3 Tips for Interviewing & Avoiding Pay History

how to interview without asking about pay history

Setting salary levels can be tricky, and it’s only getting harder. Asking about pay history to get a read on your applicant is already essentially taboo, and now it’s becoming illegal. So how do you set salary expectations?

Talk to an Expert

We highly suggest talking with an Avitus Group HR expert about pay history questions and setting salaries. We can help guide you through what is turning out to be a big transition and help you stay compliant with the new laws.

“Avitus Group is in the business of staying up-to-date on legal interview questions,” offers Anne Arrowsmith, Avitus Group Director of Talent Acquisitions.

In the meantime, here are a few suggestions on how to get on the same page with job applicants without asking about pay history.

1. Ask for Help or Research Salary Averages

If you don’t know exactly what you should pay for a position, there are companies like Avitus Group that can help you find that information. We frequently provide salary compensation reports to our clients.

If you want to look around on the Internet yourself to find the going rates, you should be able to find national statistics, and you may even be able to find regional or local statistics.

You can start here, although the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data is usually less specific and dated compared to what you will find in a salary compensation report.

2. Be Prepared to Discuss Salary Range Early

Once you have a baseline, you know the going rates, which also means you have a better idea of what applicants might be expecting.

Prepare to talk about your budgeted salary as early as you can in the recruiting process. Most companies don’t like to put pay ranges in job listings because their competitors can see them, but open the topic with the applicant as early as possible.

Often, salary is the last thing job applicants and companies talk about. It’s like selling or buying a house without knowing the market value or setting a price—yet it happens.

And a lot of times that’s when companies and applicants find out they are on different levels regarding pay. They have gone through the entire recruiting process—applications, phone interviews, in-person interviews—all for nothing.

It’s better to save your time and your candidate’s time. Be ready to talk about money either before any interviews take place or in the phone screening or first interview.

3. Ask Them What They Want

If you don’t want to reveal the budgeted salary for a position but want to get a reading on a candidate, you can ask about pay expectations.

Even before asking about pay history became illegal in certain areas it was a gray area in terms of etiquette. There was always the chance a job applicant might find it inappropriate. Asking about pay expectations is a different matter, though. It’s perfectly fine. Just prepare for a candidate saying that their salary expectations are negotiable, and don’t take this the wrong way.

By saying salary expectations are negotiable, a candidate might just be letting you know that overall lifestyle, company culture and opportunities are important to them and they are not focused solely on money. They may just want to learn more about the job, company, benefits, and career training before getting into salary discussions.

Get on the Same Page, Avoid Asking About Pay History

Setting salary levels is a delicate task, and it’s getting more difficult every day. If you have any questions about how to handle the legal ramifications of a new law or more questions on pay history, please don’t hesitate to give us a call. We have Avitus Group HR experts on-hand to answer any pay history questions you may have.


By Charlie Smith

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