March 4, 2009

How to make more money: Withhold your salary history

Filed under: Interviewing, Making money

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.

51 Comments on “How to make more money: Withhold your salary history”
By Jeffery Land
March 4, 2009 at 7:59 pm

I ran across your article back on my previous job hunt and tried to stick by it. It was to my advantage after all as I was severely underpaid. I had one recruiter who laughed when I refused to disclose and a few more that really turned screws in trying to pry the information out of me. It was tough the first couple of times but things got easier from there. In my current job hunt I made the mistake of slipping into my old ways and got insulted for asking for 5k more than I had been making, and in a higher cost of living area too. That nipped the laziness in the butt and has kept me tight lipped ever since. I’ve been run across more and more employers being pushy about it though. I’m used to the recruiters but this time around even the hiring managers are pushy about salary history. Claiming it is under NDA doesn’t phase them either. I’ve had managers argue that you have to disclose your salary history because other jobs require it (what kind of logic is that?!) and banks and credit card companies require it. Interesting, but I’m never giving out the information again.

By Jesse Hachey
March 4, 2009 at 8:18 pm

Very good point, Nick, and one that I bring up with all of my candidates. We are very stern on candidates going into interviews about divulging your salary information. Your leverage is gone because now, the hiring manager will see you with a “price tag” – and will judge you based on that fact, and that fact alone. What’s the problem with that, you say? In the best case scenario, you’re exactly what the company is looking to pay (very rare) and they’re pleased and they hire you. In the worst case scenario, you’re looking for a number that is drastically lower than what the company was looking to pay (surprisingly, more common than you would think) and you’ve done two things: a.) Made the company excited over you because you’re so cheap and affordable, and b.) driven your respect level in their eyes into the toilet.

WITHHOLD your salary history – and don’t let them bully you around! :)

By Jesse Hachey
March 4, 2009 at 8:22 pm

In response to Jeffery’s comment, recruiters are usually a different story when it comes to being considered for a position. Recruiters DO need to know your salary, otherwise they won’t be sure which positions to consider you for. If I have three companies, and company A is paying $50K for this skillset, company B is paying $100K for this skillset, and company C is paying $150K for this skillset, which of these roles do you fit best into? I wouldn’t want to present you to company C if you’re more of a fit for Company A, and vice-versa.

If you’re asked what your salary is by a recruiter, a good pre-response would be “that information is sensitive to me, and while I would be comfortable sharing it with you because it will be critical to getting me the RIGHT job, I need your confirmation and your word that this information will not prematurely go to your client”. This way, you will cover your butt and reduce headaches on both sides of the ring.

By Another Steve
March 5, 2009 at 1:30 am

Jesse, your comment overlooks Nick’s most important point: Once you disclose your salary history to anyone, you lose control of it.

Recruiters don’t work for the candidate, and have no legal obligation to honor any candidate’s request for secrecy. In addition, your example falls into the trap of trying to match salary instead of skills. If a candidate making $40k kicks ass, why not put her up for the $150k gig? After all, your example assumes equivalent skill sets.

Outside of my employer and the IRS, two people know my salary: my wife, and her sister (who’s also our tax attorney). I fully intend to keep it that way.

By Bob
March 5, 2009 at 10:01 am

On the other hand, when we work for a company, it would seem a good idea to know the salaries of everyone. In the goverment, people know the salary ranges of everyone’s pay grade. It restricts unfair pricing/salary rules in the corporation and give people a lot of leverage to know what they could go for.

By Nick Corcodilos
March 5, 2009 at 11:20 am

Great dialogue. It’s a messy topic. Kudos to Jeffery for sharing his story and perspective. Jesse brings up a thorny side of this. Nice to see a headhunter advise his candidates to withhold salary from a client. It’s actually to the client’s advantage. But like Another Steve, I don’t agree with Jesse’s rationale for telling a headhunter your salary. However, I do think Jesse is right: you should tell a good headhunter your salary, because a good headhunter will not disclose it to his client. I’d like to cover why to disclose in another posting – no time to do it right now. But the basic idea is this: A good hh, armed with the info, can advise the candidate and deal with the client better if he knows your salary. I don’t agree with Jesse’s suggestion (and I’m not sure he meant it this way) that if your salary is low, he’s only gonna send you in for the lower-paying jobs. I get the sense from Jesse (could be wrong) that he’s got a pretty sophisticated view of this.

