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Banning the Common Question

Posted by: Laurence Simons 09/05/17

New York City Council recently passed legislation that bans one of the most common interview questions: What was your previous salary?

This legislation was created due to fears that conscious or unconscious discrimination against women and minorities will continue if they are forced to disclose their salary history. 

If their salaries are low to begin with, the employer may offer what seems to be a fair percentage raise, but isn’t in line with the market average, contributing to long-term lower (and unfair) wages. However, this doesn’t mean that the candidate can’t volunteer the information or set salary expectations.

Angela Floydd, European Managing Director for Laurence Simons finds in Europe that the majority of candidates are not reluctant to share their salary information if asked, even if they perceive their salary is below market as they will make clear what their expectation is for a new role. In her experience, the risk if an employer “low balls” and the offer is accepted, is that the candidate will be a “flight risk” and move for further financial gain.

If companies are precluded from asking about salary information and candidates are not realistic about their salary expectation there is a risk that the hiring process will become protracted or lead to delays and make it harder to match job hunters to the right role.

American based recruitment consultant for Laurence Simons, Danielle Goldstone, agrees. 

‘Clients still prefer to receive prior salary information as they want to feel that the candidate will be satisfied with their compensation and will not be looking to leave for more money. They also like to know what candidates are making so they can offer what they consider to be a fair package, but be able to keep costs down as well.’

But, the real question is, could restricting salary information lead to lower salaries? 

Danielle is concerned the legislation could lead to more companies making low-ball offers to candidates, as they are essentially guessing about their pay history.
‘They may also offer less to candidates who are female, or of particular ethnic backgrounds, as they may assume that they historically earned less.’

In situations where an employer can't ask a direct question, Angela believes the risk of issues being created can be minimised if employers ask for expectations from the candidate or the recruiter. Candidates will need to be familiar with market rates within their industry and ensure they do not price themselves out of the market and be excluded from a process by sharing an unrealistic expectation.

While salaries were the focus of the legislation, they are not always the main reason candidates accept or reject offers.  In America, while candidates are influenced by salary, they also consider the compensation package as a whole, which can include various stock plans, vacation/flex time, flexibility to work from home, gym/phone/commuter benefits, retirement plans/401(k)s and profit sharing.

Danielle says it’s also important that employees consider the opportunity for individual growth within the organization and what their longevity within the company might look like. This is especially true for mid- to senior-level employees, who want to feel that they are making a long-term commitment.

In Europe, the main motivator is the big picture. Candidates are looking at the company, the environment, the long-term prospects and the overall compensation.

Banning information about previous salaries is part of a broader trend towards removing candidate details from CVs to lead to less biased hires, and this practice is becoming more common in recruitment.

Both Danielle and Angela use anonymised CVs in some circumstances to provide an overview to a client which reflects the calibre of a candidate. This can be beneficial to both candidates and clients to help facilitate the process and establish potential interest without a candidate having to submit their details and to help a client shape expectations or reassure the appropriate candidates are being targeted. 

Apart from the more commercial aspects, there are some companies that request blind CVs in an effort to overcome bias and promote diversity within their organizations.  

For further information on using blind CVs please contact  Danielle and Angela on the details below.


Danielle’s Profile 


Angela’s Profile



To see all available Laurence Simons positons and find a role that fits your big picture – click here. 

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