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I'm a web developer from Italy and I've been working for the same company since I had just little experience in the field. Now 4 years has passed and my salary has never increased. I keep earning 21K euros per year and now I'm feeling underpaid. There are no chance to get a raise in my current company, so I started to look around.

I interviewd at several companies and every single one asked me "What's your current salary?". I always tried to avoid this question and I lost two chances to discuss for a job offer. Sometimes they said "We can't go further in this process without having your current salary" and so I lost other chances. The fact is that I don't want to tell my current salary because it's very low for my figure. I don't want to let them offer me just 25K. Sometimes I say "I can't share this information, but my salary expectation is 40K". I know I can't have a 40K offer because of my skills, but my goal is to negotiate at 30-35K.

Should I lie and tell that I currently earn 28K so they can offer me more than 30K, or should I tell that my salary excectation is 35K?

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    I am not allowed to tell the my current salary according to my company rules But I have no idea why did you work 4 years without any salary increment? – I am the Most Stupid Person May 10 '18 at 9:40
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    I think a location tag would be appropriate for this question, and will help guide the answers. I edited to add an Italy tag. Typical handling of this in Italy may be very different than the US, for example (where in at least some states it's actually illegal for an interviewer to ask your current salary). – dwizum May 10 '18 at 12:30
  • Could you not say "that's banned under GPDR" :-) – Neuromancer May 10 '18 at 14:41
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    @James, "commiserate" -> "commensurate". – Roger Lipscombe May 10 '18 at 14:44
  • @RogerLipscombe, thank you! Always mix up the two. – James May 10 '18 at 15:06
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Just tell them your salary expectations. Don't bother telling them your current salary. Yes, some places may reject you because of this. Employers like that are not plesent places to work. Software developers are in such high demand that you won't really have too much trouble finding a new position.

23

Be straightforward about your response.

I'm being underpaid for my experience/role and I'm looking for x

If they press, then you can reveal your current salary, but you've already told them that it's low. Since you already lost opportunities from not answering this, you won't lose out by answering when pressed.

You still have the option of refusing low-ball offers and should chase for something realistic. The key word here is "realistic" - you won't get anywhere if you price yourself out of the ball-park. Similarly, overselling your skills to get a higher paid role will fail when you can't meet your objectives.

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I am from Italy as well and I can feel your struggle.

Lying is not an option because a lot of companies ask for your 3 most recent payslips and this will 'rat you out' (Nontheless lying at your next employer before even starting is utterly a bad practice)

You should't be ashamed of your salary because this is the current situation in Italy. You should be nothing but honest, telling the company what you are aiming for: leaving a job to get a higher salary is very common and money is something that everyone understand.

  • If the market is like that and you'd prefer to stay in Italy, then how about take the lowball offer bur then switch after 1 year until you get a salary you hope. So 21K -> 25K -> 30K -> 35K -> 40K, just as an example. But for sure somewhere down the line you can negotiate a proper raise, so it won't take 4-5 years. – Juha Untinen May 10 '18 at 12:49
  • Interesting; they gather free intelligence about the competition. With such practice, no wonder people switch in the way described by @JuhaUntinen. You are being paid for the work you do, not for the amount you received at the previous employer. Even if you provide "doctored" pay stubs and the employer finds out (think of a corporate merge or a document leak), it shall be hard to be prosecuted, since you worked for the money you received. – user86468 May 10 '18 at 14:13
  • Cant you say oh I lost them or I don't keep payslips once I have checked them – Neuromancer May 10 '18 at 14:40
  • @Razvan P: no I mean switching employers once a year to increase your salary. So in the original employer he gets 21K and then he switches employers and gets 25K. Then he works there for 1 year. Then he switches again and gets 30K. And so on. Nothing illegal. At least in Finland, it is extremely common to switch employers every 2 years and get 20-30% raises that way. – Juha Untinen May 10 '18 at 15:13
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    I'm not sure it is legal for companies to ask salary slips from a previous job. – Mark Rotteveel May 10 '18 at 18:12
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Asking about salary may be illegal but it surely forces you to break your current employer rules. It is an attempt to obtain sensitive information about your current employer. The recruiter doesn't care about your current employer, he/she wants to maximize the profit by giving you max 10%-15% raise. It is also a hint that the recruiter does not know the market and is relatively unskilled with negotiation. Also, a sign that the recruiter's target is the "cheap but many" category. If you are not desperate to get this position, you can simply stand up and leave after being asked this.

