Compensation Negotiations are Changing. What You Should & Shouldn’t Say During Your Next Interview


What is the most difficult question during the interview process? It’s not “Why are you the best candidate for the job?” “Tell me about yourself,” or even “What is your greatest weakness?” The hardest question during the interview process is “What is Your Salary History?” The question is challenging because it can have a major impact on your earnings and, sometimes, even the likelihood of being hired. If your current salary is lower than what the standard salary for the role is or what you are truly worth, you may end up getting an offer than is lower than you deserve. For many, especially female and minority candidates, the pay gap is a serious issue that can follow them throughout their whole career. pay equity laws

In the United States, state and municipal governments are implementing new laws to address the issue. These pay equity laws are being put in place to prevent employers from asking candidates about their salary history. There are states and cities implementing laws including:

  • Massachusetts state law will prohibit search firms and hiring organizations from: (1) screening candidates based on their wages; (2) requesting or requiring a candidate to disclose prior wages or salary history; and (3) seeking the salary history of any candidate from any current or former employer, unless the candidate provides express written consent, and an offer of employment (including proposed compensation figures) has been made. This law will go into place July 1, 2018.
  • Oregon state law will prohibit search firms and hiring organizations from seeking a candidate’s salary history, screening candidates based on their salary history, and relying upon salary history to determine salary, benefits, or other compensation beginning January 1, 2019.
  • Starting December 14, 2017, the Delaware statute makes it unlawful for a search firm to screen candidates based on their compensation histories, including requiring that a candidate’s prior compensation satisfy minimum or maximum criteria for the job. It also prohibits search firms and hiring organizations from seeking the salary history of a candidate from the candidate or a current or former employer, except under narrow circumstances.
  • California state law prohibits search firms and hiring organizations from relying on a candidate’s prior salary history “as a factor in determining whether to offer employment . . . or what salary to offer an applicant.” Moreover, search firms and hiring organizations cannot seek this type of information about an applicant. Additionally, California is the first state to require search firms and hiring organizations/employers to, upon reasonable request, provide the candidate with the pay scale/range assigned to the position sought beginning January 1, 2018.
  • Philadelphia’s city ordinance will prohibit search firms and hiring organizations from asking about a candidate’s salary history, predicating interviews or employment offers upon disclosure of salary history, relying on salary history at any stage of the search process, and otherwise retaliating against a candidate for non-disclosure of salary history.
  • The San Francisco ordinance bans search firms and hiring organizations from asking candidates about their current or past salary or considering a candidate’s salary information in determining whether to hire an applicant or what salary to offer. The ordinance also prohibits employers from disclosing a current or former employee’s salary history without that employee’s authorization, unless the salary history is publicly available. The law will go into effect starting July 1, 2018.
  • Starting October 31, 2017, New York City’s ordinance will prohibit search firms and hiring organizations from inquiring about the salary history of a candidate, which includes both asking the candidate or their former employer directly about their salary history and conducting a search of publicly available records or reports. It also bans search firms and hiring organizations from relying on the salary history of a candidate in determining that candidate’s salary/offer at any stage in the employment process, unless the candidate “unprompted” and “willingly” discloses his or her prior salary information.

For more information on your state or city’s pay equity laws, or to find out if your area is looking at adding one, we encourage you to get more information from your state and/or municipal government offices to make sure you are prepared for your next job interview.

Because companies can no longer ask salary history in certain locations, giving a strong answer when asked your expected compensation is going to be even more important for compensation negotiations. To better understand your worth and how to determine a desired salary, visit the Executive Compensation category of our Career Insider Blog or Part Six of Our Ultimate Executive Career Management Guide.


Note: BlueSteps merely provides an overview of specific legal issues. This summary is not intended to be, nor should it be, construed as legal advice.


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