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I recently did an interview (location is the EU) for a smallish IT consulting firm.

They have been quite insistent in asking salary, benefits and contract type of my current job. In the end, the HR guy told me that it is "company routine" to ask applicants their last pay slip during the interviewing process in order to better match the offer to the applicants' needs.

I was very vague in telling my current salary: I did not lie about it (just rounded for simplicity), I just stated my desired salary. Since I get the distinct feeling they're trying to lowball me (and everyone else) and I have no intention to send any pay slip at all, how can I answer in a polite but firm way?

Also, I tried to look for this without success, but does anyone know if there is a European law against this? I have no intention nor interest to mention this when answering to HR, it's only out of curiosity.

14 Answers 14

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My usual answer is, "I don't ever disclose my current compensation package, but I can tell you that I need a total compensation figure of $###,000.00 to leave my current role." That statement ends the conversation more often than not (which is what it is supposed to do). If they balk at my requirement, what's the point of continuing talks? Only serious recruiters will continue their pitch.

If I'm feeling sporty, I'll ask them to give me an idea of where they believe the market rate is for my experience and job role. Very few give a straight answer. If they dodge the I know they want a low cost seat filler to do repetitive work. I don't want that.

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    "I don't ever" is subtly better than "won't be able". The interviewer can argue that the employee really can show the payslip. "I don't ever" leaves nothing to argue with. The potential employee is just as entitled to have policies as the potential employer. I also like the immediate switch to the relevant issue of how much it would take to get you to leave your current job. – Patricia Shanahan Dec 4 '19 at 0:43
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    Agree. The recruiter and I both know there is no rule against it so "I can't..." makes me look stupid or makes me a liar. A person asking for a top end salary can't be either one of those things. "I don't..." is the reality. – acpilot Dec 4 '19 at 0:48
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    I agree with the "I don't disclose" part, but the "but I can tell you" may be situation dependent. In the wrong moment or wrong tone, it may be (correctly) perceived as rude, or overly self-assertive or confrontational, and better expressed in softer terms – ig-dev Dec 4 '19 at 1:06
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    Another phrase that's hard to argue with is "I have a strict policy of..." – CodeSeeker Dec 4 '19 at 9:50
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    @ig-dev "overly self-assertive"? Maybe it is my lack of English language skill talking, but what's wrong with self-assertive in this context? Everyone can assert how mush they think they are worth, and if it is their real lower bound, why would anyone react badly? People who would expect to pay more should be happy. People who are not happy about such assertion are not interesting as candidates for new employers anyway. So where is the hurt in that? – Mołot Dec 4 '19 at 11:32
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You say “I’m sorry, that’s personal information and won’t be able to provide it.” That is then the only response you provide on the subject.

There’s no magic, you just politely say no. You don’t need a law to cite, you just politely say no. As long as you don’t start to waffle, it is firm.

Obviously this may end up being a dealbreaker, but this gives them an opportunity to back off and save face. If they roll harder with a "Well, you CAN provide it you're just choosing not to..." that's when you escalate to "Yes, but I won't." That gives them another face-saving opportunity to move on. If they then keep sweating you on it, you decide whether you want to salvage the opportunity or not. If you do, you repeat "No" calmly and firmly as needed. If you don't, then you can say "I'll be honest, that is not a customary request and I find it to be pretty unprofessional. I regret that I will not be proceeding further in your recruitment process" and bailing.

Basic interpersonal skills training says you should try not to escalate the conflict yourself. Remember the person asking may well know that's inappropriate but their boss or HR told them they had to ask. A softened refusal lets them check a box and move on if possible.

Moving on in the comp discussion to "Let's focus on what a fair rate is for this position and my experience" and leaving "but what have you made in the past" behind is typically the next step.

