How to list salary history when your currency has depreciated?
July 14, 2016 9:31 AM   Subscribe

I'm applying for new jobs and have been asked to provide my salary history. I'm American and am applying for jobs in the US, but have most recently held jobs outside the US in a country where the currency has seriously depreciated in recent years (not the UK). How do I honestly provide the information without shortchanging myself?

I was paid in the local currency of the country where I worked. However, I would really prefer not to list this figure in the local currency because today, it equates to far less (several thousand dollars) in USD than what it was when I actually held the job(s). This really doesn't seem fair. Would it be acceptable to calculate the exchange rate at the time I held the job (either when I began it, or when I received the offer? Which is more appropriate? The latter works out more favorably, but either is preferable to using today's exchange rate.)? Should I add some sort of explanation about how I arrived at the figure and what exchange rate/s I used, or just leave it at that?

This will be my first job post- graduate school and I really don't want to shortchange myself further; it already feels unfair that employers are going to be basing their offers on what I received before receiving the additional degree! I've tried to dodge "salary history" questions whenever possible, but a couple employers won't be deterred. So, any thoughts would be much appreciated. Thank you!
posted by tango! to Work & Money (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would list your salary in the equivalent US range at the time you were paid.
posted by vegartanipla at 9:35 AM on July 14, 2016

Best answer: Use the official Federal Reserve historical exchange rate for the currency for each year. I get paid in USD and have to convert into CDN, and this is what I do (based on advice from my chartered accountant) when reporting my annual revenue for taxation.
posted by My Dad at 9:36 AM on July 14, 2016 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Great, thank you. To follow up with a more specific question: If I held one job from June 2013-June 2014 at a constant salary (for example), would it be acceptable to use the historical exchange rate for 2013 when listing my salary history for that particular job, or would this be considered dishonest? This might seem nitpicky, but it actually makes a massive difference when converted to USD. :(

Also, would you recommend that I explain the conversion rate that I used, or is it enough to simply provide the USD figure?
posted by tango! at 9:44 AM on July 14, 2016

So, any thoughts would be much appreciated.

My serious response is that any employer that requires a salary history is not worth working for.

A salary history is useless to an employer. It doesn't matter what you used to get paid, it matters what your value to your employer is - which may be less than, more than, or equal to what you previously paid. If you went to a car dealership and they asked what you paid for your previous car, I hope you'd walk away immediately. You should do the same for any employer that "requires" that information. Either the "requirement" is not a show-stopper for them (this is usually the case; they ask to get a negotiating upper hand, not due to any legal requirement) or else the company has no interest in ever paying you anywhere near market value.
posted by saeculorum at 9:45 AM on July 14, 2016 [13 favorites]

Agreed with what @saeculorum said. Politely decline to provide salary history. is a good read/listen on the topic.
posted by osi at 9:49 AM on July 14, 2016

Best answer: Honestly? Use whichever figure works out best for you. Arrive at it however you'd like.

There are so many ways to come at this that you can be scrupulously honest and still come out with a number that works best for you.

This is not reporting your income to a government agency for tax purposes. This is the opening of a negotiation. I'm not saying you should lie, but you can bet that they would not tell you what the last person made in this job — or if they ever did (they wouldn't), they would find as many ways as possible to minimize it.

You don't owe them any explanation as to how you arrived at the figure, but I can imagine so many utterly reasonable and plausible explanations for just about any way you would choose to do so. So just pick which one is highest.

(Also agree that you should avoid giving this information if possible. It sounds like you have tried that. I have been in situations where it is simply not possible to give some number, so I get that. Whether you want to work there is a different question.)
posted by veggieboy at 9:52 AM on July 14, 2016 [12 favorites]

With the difference in purchasing power of a given amount of money varying so much among countries, I have to wonder how much they hope to get out of asking you your salary history, except to force you into a negotiating corner. And if salary is in part based on supply and demand, those factors are also going to be different between two given countries. So the more I think about this, the more ridiculous it seems. But, again, I get that some people have a box to fill out on a form and that box may require a salary history to move forward.
posted by veggieboy at 10:04 AM on July 14, 2016

