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I'm in the process of getting a new job. I just received the offer letter, which was accompanied by an authorization form for a background check.

The background check authorization form was pretty straight forward until I got to the part about employment history. In addition to wanting to know my previous employers, plus contact information for my supervisors at each position, they are also asking me for my salary in each role. The supervisor, start/end dates, employer, and role are all I've ever been asked for at this part of the process in the past.

Up until this point, I never discussed my previous or current salary during the interview process. They asked how much I wanted, I asked how much they were offering, we haggled and both parties are satisfied.

Is there any harm in telling the background check company how much my previous salary/salaries were? This new role's salary will be a hefty step up from my previous compensation, and I don't want to jeopardize this. I'm not sure if I can leave these fields empty since it's an electronic form and not a paper form.

(I figure I should make sure that the offer is signed and accepted before I submit the background check authorization, just to be safe.)

I am in the US, Colorado. The company is multi-national. The field is software.


Research:

I've looked for other questions about this, and the closest I could find was "can potential employers ask for salary?", where I learned that some states have rules that say that while you can volunteer the information, the employer can't downright ask if you don't tell them. (I don't live in any such state.) Furthermore the other answer to that question said that previous employers will usually not do anything other than confirm that yes, you worked for them between such-and-such dates.

Additionally "What does an employer check as part of a background check" doesn't even mention salary, and the closed "Does wrong/misconstrued title and salary cause issues in employment background check?" only discusses New York when mentioning that the previous employer won't reveal salary information. (also not my state)

  • Check your offer letter, does it state that the offered salary is subject to change based on previous salaries from the background check? – sf02 Jun 26 at 17:26
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    Did you see this near-dupe? workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/45133/… – dwizum Jun 26 at 17:39
  • The problem with that near-dupe is that the asker in that question is in Massachusetts, where employers cannot ask for previous salary unless it is previously volunteered. The OP here has indicated that this is not the came for them, and they have no similar protection under the law. (The law also changed since that other Q was asked; the law was added in '18 if I understand correctly, so their question isn't actually valid as written.) Also in that other question they said they told the new employer their current salary, so it could be used as "verifying" their truthfulness. – Roddy of the Frozen Peas Jun 26 at 17:56
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    Is there an option to leave the field blank, or does the background check company require it in their software/forms? – BrianH Jun 26 at 19:32
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It's fine. You already have an offer, and presumably have agreed on a salary. No borderline sane company would think of revising it based on that check.

Also, the IT field is famous for having extremely wide salary gaps between companies for no particular reason. For a developer of the same skill level, the pay gap can be 10x between FAANG and a startup. Even without such extremes, a 2x-3x gap can be easily found.

There are many reasons for this. At some companies, IT is their core business, at others a supporting role. Many small ones don't physically have the money. Skill growth in IT is extremely rapid, mostly because it's basic coding that is IT's bread and butter, not deep scientific or engineering knowledge.

What matters in the end is that big salary changes in IT are nothing special. Your old one really doesn't matter much.

Just this Monday I did the paperwork to promote a developer with less than a year in the company to a role paying just a bit over 2x his previous salary. Because that's what he's worth, a cheap hire that paid off, and it's better for me that he gets his worth's pay. Keeping it a nice surprise for now.

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I agree with @Therac, but there is an important caveat.

If you have given any information about your salary to this employer already or if you provide salary information as part of your background check, ensure that you are truthful.

If you have lied about your salary and this is uncovered by this background check (or a future one), that may be sufficient cause for them to fire you. I'd say that there's a pretty good chance that there are words to this effect on something you sign as part of the vetting process.

This doesn't mean that you have to tell them your exact salary, but if you're giving information you mustn't say anything that is demonstrably false. To keep things vague, you can provide a range (which does not have to be "centered" on your current salary).

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