An image showing a throne sitting on top of a supply of money

Every time you are offered a job, your worth is calculated. What is your previous experience and your current potential for your potential employer? It’s a difficult equation to solve. Market forces and the demand for specific skills can change salaries from year to year, and two people with the same job title can earn very different amounts depending on their industry and geographic location.

The most outspoken tool in the salary negotiation box is the infamous “What is your current salary?” Question. Its use is controversial – so much so that it has been made illegal in several US states in recent years. Still, 47% of UK employers surveyed for the Young Women’s Trust in 2018 said they did.

As Rachel Brazil mentions in her article on the gender pay gap, one of many factors that help such pay gaps persist is when salary offers are based on what a candidate currently earns. Indeed, there is evidence that in areas of the US where asking about previous salaries is illegal, the gender-race wage gap has decreased to some extent.

As Rachel Brazil mentions on page 60, one of many factors that help maintain the gender pay gap is to base salary offers on what a candidate currently deserves. Indeed, there is evidence that in areas of the US where asking about previous salaries is illegal, the gender-race wage gap has decreased to some extent.

Employers ask about salary because they don’t want to waste time interviewing someone and making them an offer they can’t afford. But asking what a candidate deserves is a very one-sided way of doing it. The candidate receives nothing from the answer, except suspicion that the company is offering them the bare minimum.

It can also give a limited view of what a candidate expects from a job. People change jobs for various reasons. Some seek more responsibility and higher wages, while others like to cut wages in order to achieve a healthier work environment or a better work-life balance. “What is your desired salary?” is a much better and more insightful question, especially when followed by a conversation about what the candidate and employer expect from each other. It also gives a better sense of the company as it suggests that the company is interested in listening to employees and meeting their needs. Of course, companies should also do their part by publishing the salary range on offer.

Too much focus on salary risks in relation to the other ways employers should evaluate their employees. Take the example of Joey Ramp, who has been fighting for years to have universities implement guidelines for service animals in laboratories based on her experience with her own service dog, Sampson. Your advocacy work is valuable, but at the expense of a career in research. Money isn’t the only thing we need to do our job. By taking these other needs into account, employers can show the real value they place on the employees they hire.

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