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    The law was really out of curiosity, I have no intention nor interest to eventually cite it – schrodingercat Dec 3 '19 at 23:22
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    Often, this will end your application process – usr-local-ΕΨΗΕΛΩΝ Dec 4 '19 at 11:15
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    @usr-local-ΕΨΗΕΛΩΝ You say that like it's a bad thing. If you're not even hired and they're already playing pissy little games like this to try and screw you over, you really don't want to work there. There is no legitimate reason for them to ask, ever, and it should "end your application process" with you walking out of the door on the spot. – Graham Dec 4 '19 at 14:22
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    A softened refusal lets them check a box and move on if possible. Reminds me of a time when I went in for one of those "scratch and win" mailers at the car dealership. I walked out with either $10 or $20, I forget which (the minimum prize was more than enough to pay for the gas there and back; $2) and the sales guy admitted he had to get me to say "no" to a new car three times before I could leave. And I was perfectly happy to smile and say "no." – Draco18s no longer trusts SE Dec 4 '19 at 18:04
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    This is absolutely not usual and I can not conceive of a situation where you have “walked away from dozens of interviews” for not providing a pay stub, unless you live in some place where that is way more rampant than anywhere in the US. – mxyzplk - Justice for Monica Dec 5 '19 at 3:48
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General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

In the EU, there is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This covers the processing of personal data. Even if you agree to provide evidence of your current/previous salary, you should be careful that your GDPR rights are not violated.

GDPR requires that any information to be collected must be adequate, relevant, and limited to what is required for the purposes for which it is collected¹. They must inform you what they need and what for. They may need your consent for the processing they intend to do and inform you of your rights.

I doubt if current salary information would count as being needed (they might argue it is, a court may have a different opinion), but the rest of your payslip information is certainly not needed. Asking for an entire uncensored payslip is unprofessional. They should ask you to black out anything they don't need, or only briefly look at it without storing the information.

If they're asking for personal data without addressing the GDPR, they appear to be incompetent and unprofessional at best. Personally, I would ask them:

  • exactly what personal data they need
  • for what purposes they need these data
  • what they will do with these data
  • their data policy with regard to job applications
  • their data processing consent form

How secretive salaries are depends on culture and sector. Personally, working for a government, my salary isn't very secretive or negotiable, but your mileage may vary.

Note that I am not a lawyer and if you want to get proper advice on what the GDPR means in this case, you should consult one.


¹Thanks to user mjs for suggesting the improved formulation

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    This. I don't understand why this is downvoted. You should also add that GDPR requires any information to be collected to be adequate, relevant, and limited to what is required for the purposes for which it is collected. They don't need to see anything on the payslip to make an offer. They might want to, but they don't need to – mjs Dec 4 '19 at 11:44
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    @DoktorJ Huh? For every post-GDPR and many pre-GDPR job applications, I've had to consent to the processing of my personal data for the purposes of screening job applicants, been informed of how my data would be processed, how long it would be kept, what my rights are, etc. Why would employers be unwilling to meet the requirements of the GDPR when they are legally required to do so? – gerrit Dec 4 '19 at 20:40
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    "They must seek your consent for the processing they intend to do" - That is only true if the legal basis for the processing is "consent". Note that "consent" must be freely given and if they say they won't continue the application without the data, then it would not be freely given. Other reasons include things like "required to provide to the service" (I forget the exact wording), and that doesn't require consent. – Martin Bonner supports Monica Dec 5 '19 at 9:58
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    I don´t think you can construe GDPR case out of this. 1. It would not be necessary to store or process the information. Letting them have a look on your paper would suffice their desire to know if OP told the truth. 2. In asking you to show your payslip, asking for consent is implied. Asking is not commanding - if you don´t consent you can say no. 3. If the employer wants to make an offer based on previous salary, the information is indeed relevant. – Daniel Dec 5 '19 at 14:55
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    @Daniel I would expect that in the process of a job application, the employer needs to store and process information provided by the job applicants. But I've added a IANAL disclaimer and edited the formulation to be more careful. – gerrit Dec 5 '19 at 15:54
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Your current company most likely doesn't want you to divulge what they are paying someone to a competitor. Likewise, the new company won't want you to divulge what they will paying you to a competitor, so it is quite unprofessional to expect you to tell them the same information. Apart from that, a payslip does contain personal information beyond the pure salary, which only the payroll department of your new company is supposed to know (how much personal information depends on the country; in Germany for example a payslip would allow a good guess about the salary of your spouse).

