Historically, job seekers have been advised to avoid the salary question for as long as possible in the interview process and to never be the one to bring it up. Reality has intervened. Hiring managers and recruiters do not want to waste their time or the candidates. Often the very first question the candidate is asked is about salary in order to qualify the further conversation. Don’t be surprised if you are asked your salary expectations or your current salary in an initial screening call.
In Massachusetts it will become illegal to ask salary history starting in summer 2018. In the meantime, you need to be prepared in advance as to how you want to address the question or not. It is ok in a professional manner, to state that you consider salary history personal information. You can inquire about the range they are offering or even state your expectations in terms of a range.
In order to provide a realistic range, you must do your homework in advance. Use online tools to research comparable jobs in the same geography to determine an appropriate range. Using a range gives you more wiggle room later for negotiation and acknowledges that there is variation company to company and based on the candidates’ experience.
It seems strange to be researching salary data before your initial screening call but it is critical to be prepared for these questions that are being asked earlier and earlier in the process. Do your homework so you are prepared with an answer you can substantiate. If the recruiter pushes back on salary history data consider whether or not this is really a company you want to work for going forward.