Don’t tell them your salary history, tell them your salary requirements

One of the first questions a new recruiter or interviewing company will ask is “What are you earning now?”

It’s a standard industry question and one that seems innocuous. After all, what does it have to do with the job you’re applying for? Beware, though, because handing over your salary history puts you in a bad position in several ways. It’s time to stop telling them what you have, and start telling them what you want.

How easy are you to sell?

If you’re meeting with a recruitment consultant for the first time, and they ask you for you salary history, beware. You can reply by stating the kind of position you are currently interested in and asking what salary is the industry standard for such a position. They may take the hint and skip the question, but if they don’t, push back.

We need to work together here

Of course, most recruiters will argue that they only want this information so that they can help you find the right position, but this is nonsense. Some unethical recruiters, like some estate agents, are only interested in the commission. If they can get their fee after using you to fill a lower position more quickly, they will. However, it is in your best interest to wait for the higher paid position.

How cheaply can I get you?

Before you deride the recruitment industry, know that corporate employers are just as happy to use the same question for a different reason. Employers seem to think a new employee should be hired at their current salary, plus a little tip. If you’re asked in your interview for your current salary, respond again by telling them which salary level you are focusing on. Then you can turn the question around. Is this position in my salary expectations level?

It’s not for me, it’s for HR

This excuse is laughable, but how department heads and even CEOs love to wheel it out when they are in a fix. Essentially, they are lying to you, in order to be better placed to negotiate your future salary. The question is now, do you tell a lie back?

Before you start telling untruths, which are just as unethical and could backfire on you, take a different route. If your future company uses the excuse that HR requires a salary history of all employees, tell them you will release this to HR after you’ve signed your contract. Many companies have a salary confidentiality clause in their contracts, so to say that you can’t disclose for this reason, would also be perfectly acceptable.

We can’t proceed without your cooperation

Ultimately, there may come a time when the person on the other side of the desk puts the brakes on. That can be a useful sign too. Be it a company or a recruiter, trying to bully you into a weaker position shows that they are not an employer or service of choice. Take the opportunity to walk away. You wouldn’t be happy there anyway.

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The British Institute of Recruiters is the Professional Body operating The Recruitment Certification Scheme

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