Asking for an Applicant’s Previous Salary is About to Be History

The Salary History Question: Is it History?

A change to the hiring process has been developing across America within the last 12 months. Currently, 8 states, 6 cities, 2 New York counties, and Puerto Rico have banned employers from asking for a candidate’s salary history, and bills are up for debate in several more states. What has spurred this development? After all, it is certainly understandable that employers have wanted to know this information in order to make informed hiring decisions and minimize costs. But lawmakers and advocates have argued that this common practice traps certain individuals in a cycle of underpayment, especially women, minorities, and people moving from places with lower costs of living. Even if your law firm is not located in a state affected by the recent flurry of laws banning the salary history question, we suggest you consider revisiting your hiring process and eliminate such questions. Here are a few reasons why:

A Unified Policy

If you do business across state lines, including places that have already banned the salary history question, or are near states that have, it will be easiest to have a single policy in place for all of your offices. These laws are quickly being debated and added by more and more states and cities (see complete list at the end of this article), so simply adhering to the stricter laws will help ensure that all of your offices are in compliance, and you will save yourself the headache of having to adjust your policies multiple times. After all, complying with these laws does not simply mean that you can no longer ask for a candidate’s salary history. Violations do carry repercussions, so you will need to train your HR staff and recruiters on what kinds of questions are appropriate and legal for compensation discussions. This approach has already been followed by Google, Facebook, Cisco, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo.

A More Accurate Valuation

Asking for someone’s salary history may cause you to undervalue certain candidates due to conditions that have nothing to do with their abilities. As a result, you might lose out on qualified candidates who receive a more competitive offer elsewhere. The goal of these laws is to narrow the pay gaps for women and minorities—if they were underpaid in the past, revealing their salary history puts them at risk for getting underpaid again. Even if their new job actually increases their pay, it will likely still lag behind the standard due to starting from a lower point to begin with. By avoiding the salary history question, law firms can instead focus on paying a candidate a wage determined by their skills and the requirements of the job.

What To Do Instead

Perhaps you’re considering abandoning the salary history question, but are still looking for a way to determine an appropriate salary for a candidate. One option is to simply set a range for the position beforehand and be upfront with the candidate about it. Your scale can account for experience, education, and performance, in order to pay what’s fair. Most of the laws being passed do allow you to discuss salary expectations, which can serve a similar purpose to the salary history question, but leaves the candidate feeling more respected and fairly treated. These strategies will improve your relationship with the candidate and encourage a smooth hiring process.

There are many benefits to complying with the new standards created by these laws, including increased clarity and efficiency for your team during the hiring process, a widened candidate pool, and better candidate relations. In addition, it could help you increase diversity at your law firm, which in turn can improve the bottom line. By adhering to these laws—even if they don’t apply in your state—you make your firm more appealing by empowering your HR department to pay appropriate wages for the position, regardless of an individual’s past pay.

If you’re not sure how to determine fair pay, we’d love to use our knowledge of the legal hiring market to help you out:

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Current statewide bans (date of effect): California (1/1/18), Connecticut (1/1/19), Delaware (12/14/17), Hawaii (1/1/19), Massachusetts (7/1/18), NJ (2/1/18 [public only; but senate passed bill this year for all employers]), Oregon (10/6/17), Vermont (7/1/18), Puerto Rico (3/1/17)

In process:  Florida, New Hampshire, New York, and Rhode Island

Current citywide or county bans (date of effect): Albany County, NY (12/17/17), New York City, NY(10/31/17), Philadelphia, PA (on hold), Westchester County, NY (07/09/18)

Note: additional cities have bans for city offices only.

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7 Tips To Make The Most of Your Skype Interview

Tips for Your Next Skype InterviewIn recent years, video interviewing has become a popular strategy for law firms and companies alike when it comes to their hiring process. They might use it to interview candidates that would work remotely or for candidates open to relocation. Or it might be used as a time saver for first round interviews. Whatever the reason, it appears to be here to stay. For legal technology professionals interviewing via Skype poses a few unique challenges and extra preparation.

Here are 7 easy tips to prepare you for your next Skype interview:

1. Check Your Technology
You want to make sure your computer is fully charged and plugged in and that all aspects of Skype are working, especially the audio and microphone functions. Make sure your wi-fi connection is strong, or if possible, use an Ethernet cable to ensure you’re connection doesn’t break during the interview.

2. Get Your Lighting Right
One of the more unique challenges of Skype interviews is your lighting. You want to be easy to see, not shadowed. Take advantage of natural light by setting yourself up near a window, ideally facing the window, or to the left or right of it. Use any lamps you have in the room to your benefit as well; use a softer light aimed toward your face, a backlight to add dimension to your space, and fill lights to balance the light on either side of your body. 

3. Clean Your Space
It’s also very important that your interview space is tidy and distraction-free. Look for clutter and any other potential distractions for your interviewer, including possibly offensive décor, and remove it. That way the interviewer will be focused on your answers rather than your space.

4. Eliminate Technology Distractions
You don’t want to overload your computer or get distracted by an email popping up. Close all programs on your computer except for Skype. Print a copy of your resume, as you would for an in-person interview. Turn off your other devices or put them in a different room, you shouldn’t need them during your interview, and a buzz could keep you from hearing a question or answering well.

5. Dress to Impress
As with any interview, dressing professionally is very important. But when it comes to video interviewing, you should also consider what looks best on screen: avoid patterns and wear neutral colors. Don’t only consider your torso-make sure all of you is dressed to impress so if you need to stand up for some reason, you’re not embarrassed by your sweat pants.

6. Chat Professionally
Your Skype user name also creates an impression so you may want to create a new one just for interviewing. Upgrade your Skype user name to something professional and make sure to use a professional looking picture as well.

7. Consider Your Nonverbals
Before you start your call, test your distance from the camera, making sure your head and shoulders are visible and that your occasional hand gestures could be seen. Imagine you’re sitting across from your interviewer and gauge the appropriate distance accordingly. You should also practice greeting your interviewer with a confident and friendly smile for a great start to your video interview.

Preparation is key to interview success, and it’s no different when it comes to Skype interviews. By making sure both your space and your own appearance are optimized for video interviewing, you increase your chances of getting an in-person interview and landing a great legal tech opportunity.

Our IT recruiters would love to be your career advisor. For personalized interviewing advice and resume recommendations:

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Note: This blog was originally published in 2014 and has been updated to reflect current trends and practices. 

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