One of the most popular articles on asktheheadhunter.com is Keep Your Salary Under Wraps. The advice is simple: Don’t disclose your current salary or your salary history when a prospective employer asks you for it.
The reason is also simple: When you disclose your salary information, your negotiating leverage is gone. Your salary history is not any employer’s business. Always decline to disclose, politely but firmly. No matter what they say, no matter what they threaten. In fact, be ready to walk away if they don’t back off. It’s not worth talking to a company that insists on having your salary info.
(Go ahead and post arguments about why employers must have an applicant’s salary history and why applicants must disclose the information if they want to be considered for a job. If you work in HR and I’ve made you nervous, go ahead and level every threat you can think of to protect your hiring hegemony. I’ve heard all the dusty rationalizations. None of them hold water. They are all rubbish. I’ll answer every single one.)
I regularly receive e-mails from readers who take this bold position when applying for a job. They are almost always astonished to realize that employers back off from the demand if the applicant stands firm.
Having controlled their confidential salary information once, people never go back to forking it over. They lose their fear. They are emboldened. They send me stories about how they walk out of interviews when the employer threatens to terminate their candidacy unless they divulge the magic number. People learn to say no, and they realize that conceding is wrong. They realize that employers who insist are a bad risk. Why work for someone who tries to force you to share private information that has no bearing on your interview, on your value, on whether you get an offer, or on what the new salary offer is?
A fellow named Ryan runs a blog called The Idealistic Investor. It’s a new blog, not much stuff on it, but all the articles are about some aspect of personal investing and work — and full of common sense. What I like is that Ryan is a techie. He works in IT (information technology) and he brings a techie’s practical, clear-headed perspective to pesky issues like stress at work, layoffs and what to do with your money.
Ryan is also one of the people who politely but firmly declined to divulge his salary history to an insistent reruiter at a technology company. The phone call ended and so did Ryan’s expectation for a job interview or a job. Learning what happened next is worth your time, and probably a nice bit of change in your next job offer: Do You Disclose Your Salary History? Check it out, then tell me what you think.
[UPDATED 3/17/09] Some of the dialogue here stems from today’s edition of the Ask The Headhunter Newsletter: HR’s salary moxie.