And not questions that irritate the candidate or are patently illegal (some would ask Robert Mueller to ignore this dictate).
It turns out a very common job interview question has been banned by several big companies (including Google, Starbucks, and Amazon) and now by the state of California (to go along with Massachusetts, New York City, and Chicago).
The New York Times reported that in April the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a ruling that in the state of California employers could no longer ask this interview question:
“What’s your current/past salary?”
This common question, used by employers to help set salary for incoming job candidates, has also been used to justify the pay gap between men and women. Employers are effectively able to shift the blame, stating that the existing pay gap isn’t gender-based, it’s about what that female hire used to make in her past job.
A high-ranking court just said no more in California, and similar rulings in other states, cities, and companies are likely to follow.
As Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote in the ruling, “Women are told they are not worth as much as men. Allowing prior salary to justify a wage differential perpetuates this message, entrenching in salary systems an obvious means of discrimination.”
Re-read that and see if you can resist pumping your fist as if listening to a Rage Against the Machine tune.
Besides being discriminating, asking about salary history is just bad for business.
Research shows employers tend to over-rely on salary history information as a signal of employee worth and productivity (they must have got paid what they were worth) and thus bypass other very qualified candidates.
Not everyone agrees.
As the Times reported, there are common arguments for why salary history questions should be allowed. For example, some feel doing so avoids wasting everyone’s time if the hiring company can’t afford the candidate. But who’s to say that a great candidate wouldn’t take a job at a lower salary if they’re excited about the work and if the job has other intrinsic benefits of great value to them?
Some business owners feel asking salary questions allows them to avoid overpaying, which can hurt their businesses profitability. I say that’s nonsense. The person is either worth what you must pay to attract them or they’re not.
Finally, as indicated earlier, some find knowing salary history is important because it indicates the value the prior company placed on the candidate. This is the most ridiculous argument of all to me because it ignores the inherent gender pay bias that’s already entrenched in the system–that the candidate may likely well have not been paid what they were worth to begin with.
So instead, may I offer alternative interview questions to get at a candidates’ worth/fit? By no means am I suggesting this is an exhaustive list for any interview; these are just 3 non-traditional, powerful questions to add to your overall assessment.
1. What simply would not have happened were it not for you?
This is a question that I’d ask before I’d bring anyone on to one of the multi-billion dollar businesses I ran in the corporate world. It really gets to the heart of what a difference maker the candidate is, what big, meaty unique contributions they made (versus talking about a team-based contribution that in truth they may have played a small part in).
2. What do you hope to be remembered for in your last job?
This question always gave me a good sense of whether or not the candidate had thought about and worked towards accomplishing the legacy they wanted to leave behind in their job.
That’s right, a legacy isn’t just what we leave in life, it applies to each and every job we hold.
I’ve found that the best candidates, even if they don’t call it a legacy, are able to articulate the specific imprint they tried to have–whether on the business, the systems, or the people. It tells me what’s important to them, gives me a more heartfelt look at what they accomplished, and gives me insight into their values.
3. Thinking back on your work experience, when were you the happiest? The least happy?
This tells me what motivates and demotivates the candidate and whether or not I could provide what they’re looking for over the long run and whether or not they’d thrive or wilt in the challenges I know they’d potentially face.
Looking for inspiration at work? Instead of asking how to find it, ask yourself how you lost it in the first place! We’re so excited for you to Find the Fire with us today!
This article by Scott Mautz also appeared on Inc.com. To read more Inc. articles by Scott Mautz, click here.