Founder and CEO, Human Workplace
How To Answer “What’s Your Current Salary?”*
You are almost guaranteed to get the question “What’s your current salary?” or “What are you earning now?” when you’re looking for a new job.
You have to be ready to answer the question with a smile while keeping your personal salary-history information private.
Lots of in-house recruiters and third-party recruiters take it for granted that they are entitled to know your current and past salaries, but that is a bad assumption on their part.
Of course they want to know what you are earning now and what you’ve earned at every job you’ve ever held.
It gives them and the employer they work for a huge negotiating advantage when they know your salary details. You would love to know what they paid the last person in the job, too, but they’re not about to give you that information — so why should you part with your salary information?
You may find it helpful to practice answering the question “What’s your current salary?” so that you can answer it smoothly and comfortably without stumbling.
RECRUITER: So, what’s your current salary?
YOU: In this job search I’m focusing on jobs in the $50K range. Is this position in that range?
RECRUITER: Probably, but I need to know your salary details.
YOU: I understand — many companies ask for that information but of course, that is my private financial data and my accountant has been very emphatic with me that it is not to be shared with anyone — just like your company would never share its salary data. Can you find out whether this opportunity pays in the $50K range? If so, then it may make sense for us to keep talking.
Now the recruiter has to make a decision. Either he or she lets a talented candidate drop out of the pipeline (you!) because he or she can’t stand to have a candidate refuse to roll over and play the submissive dog — or the recruiter has to go back to the client and say “I have a great candidate for you, and I don’t know the candidate’s salary details but I know their salary target, which is $50K.”
It’s a new day. We are all shaking the toxic lemonade out of our veins and realizing that there is no reason whatsoever for job-seekers to grovel and beg just to get a job.
Employers need talent. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be wasting their time talking with you!
Some recruiters will bluster and harrumph when you tell them that you’re not going to give up your private salary information. Some of them may even have the nerve to talk about “transparency” and “trust.”
They want you to trust them and give them information that will be in their client’s possession within ten minutes after you cough it up, if you spill the beans. Then you can expect to get a job offer that’s a small jump up from your last salary level, even if your background should command a much greater sum.
Transparency and trust cut both ways. No recruiter would ever have to ask a job-seeker for his or her salary information if the employer had only included the salary range in the job ad!
Some recruiters will say “I can’t represent if you won’t give up your salary information” and if they say that, you can say “Great, I have lots to do and I’m sure you do too, so I’ll get off the phone now” and hang up.
Recruiters have nothing to sell and no way to make money unless they have qualified candidates like you ready to present to employers. For way too long, the ruling paradigm in recruiting has been “Employers make the rules, and job-seekers follow the rules.” Those days are over!
Google the terms “talent shortage” and “talent wars” and you’ll see what I mean. When you know that you bring something to the table that not every job-seeker does, you have leverage in the hiring process. Don’t give it away just because a recruiter bullies you!
What if you are completing an online job application and can’t proceed in the online job application process without filling in your salary details? Here’s how to handle that situation!
Questions and Answers
Here are answers to common salary-related questions recruiters and employer representatives will ask you.
You say your salary target is $55K, but how do I know that you’re worth that much if I don’t know what you were paid before?
Please ask me any questions you’d like about my background or about how I’d solve a problem you are facing in your company. You will certainly be able to gauge my qualifications and my market value, since you do this all the time!
By the way, does my $55K salary target match your hiring range for this position?
All the other candidates gave me their salary history. Why won’t you?
I understand completely. If you are overwhelmed with qualified candidates for this position, I’d hate to take up any more of your time!
You know, you have to trust me if we’re going to work together. I’ve been recruiting for a long time and I know what I’m doing.
For sure! I shared my salary target and if that is not sufficient for you or your client, I am happy to drop out of this process. If you follow Liz Ryan of Human Workplace you may know the adage “Only the people who get you, deserve you!” and that is my belief as well. I wish you all the best in filling this position!
Liz, I am a recruiter and I always ask my candidates for their salary history. My clients demand it!
I understand that clients can be pushy! This is a great time for you to find your voice and advise your clients rather than allowing them to walk all over you. You are a search consultant. Consultants don’t scurry off to do their clients’ bidding. They advise their clients!
You can tell your client "I understand why you’d like to have a candidate’s salary history, but that is no longer a standard request to make, and it’s a big turn-off to candidates to ask for that information.
“I can tell you whether or not a candidate is qualified for any job you are trying to fill, so you don’t have to worry about overpaying anyone. We’ll get the best candidates by respecting their boundaries!”
You have more influence than you think. Not every Tom, Dick and Harriett on the street can do what you do.
Don’t let anybody bully you into giving up personal information that no recruiter, HR person or hiring manager needs to evaluate your suitability for employment.
If they are pushy when they’re trying to recruit you, imagine what it would be like to work for them!
I want to learn how to evaluate my market salary and how to negotiate to get paid what I’m worth!
Check out the Four-Week Virtual Course “Know What You’re Worth and Get Paid for It!” You can follow your course over four weeks or get all four lessons delivered to you right away!
I want to learn how to recruit more effectively!
Take a look at the Four-Week Virtual Course “Recruiting With a Human Voice!”
Reach us with your questions here!
Founder and CEO, Human Workplace