I’ll offer one example from quite a while ago: A guy I placed who was earning $54k. I never disclosed his salary to the client. I negotiated the new salary by starting at $75k because that’s what I thought the job was worth. We settled on $88k because I learned more. The client to this day doesn’t know the candidate’s old salary. And it doesn’t matter. If the candidate had not told me he was making $54k, he would have blown it in the interviews, because they discussed comp with him. Having told me his comp, he was emboldened to refuse to discuss salary with the client – he told them that I knew what it was and they should discuss it with me. There’s finesse behind the approach and I’m not expressing it well here. Let me think about how to explain this and I’ll write something more coherent.

Bottom line: You should not disclose even to a headhunter unless you know/trust him/her. Know your headhunter, or don’t work with them. If you trust the hh, share the info. He’s like a doctor or lawyer. The more you tell him, the better he can advise you. More later.

By Ryan
March 5, 2009 at 9:51 pm

I speak from personal experience when I say that Nick’s advice is absolutely correct. Not only did I refuse to disclose my salary and win big as a result, but I’ve now been on the hiring side of the equation and I’ve seen how employers think about the process. The employers are busy, have to make decisions quickly, and have to sort through dozens or hundreds of applicants. Current salary is a quick heuristic by which a potential employer can (mis)judge you, and there is no undoing their bias.

Nick,

Thanks for mentioning my blog. Keep on telling the truth and delivering the best career advice on the web.

By Andy Lester
March 6, 2009 at 6:06 pm

Part of it is a cultural problem. People say it’s tough to say no, because we’re conditioned to leave everything as an open book. Americans are not used to keeping the kimono closed. We post to Twitter that we’re going to the bathroom, or we discuss our surgeries in the lunch room, and have no sense of what’s appropriate to discuss and what’s not. So when it comes time to say “no,” we don’t know how.

I think the most important tack in approaching the refusal to divulge salary information is to be honest, and to not argue. Simply respond, “I’m sorry, that’s confidential.” Don’t lie or claim it’s under NDA or anything like that. “It’s confidential” is all you need to say. It also shuts down the arguing, which is what they will use to wear you down.

“So, I just need to know your salary history from your last three employers.”
“I’m sorry, I can’t. It’s confidential.”
“It’s part of our policy.”
“I understand that, but it’s confidential.”
“What, all three employers signed you to NDAs?”
“It’s confidential.”
“I can’t go forward with the process without filling in these fields on the form.”
“I’m sorry, but I can’t divulge that. It’s confidential.”

Use it like a mantra. It answers everything and answers nothing, which is how it should be. It works with nosy relatives, too.

“Hey, Bob, I heard you got a new job. How much you pullin’ down now?”
“I’m sorry, but I can’t discuss it. It’s confidential.”
“Aw, come on, we’re family!”
“I’m sorry, it’s confidential.”
“I told you what I’m making.”
“It’s confidential.”

It’s also funny how people are astonished at the idea of being able to say no. The indexer on my book mailed me and said “I like what you said about salary history and exit interviews. I never realized you could refuse those!”

And thanks as always to Nick for making the stand.

By Damian Penston
March 7, 2009 at 9:51 am

My company has a client that not only insists on knowing the salary history of the candidate, but has also demanded proof because her old salary was above their budget.

Did it make any difference? They still offered her a salary that was within their budget, so all they achieved was to make themselves look bad.

By Dave Hardwick
March 7, 2009 at 12:50 pm

Nick:

I’m not certain I agree with this advice!