And of course the "company routine to better match the offer to the applicant's needs" can only be called bullshit. What I need doesn't matter. What I want, what I'm worth, and what they can pay or want to pay, that's what matters. I very much doubt there is a law against asking anywhere, but my payslip information is something they won't get. (In the UK, their payroll will usually find out your total income in the tax year so far, but that's not the same as your pay and at that point it's too late anyway).

In practice, you can tell them either a range for the salary from X to Y, or a number "at least X"; if they offer significantly more than X then you can accept on the spot, if they offer at the bottom of the range you'll hold out for better offers. It gives them a chance to demonstrate that they want you.

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    In Germany it can reveal even more personal information, including your religion (church tax is also displayed) – Val Dec 4 '19 at 7:02
  • Your current company most likely doesn't want you to divulge what they are paying someone to a competitor, that strongly depends on the country. In some countries (such as Norway and Sweden), how much taxes everybody paid last year is public information, and newspapers public lists of the highest-tax paying individuals (often oversimplified by popular press as "richest") for each municipality. – gerrit Dec 4 '19 at 8:55
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    @BernhardDöbler At least Foto-Realistic copies of IDs are illegal in Germany, AFAIK. Black/White or greyscale may work. But all copiers I encountered the last ~10 years won't color-copy Personalausweis (Personal ID) nor Reisepass (Passport). They have in-built image-recognition to prevent it. In some copy-shops they even have signs, so you won't waste paper/money on trying to. – Fildor Dec 4 '19 at 10:30
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    @Fildor I've always wondered about this - personally I've never had any difficulty making copies of my passport or Personalausweis (including colour copies). Including on the photocopier at my previous employer, which had a label (applied by the manufacturer) claiming it wouldn't make them. – Chris H Dec 4 '19 at 10:34
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    @Fildor yes, indeed. I had to provide also that. But you are right, never the pay slip – schrodingercat Dec 4 '19 at 13:13
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I have seen this happening systematically and repeatedly. Note that your mileage/kms may vary within the precise European country you are talking about, the working sector, and the fact that the company is either public or private.

I get the distinct feeling they're trying to lowball me (and everyone else)

You. Are. Correct. In a number of EU countries (your mileage/kms may vary), your salary during a job change is dictated by a percentage increase of your previous salary (5 to 15%), rather than market rates. I won't add words about the gender gap, because that would make me madder than I am now when I write such stuff 😠

More in general, companies will ask you for your current salary very early. This has an upside from a certain point of view, because if you already earn too much for their budget, they will end the selection process straight away. Every company has the right to put in a budget constraint before starting selection, so checking the budget is less waste of time for both parties.

The downside is that if you didn't get raises often or didn't change job for a long while, you are capped to a salary lower than your fellow desk mate who has your same seniority, but changes slightly more jobs than you (note 1).

Personal experience: I have tried to dodge such a question in the past. This excerpt is from a very early stage in conversation a few years ago.

I: "First, I would like to know what is your current package"

Me: "Mam, are you already asking me for salary package? I don't normally disclose that to unknown companies. Perhaps you would like to discuss about my skills"

I: "No, we need this information to check whether you are ok with the role we need"

Me: "So, you want to know about my previous project?"

I: "Please, tell me about your compensation package first"

Normally, such companies will deem your payroll mandatory for their selection process. I have tried repeatedly to dodge the matter, but as you could see, they will force you to disclose that. When I was close to the end of the selection process, I was always asked for the last 3 or 4 payrolls, probably to check that I never lied on the figures I (had to) tell. They were asked before a written offer was made or a final figure told me. When I refused/dodged the request, my selection process ended in silence.

