Your Salary History is Off-Limits
Your Salary History is Off-Limits


About this episode

In this episode, we are focused on the ever-divisive question of the importance of certifications in the cybersecurity industry. The answer to this question has changed over time from certifications being unimportant, to them being extremely important, to well, it depends.


Certifications can be extremely important for several reasons, including their ability to help your resume get through the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) filters used by the human resources and recruiting team, but they are not a silver bullet that will instantly land you a job.


As Jason Dion (Lead Instructor of Dion Training) shares with us in this episode, certifications can be your ticket to getting an interview, but they alone won’t get you the position. That said, without having that certification on your resume, you can easily be filtered out of consideration before a hiring manager even gets a chance to look over your resume. This makes having the right certifications and experience imperative if you want to land your dream cybersecurity position.


Just as a certification isn’t a substitute for a college degree, you will also learn that a college degree is not a substitution for having the right certifications. This is often not an “either-or” thing, but a “yes-and” type of thing that you must achieve for many cybersecurity positions.


What you’ll learn

  • Why certifications are important in the cybersecurity industry?
  • Are certifications or experience more important to a hiring manager?
  • Are certifications or college degrees more important to a hiring manager?
  • Which certifications should you be getting to advance in your career?

Relevant websites for this episode


Episode Transcript

Kip Boyle:        

Hi everyone, this is Your Cyber Path, the podcast that helps you get your dream cybersecurity job. I’m Kip Boyle. I’m an experienced hiring manager of cybersecurity professionals. If you want to give me some feedback on the show, if you want to suggest a topic for future episode, then please visit the show page, anchor.fm/yourcyberpath. And when you see the message button, click that and just start talking. So today, what I want to talk to you about, what I want to share is that during the masterclass, which came to a conclusion last week, I was talking with the group about how a candidate should not reveal their current salary. And they also should not reveal their salary history to a hiring manager in an interview, or even as a pre-interview matter. And I wonder if you know why you shouldn’t do that. There were several people in class who didn’t realize what I’m about to tell you. And this is really important.

So hiring managers in all industries have been using salary history as a proxy for all kinds of things that they want to know about you as a candidate. So for example, if your previous salary is very low, for whatever reason, a hiring manager might think that that means you are poorly qualified or you’re too inexperienced, no matter what your interview performance might be. You might not even be invited to interview because of this perception. Now, in addition to having a potential employer make decisions like us before you even get a chance to compete for the job, it also can result in people who do not negotiate salary offers. Let’s say, you are offered a job and you don’t have a habit of negotiating salary. If they base the compensation that they offer you on your salary history, which because you don’t negotiate, let’s say is lower than average. Then you will continue to be paid on a lower than average basis. And there’s a real big question of fairness here.

And using salary history has been going on for years and years, like I said, in different industries. And it really is unfair for candidates. In fact, it’s so unfair that it’s illegal in many US cities and states, and as a hiring manager. I know about this because it’s my business to know about this. I continue to get surprised however, when candidates do not know this. So after we have the lesson, I got this question from a student. What if a recruiter in the first call with me is adamant about getting a number or a range of numbers from me for the given position that I’m applying for. And in this case, I feel I might not even get to talk to the hiring manager to see if there’s wiggle room on compensation if I don’t tell the recruiter what they want to know. So that’s the question.

And I really appreciate that question. When you are trying to change jobs, it’s a stressful time, you’re doing things that are not probably normal for you, you’re hunting for a job. You’re not just going to work and your economics, your finances are at risk. So I could see how somebody being pressured to give this information would give into the temptation to do it. And by the way, even though it’s illegal in many US cities and states, it’s not illegal everywhere, even in the US. And I don’t know if it’s illegal outside of the US where it might or might not be. You’ll have to do that research. But even if it is illegal in the places where you’re searching for jobs, that’s not a guarantee that you won’t be asked. Maybe the person asking doesn’t know.

Now here’s what I said back. No matter how hard someone pushes you to reveal your salary history, you have to respectfully refuse, even in places where it’s legal to ask you for your salary history, don’t do it because you’re not legally obligated to answer that question. So what you need to do is you need to say to the person asking you, I’m sorry. The only thing that matters is the market rate for this job and the pay range established by the company. Would you please share that with me. Now, the reason why you want to ask them to share that information with you is because guess what? They already know it, that has been determined as part of the preparation for posting the job. So it’s available. They may tell you it’s not available, they could give you an excuse, but as a hiring manager, I’m telling you, they’re not going to post a job without knowing that information.

In fact, there are services that most medium sized and larger companies subscribe to, which tells them what the average pay is and the range of pay, typical range of pay for all kinds of positions that they are hiring for. They don’t even do their own research. They’re buying that research from a company that specializes in producing reports. So it’s really lopsided. They have tons of information and what do we as candidates have? We don’t have much. We know what we make. And we might know a friend or two, we can go on glassdoor.com and other places. But that information online is notoriously questionable as to its accuracy. I mean, anybody can sign up for an account on glassdoor.com and post whatever they want. It’s not verified. Probably some of that information’s accurate, but the issue is you just don’t know.

All right, so now you know what the issue is and you know why it’s a big deal. And now you know how to handle yourself when you get into a situation like that. But again, I want you to know that if the person persists and they say, look until you tell me your salary history, you’re not getting an interview. That is a massive red flag. If that happens to you, you need to thank them for their time and you need to excuse yourself and you need to go look for a job someplace else. Now, why would I tell you that? Well, because you deserve better than to be manipulated like that. If the company is truly relying on your salary history to answer for them questions that they should be finding out for themselves, I don’t think you want to work there. Nope. I mean, maybe your financial situation is dire. And so you take the job. Okay. But I would not expect that that employer is going to be a very satisfying place for you. It could be. But this is a big, big red flag in my estimation. So you should look elsewhere.

So the masterclass has come to an end and the good news is we’re going to reopen it. We’re collecting feedback right now and the feedback’s very good. People who went through the first class were pretty happy. And we’ve got some really cool stories to share with you. One of the students going through our class actually landed their dream cybersecurity job during the class, which is amazing. And I certainly didn’t expect it. I’m so happy for them. But in any event, we’re going to reopen the masterclass on a new platform, and we’re aiming to have that happen by June 1st. And we’ll share more information with you as it’s determined. So thanks for being a listener. And until next time, remember, you’re just one path away from your dream cybersecurity job.

Headshot of Kip BoyleYOUR HOST:

Kip Boyle
Cyber Risk Opportunities

Kip Boyle serves as virtual chief information security officer for many customers, including a professional sports team and fast-growing FinTech and AdTech companies. Over the years, Kip has built teams by interviewing hundreds of cybersecurity professionals. And now, he’s sharing his insider’s perspective with you!

Headshot of Jason DionYOUR CO-HOST:

Jason Dion
Dion Training Solutions

Jason Dion is the lead instructor at Dion Training Solutions. Jason has been the Director of a Network and Security Operations Center and an Information Systems Officer for large organizations around the globe. He is an experienced hiring manager in the government and defense sectors.