I just had a first interview and it was really strange to me. These are the type of questions they were asking me:

Q: Does your current position offer health care?

A: Yes

Q: Do you have to pay in or is it all provided?

A: Pay In

Q: How much?


Q: Do you get an annual bonus?

A: I did last year

Q: How much was your bonus?


Are these normal questions for an HR to be asking? I've only ever interviewed with the departments that I would be working with. For this company I had to first interview with HR and if I'm offered a second interview it would be with the Dept I'd be involved in. Now I'm concerned if they contact my reference from here and ask the same questions if there are any differences it'll make me look like I was dishonest when I really just answered as best I could without wanting to give them to much. Its supposed to be a very good company to work for but this seemed like they were fishing for information to turn around and offer me the lowest amount possible.

  • 6
    I would expect questions like that to be on the application. Normally an interview wouldn't cover general information like this. I wouldn't appreciate them wasting my time coming in for an interview to gather general information they should have asked for prior to that.
    – animuson
    Jul 26, 2012 at 19:21
  • I think this can be generalized a bit beyond these specific questions. Basically your concern is they're asking about your previous benefits, right?
    – Rarity
    Jul 26, 2012 at 20:39
  • 4
    They are just trying to assess your price. Remember that, sadly, in a recruitment interview you are seen as an object. - "How much profit can we extract from this item and how much is going to cost us?" That's what's in your recruiter's head. Stood on that, you could just say "I don´t feel comfortable with that question, excuse me if I don't answer". Jan 11, 2013 at 18:02
  • 2
    @animuson I would think it would take between 30 seconds and 2 minutes to answer those questions. Don't have that much time to spare? To me, those are not 'application questions.'
    – jmorc
    Jul 2, 2013 at 12:18
  • What country are you in?
    – user25792
    Jul 24, 2019 at 8:30

7 Answers 7


In the USA a prospective employer can ask whatever they want of previous employers, but they can only expect get answers to three questions because of potential legal liability reasons:

Concern about lawsuits is why most employers only confirm dates of employment, your position.

  • did you work there, if so
    • how long and
    • what was your title.

These are all verifiable, objective and fact based.

Anything else that could be subjective or used to keep you from getting the job your former employers will refuse to answer, so that you can't sue the previous employer for keeping you from getting the job.

This goes for current co-workers as well, they will be forbidden from giving any kind of reference ( positive or negative ) for you.

All that said, defamation lawsuits like these are usually very hard to prove and the burden is 100% on the claimant. But most companies would just rather save the time and money in not having to defend themselves by refusing to put themselves in a position they had to defend to begin with.

These questions are not that strange, they probably are being used to set what is called a anchor point to gauge how much they can low ball you for. In this case you can exaggerate how little you paid for healthcare and how much you were paid, and how generous your bonuses were; they can't prove or disprove any of this information.

The buyer uses the lowball tactic to start the negotiation with an exceptionally low offer. They do so in an effort to set the anchor point in their favor, whereby creating the tone for the negotiation. You can validate your bid by explaining why it is so low.

Be careful to do your research beforehand so that you are aware of what the true market value is for the product, or service, you are seeking to buy. If you do not, and you offer is insultingly low, the seller may walk away from the transaction without further negotiation. An extremely low offer can possibly damage trust and hinder future negotiations.

Here the buyer is the employer and the seller and the product is you.


I would immediately leave an interview that asked these questions, your benefits in a previous job and how much your health insurance cost you personally is none of their business! I have interviewed lots of times and never once have they asked me about the benefits of a previous job.

The correct answer would be, "I promised confidentiality to the company I work for on these issues, so I cannot answer."

