more stock options) for a candidate that I thought would greatly benefit the team and contribute to the higher strategic objectives of the organization.

Pay and compensation models vary from one company to the next (as do the expectations for similar positions)  and can be WAY off across different industries. It’s not apples to apples in many cases, but most HR departments try to strike the best arrangement for the potential employee and the employer (HR is, after all, the buyer’s agent).

Should you state your salary history in a cover letter or job application if asked? Depends on how you think that number will influence whether you’ll be considered for an interview. Avoid the temptation when asked about salary history to respond with, “salary is negotiable.” That may suggest to HR that you’re unsure of your compensation needs and you’re trying to hedge your bets. While I’ve been told that interviewers have more respect for candidates who can honestly discuss salary histories, I respect that candidate who can clearly and fearlessly state his or her trail of compensation after having done the upfront research.


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My name is  Donn LeVie Jr. and I’m a former hiring manager for Fortune 500 companies (Phillips Petroleum, Motorola, Intel Corporation, and others) and have worked in the federal government (NOAA) and in academia as an adjunct faculty lecturer in the Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics for the University of Houston (Downtown Campus). I am the author of Strategic Career Engagement(September 2015), Runner-Up of the 2016 International Book Award for Business: Careers, and the book that reset the rules for successful job and career strategies:  Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 (June 2012, Winner of the 2012 Global eBook Award and Winner of the 2012 International Book Award for Jobs/Careers).  I lead career strategy seminars at conferences, business/trade schools, colleges and universities, and U.S. military veterans organizations. I also offer a Career Engagement Evaluation subscription program to associations as a member benefit.

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