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All jobs I applied for have been through recruiting agencies and all of them are asking for my current/previous salary. It is much much lower than industry average (nearly half) and I don't want that to influence my next salary...

I remember reading somewhere - though I don't remember where - that it doesn't need to be precise, and that it should also include in the sum a money value of perks, benefits, bonuses and maybe even equity.

For example, if my basic salary is 50, my bonus is 10, my laptop is 3, other benefits amount to 2... can I say that my salary is 65 to the recruiting agency?

Could there be any negative consequences for not disclosing the exact base salary?

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Don't tell them what you're making right now. Tell them what you expect to be making (market value based on your skillset, experience, etc.). –  alroc Apr 30 at 3:05
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65? Are you sure you didn't mean 70? –  Lego Stormtroopr Apr 30 at 4:59

6 Answers 6

You can say whatever you like. The recruiting company wants to know in order to factor it into what roles they might consider putting you forward for, and in order to determine how much they should be putting forward as your salary demands.

So obviously if you fudge/mislead/use creative accounts/outright lie, it just means that they'll be using the fudged number in those considerations.

However, before you do this, bear in mind that it is in the recruiters' best interests to put you in a job at the best salary they can get. Their commission is based on your salary. The more they can get for you, the more they get for themselves.

So when dealing with a good recruiter, you should absolutely be able to get the most effective service by telling them what your current situation is, what you are hoping for, and what you are not willing to settle for less than. Feel free to say "my current salary is $50k, but taking perks and bonus into account, I value it at $65k, and am not interested in changing jobs for anything less than $75k".

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Usually a recruiters commission is based on the position. They sometimes get a bonus for getting you in at a lower rate since that increases the profit margin for the agency. –  ReallyTiredOfThisGame Apr 30 at 14:10

I disagree with Carson63000's point that "it is in the recruiters' best interests to put you in a job at the best salary they can get." Technically, this is true. However, their primary goal is really just getting the placement at all. If they can sell the employer on the fact that you will accept less than another candidate, they will absolutely do so, and hope to earn 90% of a commission, vs losing it entirely.

You have to be very clear to the recruiter (and to yourself) about what you'd really do in various scenarios. You say your salary is only about half the industry average. Using your example, would you stay at your current $50k job even if the recruiter could get you a $70k one? That still may be below the industry average, but it's a nice bump for you. If you know you'd turn it down, be honest and tell the recruiter that -- but be prepared if the recruiter says demanding more will take you out of consideration.

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Actually in man consulting firms the recruiters make a bonus based on the rate they get you to accept versus the top rate possible. This bonus is usually paid out after 3 or 6 months in the contract with acceptable reviews. They consulting firm get X/hour thier profit is X-(costs of employing the consultant). They prefer to keep their profit as high as possible. They do not want to pay you so low that you leave and go elsewhere nor any more than is needed to keep you content. –  ReallyTiredOfThisGame Apr 30 at 14:09
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Even so, it is more profitable to sell someone quickly at 95% than having to work more to place him at 100%, those extra hours could be worked on another position. –  dyesdyes Apr 30 at 15:46

You have two professional choices, and neither involve lying.

  • Put down what you want your salary to be, providing the answer is clear that it is not your current salary. Some forms will ask for a desired salary, and so current salary is immaterial.
  • Put down your current base salary and then when salary comes up, point out what you were getting with bonuses, and what it will actually take to move, based on being underpaid. The reason for giving the base salary, is that many companies will, in the process of checking references, confirm salaries with the previous employer(s). If the number you have provided does not match the numbers they hear, and is wildly different, you may be dropped from consideration without a chance to explain.

Here are some related links on how they might verify your salary, and a couple more about why it is inappropriate to include the value of your benefits and whether you should lie about your salary.

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In my opinion, they have no right to know what you currently make. Whenever looking for a new job, or when being contacted about an open position, my first response is:

Thanks for the consideration, Recruiter. I'm interested, but it would take at least $[salary or hourly rate] for me to consider leaving my current job.

Until they respond in the affirmative that my requested rate is achievable in the position discussed, they won't get anything else out of me.

If you are considerably under the market rate in your current position, try to keep the conversation along the lines of "I'd leave my current job for $x" instead of "I'm currently making $x".

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There is no way the recruiter can verify what you tell them about previous salaries. No employer will ever give out that kind of information to a recruiter or new company, so it cannot be verified. Some would argue it is unethical to lie about the figure and I agree it is, to an extent.

You need to be realistic with the numbers however. Recruiters aren't idiots, they have access to salary information. If you tell a recruiter you earn $120k a year for the sake of getting a potentially higher paying job, but the average salary for someone of your experience and skill-set is only $90k, they will know.

Not only that, but you risk pricing yourself out of a job. If you quote your current or previous salary too high, you could be excluding yourself from the list of potential candidates because the company isn't offering that much money. However, as you also point out, if your current or previous salary was way below market value, you run the risk of not getting the salary you deserve.

Many of us have lied to a recruiter about how much we've previously earned, I've done it once before out of embarrassment of how below the average I was being paid and another to get a better salary then what I was previously on. I've never quoted more than $10k above what I was previously earning though.

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The first thing is to understand why the recruiting agency wants to know about your current salary. They want to know that with your current experience how much you earn and what you would expect.

I assume every company has a certain kind of salary band depending on the years of experience. I have had similar experience where I have asked for X amount but the company HR told that with your experience Y is what max we offer which may be true.

I would say that you tell them the whole package considering your fixed and variable components although you have mentioned that they are not as per industry standard, but I would suggest you don't lie and go get that interview and nail it.

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this post is rather hard to read (wall of text). Would you mind editing it into a better shape? –  gnat Apr 30 at 5:41

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