Here’s my counter: http://jobhacking.typepad.com/job_hacking/2009/03/what-happens-when-you-dont-pay-attention-to-statistics.html

Would love to read what more you have to say about this!

By Ryan
March 7, 2009 at 4:17 pm

Dave,

Respectfully, I believe that in attempting to refute Nick’s argument, you’ve created a logical fallacy yourself; specifically, the Straw Man Fallacy. You’re refuting an argument that Nick didn’t make. Nick didn’t say, “My experience and the reports of others have are statistically valid evidence that withholding your salary history is usually beneficial.” He said (paraphrasing), “My experience and the reports of others have convinced me that withholding your salary history is usually beneficial.”

I think we all realize that a controlled, peer-reviewed study would be more robust evidence than Nick’s expert opinion. It would be nice if we could have such a study any time we had to make a judgment call in life. But, those studies are time consuming and expensive, so we have to rely on the judgments of experts or think the issue through ourselves. But the fact that we don’t have as much evidence as we’d like doesn’t mean Nick’s assertion is false. The absence of evidence isn’t evidence.

By Your Thoughts: Candidates, Salary, and Disclosure « Punk Rock Human Resources
March 8, 2009 at 9:47 am

[...] Nick Corcodilos, of Ask the Headhunter, advises you to never disclose your salary to a recruiter or company during your job search. [...]

By Barry Deutsch
March 8, 2009 at 12:29 pm

Perhaps this will work with some employers – but I will share that in the 25 years I’ve been doing recruiting – if you refuse to provide this information – most of the time you will not be asked back.

So, as a candidate you’ve got a probability assessment to make. If you stand firm and refuse to give the information, are you willing to walk away from the opportunity to continue interviewing. It’s not a right/wrong thing to withhold the information – it’s a risk assessment. If you find that in your profession, you can avoid giving the information, keep doing it. If you wonder why you’re not being asked back, perhaps this is one of the reasons.

The only time an employer will let you get away with not providing the information in the early interview stage is when you’re at top 1-2% candidate – and that’s rare.

As a recruiter, the candidate either provides this information to me in the early stages of our conversation (first 20 minutes) or we will end the call. I’m being paid by my client to collect this information and not having a precise detailed salary history for a candidate is grounds for a verbal tongue lashing.

By Nick Corcodilos
March 8, 2009 at 1:44 pm

Barry,

I know that historically employers and headhunters insist on having salary history. But your comments reveal the underlying problem and blow your advice to bits.

I expect that your clients want to hire leading-edge people — those in the top 1-2%, right? And as you admit, those 1-2% are the ones who will “get away” with keeping their salary confidential.

So, what’s the problem? The other 98% aren’t going to get hired by your client anyway. They’re the wrong candidates for your assignment. What does it matter whether you or your client rap them on the knuckles and threaten them with failure everywhere they go?

All that matters to me is that the best candidates you interview — the ones your client wants to hire — are strong enough to keep their salaries under wraps.

If people withhold their salary info, they will eventually interview with a company that really wants them. And that company will back off on the salary demand. Mission accomplished.

The only one getting a tongue-lashing is you. Have you considered advising your clients to stop this dopey behavior? Because in the end, all it does is make them look bad to ALL candidates.

By lisa rokusek
March 9, 2009 at 7:22 am

This is bad advice. It would be better to say be careful when you disclose such information, or how, or to whom you disclose it. Saying don’t disclose will rob a candidate of potential opportunities.

I won’t work with people who won’t divulge compensation history to me. You might say, cool, I don’t want to work with you either, and that is fine. But I often have the inside track to positions. I am picky about both the candidates I represent as well as the clients.

Also, my clients often have a policy in place regarding compensation, more and more are requiring documentation of previous compensation. Refusing that information can forfeit an offer. I think it irresponsible to make such absolute blanket statements as “never disclose salary information”. I think it would be far more helpful to help candidates navigate that discussion in a way that helps them maximize their leverage instead of potentially shutting a door in their face.