Unfortunately, this is labour and social culture.

Does anyone know if there is a European law against this?

Unfortunately, your laws are almost against you. GDPR, for example, protects the privacy of individuals by means on information and consent, not by means of obligations.

First known example: Facebook never had to change their way to track users after GDPR. They simply changed their policy to say "you agree that we track you by means of this and that", using friendly language.

Do you want an extreme example? Here it is: your potential employer for a simple office role could theoretically ask you for an STD (note 2) medical test without blatantly violating the GDPR. They are just obligated to ask for your consent and inform you about that. Should you deny consent, they are private companies. They hire whomever they want. What they can't do is ask for a blood sample to conduct their own testing without information. I never heard in EU about such practice anyway!

Laws are with you in the public sector, e.g. government roles. In these cases, hiring procedures are extremely constrained and salaries are known long before the selection process takes place. Corruption is not part of my equation to avoid getting things complicated.

In a few words

The only way to change country culture is by the grounds and the laws. As a single individual, you will never be able to change the establishment alone. If everyone here started refusing to send payrolls to potential employers as a form of self-blackmail, employers will have to change in order to hire someone.

But eventually, someone in real need for work will accept such conditions and send the payroll. And then another one... And another one later...

  • Note 1: changing job too frequently is a red flag, and you are flagged a gold scavenger
  • Note 2: just for those who are unfamiliar with acronyms, remind that STDs stands for sexually transmitted diseases. Ok, you can now get offended.
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    "In a number of EU countries (YMMV), your salary during a job change is dictated by a percentage increase of your previous salary (5 to 15%), rather than market rates", in my experience yes and no. In the public sector the progress is stricter, in the private one the salary fluctuates more but it's more in line with the market. – schrodingercat Dec 4 '19 at 12:44
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    I'm sure everyone is going to disagree with this comment, but you can just lie. They have no way of knowing what you currently make. I've done this every time I've hopped jobs—I say I'm making 10-15% more than I am, then I ask for an additional increase on top of that. No one has ever doubted me, and they're even happy because I had no problem telling them what I (allegedly) make. Companies will not hesitate to lie to you, so you shouldn't feel bad about doing the same. – Apologize and reinstate Monica Dec 4 '19 at 15:55
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    Not really on STD point. Art.9 of GDPR states Processing of personal data revealing racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, or trade union membership, and the processing of genetic data, biometric data for the purpose of uniquely identifying a natural person, data concerning health or data concerning a natural person’s sex life or sexual orientation shall be prohibited. (and then proceeds to list exceptions, but regular employment process is not exempted there) – Matija Nalis Dec 4 '19 at 22:34
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    @Lilienthal Huh, weird. That's not the case in my country. (I don't even know what "holiday balance" means.) Perhaps this is why it's so easy to get ahead in the US. – Apologize and reinstate Monica Dec 5 '19 at 17:38
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    You can also not give it to them but then they'll calculate the tax on your salary only from the moment you got hired, and you'll get a gigantic tax balance the following year when you submit your 730. If you don't care about that and you're smart enough to put aside enough money to pay it, it's not really an issue. – Demonblack Dec 6 '19 at 13:35
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This is what I'd say:

I understand it's your "company routine" to ask for a payslip during the interview.

But please note that it's not my routine at all. Make me an offer first. Should I accept your offer, then we can talk about payslips then.

That being said, you are under no obligation to even say that.

You could just say.

I'm sorry, but I do not divulge that information.

The idea is this. If you're dealing with a low baller, do not waste your time with that person. Weed that person out as soon as you can. Do not let that person spend too much time in your head either.

Move on to the next potential employer as soon as you can.

