The one thing you should never disclose to a potential employer.
With automated technology, privacy concerns abound. Employers often force applicants to go through an online process, during the course of which they ask for information. Some of this information is reasonable, some is not, and some things, you just have no choice if you want to work there.
Asking your name, address and relevant work history is completely reasonable. However, employers also ask for things that are not reasonable. There are three common items which particularly stand out, in my opinion-Social Security Number, Driver's License/I.D. number, and current salary.
So, which ones to disclose? Well, for starters, the original Social Security Act specifically stated that this number is never to be used for identification purposes. You can take a moral and ethical stand, but you will lose. This fight was lost decades ago, in the days of our grandfathers. A wise person once advised me “pick the beaches you are willing to die fighting for”. This fight isn't worth it. Give them your Social, if you know it is a trusted site.
So what about the Driver's License or State I.D. Number? This is another fight you may as well abandon. Companies use this to verify your legal right to work, your credit history, and criminal history as well. At least these are rational, reasonable, and responsible things for a company to ask about. The fight isn't here either.
That leaves the one thing you should never disclose. Your current income/salary history. This is private information, and believe it or not, has nothing to do with any offer they may choose to make. Do they ask how much money you have in the bank (broke people steal)? Do they ask your exact birthdate (age discrimination)? How about sexual orientation (Spousal/partner benefits)? Preferred method of birth control, if any (Kids are expensive on health insurance)? Man or Woman (Lots of reasons they can't ask)? Marital Status (Single, young males are cheapest on health insurance)? Number of minor children (Parents miss a lot of work to care for sick kiddies)? Do they/can they ask?No, no, no, no, no, no and no. However, all of these things could affect your cost to them.
So why do they want to know your current income? Primarily so that they can screw you. Knowledge is power. They already know what the job is worth. They already know what the budget for the position is. Now all the employer needs is your minimum number.
Let's say that your current salary is $52,000 a year. The position that you are seeking is a significant boost, and has a budgeted cost and range at $55,000-$65,000 a year. If you tell them that you are currently earning $52k, they will offer you bottom of range ($55k). You will accept and be thrilled with the '$3,000 raise'.
Let's see what that '$3k raise' cost you. Assume a 40 year old who keeps this job until retirement at age 67. 27 years times $3,000 equals an impressive $81,000. If you add in an average of a 3% annual salary increase, you get $125,800.
However, the middle of the range in this example is $60,000, a reasonable offer if you only keep your private information private. That gives you an $8,000 'raise' annually. With the same 3% salary bumps, your increase would be $335,500. This is a difference of about $210,000.
The financial example above should demonstrate why you keep your current salary private. I should also note that this does not automatically make the person you are negotiating with evil or out to get you. Rather, that person has their own job to do, and an obligation to get the best possible talent for the lowest possible cost.
A future post will suggest some negotiating strategies.
Good Luck and best wishes,
Links to my work, “Beyond a Career Crisis”: