top of page

The 'Dirtiest Secret' in Job Search

Updated: Jun 26

Companies (tend to) pay on ‘pay history’ –not what the job may be advertised at when posted. 


It is so pervasive and weaved so deeply into the job application system, the average job seeker seems to have a little way of preventing exposing their own ‘dirtiest of secrets’: how little they have been paid.

It's also why, systematically over time, it can be so punishing to certain members of the job market.

When you start by earning less, it becomes more and more difficult to make up those ‘lost gains’ as you move forward in your career. Often times with ‘each next job’, your pay may be slightly less than your competitor. You'll see this across the spectrum but, of course, women tend to take a special hit here, as the expectations on who may negotiate and what reaction to those negotiations can be very different from candidate to candidate.

Now imagine how that affects your earnings over several job changes. It can put you significantly behind those doing the same job.

The only way to win, is to not play this game.

It's our job in job search to sidestep certain questions that may be asked for the sole purpose of the company gaining strategic advantage for itself when the process gets to the offer stage. So, my advice here is to find the right way (or work with a good career coach!) with a strategy for answering these type of questions, factoring in your individual scenario.


Sometimes that means answering a question like a politician (answering the question you wish you were asked, versus the question you were actually asked).

Here's an example:

If you see a great job that you're qualified for, and it's advertised at $100,000… you've done a similar job; are fully qualified for this job; but you've only earned $70,000 in your last role.

Guess who is not (statistically) going to get a $100,000 offer?

The company will take one look at your earnings at 70K, and think, “a nice 10% bump would be an offer at 77K…” –which often results in the company trying to lowball you (first) with a slightly lower 75K offer.

In their mind, they're offering you a reasonable increase in salary, but as you can see they are not willing (typically) to ‘make up for the sins of the past’ (another employer's sins) and pay you what they might have paid somebody else for the same work.

If another person had been making 90K in their prior role, it's very likely that they would received a 6-figure offer for this opportunity. That's certainly not fair to you, assuming that you can truly deliver for this company in this role.

Be sure to plan and strategize on how you will take on and overcome this challenge.

Good news! Help is on the way: One state has just stepped up to the plate and done something to solve this problem.

Massachusetts just passed and signed into law a prohibition on any employer within the state asking for you to disclose your prior salary.

Mission accomplished! (if you live in Massachusetts, or New York, or a few other places!)

I expect overtime that more states, those that also work hard to protect their workers, will pass similar legislation. It's the only way to end the ‘endless cycle’ of being underpaid and discriminated against (based on what you've earned, versus what you can deliver for employer).

Take control of your information, and stay in control of what pieces you decide to share, as they are (sometimes) used against you in the negotiation process.

Need more help & Advice? Reach out today–


John Crant

Author, Career Coach & Speaker on Job Search and Career Management

Featured Speaker for

The New York Public Library's JOB SEARCH CENTRAL


In the Media: As Seen As Featured in 

amNY, Time Out New York, The Wall Street Journal (and its, CRAIN'S New York BusinessForbes, CNNBBC, FOX News (on Social Media Marketing), AriseTV, New York PostThe Huffington PostEssence magazine, CareerBuilder and The Ladders

On the Radio: As Guest: WHCR 90.3 FM "The Voice of Harlem"


As an industry manager, executive recruiter, recruiting & sales trainer, event speaker, and as VP of a nationwide system of recruitment offices, I have seen most every aspect of the hiring process and this varied insight is what provides the clarity you will find in this book.


bottom of page