Your answer shall be straight forward. Disclosing the amount constitutes an infringement of the current workplace rules (remember, you still work for somebody else) and second, you name the amount you would like to receive. As both you and the recruiter are intelligent persons, both understand that the named amount is larger or compatible with what you get now (otherwise, why changing your job?).

By doing this, you don't perjure yourself, you prove you have ethics (or at least, you act like ethical people) and you establish a base for negotiation.

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This question is a possible duplicate, but your question has the qualifier "if you are underpaid" to disclosing your current salary.

In general, your current salary has no bearing on the current role. Your current salary is typically used as a shortcut for HR to determine what to offer you while saving them money.

For the particular case that you are underpaid (actually applies in general):

  • do not lie
  • do not fluff, puff, inflate, etc...
  • make clear your salary expectations and whether that is negotiable

You simply state something along the lines of "My current salary is not relevant to this discussion (and hold firm). I expect compensation commensurate with my experience and expected job responsibilities." If they push, just say since we are sharing personal details ask them what they are currently making, or ask what the budget is for the role (don't actually do this unless they just are not getting it). Watch as they deflect. That should be your clue as to their intention.

The key here is to research what salaries are commensurate for your level of experience and job title. This will give you the confidence to hold firm on your salary expectations and to make sure that your expectation is realistic with market conditions. This is especially true in the case you are underpaid.

Story time: I have been underpaid in the past, and it was uncomfortable holding my ground and refusing to answer the current salary question. Even the job application listed "current salary." I simply put "$0". Naturally, if they wanted to press the issue they could've said I lied on the application, but I made it clear that my current salary was not relevant--so I was not going to answer the question even on the application. Furthermore, HR even made statements "he must be underpaid, that's why he won't reveal his current salary." I simply let these statements roll off my back.

I do not care if they assume I am underpaid, overpaid, or not paid. As I said, holding the mindset that "current compensation is not relevant to this discussion" is critical. Also you have to be comfortable with the fact that you may lose job opportunities because of this. I was comfortable with that fact and things worked out in the end. The way I view it as, why should I be doing HR's job? Their job is to evaluate what compensation is fair for the services I will offer. It's not my job to give them a shortcut so they can shortchange me with the veneer of "well we gave him $x raise over his current salary so we did him a solid!" Yeah, no.

(As an aside, the other trick they will use is "what is your salary range" basically, do you think they will offer you the top of the range or the bottom?)

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I agree that honesty is better than lying about your current salary. One possibility is to talk about your entire salary history - "I started working for my current company 4 years ago at 21K with little experience. Now I have 4 years of experience, but I am still making only 21K. I believe I am now worth much more than that, therefore I am looking for another position." That gives you another reason for leaving (no raise in the last 4 years), as well as showing the new company that you are worth more than you are currently making.

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The first suggestion would be to answer honestly. Leaving your current job due to being underpaid is normally a valid and understandable reason. In this case, it would be important to do some homework; look at other vacancies for roles similar to your level of expertise / number of years in the field. If they have not advertised their salary (or provided a range), they may follow their question with "What would you be looking for to move here?". This is when you can explain you have looked at comparable jobs in the industry and can justify a large jump.

I would avoid lying to your prospective future employer if at all possible. But a second slightly different suggestion would be to simply claim you make the 'average' amount for your role, a value you would have found through researching similar positions. I don't know what legal complications there are in Italy, but if you do this, you would have to assume you or your previous employer (in a reference for example) are not obligated to disclose your salary.

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