Diane Stafford: How much did you make at your last job? Don’t answer!

06/06/2014 2:02 PM

06/06/2014 2:11 PM

There’s a killer blank on many job applications. It’s a variation on “list what you made in your last job.”

For fear of overpricing or underpricing themselves, job hunters hate to put a number in that blank. And in interviews they certainly don’t want to be the one to name their figure first.

Here are five great ideas to avoid that problem. They’re collected from Kansas City area human resource professionals and an article on workplacefairness.org.

Put $00.00 in the pay blank. That may be enough to allow you to submit the application, and it may signal to the employer that you’d like to explain or negotiate.

If there’s a way to write a cover letter or skills paragraph, say you’d like to discuss your previous salary or pay requirement when you’re offered the job. A word to the wise: This tactic works only if you’re a strong candidate for the position.

Say that you can’t tell your former pay because your former company had a policy, or you have a severance agreement, that prohibits you from discussing it. Hirers may know this isn’t the truth for most applicants, but it at least puts the ball in the employer’s court to continue the discussion.

Give a pay range, not a specific number. The range should be a well-researched high and low for what you expect the employer’s budget to be for that position. It should indicate that you’re comfortable with any offer within that range.

If there’s a way on the application form or in the interview, explain that the job you held previously and the job you’re seeking are quite different. If that’s true, be prepared to elaborate on the “oranges to apples” comparison to make your case.

In some cases, hirers’ budgets are absolute. You’ll have no wiggle room to negotiate. And sometimes your application won’t be processed without a real number. But if you can wait for the employer to give the pay offer first, you’ll usually be in a better position to make your case or make your decision.

To reach Diane Stafford, call 816-234-4359 or send email to stafford@kcstar.com. Follow her online at kansascity.com/workplace and twitter.com/kcstarstafford.

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