Here’s Why You Should Stop Revealing Your Salary History in California

The start of 2018 is upon us and AB168, the newest enacted legislation in California barring employers from asking candidates their salary history, is in full effect. California joins 6 other cities and states, Massachusetts, Delaware, Oregon, Philadelphia, New York City, and Puerto Rico, in instituting the ban.

If you’re interviewing for a job, this law is an absolute game changer. Here’s how to use it to your advantage.

What does the new law mean?

Every tech company I’ve worked with has used candidate compensation data as one of the key data points in formulating an offer.

AB168 has changed the song and dance routine between candidate and employer having a few substantial implications. Employers can no longer use your historical compensation to determine whether to make you an offer, and what salary to offer you. Additionally, an employer can no longer ask you about your current compensation or compensation history.

You might be asking yourself, “Wait, but can they even ask? Or is it ok for them to ask, but you don’t have to provide, and they can’t make a hiring decision based upon that?” The answer is they can’t even ask, not through 3rd party recruiters, internal recruiters, or on applications. In addition, the decision to make an offer cannot be made based on your current income level.

In the event that they ask for your compensation expectations, you may use your current compensation as justification but it’s not required. Keep in mind if you do reveal your current compensation that it will more than likely be used as a data point to compose of your offer.

The other hail mary in the law is that an employer, upon reasonable request, must provide a pay scale if you ask for one. This means the pandora’s box you’ve been used to opening when discussing compensation has a little more transparency and the poker-faced recruiter across the room will be providing a “tell” in their compensation philosophy.

How to take advantage of the new legislation

At the end of your first call (I always wait to talk about compensation until the end to qualify if the role is the right fit first otherwise this is a moot point) with your recruiter or hiring manager make sure to ask the following questions:

  • What’s the salary range for the role?
  • What are other components to compensation outside of base salary? Is there a bonus structure and equity package?
  • What’s the level of the role? (Mid-level / Sr. / Dr).
  • How many levels are there between this role and the CEO? (Compensation packages are tied to your level and will have a significant influence on how you’re compensated)

Recruiters are trained to extract critical data from you to make you an offer that works best for the company’s economics. Up until this point, companies have relied on current compensation, compensation expectations, internal employee benchmarking, and market data as key data points in formulating offers. By taking your current compensation out of the equation you may tip the scales heavily in your favor during the negotiation process.

That being said, any person that’s been in the recruiting business will tell you there’s no exact science to offer negotiations. Every company has their own unique compensation philosophy, philosophy on transparency, and levers they use to compete for talent.

Want proven strategies for how to negotiate for your salary? I provide consulting services in the areas of career planning, compensation negotiation, and talent acquisition.

Contact me:


Twitter: @dstyle00

Thanks to Gloria Liu @thats_my_line



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