Employers asking for your previous wage

I was at Jack in the Box the other day, and there was an employment application printed on the tray liner. I noticed that one of the questions was “How much were you paid at your previous job?”

Then I realized that the past couple applications I’ve filled out have asked the same question, but my answers have never even been mentioned. I’ve certainly never been turned away because I made too much, and I doubt there’s much haggling over salary and health plans at Jack in the Box. What’s the point?

According to one lawyer who does HR work:

I would guess that the information also helps companies keep their pay in line with any other companies who might hire you.

In corporations that don’t have a set salary scale, it’s a way to judge how valuable your previous employer thought you were. It also lets them know what you’d be willing to settle for when negotiating.

That’s why I always jack my salary up by 25% to 30% whenever I look for a new job. And it actually has worked.

I read a book on salary negotiations (“Dynamite Salary Negotiations”, actually. Silly name; good book.) a few years ago that recommended simply leaving this question blank. Answering the question (the argument went) can’t possibly help you: either you look cheap and get a lowball offer, or you look expensive and don’t get an offer at all. Your true value to the company that’s hiring is in no way reflected by your salary at the compant that you’re leaving.

Cornflakes: << I would guess that the information also helps companies keep their pay in line with any other companies who might hire you >>

No company with a reasonable HR staff would use a question like that as the sole means of keeping abreast of competitive pay scales. It’s subjective – Amp said that he lies – and it’s a very biased sample. There is plenty of accurate and reliable survey information out there that managers can use to keep their pay in line.

It can be used as a sort of informal thermometer of pay outside the company, but it would be a foolish manager who would use it as anything different from information that might be gleaned at a cocktail party.

C K Dexter Haven, absolutely. My assumption was that this stuff is sometimes watched for trends, not for the actual amounts.

I don’t fill it in, or I write confidental information with previous employer. I give them a resume, ask them what they are willing to pay me. I tell them what I will work for, and if we don’t agree after a discussion I leave. It’s none of their business what I worked for somewhere’s else.

In my job hunting forays, I have found some employers who demand previous salary information. I don’t think it’s good to lie because they may indeed ask for a paystub as proof. Even if you don’t offer this information on the application, you can expect it to be asked in the interview. Remember, honesty is the best policy! :slight_smile:

The stubb doesn’t help. You simply say my base is $35,000 with an incentive range of $5,000-11,000.

This gives the employeer a range of $40-46 thousand to consider.

The fact of the matter is my base salary is low as I have to be a punched position. I made $9,000 in overtime last year. I also have an incentive plan. If I went anywhere else I would be salary most likely. The reason is I work about 50 hours a week. If I were salary I would expect that and demand higher.

When it says salary put “Industry and company standard plus experience.” Or just leave it blank.

My company will not verify salary. All they give out is Start date, end date and are you OK for rehire.

Many companies are like this. If they want a stub simply say the salary on your stub doesn’t include your bonuses which are built in so your salary is lower. This is common practice in sales jobs.

A pre-employment background check usually includes a credit report. A credit report will show last years employer and income tax info. Then they can tell if you’re padding your salary history, so I’ve been told by my HR director. I’m sure that there are different levels of background checks that an employer may use.I doubt if Jack in the Box is that concerned to spend that much time and money on a full blown FBI background check.

I’d agree that you should leave the box blank. If they ask your salary in the intereview, tell them that money isn’t the most important thing to you, but doing a good job is.

There’s no advantage to giving that information to an prospective employer.

I never answer a salary question on a form. If the question is asked during an interview, my standard response is something along the lines of “So does this mean you’re offering me the job?” If they say no, I say “I’d prefer to hold all salary discussions until you decide if I’m the right person for the job.”

The first person to mention a figure during salary negotiations loses.

I concur with all those who have said to leave that item blank on the application. Any reasonable employer will be undeterred by your failing to include such information on a form and is someone you wouldn’t want to work for, anyway.

Important note about lying on a job application: this is (as far as I know) universally grounds for immediate dismissal. Only lie on job applications for jobs you can afford to be without.

The best way to influence hiring decisions and salary negotiations both, from my experience, is to be honest. In my current position, I knew going into the interview that I was a strong candidate (the job requirements and my resume read like two drafts of the same document). I knew from the questions asked of me and my answers that I was probably the strongest candidate they had (hard-to-pin-down feeling of sympatico). Thus, I knew when the job was offerred that I was negotiating from a position of strength. They wanted me. I had made no secret of the fact that I wanted them. So, I made a reasonable counter-offer to their base salary, being sure to mention a couple of the points that made me such a strong candidate (“In light of my considerable experience and my additional training, …”). Result: I was started at a significant increase over the base salary.

And nobody had to tell any stretchers.