I work in the IT industry and I am considered underpaid as per my job experience and current market rate. When I started looking for other opportunities, some recruiters/employers are quite shocked at how low I am getting (50% less than they expect for someone with my years of experience). (In the country I am working at, it is quite common to disclose your current salary to employers.)

Anyway, there are a few reasons I am not getting the market rate:

  1. I stay within the same company for quite long and the salary raise each year isn't so high. One of the main reasons I tend to stay is because I am a foreigner in the country I am working at and my residency is dependent on the employer. Getting a new job doesn't stop at the job offer. Your permit must be reviewed separately by another governing agency.
  2. The companies I worked for in the past aren't large MNCs but are rather small local agencies/startups.
  3. In my current company, I shifted from a not-so-technical role to a technical role (I am in IT), which has a higher market value.

Recently, a recruiter for a good company has shown interest in my CV but he had the same reaction about my current salary. Like he repeated my current salary to make sure that he was hearing it correctly. Of course, given the opportunity to interview, then I'll have the chance to prove myself. However, I worry that he may not even call again. Please note that this is a company that I really, really want to work for (think of this company as Google/Amazon-sized) and I don't want to blow my chances in any way.

Should I write to him explaining why I am currently underpaid? Or is that unnecessary? I have a chance to send this recruiter a follow-up email after our call and I just want to make sure that I say the right things.

Any advice?

  • Not sure what you want here... Do you want arguments to push your current employer to improve your salary? Or do you want to leave for a better paid job?
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Feb 19, 2019 at 16:00
  • @SolarMike The current employer will definitely improve my salary (if they plan to hire me). But based on the call, not sure if the recruiter was turned-off by my current salary? That since it is too cheap (in his eyes), then maybe that is a reflection of my skills too? Commented Feb 19, 2019 at 16:02
  • You have also to remember that your marked value is only as high as someone is paying you. A recruiter might only use these kinds of words to get your attentions, but in the end you might end up with something totaly different.
    – Mr Zach
    Commented Feb 19, 2019 at 16:15
  • 4
    This is a great example of why you shouldn't reveal your salary history, including your current salary, to prospective employers. asktheheadhunter.com/keep-salary-wraps Commented Feb 19, 2019 at 16:33
  • 1
    @AndyLester Great post - IMHO revealing your salary has no upside.
    – Robbie Dee
    Commented Feb 19, 2019 at 17:08

4 Answers 4


Recruiters care about you (so don't lie)

I was in this situation a few years ago. I'm not an immigrant (or similar), but my salary was a good third lower than the market rate of my area: I was getting 42k/yr. When market rate was close to 65k/yr. I told recruiters (after I found out1 ), "I was underpaid, sure, but it was a small startup company, I was right or of college, my expenses were low, and I didn't mind: I liked working there. But now that I'm looking, I'd certainly like to be paid my fair value (esp. if I have to relocate)."

Your situation is a little different, but as long as you lay it out there, you'll be fine. A recruiter's job is to employ you and will fight for you. As long as you tell the truth (though there are things you don't have to tell them...like your past salary!) they don't actually care so long as they are able to best represent you to an employer.

It may take an interview (or ten) before you get an offer, but that's true of anyone. Don't beat yourself up too much over one phone call. There's no shame in having "red flags", as long as you own up to them. And in the grand scheme of things, having been taken advantage of its pretty minor. There were good reasons for it, but now two, three, five years later those reasons aren't so valid anymore.

  1. Early before I knew my own value I said, "I don't know what fair pay is for me, I was only recently told I was underpaid. You're a recruiter in this area, I'll defer to your judgement." After a couple numbers from different agencies I knew what market value was as they all gave me the same number.
  • So did the recruiter hire you in the end? Commented Feb 19, 2019 at 16:19
  • There is a difference between an in-house recruiter and an outside recruiter. An in-house recruiter works for the company you're interviewing with and is likely salaried. They care about closing positions quickly and will help negotiate your salary, but err on the side of saving the company money. I think you're referring to an outside recruiter who is typically paid a finder's fee, which is a percentage of your final salary. These recruiter have a very big incentive to negotiate a higher salary for you. In-house recruiters usually care a lot less about getting you a higher salary.
    – jcmack
    Commented Feb 19, 2019 at 18:41
  • Even if outside recruiters could be paid a flat rate, thus less incentivized to help you get a higher salary.
    – jcmack
    Commented Feb 19, 2019 at 18:44
  • @catandmouse Oh, I went through a lot of interviews between that job and this one. The big question I get asked now is why I have gaps in my resume. And that is because I was between contracts. Commented Feb 19, 2019 at 18:50
  • @jcmack You have a point, but it still stands that being up front is a good thing. It'll look worse if you try to hide things. Commented Feb 19, 2019 at 18:51

I would say it isn't necessary to explain about your salary position unless they ask and you're comfortable about explaining your situation.

As a rule of thumb, I don't reveal my current salary anyway as a) it is none of their business and 2) it has nothing to do with the salary of the job I am going for - that should be based on my experience and what they're willing to pay.

There are a whole ton of reasons why your salary might be lower that have very little bearing on your efficacy: lack of formal education, lack of experience, a glut of available developers, senior developers with fewer financial responsibilities, financial health of the company, political reasons etc etc.

What you don't want to happen is for your low salary to be used pejoratively as leverage to get your next job. You want your new company to pay you what is fair (and attractive) where you are the best candidate, not because you're the cheapest.

I can't vouch for where you are, but the usual agency position here AFAIK is that they get a percentage of your salary after you'd finished a probationary period. So all things being equal, it should be in the interest of the agent to secure an attractive salary for all parties involved.


If they ask, explain it to them as you have in your post. Otherwise, there is no need to go out of your way to write to them to explain something that they might not really care about.

If you are blatantly being underpaid in relation to your skills and experience listed on your CV it could come as a shock to those recruiters but that does not necessarily mean that you will not be given an opportunity to be considered.

  • He didn't ask why but I feel the need to explain due to the recruiter's reaction. Commented Feb 19, 2019 at 16:05
  • @catandmouse Based on what you wrote, the reaction appears to be shock of your low salary.
    – sf02
    Commented Feb 19, 2019 at 16:28

You should disclose these reasons, because they seem very reasonable and show some valuable qualities, like attachment to your company and capable of change.

The fact that you didn't want to risk not getting the residency is sound (perhaps risk adverse, but maybe there are also very good personal reasons), could be bad and risk adverse, but you can balance this with the other changes you had.

There is no reason they won't call you back because of a currently low salary. The opposite may be truer (too high a salary).

  • I disagree with the third point, if they think the OP is being underpaid because of something wrong with them. But yes, you should disclose the reasons, and explain that you would expect an offer to be closer to market rate
    – user90842
    Commented Feb 19, 2019 at 19:48

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