should I share my current compensation?

Have you ever been running errands and had immediate sticker shock when picking up something mundane? I was recently picking up a small dry cleaning order and the total struck me as high for only 5-6 pieces ($100). Out of irritation and curiosity, I asked a few questions about how they arrived at that number. Sure enough, they had added fees to each piece without telling me in advance. I politely asked for those to be removed and they were immediately. I share this example because there are so many small moments in our lives when we can advocate for ourselves rather than being comfortable with what we are given.

Continuing on with the theme of advocating, I spoke recently about negotiating compensation at the annual conference for the National Association of Women MBAs in Chicago and for a group of MBA students at St. Catherine University. One question came up in both groups: “when applying for a new job, should I disclose my current salary?” This is a great question and the simple answer is to avoid sharing your current salary. Once your future employer knows your current compensation, you are at a disadvantage in the negotiation. Several states in the US have made it illegal to request current salary from a candidate and I’m hopeful this trend continues across the country. Until this is standard across all states, one suggestion is to answer with this: “my salary history is personal and confidential but I’d be happy to work with you to assess what I’d be worth to your organization.”

Part of why organizations ask this question is to find out if they can afford you. It’s wise not to answer the question and to find out their range or offer your range to them. For electronic job applications, consider entering your target salary and noting elsewhere in the application it’s your target, not your current. It’s frustrating for both sides to reach the offer stage and find out you’re thousands of dollars apart. To make sure you offer the right range, take a peek back at my blog post on doing your research.