Early this year, I saw this article from Forbes doing the rounds, putting forward the reasons to hide your salary from recruiters, and how to change the conversation, deflect and evade. It garnered plenty of comment, much of which I disagreed with.
Let me be plain. I believe you should tell your recruiter your current salary. I like to believe that—at senior level at least—recruiters can be trusted to judge you on your merits and experience, not your salary. You can be honest (which is always great) and a good recruiter won’t judge or take advantage. Some businesses pay less, some more. Some industries pay less, some more. Some people have negotiated a bit more over their tenure, others haven’t. Ultimately, your current salary isn’t really all that relevant beyond a pretty rudimentary (and possibly lazy!) mud measure of your ‘level’. Your skills, experience, and cultural fit to the job in question are what matters most.
In fact, I often only really ask the salary question to find out if you’re currently getting MORE than what’s on offer (which often isn’t advertised in the roles I handle), in which case I want to tell you straight away. Plenty of candidates simply don’t want to go backwards, and often this is a dead stop in the process. Quite often, though, the salary question leads to a good discussion about the responsibilities of the role, the industry, and the candidate’s motivations and triggers. If I didn’t ask, I wouldn’t know there was going to be a critical block when we got down to the nuts and bolts. I’ve wasted your time, and no one wants that.
So you what should you say? Let’s say the job’s offering 150k, and you’re only on 130k. I’d advise you to convince your recruiter that you’re absolutely worth that ‘extra’ money. You’ve implemented 30% cost savings across HR, you’ve led a successful programme leading to a 10% increase in retention year-on-year, or you’ve played a huge part in an organisational change programme that turned the business around. All of these things are far more convincing than a candidate saying ‘I’d rather not say’. Of course, I respect your right to say that …
Finally, back to honesty. I like to think that there is a good core of recruiters out there who aren’t lazy, and aren’t duplicitous, game-playing shysters. When I think about my competitors in this market, I generally think they’re a good bunch of trustworthy professionals (although it really pains me when they win a job I want to deliver!) These are the sorts of recruiters you can trust with your salary information, because they aren’t so shallow as to take advantage or judge in isolation.
I’m sure people have had bad experiences—and hopefully good ones—and I’d be interested to hear your comments. Please, normal rules, no names of people or companies.