Refusing to Reveal Your Salary May Not Work in Your Favor

When interviewing, one of the most sensitive topics can be pay: you want a lot of it, and your company wants to keep it as low as possible. A new study shows that interviewers ask your level of income fairly often, and refusing to answer may not always work in your favor.

PayScale queried professionals across a variety of job titles and disciplines, and came back with some interesting – and sometimes alarming – results. As industries go, Finance and Insurance interviewers are more likely to ask about your level of income (or rather, your pay at your last job). This is possibly a cultural normal for those industries, which also had the highest rate of “asked and answered” responses from respondents (45 percent), and the lowest rate of refusal to answer (18 percent).

The number-one job title reporting they were asked and answered the salary question? HR Manager. Non-profits and other “values-driven industries” are the least likely to ask what you’re making in your current job. Those whose income is a direct reflection of job performance, such as sales representatives, are most likely to disclose their income straight away.

Overall, 23 percent of us refuse to say what we make in an interview setting. PayScale reports that more senior positions are more likely to be asked, and just as likely to refuse to answer. Experience may play a role, too; PayScale says ‘Baby Boomers’ are most likely to steer the salary conversation elsewhere (something it equates to being “experienced in interview situations”) while ‘Millennials’ are most likely to comply.

Gender also plays a huge role in the findings. Amongst men, those who refused to say how much they made actually earned more than other men in the same position who did say how much they made. The opposite is true for women; when a female refuses to say how much she makes, she’s paid less (on average) than other women who will report their earnings.

PayScale theorizes that this may be unconscious bias on the part of hiring companies, or women may be undervaluing themselves in an effort to land a job. While hard to pin down, it’s still a very curious finding.

Overall, about 43 percent of respondents say they were asked about salary in an interview. PayScale notes such a sensitive question (happily) “isn’t quite as pervasive as we’d think.” For companies that do ask, PayScale cautions it may set a negative tone, possibly costing companies skilled workers: “Whether overtly or not, you’re passing along information about how your organization makes decisions about pay, how open your organization is to discuss the rationale for pay and ultimately how transparent and innovative your organization is about rewarding employees.”

Rather, PayScale says companies should lead the conversation by letting candidates know the salary range (and why they choose to pay what they do), asking leading questions about a candidate’s “salary expectations,” and reinforcing satellite benefits that may entice new hires to take a slightly lower-paying job. The lattermost may result in less cash in a tech pro’s pocket, but a company-paid transit card, stock options or gym membership might be more interesting.

|Dice

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