If I am working with a candidate who is underpaid (yes, it does happen) then I can make an argument to the client that they need to pay market rate in order to keep that candidate happy in the long run. Personally I don’t work with companies that lowball candidates – makes for a very short relationship. So by talking with me honestly I can assist in a potential offer. If I don’t get that traction with a candidate, they’ll never hear about my opportunities.

By Karsten
March 9, 2009 at 8:42 am

There are basically three reasons why potential amployers want to know candidates’ salary history:
1. If the candidate’s current salary is higher than what they want to pay, they can terminate the hiring process, possibly fearing that he/she will jump ship at next opportunity. Foolish, since they will never know if the candidate could want to work for a lower salary.
2. If the salary is lower than what they expected to pay, they will lower the offer.
3. Baceuse some bureaucratic rules have always made them ask the question.

None of these are to the advantage of the candidate, so why should the candidate comply?

If a company wants to determine salary based on some previous statistics, rather than a proper negotiation on what the candidate can offer the company and what that is worth, the company basically tells the candidate” we are clueless in selecting good candidates”.

The proper reply to such inquiries is simply: “Don’t stick you nose into things that are none of your business” (probably a bit more politely, though :D

Now, as a liberal European, I am a supporter of labour unions to ensure that employers don’t abuse employees, and as such I see the necessity for statistics. I also se the argument for disclosing pay statistics _within_ companies to prevent jealousity and internal conflicts based on rumours. But none of that necessitates disclosure during the hiring process.

By Nick Corcodilos
March 9, 2009 at 11:34 am

Lisa makes the argument for salary disclosure to a headhunter who knows what she’s doing. But I expect she provides good justification to the candidate for why they should tell her what they currently make. A (good) headhunter is in an unusual position to make good use of salary info, but there must be a lot of trust from the candidate. Lisa, what would you do if the best candidate you encountered on an assignment politely but firmly declined to give you salary info? Would you dump them, try to make your case better, or let it slide and present them anyway? (See my comment dated Mar. 8 above.)

Karsten reiterates the key point in this whole debate: Is the company clueless about how to establish a candidate’s value on its own? I think most companies fit that bill. I believe that’s why companies routinely request salary history.

If we look at this coldly, the bottom line is that salary disclosure benefits the employer, but not the candidate. In fact, it almost always puts the candidate at a disadvantage.

By Ask The Headhunter® | Nick Corcodilos - Why you should tell me your salary
March 9, 2009 at 11:45 am

[...] How to make more money we’re discussing why a job hunter should decline to state salary history. People who stand [...]

By Karsten
March 9, 2009 at 12:25 pm

Lisa Rokusek wrote:
“I won’t work with people who won’t divulge compensation history to me. You might say, cool, I don’t want to work with you either, and that is fine. But I often have the inside track to positions. I am picky about both the candidates I represent as well as the clients.”

What you say here is, essentially, that complying with some bureaucratic rules is more important to you than filling these insider positions with good people. Is that what your clients pay you for?

By Team Taskmaster mobile edition
March 9, 2009 at 11:45 pm

[...] at Punk Rock Human Resources tackled the salary-disclosure question last week. She noted that Nick Corcodilos, of Ask the Headhunter, advises you to never disclose your salary to a recruiter or company during [...]

By JD
March 10, 2009 at 3:08 am

The mere suggestion that disclosing salary history to anyone, including headhunters, is advantageous to the candidate is laughable.

The company must determine what the position is worth independent of a candidate. The company must then determine what a candidate is worth based on their skills and experience — relative to the position they need to fill or one molded to a particular candidate.

To say that one’s past salary should enter into these equations is admitting that you will take advantage of someone who is stupid enough to divulge more information than you’re willing to.

You’re right Lisa, I refuse to work for, or with, someone with such respulsive ethics.

And Jesse, it’s your job to determine what a candidate is worth and what positions are a good fit. The candidate will quickly let you know if an available salary is too low to consider the position.

