Taking salary disclosure out of the interview

“Can you tell me about a negative situation you were able to turn into a positive?” “What are you best traits as a co-worker?” These are standard interview questions. Potential employees prepare their best case study anecdotes to impress interviewers with an account of the time they took a disaster, turned it into a teaching moment and the project completed ahead of schedule and on budget. These questions are often expected and therefore answered with confidence. Another interview topic, one that makes interviewees sweat whether prepared or not, is about pay – both expectations and history.

Questions around salary are becoming less popular, and in some cases, being banned by legislature. Questions like, “What is your current salary?” or “How much did you earn in your previous job?” perpetuate wage discrimination and the gender pay gap ensuring that lower paid workers stay in a lower salary bracket. The salary history ban makes it against the law for employers to ask candidates their current or previous job compensation in an attempt to even the playing field for previously underpaid workers.

The pay gap currently carries from job to job. Banning the discussion on salary history will ultimately benefit employers to secure, not the bargain employee, but the best employee. It also considers that some applicants may be willing to take a pay cut for other qualities a business offers like health benefits, company culture or opportunity. Instead of screening out employees whose past roles paid more than the budget, the responsibility falls to the employee to make the decisions if the salary is adequate, not the employer. 

Some companies, as NPR found, are now setting a definitive salary range per position and sharing this information with employees at the beginning of the discussion. Putting pay on the table up front allows both parties to focus on other attributes of the potential relationship. 

According to Business Insider, the cities and states where the salary question is banned or set to be banned in the near future, are California, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Orleans, New York City, Oregon, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Puerto Rico and Maryland. It’s expected this list will continue to grow.

Employers breaking salary history ban laws will result in penalties, fines, and punitive damages. More than that, their brand will suffer as they’re exposed for unfair compensation or discrimination. When businesses compensate their employees fairly across gender, race and sexuality their desire for a respectful workplace generally carries over into other areas like culture.

When employees feel respected and aligned with their employer’s culture they rarely keep quiet about it. Reviews on websites like glassdoor.com and ratemyemployer.ca disclose salary dealings and fair compensation. When these reviews are positive, it encourages good candidates. If an employer is caught violating the bans, no doubt that information will be made public also.

With salary not hinging specifically on the applicant, hiring decisions can based on ability, experience and cultural fit, while also working towards eliminating the pay gap. This ideology encourages a respectful hiring process and ideally, respectful employees.

Now that the United States has begun implementing this ban it remains to be seen if Canada will follow. Regardless of regulation it’s important that this discussion is heard and the pay gap is considered by all hiring managers during interviews. Ultimately the results of better interviews will be employees that truly fit the role and culture while feeling fairly compensated and compelled to work hard for their company.  As an interviewer or an interviewee, what standard questions would you like to see eliminated, or added, to encourage progressive and respectful workplaces?