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So here is the thing. My close one feels he is extremely underpaid. IT professional with 2 years of experience got paid around 46K. So he decided to see the market. After his research he found for his experience level it should be around 75K~120K. He is furious. Now when he is applying other jobs, however, delima came in. Almost all recruiters ask his current salary. One potential job has went through two intense phone interviews and getting into a face to face, however, no offer has been made. Note, that the application for the face to face interview will also ask to fill out current and previous position's pay rate.

He wants to know is it wise to reveal that his salary is on the low end of 46K to the recruiters, however, according to his research, likely, in this senario, potential employer will low ball him, as they will think why they should pay 90% more for him?

What strategy should he utilize to prevent this from happening? Should he just reveal that info without worry about all these?

Thanks

  • Can you add a location? Where I live, I'd have no problem to tell people that my income is my business and I won't tell. Contracts even say that you are not allowed to disclose your salary (although those terms are not enforcable). So your strategy may vary depending on your location. – nvoigt Jul 21 '15 at 12:29
  • @nvoigt He works in NY – Ezeewei Jul 21 '15 at 12:35
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    Where/how did he do his research? $120K for two years of experience seems a little exhorbitant, even for New York. – Kent A. Jul 21 '15 at 12:37
  • @KentAnderson Well, 120K is more of a higher end, I guess, but I guess we can focus on the question itself. If you would like, feel free to state your research found top salary for the experience level. Really appreciated – Ezeewei Jul 21 '15 at 12:41
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    The question isn't what an appropriate salary is; that would be off-topic. The question is about how to handle wanting a large increase. Please take discussions of what salaries to expect in which fields at which experience levels to The Workplace Chat. Thank you. – Monica Cellio Jul 21 '15 at 16:20
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Simply put, salary history is a privileged, and usually, confidential information, hence, your friend does not need to disclose anything, and recruiters have no right to ask for this information, as it bears no relevance to the job application or ability to perform.

I have had such question asked before a few times, and my reply is usually the same - it's confidential. Period.

More than that, most of the corporate contracts I have seen (and I have seen a lot) have explicit clauses that forbids the employee from disclosing the salary, so it is possible that your friend is not even allowed to disclose his past/current salary. In some EU countries salaries are also classified as trade secret and are not to be disclosed even if there is no such limitation in the contract itself.

Personal side note - I usually tend to avoid working with recruiters asking a lot of personal questions not relevant to the given position and job offers that does not already have set salary range for given position. They usually tend to turn out to be low quality, shady, offers anyway.

  • +1 For being the most appropriate way to answer this question even if you are interested in sharing your current salary. – Zibbobz Jul 21 '15 at 15:26
  • Salary history isn't relevant however it is very relevant to ask what a person's compensation expectations are. There is no point in moving forward with an interview if you're looking for $120k and the company can only pay $100k. – ChrisL Jul 21 '15 at 16:43
  • @ChrisL yes, but past salaries has little to do with it. :) – Matiss Jul 21 '15 at 16:59
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    Agreed. I never ask for past salary. I have had clients who expect me to ask this of candidates and sometimes it's a real fight to try and get them to understand that it's not my role to gather competitive comp information. ;) However if someone simply refuses to discuss what they're looking for in terms of comp I have to let them know we won't be able to move forward. Can't risk wasting many thousands of dollars in man hours on an interview only to discover we can't afford someone. – ChrisL Jul 21 '15 at 17:11
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The main reason why good recruiters are asking this question is to make sure there is no major disconnect between your expectations and what the job is paying. If they have a 70k job and you are currently making 100k, then this is not going to fly and there is no point wasting everyone's time.

The main reason why bad recruiters are asking is to get a good leverage point for future salary negotiations.

Most recruiters are a mix of both. Hence a good answer could be

My current employer considers compensation information confidential so I can't disclose my current salary. According to my research Programmer (or Network Analyst) II are paid between 64k and 105k in this area and giving my experience level I would be expecting something in the middle of this range

Contrary to common belief most good employers have no interest in low-balling their employees. Losing someone good just because they can make 5k more next door is a huge loss and does damage that's way more significant than the 5k.

In many cases it's more about compensation fairness inside the team. Primarily you can't make a lot more or a lot less than people with comparable skills and performance level in the same organization.

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Taking a stand and declaring it none of their business is unlikely to win any friends among recruiters. And you need friends to get good jobs. Good recruiters know how to work with salary discrepancies. It's in their best interest as well to get you the best package, since they are often paid a commission based on your package. Although you are their product (not their customer) they need to place you in order to get paid at all.

Try this: "I currently make X, which is why I am looking for a better situation for myself. I expect my next job to provide a competitive package. If not, well, you and I will be having this conversation again really soon."

If you're talking directly with the hiring company: "I currently make X, which is why I am looking for a better situation for myself. I really admire your company and would love a chance to work here. I am confident your overall compensation is competitive with the other companies I have spoken with."

By the way, all this assumes you're actually as good as your resume makes you appear to be. Poor performance never gets rewarded with large pay increases.

  • Amending the first paragraph, you don't need friends to get good jobs, you need good and professional friends to get good jobs. I believe, wasting time on personal, unrelated information which brings little to no value to the application is a complete opposite of good and professional. – Matiss Jul 21 '15 at 13:57
  • @MatissTreinis Dude, you just said that in your own answer. Why do you feel the need to add it to my answer as well? – Kent A. Jul 21 '15 at 14:18
  • Completely not related to the topic at hand, but I felt the need to point out that you suggest to play ball when no ball is to be played. Is this explanation sufficient, "dude"? – Matiss Jul 21 '15 at 14:31
  • Obviously, I feel that ball is to be played. Happy to allow a difference of opinion, though. – Kent A. Jul 21 '15 at 14:52
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Being combative and telling a recruiter it's none of their business will almost certainly get you pulled from consideration. More for coming across as an arrogant jerk than being greedy. A more appropriate way to handle it is to simply say: "I do feel that I'm currently underpaid and am looking for something in the range of XXX"

Contrary to popular misconception most recruiters are not out to screw people over and low ball them. For an agency recruiter this means a lower commission. For an in-house recruiter this sort of thinking will likely result in high turnover. Reality is most companies have set salary ranges and typically you want to bring people in somewhere between the lower 1/3 to midpoint of that range. Also when looking at an offer to be sure to take into account the total value of what is being offered. This means paid time off, benefits, stock, bonuses, etc. Even when a company might be able to brings someone in low they will usually want to stick to ranges and generally accepted compensation practices. As an example, a few years back I had to recruit a UX Researcher. We needed someone with some very particular skills in neurology and all the candidates we found came from academia which pays nothing (most were making under $70k!) The 1/3 point of our range was $95k and none of the three people we hired were brought in for less than $105k. We could easily have offered them less but in the long run it would have been a mistake in terms of internal team equity.

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