Saying Goodbye to Salary-History Questions

Banning salary-history questions for job candidates may be easier than employers thought.
By: | March 20, 2018 • 3 min read

When it comes to dropping salary-history questions from the job-interview process, a new survey suggests employers are finding it’s as easy as dropping a pencil.

New data released by WorldatWork, a nonprofit total rewards association, found that 44 percent of employers that have implemented a ban on asking job candidates about their salary history reported doing so to be very or extremely simple. Only 1 percent reported this to be extremely difficult, and 8 percent reported it to be very difficult.

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The WorldatWork report, “Quick Survey on Salary History Bans (U.S.)”, summarizes the results of a February 2018 survey of WorldatWork members gathering information to understand approaches organizations are taking to comply with new laws and the changing landscape of U.S. salary history bans. The survey closed on Feb. 16 with a final dataset of 838 responses.

The idea of having to craft a total rewards offer without salary history information can be daunting to some managers and employers, said Sue Holloway, CCP, CECP, WorldatWork director of executive compensation strategy.

“[W]hen hiring managers and recruiters are educated and given reliable compensation data on market rates and pay ranges, the need for a candidate’s salary history diminishes,” Holloway said.

“What we are seeing in practice is that actually eliminating the use of salary history isn’t as challenging as many feared it might be. Implementing a salary-history ban requires strong change-management direction from employers,” she said. “It’s a significant shift in how many employers construct compensation offers, but it’s one that can be done.”

The survey of WorldatWork members found that 37 percent of employers have implemented a policy prohibiting hiring managers and recruiters from asking about a candidate’s salary history in all U.S. locations, regardless of whether a local law exists requiring this practice. About 35% of employers reported prohibiting this practice only where laws are in place requiring it.

For those employers that have yet to implement a nationwide salary-ban policy, 40 percent are somewhat likely or extremely likely to do so in the next 12 months.

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“As more cities and states pass laws prohibiting employers from asking job candidates about salary history, more employers are adopting nationwide U.S. policies,” said Holloway. “I’d expect this trend to continue, especially as pressure builds for employers to justify their pay practices and ensure gender-pay equity.”

One area in which salary-history data may still be used is when internal candidates are being considered for new roles. The survey found that 73 percent of employers do not prohibit consideration of an internal candidate’s current pay for setting pay in a new role.

Web Editor Michael J. O’Brien has been with HRE for more than a decade and holds a degree in economics from Boston College. He can be reached at [email protected]

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