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    I'm perfectly happy to be completely honest with them and tell them that giving them that information would serve no purpose other than to give them negotiating leverage. I presume they don't want to tell me how much they pay people in roles similar to the one I'm applying for and that their logic is precisely the same. We both benefit if they offer me a market rate based on what I'm worth rather than one based on what I got paid before or how much they pay their current employees. So unless they're willing to equalize negotiating leverage, they get what they get and I get what I have. – David Schwartz Dec 6 '19 at 0:28
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Others have given good answers, but the final way to answer this (after simply saying no) is to say that at the end of the day the place you're applying to is technically a competitor. Letting them know how your current company compensates its employees is highly valuable knowledge and giving it up is unethical. Telling them this will hopefully make them understand you're not going to disclose your current compensation.

Recruiters do this so they can use that as a base. In reality it is better for you for them to determine a base/range. In reality, they already have one and will just lower it to match what you say.

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    At my last job it was actually explicitly written in my contract that I am not allowed to disclose my salary to others. So apart from being unethical it would even be a breach of contract with my current employer. – luator Dec 4 '19 at 16:10
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I think the approach mentioned above, namely saying that "my NDA with my current company prevents me from revealing such proprietary information", which, quite frankly is probably true when strictly interpreted. And it has the added bonus that an NDA actually serves to benefit you for once.

But I think the approach here is to offer an alternative. "My NDA prevents me from revealing such proprietary information, however, this page from salary.com shows the typical range of salaries for this type of position."

At the end of the day though, what actually matters is how desirable you are as a candidate. If you are highly desirable then the hiring manager can, except in some Byzantine organizations, pull you through. If you are fungible then you have to tick all the boxes. At the end of the day the key to successful interviewing is not skillful answering of the questions but to work to make yourself an extremely valuable, hard to obtain candidate. That gives you a large amount of leverage, and a large number of options. And if you have options you can much more easily walk away from unreasonable requests.

  • That may work in the private sector, but for public employees, salaries are often listed in public due to various transparency laws. – Geobits Dec 5 '19 at 15:35
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In general I agree with the prevailing NO:

the HR guy told me that is "company routine" to ask the last pay slip to applicants

IMHO the obvious answer is that it is your personal routine to decline any such requests,


That being said, I can see one exception, though, where showing the payslip doesn't hurt and can help speed up burocracy:

  • if you are taking a job with collective agreement, and
  • this is the same type of job as the previous one, and
  • the collective agreement has some dependency on professional experience.

In that case (which I know from public-sector/academic research in Germany), the payslip doesn't reveal anything that cannot be computed from your CV, the job description and the publicly available wage tables. But it does give proof of your professional experience level at your last employer's, and that saves HR at the new employer computing for every single job you ever had how much that contributed to your professional experience and you from haggling with them over possibly every single of these decisions: the negotiation then is only to agree that professional experience at the last employer is to be fully counted. (The pay slip to show then is not the last but the first after entering your current experience group as it prooves that you've been in that group for $time already.)

To be clear: I'd still hold it a decision that is completely up to you.

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I'd like to provide another angle for this question as both I and people I know have been asked to provide their a payslip from a current or previous employer for the purposes of verifying current / previous employment. (country: Netherlands)

In these cases it was perfectly fine to black out any salary information and/or amounts as long as it remained clear from which company the salary slip originated.

You could ask whether it would be ok to provide a salary slip with the amounts blacked out (or be proactive and provide a blacked out salary slip, see how the company reacts). Be careful to use an irreversible method to do so though.

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Negotiate to furnish payslips after joining the company to avoid negotiation based on it.


Many companies (at least in my country) ask for payslips from previous employers for "verification purposes". This is done to avoid candidates who fake their current pay and negotiate for a higher pay. In such cases, you don't need to furnish the payslips while negotiating the offer. You only need to present copies of payslips after joining the company.

If this employer only want your payslip for "company routine" and not for negotiating salary, then you could try telling them you can furnish them after joining the company.

If you don't want to provide payslips at any point of time then be open about it.

