If you’re looking for a candidate with highly competitive skills, remove the salary history requirement. Asking for a salary history is instantly off-putting. High-quality, in-demand candidates will tune out and not complete the application process. And why should they? They’re being heavily recruited by other organizations that didn't put up as many hurdles in the initial application. And they’ll likely take it as an attempt to lowball a salary offer, and steer clear.
Is the market for the position particularly scarce, where every application you get counts? Then don’t be such a stickler for the rules that you will instantly disqualify a top performer because they chose not to include the required salary history. You may have overlooked someone perfect for your organization. And odds are they didn't include it because they want to ensure that your compensation philosophy is market-based — not based on their salary history.
Now, I’m aware that not all positions and budgets require a top performer, and not all positions are lacking in highly qualified candidates. If you’re looking to fill a dime-a-dozen position in a market with a plethora of talent, you can probably get away with including salary history in your application process. You get market data for free — so you can easily narrow applicants down to those that meet your budget. Candidates will still find the question off-putting, but the resulting few that drop out of the application process likely won’t damage your chances of finding someone to fill the position. It’s much more destructive to your chances when there’s market scarcity for the needed position.
Recently I spoke with an HR executive who had just filled out a frustrating application. She said, “I implemented all these labor-saving components into my Applicant Tracking System, but I didn't realize what a terrible experience the candidates were having as a result.”
Go test this — apply for a job in your own company and see if you give up before completing the application process. If you've instituted multiple requirements or labor saving measures, I’m betting you’ll walk away with a headache — especially if salary history is only one of many hurdles. Now imagine how many top performers did the same thing for all your past open positions. Your search for talent might be easier (and maybe more successful) if you lower your organization's initial barriers to entry.