Currently underpaid for the role I do, job advertisements for a similar role have a going rate of double of what I am on.

Whenever I tell potential employers what I am earning per annum, I am finding that they end up offering me less or in some instances think that I must not be very good since I am earning well below the market rate. The reason why I am underpaid is because I am currently working for a tech start up with limited capital.

Should I lie at job interviews about the amount of money I am earning as a way to get around this?

  • You can remain quiet when they ask you – user7019377 Jan 10 '17 at 9:04
  • Can you add a country tag please? This question is easy to deflect in some and hard to not answer in others. – nvoigt Jan 10 '17 at 9:41
  • Sorry, in the UK atm - added. – bobo2000 Jan 10 '17 at 10:09
  • You can explain the low salary - you and the company agreed that you needed to come up to speed in some skills, you got some stock, you were prepared to take a chance on being one of the first in at the "next google"... – Grimm The Opiner Jan 10 '17 at 10:39
  • @GrimmTheOpiner what if they then say that is fine, but given the jump in salary they would prefer if I accepted a lower amount. – bobo2000 Jan 10 '17 at 10:48

Should I lie ... ?


Lying in the professional world can come back to you in unexpected way. As an example : what if the company asks you for your previous contract, as a piece of the background check ? Then they will see a lie (and probably a big one, if you're talking about a x2 factor), which might endanger your employability.

However, asking for double your current pay could be a bad signal. The employer might wonder, for instance, why you are underpaid. You should prepare a solid answer to the past salary question, which could be the following : My salary in the previous job was not in line with my expectations and the market rate, which is one of the reasons why I decided to change jobs. I am now aiming at [Salary range XXXX-YYYY per annum] for this job. If the employer really wants to know, they will just request your previous contract in the background check anyway.

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    Can an employer in FR really get the terms of a previous contract? That seems incredibly invasive (and I'm in the UK where privacy is dead) – JohnHC Jan 10 '17 at 9:20
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    My salary in the previous job was not in line with my expectations and the market rate, which is one of the reasons why I decided to change jobs. I am now aiming at [Salary range XXXX-YYYY per annum] for this job. This is perfect, btw. – JohnHC Jan 10 '17 at 9:21
  • I was asked by a background checking company to provide them with proof of my three previous employments, preferably my contract since it doesn't raise any further question (an email from the boss implies checking that he really was your boss, etc). This job was located in France, for a major US software company and the background checking agency was based in the UK. – Thalantas Jan 10 '17 at 9:34
  • @JohnHC: The new company's payroll will have your payment history from the start of the tax year, that is from April, in your P45 form. They need that information to pay the right amount of income tax. You can refuse to hand over your P45 form, and they will deduct enough income tax to make sure you are paying enough, which will usually be much more than you need to pay. Of course that information should be confidential, but someone in the company knows. Unless you start on April 1st. – gnasher729 Jan 10 '17 at 10:40
  • @gnasher729 Provided the salary change is not too dramatic, a P46 should suffice, with a rebate at the end of the year. Oh, and it's April 6th, not 1st. You'd be amazed how many employers would get caught out by that back in the days of paper payroll (during my HMRC days) – JohnHC Jan 10 '17 at 10:51

You should never answer this question, but if you insist, be truthful. There are several reasons why not, but the most compelling one is from the sales perspective - you do not want to give the other side of the table access to this information, as it will give the upper hand in the negotiation. They know how much you are willing to work for, you don't know how much they are willing to pay. This ensures a skewed result. A second good argument is the fact that giving a low figure to them works as an anchor and makes sure that any offer they are evaluating will not be reviewed relative to your value, but relative to your anchor.

Avoid the question. "I'd much rather be talking about my future salary than my current" - is a bold answer but it is still better than giving them your current salary.

"I don't think this is relevant to this discussion" is another way, "I am not willing to disclose that particular information".

Just don't give a figure. But - if you insist, then tell the truth.

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No need to lie.

When the potential employer asks for your expected wage, you may answer what ever you feel like. If they ask for what you currently earn, simply decline to answer.

-- Added --

Please note that not disclosing everything is not equivalent to lying. Employers never disclose everything; how late projects are, bad technical choices made and so on.

If you disclose your current salary X and your target salary 2X, you will not get 2X - even if it is reasonable, because due to huma nature, doubling someone's wages just seems extreme for anyone who's not an absolute rock star.

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  • Doesn't that look worse, like if you are hiding something? – bobo2000 Jan 10 '17 at 9:11
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    Can't see why it would be bad to be honest. It's a deal between you and your current employer, and noone else has the right to know the details. – Daniel M. Jan 10 '17 at 9:19
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    If they press the issue, state that your current wage and your target wage are not comparable, as the current wage is in a start-up, where other factors have to be weighed in. And now - you are no longer interested in these other factors and therefore seek the market wage. – morsor Jan 10 '17 at 9:23
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    Do NOT decline to answer, but deflect it. "How much are you making now"? "I am looking for $x in a new position". – gnasher729 Jan 10 '17 at 9:29
  • @bobo2000: I would always hide anything that would put me into a worse negotiation position. And any employer would fully understand that, because they are doing the exact same thing (they are not telling me the maximum salary that they are willing to pay for the job). I have lots of things to hide that are nobody's business, and so does everyone. – gnasher729 Jan 10 '17 at 10:05

This is a tough one...

Honesty is normally the best policy. There is the potential that the new employer might know the old one and they have a chat and catch you out on your lie.

That said, unless I'm dealing with an recruitment agency/consultant, I inflate my salary to just below the bottom end of the advertised range. It's wrong, but if they think you're worth it they'll pay it.

On the flip side of this, when I was interviewing I would never ask what the interviewee was already on. It's far more telling to ask them their salary expectation. Those who come in with an honest estimate are generally worth what they ask for.

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When asked about your salary, you can say : I am sorry but this part is confidential in my contract due to special benefit so i can't disclose this information. But i can tell you, dear recruter, that i am expecting XXX USD/ year.

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  • Don't tell lies when there's no need, and when you will not be believed. All you have to say is that you don't wish to disclose the number. – gnasher729 Jan 11 '17 at 22:41
  • Yes, but if you say, "I don't why to disclose that number", the recruter will insist until you tell him/her your salary. Saying it is confidential avoid you to actually lied about your salary, and since it is confidential the recruter should't ask for a proof of you previous salary. – Dupond Jan 12 '17 at 0:55

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