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    The company won't hire you before you send them your payslip. That's their choice (I didn't downvote the answer anyway) – usr-local-ΕΨΗΕΛΩΝ Dec 4 '19 at 11:27
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    Could be a good idea to shame the others (the ones who ask for payroll) on Glassdoor or such – usr-local-ΕΨΗΕΛΩΝ Dec 4 '19 at 11:30
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I will start admitting I have not thoroughly read the other answers, just got a feeling enough to know nobody has expressed the same idea, correct me if I am wrong. I am from Italy, I work in consulting (not so smallish) and I will go against the other answers by saying:

This is normal, everybody does that, it is not a problem.

I have been asked my pay slip for a job offer from the current client I am working on right now, offer my consulting company was aware of, and I have had no problems to provide them with it.

In the end, they will most probably get you through a couple of interviews and the manager will make an offer, most probably based on your current pay. In the interviews talking about salary will come out and that's when you start negotiating. I think that, unless you are desperate to get another job, it will not be a problem. You can always negotiate your salary and take it to the level you want.

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    I did my fair share of interviews in consulting, I was always asked the salary package and benefits, but never the pay slip. Small and big companies as well. "the manager will make an offer, most probably based on your current pay", that's the problem. I'm in a field that usually pays less than consulting and I'd like to move for a pay raise. I don't really want to start negotiation from a ridiculously low point – schrodingercat Dec 5 '19 at 9:23
  • In any case, you are right. I think the answer depends greatly on how badly you need the job. – schrodingercat Dec 5 '19 at 9:41
  • You can always go for a ridiculously high counter-offer. "Yes, I am financially comfortable but I think I am undervalued so I was more looking for X€, but I think we can find a middle ground here." – bracco23 Dec 5 '19 at 10:17
  • Anyway, market here is quite low compared to rest of Europe, even at higher experience, take that in consideration also. – bracco23 Dec 5 '19 at 10:19
  • Yes, I know. I also considered offers abroad and I know how the market rates are. But I don't want a UK salary in Italy, I'd like to receive an offer based on my experience and not on my 2 years R&D contract. And there's also the fact that I don't think it's wise to disclose indirectly my tax reliefs, how my family is composed and so on. Especially since I'm a woman in her early 30s. But, well, maybe I am only being paranoid – schrodingercat Dec 5 '19 at 10:46
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Asking for a pay slip is indeed a tactic which allows to lowball you by limiting their offer to an amount you're expected to accept. Actually, asking how much you'd like to get is a variant of the same tactic: if they were ready to offer you $100k and you said you'd work for $50k, there's no way you'd get what you're worth.

There is no law against asking for it (for instance, GDRP would only apply if they plan to keep the data or transmit it to third parties), but you have to understand that their request is just that: a request, not an obligation. Therefore, act in you own best interest - if you expect a substantial pay increase, don't disclose the pay slip to them. If you're aiming for roughly the same salary, presenting a pay slip to them may be a good idea.

In any case, note that not showing the pay slip to the future employers is not a guarantee against being low-balled, knowing how much you're worth is. If you know your market rate is $100k/year, you can tell them you don't consider offers below e.g. $90k, at which point the figures in your pay slip become irrelevant.

0

Yes, they are trying to lowball you and they've explicitly admit that by saing that

it is "company routine" to ask applicants their last pay slip during the interviewing process in order to better match the offer to the applicants' needs

Honestly, what better match in the offer they could do basing on the payslip? The payslip doesn't say anything about you, your strong and weak points, your expectations. It says only how much you earn in your current company. They can classify yourself to their internal classification based on your income, if they divide their employees on classes, which has non-crossing wage ranges, and that classification is a total nonsense if you're moving to another country (my freelancer wage in Poland matched junior wage in Germany, although it was almost trice the average wage and the life standard you could have with it was significantly higher than with middle-position wage in DE).

There are, however, legitimate reasons for requiring the payslip, for example, calculating the tax in case of progressive tax system. But in that case, they need your payslip AFTER they hire you, never BEFORE.

From my experience, say them, you will deliver them all required documents AFTER they hire you (after receiving the contract) and ignore them as non-serious employer if they insist to get them BEFORE.

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