What is your current salary?”

It might seem like an innocent enough question – asking how much a candidate earns can help you gauge where they are in their career and what roles they might be suitable for. However, recruitment experts are warning that this question could be having a devastating impact both on your candidates and on society at large.

The key problem is that it can keep people on lower salaries from progressing to higher pay bands – and when people are already earning under the average due to factors such as gender, these inequalities start to snowball.

“Unfortunately, knowing a candidate’s previous salary can spark bias and set the bar for what future employers are willing to offer,” Lee Biggins, Founder and Managing Director of CV-Library, told The Sun newspaper.

“Being underpaid in a previous role shouldn’t set you up for a lifetime of receiving unfair and unequal pay. This is particularly true for women, especially those who may have taken a career break to raise a family.”

Biggings suggested that interviewers instead asked professionals what their pay expectations are and why. “This could be a huge step forward for bridging the gender pay gap,” he said.

The current gender pay gap in the UK is 18.4%, and eight in ten companies and public-sector bodies pay men more than women.

Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society, told the Guardian that the new data gives organisations an opportunity to change. “It’s a game changer,” she said. “It forces employers to look at themselves and understand their organisations and it prompts employees to ask some hard questions.”

You too can do your part, by ensuring your interview questions aren’t inadvertently preventing those on lower pay from having access to higher salary bands.