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16 May 2022
by Rameez Kaleem

Why recruiters need to stop asking about current salary

It’s the most commonly asked question during the interview process, but one that only helps perpetuate pay inequalities

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“What’s your current salary?” It is the most common question asked by recruiters in a job interview.

There are two main reasons why this question has become so ingrained in the recruitment process:

Recruiters want to get a sense of the ‘worth’ of the candidate’s skills in the market
Hiring managers want to offer the lowest salary they possibly can.

Why recruiters ask about salary

Recruiters have hundreds – sometimes thousands – of CVs to go through and on the surface, asking about salary seems like a quick way to establish whether the candidate has the skills and experience needed. After all, if their current organisation pays them a much lower salary, there must be a reason – right?

Research shows many candidates lie about their salary when asked this question to get better pay, so why penalise those who are being honest?

Why hiring managers ask about salary

If the hiring manager insists on asking for your current salary – so they can save money rather than offering the salary that the role deserves – ask yourself if this is really the type of person and organisation you want to work for.

If you want to be treated fairly in the workplace, the best time to establish this is during the recruitment process. Get the salary you deserve based on what the company is willing to offer.

Helping to end discrimination

Pay gaps and pay inequalities exist widely. Many women, people of colour, and people with disabilities face pay discrimination their entire careers. When we make pay decisions based on candidates’ current salaries, all we are doing is transferring inequities from one organisation to another.

We may have the best intentions, but our decisions can still be unconsciously biased by this data. To ensure this doesn’t happen, we can stop asking this question in the recruitment process.

If we our commitment to eliminating historical inequities and bias from our pay process is to extend beyond soundbites and PR campaigns, then omitting this question is easy and impactful.

A survey by the Fawcett Society found that questions about salary history tarnished organisations’ reputations. 54% of men and 57% of women said it made them feel less positive about their potential employer.

So it makes sense not just from an equality perspective, but also to demonstrate that we have a fair and ethical approach in setting pay for colleagues.

Two steps to better salary decisions

Some organisations choose to pay at the market median. Others may choose to pay at the upper quartile, while some can only afford to pay below the market rate.

That is entirely their choice. But whatever they choose, it has nothing to do with anyone’s current salary or their expectations.

Deciding on the salary is a simple two-step process:

Step 1: Evaluate the role and decide the benchmark or pay range based on your market positioning, peer group and the salary survey(s) you use for benchmarking.

Step 2: Evaluate the individual and decide where they should sit within that pay range based on their knowledge, skills and experience.

In many US states, there is a legal requirement for organisations to:

• Publish pay ranges on jobs being advertised
• Not ask candidates their current salary

It is only a matter of time before this becomes a legal requirement in the UK. We can either wait for the legislation or be proactive in taking a fair and ethical approach to how we manage pay.

In partnership with 3R Strategy

Independent Pay & Reward Consultancy

Contact us today


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