I’d love to play poker with the “divulge” camp using your rules. You show me your hole cards and I’ll keep mine to myself.

By JT
March 10, 2009 at 11:23 am

I agree with all the arguments that it is private info and irrelevant to the conversation at hand. And I have used many of the suggested talking points, but I keep getting pushed by the employer to disclose. Given that I am unemployed and have no other fish on my line, I’m boxed in. I can’t afford (literally and figuratively) to lose this opportunity.

In the current economy, how much leverage do candidates actually have?

By Nick Corcodilos
March 10, 2009 at 11:51 am

JT,

How much leverage do you want during salary negotiations?

In the end, you must decide what’s best for you. Never take anyone’s advice if you believe it’s contrary to what you think is best.

By Steve Amoia
March 10, 2009 at 1:56 pm

To say the least, this has been a very interesting and thought-provoking discussion.

Allow me to provide two of my own examples that Nick posted on the ATH site many years ago.

1. “If an NBA player coming out of high school or college has no salary history, why does he receive a guaranteed multi-million dollar contract? Based upon salary history, he should play for the league minimum wage. Most high school or college graduates are paid entry-level salaries since they have no work experience or significant salary histories. The NBA player is paid the market rate based on supply and demand for his skills.”

2. “Have you ever gone to a restaurant, and when the time came for paying the bill, did the waiter or waitress ever ask: ‘I need to know what you paid for your last meal. Then we’ll know what to charge you?’ “

By Som
March 10, 2009 at 6:05 pm

I wonder if this advice is good for someone just coming out of college to his first full time job?

I suppose it is. Imagine some college kid saying “well I only worked part time for $10/hour”. The company could virtually negotiate anything they want with the poor kid. Also, like with any other job hunter, this forces the managers to look at only what value the new kid will bring to the company, and not, um, “traditional irrelevances”.

On the hand, what difference would it make to divulge the info or not if the post college guy had no job experience at all? That’s hard to hide since the lack of experience would be seen through the guy’s resume (maybe that’s another reason not to make a resume!)

But even if there’s no potential monetary benefit for the experience-less college kid, why not withhold the info anyway? Hey, you’re never too young to learn and use some good negotiation skills :-D

By Ask The Headhunter® | Nick Corcodilos - Salary history: Will HR put up or shut up?
March 12, 2009 at 12:13 pm

[...] recent postings (How to make more money, Why you should tell me your salary) we’ve discussed whether job applicants should disclose [...]

By Nick
March 15, 2009 at 12:17 pm

Maybe you should answer back with a question: What about YOUR salary history, mr. Hiring Manager?
Or: What about the salary history of employees working in the same or a similar position in your company?

By Steve
March 17, 2009 at 6:47 am

Great article today “An HR worker complains”. I can tell your from personal experience. I was doing the “don’t tell” game with one hiring manager and I was basically kicked out of the office.

I don’t disagree with Nick’s philosophy. Just keep in mind that the world is full of people that can not adapt. I personally don’t care about the quality of a companies’ HR person. I just want to get past the annoying gatekeeper.

If you take Nick’s advice, there is risk.

By scottthekyhrguy
March 17, 2009 at 12:51 pm

Steve — you fail to mention that the NBA has a player’s union, collective bargaining and a rookie salary cap. It’s not apples to apples. And, yes, the minute I find a high school senior who has passed his Professional Engineer’s exam and can design a pressure vessel that will work in an active refinery I will pay him whatever his agent negotiates for him (less, of course, his agent’s commission).

As far as the restaurant goes, you’re right, the restaurant owner doesn’t know what the diner paid for his last meal. He’d have to go through the ENORMOUSLY ARDUOUS AND CONFIDENTIALITY BUSTING task of reading someone else’s menu to get that information.

So, I guess what you’re saying is candidates should put fixed non-negotiable price tags at the top of their resumes, they should all be represented by agents who take commissions, and they should all belong to unions? I’m just extrapolating. Correct me if I’m wrong.

