Companies and recruiting firms typically ask you for your salary information when you apply for a job. What do you do? Do you give them your salary history in the first request or do you wait to see if you are a viable candidate for the position you are applying for?

There is no easy answer to this question, because circumstances may force you into sharing your salary prematurely. You may find yourself trapped if you are using an automated system on the internet. The form may ask you for salary information and not allow you to submit it with the salary information blank. In that situation, you have the option to put in a filler number such as zeros or find another method to get your resume or application to the employer.

If you put in a filler number, will the employer miss your resume? There is a possibility your resume will be overlooked. Your resume may not show up if the person generating the list of candidates cuts the data by salary. Hopefully, the company is smart enough to search for candidates by key words or job titles; otherwise they are missing some top talent.

If the employer or recruiter insists on getting your salary information upfront, my advice is to don’t do it unless you have a high salary requirement that is non-negotiable. When you are non-negotiable, you understand that very few positions will meet your needs and the search process may be longer.

Here’s why you don’t want to give your salary information early.

Qualified candidates will always rise to the top

Salary is used more as a disqualifier, not a qualifier for a position. If your salary is too high, you may be disqualified even if you state otherwise in a cover letter. Smart companies and recruiters will contact you if your resume is compelling or you have a unique set of skills to explore the possibilities.

If you are not qualified for the position or do not have unique skills or value, you will not get an interview no matter what your salary.

No salary information = being negotiable, flexible or looking to advance your pay

Your salary is personal information. When you decide to share your salary information is up to you.

From a company perspective, their salary ranges are already established. Your goal is to be fairly compensated within their structure and with your internal peers. The more strategic you are about sharing your salary information, the better chance you have for negotiating a favorable salary.

The fact is that providing your salary too early DOES affect negotiations within the compensation structure of the hiring company. There is no advantage for you to give your salary information out until it is appropriate.

Salary doesn’t tell the whole picture

Our focus is on salary, but the real discussion should be on the compensation package. Salary is your paycheck. Total compensation is your paycheck, bonuses, stock plans, insurance coverages and retirement plans. Every company views each of these compensation components differently and makes decisions that show the type of people and culture they want to cultivate.

From a macro view, the way to normalize these compensation components is through the use of standardized surveys done by a compensation professional with specific training and experience. For example, companies use different processes for developing salaries for similar positions which is why there are different salaries for the same types of positions.

If a lot of this compensation discussion is confusing, here are three articles that address salary and how it is determined. Prepare yourself by knowing the basic compensation principles and you will be amazed at the questions you can ask during the interview process. You can visit the compensation articles through these links:

When do you talk salary?

Wait until you have clear interest from a recruiter or company before discussing salary requirements. Ideally, this discussion occurs when an offer is going to be extended to you. It is acceptable for you to ask in advance what the salary range is for the position they are hiring.

The Bottom Line on Salary Disclosure

Decisions made solely on salary are generally bad decisions. This does not mean that a company will pay you what you made before; it simply means there are many factors in the hiring process, such as cultural fit, skill sets and talent promotability.