  • 17
    Not me. I'd say I was willing to answer that question if they could give me all the info they have on the other candidates, how much they have in their hiring budget and what other positions they're hoping to fill with that budget. Dec 23, 2012 at 14:17
  • 2
    Alternatively: "Oh, I'm sorry. I signed an NDA with my previous company, so I can't discuss their financial and/or policy information."
    – BryanH
    Mar 19, 2014 at 18:28
  • 2
    What if you wanted the job you were interviewing for? Would you still walk out?
    – user1084
    Oct 9, 2014 at 9:45
  • 3
    @djechlin, absolutely. That would be a deal breaker for me. They have no business asking those questions and it would mean they were an unethical group of pepoepl I would have no interest working for. It woudl tell me I had no further interest in this particular job.
    – HLGEM
    Oct 9, 2014 at 15:01
  • It's not just the job you're signing onto, but also you're giving the employer significant sway over your life. Since the two are linked, the questions would sour me on the job, itself, since you can't separate it from the employer. Mar 30, 2017 at 19:42

This is to understand the full scope of your current compensation package. Most people, when asked "how much do you currently make," don't factor in much, if anything, beyond salary/commissions. HR does this for a couple of reasons:

1- How much or little can we offer this person for a position?
1a- Can we reduce salary in lieu of a bigger bonus, etc...
2- How competitive are our current packages to the current market for this type of position?

You don't need to worry about this information being confirmed or denied by former employers as these questions cannot legally be answered by your former employers.

  • these questions cannot legally be answered by your former employers this is completely false, there is no federal law in the USA that forbids these questions from being answered. The fear of a lawsuit if you do not get the job is most companies will refuse to answer them.
    – user718
    Jul 23, 2019 at 15:11

I suppose it's possible they'd check your references and verify salary at this point. But in all honestly, it's not a truth detector test, it's sounding you out on whether your expectations and their ability to meet them will match.

At this point, at least in some industries - compensation expectations are changing so fast they can be wildly variable. In general, you can consider that the person who is first screening you is buffering for the person who has less time to spare and for whom the organization can be more damaged by time wasting. For example, any hiring manager is trying to run a team short handed while they look for new staff.

These questions are to verify that your current expectations are somewhat in line with what the company offers you. If you make $150K, and the company will never offer more than $80, chances are they won't follow on with the interview if there are other candidates who have a closer match. It's "name that price", be truthful - it saves your time, too, if the expectations turn out to be wildly awry.

Figure that chances are, this company has has some serious issues with going through the lengthy and thoughtful interview process only to get turned down by candidates by failure to meet expectations. So, before HR engages managers, they are checking to make sure the time will be worthwhile.


My guess is not that HR is trying to figure out what 'you're going to cost', they're trying to figure out what they're up against from competing employers. I routinely see ads on Craigslist that are laughable, $30K for someone that can design web pages and knows SQL Server. A few weeks later the ad shows up for $40K, then a few weeks later for $50K, as they get some grasp of what is reasonable in the market. Your prospective employer may be finding the pickings are slim, and they're trying to figure out whether they're doing something wrong. Of course, asking questions like this to people that think they should know better doesn't improve their odds.


Generally, those kinds of questions are focused on establishing the lowest offer they can make to you that they can.

There's no reason for them to know what you are or have made in the past.

If someone with your qualifications for this kind of work is worth somewhere between X and Y, then what you made before is irrelevant. If they want to ask what your expect for compensation, you can certainly share your expectations, but, of course, that would all depend on how the complete package, with benefits, looks.

If they don't share the salary target range with you, and you're not working with a recruiter who can screen that out, then you should ask them what their target is. That is actually relevant to your discussions. What you make or made is not.

Sorry recruiters, you're not getting my salary history!


All the answers to this question are focused on the interviewee & the job offer.

I would suggest that many HR people ask how other companies do things so that they can get a feel for the market to assess whether the company policy needs to be changed to match the market.

So say (old example) HR starts noticing flexible working becoming popular in their industry, through articles in the trade press, surely they should be asking every candidate how important this was as part of their overall package. This is not necessarily used to 'cost' a candidate, but more to verify that their standard T&Cs are up to date.

Rather than trying to drive down the benefits package, maybe the OPs interviewing HR people were concerned that they weren't offering competitive enough benefits & were considering improving them?

It would be fascinating to learn how the candidate progressed with the role & where they are now!

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