Salary history is bullshit and is always used to hurt you, not help. Avoid it if at all possible, and if you must put a number round up and make sure it's "total compensation" which is a wonderful handwavy number that probably includes the value of your benefits and bonuses and free snacks in the break room. Feel free to be as glossy as you like in your calculations, because this is not "sworn solemn truth" information like your degree.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:02 AM on July 14, 2016 [4 favorites]

Continue dodging. Salary history only is a thing to fuck you over. If someone is that pushy, you should call them on it "Sorry, I'm not sure how my salary history is relevant to this new position in a new company in a new country".
posted by so fucking future at 12:11 PM on July 14, 2016

>would it be acceptable to use the historical exchange rate for 2013 when listing my salary history for that particular job

It depends whatever is defensible. I don't know how much effort an HR underling would put into examining how you came up with your figures... so it may be wise to inflate the figures if you can get away with it. Why not?

For tax purposes, if you can produce receipts for the actual currency exchange from month to month, you can use those figures. If you cannot, you typically must use the annual average. This can work out to your advantage if there are intermittent spikes that briefly increased the spread in your favour.
posted by My Dad at 12:11 PM on July 14, 2016

This is a great question for Ask a Manager.
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:52 PM on July 14, 2016

Response by poster: Guys, I'm so sorry to keep asking follow up questions, but would it also be appropriate to include housing subsidies in the salary figure? I. E., if I received subsidized housing through my employer valued at savings of 300$/month, could I reasonably add that to the salary figure? Originally I hadn't thought to include this, but upon reading these responses - is it OK, or too much embellishment?
posted by tango! at 12:58 PM on July 14, 2016

Best answer: I also think you should just not answer the question but you could quote "Total Compensation" as opposed to salary which includes salary, bonuses, house stipends, etc. My current employer likes to tout "Total Compensation" in internal marketing as it includes stuff like 401k matching, etc. In the end it's all money.
posted by GuyZero at 1:17 PM on July 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

In the end you're going to want to negotiate based on total compensation anyway, use total compensation as your $ amount.

When I was switching jobs a few years ago I had two offers and negotiated higher on the one I wanted to accept based on the fact they weren't going to offer any "additional compensation". Switching to my current job from that one, they offer a fantastic compensation package. So though they gave me an initial base salary a few $K less than my prior job, it actually worked out to be a bit higher in total compensation.
posted by lizbunny at 1:43 PM on July 14, 2016

Best answer: tango!: "is it OK, or too much embellishment?"

If it's money you received from your employer, it's part of your compensation. If it's a benefit directly given by your employer, it's compensation.

You should add up (to the best of your ability, estimate generously where necessary) your salary + reimbursements (phone, housing discount, internet, anything else) + bonuses (if any) + 401K match (if any) + $ value of any perks ( paid lunch every Friday, etc... if any) + health care costs covered + whatever else they are providing you -- this is your total compensation, and this is the figure you use when forced to provide one (and not before).
posted by namewithoutwords at 3:29 PM on July 14, 2016

Always translate any employer's request for information about your salary as them asking "please state your salary requirements".

If they attempt to further press the question, what they are actually doing is asking you to negotiate against yourself.

It's really that simple. There should be an offer and counteroffer; that's how negotiation works. Everything else needs to be seen through that lens, especially asking for salary history. If asking for past salary isn't a counteroffer, what is it? It's asking you to lower your own offer without making a counter.
posted by cotterpin at 12:51 AM on July 15, 2016

'I'm applying for new jobs and have been asked to provide my salary history.'

Think to yourself how it would go if you said 'ok then, how about you guys provide the salary range for this position.'

They wouldn't, you shouldn't. Politely decline and add 'I am sure you will make a competitive offer.'
posted by zippy at 1:37 PM on July 15, 2016

'ok then, how about you guys provide the salary range for this position.'

Just want to chime in here to note that for US government jobs, both things are bog standard - they list a salary range in the posting , and will expect a salary history before making an offer.
posted by solotoro at 7:30 AM on July 16, 2016

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