By scottthekyhrguy
March 17, 2009 at 1:02 pm

Nick — you’re offering some pretty contentious advice. Would there not be a more collaborative way to suggest candidates avoid this question? Getting down to brass tacks, for some jobs THE UNFORTUNATE TRUTH IS THAT CANDIDATES WILL HAVE TO REVEAL SALARY HISTORY IF THEY WISH TO CONTINUE THE INTERVIEW PROCESS. Believe it or not, it’ll be management at all levels pushing for the information; not HR. For most interviews, tactfully stating that total compensation (including benefits, variable pay, etc…) is more important than salary and that you’d rather discuss responsibility and role in relation to what you’re being asked to produce. You’re more or less saying the same thing — which is “I’m not ready or willing to discuss my salary requirements in the context in which you just asked the question,” but you’re not saying it in a way that suggests you’re arrogant, uncomfortable with authority, or difficult to work with. “Why don’t YOU tell me YOUR salary?” is kinda all the above.

By Matt F.
March 17, 2009 at 8:47 pm

From the newsletter: If our company is recruiting someone from a competitor, she’s judging that candidate based on our competitor’s assessment. If we can’t judge for ourselves, where is our competitive edge? (And what if our competitor made a mistake?)

Actually, this is a common occurrence. Ever go to a store that had a price match policy? In order to stay competitive, stores often piggyback off of their competitors pricing schemes by reducing theirs to match upon seeing proof from a customer. A more famous example is Burger King. Instead of spending huge sums of money to figure out where to build their restaurants, they just looked at where McDonalds had their stores and built them nearby.

The bottom line is that for most candidates, it really is a David vs Golaith situation in the job market. If you’re a rockstar candidate, this might fly, but if you’re an mere mortal trying to put food on the table, the risk of being shown the door is too great to bear.

By caramba09
March 18, 2009 at 2:28 am

So from what I gather is this..by some of the idiots who have ‘warned’ Nick about giving us bad advice about not divulging our salaries..

1. If I do not tell you my current salary, you will not consider me and the interview will be over…

hmmm…lets see then…then I guess we should research what the top range of what our salaries SHOULD be and then LIE our asses off to HR, since it is all just a back-alley game anyways…right?
Ethics at its finest..whoohoo
Way to go HR, you have hit an all time low!

Oh and by the way, the comment in the letter to Nick by the HR rep:

“Nice-looking people have been known to lie through their teeth to maintain their standard of living — like being able to afford food”

I smell Karma coming your direction, glass houses shatter.

By scottthekyhrguy
March 18, 2009 at 3:04 pm

Don’t lie about anything on an application. Ever. You can refuse (or neglect) to disclose, but lying on an application is grounds for termination in any job other than maybe politics.

By wgc
April 16, 2009 at 2:53 pm

The only solution I’ve found that suits everyone is sort of caramba09′s idea … If they keep pressing, I respond “I am looking for $x”. I’m losing my leverage, but at a higher price point. Assuming I am asking something reasonable, the process is allowed to continue. Any forthcoming offer will be for that amount, rather than my previous amount plus a token cost of living increase.

By mr3nt
April 22, 2009 at 2:45 pm

I just did this, not because I wanted to “make more money” but on principle. This after I passed the 6 interviews with flying colors and they told me that they were ready to make an offer.If I could just complete the application with salary history as its their “policy”. I declined.

You can judge how smart the company was because they withdrew their offer. Quite clearly not a place one would want to work at anyway.

It was a hard choice for me to stick to principle because these are desperate times and everyone needs jobs right now. Perhaps this is what they are taking advantage of. But I don’t regret my decision one bit.

By Keep Your Salary History Private. Maybe. | Punk Rock Human Resources
December 29, 2009 at 7:47 am

[...] Nick Corcodilos, of Ask the Headhunter, advises you to never disclose your salary to a recruiter or company during your job search. [...]

