Breaking the Cycle: Promoting Pay Equity in Job Interviews

In today’s progressive work environment, it’s crucial to promote equality and fairness in every aspect of the hiring process. One area that has garnered increasing attention is the discussion of salary history during job interviews. Asking candidates about their current or past salary can perpetuate pay disparity and unintentionally contribute to inequality in the workplace. In this article, we’ll explore why this question is considered the worst and most discriminative one to ask during an interview, including the potential biases within “industry standards” or “market value,” and provide alternative approaches to ensure a fair and equitable hiring process.

The Problem with Asking about Salary History:

1. Perpetuates Pay Disparity:

Inquiring about salary history can unintentionally perpetuate existing pay disparities. Candidates who were historically underpaid might continue to face wage gaps if their previous salary is used as a benchmark for determining their new compensation. This practice can perpetuate inequality, particularly for individuals from marginalized groups who have historically been underpaid.

2. Reinforces Bias:

Salary history questions can reinforce unconscious biases in the hiring process. By relying on a candidate’s previous salary, interviewers may unknowingly carry biases about the value of certain positions, industries, or even gendered wage expectations. This can lead to continued disparities and limit opportunities for candidates seeking fair compensation based on their skills and qualifications.

3. Challenges with “Industry Standards” and “Market Value”:

While “industry standards” and “market value” are commonly cited when determining compensation, these terms themselves can be inherently biased. Historically, certain industries have undervalued roles predominantly held by women or minority groups, leading to lower average salaries. Relying solely on industry standards or market value perpetuates these biases and can hinder progress towards pay equity.

Alternative Approaches:

1. Provide Salary Ranges:

Instead of asking about a candidate’s current or past salary, proactively provide salary ranges for the position when posting the job. This transparency sets clear expectations from the outset and allows candidates to assess whether the opportunity aligns with their salary expectations.

2. Focus on Candidate Value:

During the interview, emphasize the candidate’s skills, qualifications, and their potential contributions to the organization. By discussing their relevant experiences and achievements, you can assess their suitability for the role without relying on past compensation as a benchmark.

3. Conduct Market Research and Internal Assessments:

Ensure your company conducts thorough market research to determine competitive salary ranges for each position. However, it’s important to critically evaluate these ranges, considering potential biases and disparities within the industry. Additionally, conduct internal assessments to ensure pay equity within your organization, addressing any existing wage gaps and biases.

4. Implement Pay Equity Policies:

Establish internal policies that promote pay equity and eliminate wage gaps. Regularly review and update compensation structures to ensure they are fair and unbiased. By creating a culture of transparency and equality, you can attract diverse talent and promote a more inclusive workplace.


Asking candidates about their salary history in job interviews can perpetuate pay disparity and unintentionally contribute to inequality in the workplace. By acknowledging the biases within “industry standards” and “market value,” and shifting the focus to a candidate’s value, providing salary ranges upfront, conducting thorough market research, and implementing pay equity policies, companies can ensure a fair and equitable hiring process. Transparently disclosing salary ranges when posting job openings is essential for attracting candidates who align with the compensation offered and further promotes fairness. It is crucial for organizations to actively challenge and address biases within compensation practices to create a work environment where everyone is compensated fairly based on their skills, qualifications, and the value they bring to the organization. Together, we can build a more inclusive and equal future for all.





Breaking the Cycle: Promoting Pay Equity in Job Interviews

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