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I am currently searching for a job, and one company asks what my pay rates were at previous jobs. I don't remember what my pay was. The jobs were internships, and I was more excited about the opportunity to intern than the exact pay I was receiving. I didn't keep my offer letters from those jobs, which I realize now was a bit of a mistake.

How should I go about finding out how much I was paid by these companies?

One idea I had, and the one I'm currently planning on doing, is: visiting my old employers in person, asking for the HR department, and asking them if they can give me the information I'm looking for (bringing several forms of ID with me, of course). Does that sound reasonable?

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    Don't you have tax forms that tell you what you were paid? Barring that, what about bank statements? – Justin Cave May 19 '16 at 23:36
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    There's no reason for the company to have this information from you. If you do want to give them a figure, just pick something that's approximately correct; there's no way for them to cross-check it. – PeteCon May 20 '16 at 3:12
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    @Downvoters can you please tell me what about this question needs to be improved? I understand I might be being naive, but I believe my question is still helpful. – Kevin May 20 '16 at 3:18
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    A) You can ask but might not have much luck. I certainly wouldn't want my HR department to waste time on stupid requests from outside the company, though an argument can be made for helping out former employees if it's not too much effort. B) Internship salaries won't compare to full-time employment anyway so they'd be (even more) meaningless. C) You shouldn't ever give this info out anyway but should respond with "I'm looking for a salary between X$ and Y$" D) Do not ever visit a company in person unannounced. That's simply not how an office operates these days. – Lilienthal May 20 '16 at 7:32
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    Don't research, simply decline: "I was an intern at that company, and while I did get compensation, this wasn't the reason why I volunteered there. With the valuable skills A, B and C I picked up during the internship, I now expect an offer somewhere between $X and $Y, depending on the perks package." – Alexander May 20 '16 at 9:39
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Rather than answer the question of "How do I find what my pay was?", you should be asking "Should I give my previous salary figure to a prospective employer?"

The answer to this question is no, I would decline to give this figure. That's what you were paid for that job, not this job. You can give them a ballpark figure of your expected salary, but your previous salary is rather irrelevant to your potential employer. Chances are that they're trying to squeeze you on pay, or they have no idea of how much they are up for, which is even worse as they may not have done their costings and may not even have a sufficient budget to cover your salary.

There is a vast number of questions about not giving your previous salary to a prospective employer. In particular, this question has some good information you may find useful.

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    When asked about past compensation, instead of saying nothing or declining to answer, I usually counter with asking, "What's the salary budget for this position?" or "I like to consider the entire compensation package, what do you have to offer?" – DLS3141 May 20 '16 at 17:25
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    I wish I could upvote this answer more than once. – DLS3141 May 20 '16 at 17:26
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    @JoeStrazzere Sometimes the OP is focusing on the minutiae of their issue and they can miss the implications of following a particular course of action. My answer, rather than addressing the question of "How can I do this?", asks the OP to consider the question "Should I do this?" Given that the OP accepted my answer, it seems that they found this alternative viewpoint of value. – Jane S May 20 '16 at 22:04
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Do you still have tax records, bank statements, or online access to the bank account you were using at the time?

Asking in person should probably be your last resort. If you don't have any way to reconstruct the data, calling/emailing would almost certainly be a better choice.

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    And if you don;t have tax records, you need to start keeping them, you can be audited years after the fact. – HLGEM May 20 '16 at 17:07
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How should I go about finding out how much I was paid by these companies?

You could call, speak to someone in HR or your former boss, and ask. Most likely they will have a record of your start and end dates, as well as what you were paid.

One idea I had, and the one I'm currently planning on doing, is: visiting my old employers in person, asking for the HR department, and asking them if they can give me the information I'm looking for (bringing several forms of ID with me, of course). Does that sound reasonable?

You could do that as well, but it seems like overkill to appear in person.

If you run into a wall, and cannot get any record of your pay, just be honest with your potential employer and say "I don't remember". Don't ever make up a salary - that's lying and not likely to be an attribute a new employer would prefer.

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Just tell them whatever you want. You are not forced to answer these questions or tell them the truth. So you could even benefit by lying about your previous pay rates.

I know on the first view this sounds ethically wrong, but it isn't. They shouldn't judge you by the salary you got from a former company. It's the same thing as with family planning, religion or politics: on all these things (at least in Germany) you are allowed to legally lie.

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    While you may be allowed to lie, it's still not a good idea, both because they just might find out, which would generate bad blood, and because lying is not necessary. Just decline to toll, as Jane S explains in her answer. – sleske May 20 '16 at 7:34
  • @sleske Ofcourse Kevin must decide himself, if he is ethically fine with lying about it. I just show him an option. I'm also not a fan of lying, but neither for asking such personal and irrelevant questions (talking about payment question of the company. not Kevins question :)). – Otto V. May 20 '16 at 7:37
  • How could lying be beneficial as opposed to just saying plainly and professionally what salary you are looking for (which is what they actually want to know). Isn't that better in the end for both parties? Plus, even if you're allowed to lie legally in this instance, once you make a habit of this, you will start to think that deceiving people is the solution for lots of other things. Then your credibility goes down the drain. – Brandin May 20 '16 at 9:40
  • @Brandin I know what you mean. I tried to let it sound less hard. Ofcourse honesty is often the better way to go and also it is a good option to just tell what you expect. It could still be, that they insist to get informed about his former salary. In this case it's in my opinion not too bad to "adjust" the numbers. I don't recommend at all to make a habit of it! This is a very special case! – Otto V. May 20 '16 at 9:46
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    Lying on an application is ground for dismissal in many states. – IDrinkandIKnowThings May 20 '16 at 14:44

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