Viewpoint: Current Salary Should Be Out of Bounds During Job Interview


By Craig Fisher March 6, 2017

​How fair is your company's salary structure?

The process of negotiating a salary can be daunting for job candidates—especially if they have historically earned less than their peers doing the same work. To balance the pay scales, a few state and local legislatures, and some major corporations, are changing the way salary history is addressed in job interviews.

Why Is This Important?

Women on average earn 79 percent of what men earn, according to federal government data. In a step towards narrowing this gap, the state of Massachusetts passed pay equity legislation last summer banning employers from asking job candidates about their salary history. That law goes into effect in 2018.

​Craig Fisher ​Craig Fisher, head of employer brand at CA Technologies.
Since then, similar legislation has been introduced in New Jersey and in the city councils of New York City, Pittsburgh and the District of Columbia. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney signed such an ordinance in January, despite threats from media giant Comcast to pursue legal action claiming the mandate violates employers' First Amendment rights.

SHRM members-only toolkit: Managing Pay Equity]

"The practice of asking for salary history rarely works in a candidate's favor," said Lars Schmidt, founder of Tysons, Va.-based recruitment consultancy Amplify Talent, and leader of the HR Open Source movement. "It bases a compensation benchmark that tries to draw a connection between two jobs that doesn't exist. Your job pays X to Y. It shouldn't matter what candidates earn now. You should base the new salary on a candidate's skills and experience and how those align with your own internal equity."

Notably, several large employers in the tech sector are currently facing legal action for gender bias in their hiring practices. A few companies, however, are proactively and voluntarily enacting their own bans on asking about salary history of potential hires, including software company CA Technologies, based in New York City. CA has 11,000 employees in over 40 countries globally. 

"It shouldn't matter what candidates earn now. You should base the new salary on a candidate's skills and experience and how those align with your own internal equity."

"Pay equity is and always has been important to CA because we believe all people should be compensated based on what they bring to the position and the company," said Beth Conway, CA's North American vice president of HR. "Continuing this focus and commitment, we now prohibit discussion of previous compensation during the application and hiring process."

Jennifer Sutton, director of global diversity and campus recruitment for staffing giant Allegis Global Solutions, based in Hanover, Md., agrees with the emerging approach. "As a diversity and inclusion practitioner, it's music to my ears to see how CA has evolved their approach to equal pay. The war for top talent is challenging. To remain competitive, it's a must that organizations adapt and flex to remain an employer of choice. I'm sure others will follow."

Complying with equal employment opportunity regulations will not eliminate bias—possibly nothing will. But omitting questions about a job candidate's previous salary, at the interview stage, seems to be a step in the right direction.

Craig Fisher is head of employer brand at CA Technologies and a popular keynote speaker at technology, social media, HR, recruiting and sales conferences worldwide. He tweets @fishdogs.

Was this article useful? SHRM offers thousands of tools, templates and other exclusive member benefits, including compliance updates, sample policies, HR expert advice, education discounts, a growing online member community and much more. Join/Renew Now and let SHRM help you work smarter.


Job Finder

Find an HR Job Near You
Search Jobs


Find the Right Vendor for Your HR Needs

SHRM’s HR Vendor Directory contains over 10,000 companies

Search & Connect

HR Daily Newsletter

News, trends and analysis, as well as breaking news alerts, to help HR professionals do their jobs better each business day.