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I know that they can ask anything but is a previous employer allowed to give out my previous salary. Basically, I'm trying to determine why new employers ask for 'your previous salary' if there is no way to verify this...

I am specifically asking about American procedures but learning what other cultures do is curious...

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    Well, in the UK at least, you'd normally hand your "P45" over to the new HR department with which they'd be able to deduce (or fairly accurately guess) your previous salary, anyway. – Dan May 29 '15 at 14:39
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    You would normally hand your P45 to a company only after you had accepted their job offer. – DJClayworth May 29 '15 at 14:41
  • the concept of a P45 in a civilian job (we have something similar for military service) is curious. It doesnt apply to me specifically, but still cool to know. – user36528 May 29 '15 at 14:43
  • They can always ask. .. – keshlam May 29 '15 at 16:06
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    As far as other cultures go: In Germany my future employer can ask me what I want to earn working for him. that's completely normal and needed. If he'd ask me what I earn at my current employer, I'd be mortified. You don't ask that. That's a complete breach of etiquette. There is no reason why he'd need to know. – nvoigt May 29 '15 at 17:57
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is a previous employer allowed to give out my previous salary.

Assuming you are in the US, the answer right now is "Yes - that is indeed allowed".

That said, it doesn't happen very often. Most employers give out only start date, end date, and title.

Potential employers ask for your previous salary to see if you could fit into their salary structure, determine if you are being honest with them, and to help provide a framework for their offer.

Note that you can always decline to provide your previous salary. If you take that route, many potential employers will not offer you the job.

Note: Massachusetts has recently passed a law that will make it illegal to ask your current or previous salaries, unless that information is voluntarily provided. This law is scheduled to go into effect in January of 2018.

At that point a Massachusetts interviewer (or an interviewer for a Massachusetts company, I believe) cannot ask such salary questions. The law will be enforced by the Attorney General. And an interviewee who has been asked such questions after that point may sue the company directly.

After January 2018 in Massachusetts, you can decline to provide your previous salary, and know that legally that choice cannot be held against you when making the hiring decision.

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    Summary: Yes, they are allowed. (In the US, and likely elsewhere); whether they will and to who is a matter of individual company policy. If you need to know, ask that specific company. Personal observation: it is rarely wise to lie in this process; if you can't tell the truth just decline to answer. Lying, if caught, will usually trigger immediate rejection. – keshlam May 29 '15 at 15:31
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    Potential employers also ask for your salary to determine the minimum they have to pay you. Companies who absolutely require salary history are probably not worth working for. – mcknz May 29 '15 at 17:15
  • @mcknz that is unwise, since its pretty common for someone to want to leave specifically to get more money. My minimum is what I say it is, not what i'm making now. – Andy May 30 '15 at 0:03
  • @Andy Not sure I understand -- I'm talking about companies who refuse to consider you if you don't tell them what you're making now. – mcknz May 31 '15 at 0:52
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    @mcknz Sorry, I misread your comment. You're right, best to stay away from such companies. What I meant was its unwise for companies to be like that. – Andy May 31 '15 at 14:25
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In the U.S. today, most employers will not give any information beyond the dates that you worked there, maybe your job title.

In the past a former employer would routinely write a "letter of recommendation" for you which could be quite specific. At the least it would say that you were a good worker and honest. If they didn't think you were a good worker, they'd refuse to write the letter. If a potential new employer called the, they would cheerfully discuss your pros and cons as an employee.

But not today. Company's are afraid of being sued. The less they say, the less risk that something they say could get them into trouble.

So given that, sure, you could lie about your salary. If they did somehow find out you lied during the job interview, that could be grounds for immediate firing. And what would you gain? If pay at your last job was reasonably typical for your position and experience, there'd be little to gain by lying about it. Say you were making, whatever, $40,000 per year, and that's typical for this sort of job. You tell a potential employer that you made $80,000 per year. Unless you impress them so much in the interview that they conclude that you are worth twice as much as any other applicant, they're just going to say, "we can't afford this guy". Okay, you could lie by a small, more plausible amount, like say you made $42,000. But then so what? If you say you used to make 40 but believe you are worth 43 and so that's what you expect, versus you used to make 42 and now want 43, it shouldn't make much difference to the company either way.

I'm sure there are scenarios where lying about your past salary could help. But I wouldn't take the risk. The benefits are small if any. And you would have to spend your entire time with that company living in fear that they will find out you lied. I've come across cases where people lied on a resume and no one found out until years later, but then they were fired and publicly humiliated. Not involving salary, the cases I can think of are people claiming college degrees or military service that they didn't really have, but the same idea.

  • I think you're underestimating the range of salaries that can be found in a given industry. Given two people with roughly similar number of years experience, it is certainly possible that one is paid 50% more than the other, depending on how often they've changed jobs and how hard they negotiated when they did. Plus whether they've happened to work at one of the many places that base salary on the candidate's salary history and not on the market value. – stannius Aug 11 '16 at 21:06

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