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I am under the impression that most people lie when stating their current salary to prospective employers. I recently increased my actual salary by approximately $10K when asked my current salary during the salary negotiation process. Is this expected by recruiters or am I completely off about most people doing this? I'm a little worried that it may cost me the new position but I also don't want to leave my current job for the same money.

Is it normal to exaggerate the current salary when recruiters ask?

marked as duplicate by gnat, Jonast92, Garrison Neely, IDrinkandIKnowThings, Adam V Mar 17 '15 at 14:44

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    Your lying is your own business. On the other hand, I am one of those who are turned off by your lying. There should be someone who is not turned off by your lying who will answer your question. If someone made me an offer that's too low, all I would have to do is say so. – Vietnhi Phuvan Mar 14 '15 at 4:06
  • We have had a few people in this community mock the employment practice in India (and some other countries) of asking the employee for a copy of his latest salary slips before rolling out an offer. This question shows exactly why this practice is being followed here. – Masked Man Mar 14 '15 at 7:37
  • From a personal experience I can say I have encountered one company in USA that stated (in their online application form) that they may ask for a copy of a recent salary slip, and one company in Switzerland that actually requested a copy of my recent salary slip when I applied with them. I suspect that the practice is more widespread in Switzerland, though (as I think they are more process oriented there, generally speaking). – coderworks Mar 14 '15 at 16:45
  • I think this question might be better posed in game-theoretical terms and think logically. The prospective employer wants to pay low and the prospective employee wants to earn big. If the prospective employee knows that saying number X+1000 is likely to result in a larger offer as compared with saying just X, isn't it rational to say X+1000 instead of X? – Brandin Mar 14 '15 at 20:35
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    Your impression is wrong. In fact misrepresenting your salary would be grounds for a employer to rescind an offer. If they ask what your salary is just tell them. What's the big deal? – TheMathemagician Mar 16 '15 at 1:03
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There is an excellent article about how to answer the salary question on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20131217070749-52594-how-to-answer-the-question-what-was-your-last-salary

Basically treat your salary as confidential information (which, in fact, it is) and refuse to disclose it by saying "I'm not comfortable sharing that information" and only discussing what your salary requirements are for the position for which you are applying/interviewing.

The article goes into a sample conversation where the recruiter is pressing strongly for this information, and the applicant is deflecting the question until he has to answer it directly.

(a partial quote from the article)

IVO: ... I definitely wouldn't be comfortable with [telling you my prior salary]. Like I said, I'm not asking [new employer] to tell me what he pays my prospective co-workers or what he pays the contractors who work for him now. That isn't any of my business, and I feel that my past salary information is confidential too. I'm sure you understand.

CAROL: You're not the first person who's shared that point of view with me, and I do understand. Some of our managers are pretty old-school in that respect. I will pass on the information to Josh and confirm that he wants to do a second interview, and my gut says that he will.

No one is going to overvalue your services, but plenty of people will undervalue them. You have to value them first, and valuing yourself includes knowing when to say "I'm not comfortable with that request."

When you find your voice, your muscles grow. When you cave and cower and pretend that going along with any off-the-wall request or demand is the safe -- and therefore best -- option, your flame will shrink.

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    That's an excellent article. Especially since it's in the context of keeping your income in line with cost of living by changing jobs from time to time. If you're changing jobs because you want to switch to something better, you have all the power. You're not in a position of weakness where you must take any job on offer to keep a roof over your head. Stand firm and if the employer won't accept no for an answer, then that's the end of the conversation. Their loss, not yours. – Carson63000 Mar 16 '15 at 0:04
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    This is a great, well formulated answer because you provide your own summary, and you also cite an article and quote from it. Thank you for putting such good effort in adhering to the back it up guidelines in our community. – jmort253 Mar 16 '15 at 2:18
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An outright lie is never a good idea. Obviously you like to put yourself in a good position of negotiation so just giving the actual number is not a great idea either.

There are various ways to deal with this: You can state a range, you state that a single number is too simplistic because of the "package" which includes 401k match, benefits, bonus, stock etc., you can turn it around "what did you have in mind for this position" or you can simply state "why don't we first focus on finding out whether there is a good fit" etc.

If I see it in an employment form as a single number, I just leave it empty. If a company really gets hung about that, it's their problem.

  • I love that this is the standard advice, but it begs the question, "Why can they even ask us this question legally?" – Kolob Canyon Mar 2 '18 at 3:57
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I would suggest you tell the recruiter what salary range you will consider, rather than tell them your actual salary at the present time. You could be underpaid at the moment - go and check the markets.

You're under no obligation to tell recruiter an accurate figure, though lying to a potential employer isn't advisable for reasons stated above.

You could state to the recruiter that you earn "around $X" where this is your current salary plus a bit more.

Essentially, determine how much you will consider for the right job and let them negotiate with any potential employers.

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As a recruiter myself I have to say that inflating your salary (at least here in the UK) is a very silly thing to do.

As an example:

You, as a candidate tell your new employer that you are earning £50k. But in fact you are earning £40k. When you leave your job you get a P45 (unsure if this happens elsewhere) detailing all of the payments you have been made over the course of that financial year. It's therefore totally clear that you've lied about your salary and I've known companies withdraw job offers on the basis that if you lie at an interview you cannot be trusted.

  • well you would say that wouldn't you – Pepone Mar 18 '15 at 0:05
  • Yes I would because I've got a decade of experience in the industry. I work on a commission basis (15-20% of the candidate salary as a fee) so it would be in my interests to get people a good job offer; however inflating salary levels (or similar) just to get paid more would be unethical and just plain stupid! – Boltz101 Mar 19 '15 at 13:04
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Is the company offering you the job prepared to make a signed affidavit about the maximum they were willing to offer?

I would be careful if this is in writing and the job is accounting / legal /auditing / SEC regulated where any provable untruthfullnes can be an issue later.

I would say something vague - "with the benefits my current package is worth around $x" (x being your current salary + $10K)

After all only you can value the benefits of your current job - perhaps the view from your cubicle is worth $10k to you ;-)

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I have never lied about my salary at interview, i would consider this to be very bad practice to do so. Before interviewing you should just state the salary that you are after to the recruiter and the interviewer, if they offer you less than your stated figure then your within your rights to turn the offer down. A employees value isn't always what they are currently paid, most employers know this and will understand why you might be asking for a higher wage then you currently earn.

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