By Kelly Magowan
January 25, 2010 at 2:44 am

A great post and I agree 100% with your advice. Your negotiation power diminishes the moment you disclose the salary you are looking for be it with an employer direct or recruiter. I have written a free salary negotiation guide in which there is a section that covers this point. Visit http://www.sixfigures.com.au/job_seekers/resources/tags/salary-negotiation

By Why not to disclose your current salary at interviews « Six Figures Blog
January 26, 2010 at 9:55 pm

[...] or employer to disclose the salary first. Ask the Headhunter has a great article on the topic ‘How to make more money: Withhold your salary history’. As the article states “The advice is simple: Don’t disclose your current salary or your salary [...]

By Bluey
January 26, 2010 at 11:22 pm

I agree with the assertion to never give salary history, but what about salary expectation?
When in the interview process should one inform the hiring company one’s salary expectation?
I’d prefer to answer this at the final stage, that is, once the employer decides they must have you. I really hate answering this one too early, but how does one say “not yet” politely?

By Kelly Magowan
January 30, 2010 at 5:30 am

Hi Bluey,

Past salary should not be disclosed, nor salary or remumuneration package expectations until an offer is on the table. Not always easy I know.

Some examples to delay this include:
“I would prefer to find out more about the position, the responsibilities and expectations before getting into any salary discussions”.
“I am sure that your company offers a fair compensation scale, and if we both decide that this is a worthwhile match, I am confident we will be able to agree on a salary”.
“I have researched the salaries for this level of position, with the market value of the total compensation package being within X range”.

Kelly

By Jim
October 18, 2010 at 10:54 am

how should I go about refusing to divulge a candidates salary information to a client who knows that I have that information, and asks (insists) on having it…without annoying the client and damaging my relationship with the client?

By 93 most read job search articles | Careerclassic.Com
January 21, 2011 at 9:02 am

[...] How to make more money: Withhold your salary history from Ask The Headhunter® [...]

By Anonymous
March 2, 2011 at 3:45 am

I think it’s amazing how people think they can avoid answering this question when applying for a job today. The internet has changed everything. You can paper the walls at big companies with your resume but if you should want to apply for a specific position you are politely directed to a website where you will have to fill out an online application that asks you for the DOLLAR AMOUNT you made in your last position…..And there’s no way to get out of filling out that field or putting non-numerical characters in it either. The form will not let you proceed without putting numbers into it. PLUS, if you try to apply for the job without using the internet, you are politely told that “all candidates must apply for positions using the online system”. I have been told this so many times I have given up trying to do things the old fashioned way. I am surprised that no one here seems to be aware of this.

By Kelly
March 2, 2011 at 4:36 am

Anonymous makes a good point, where increasingly larger employers are feeding applicants via big clunky applicant tracking systems that generally serve to deter or frustrate potential applicants.
These processes are time consuming asking the job seeker to complete a series of irrelevant questions and requesting you to re-enter and re-word your resume in a thousand different ways. This process is designed to decrease the administrative burden on those hiring while increasing the burden and time wasted by applicants. Those using this approach generally do so to utilize the software to screen resumes for key word matches before a human eye is cast upon a resume.
Particularly at the professional levels it seems the most illogical way to go about recruiting when you are assessing ‘soft skills’ however today recruitment seems to be increasingly about throughput and minimizing the human contact. Rather ironic really, particularly when organizations espouse how important employees and future talent is!
It certainly is frustrating when you encounter these online application processes and have no choice but to enter a salary if you want to apply for the role. This does decrease your salary negotiation power. My suggestions are to avoid companies that recruit like this (as you will generally always only be a number) or to find a way to get your application in front of the decision maker/s for that role or department. See if you know anyone who works there and if they have an employee referral program or make attempts to contact someone at the executive level to pitch to.

By Nick Corcodilos
March 2, 2011 at 10:10 am

@Anonymous, @Kelly: I think you should by no means avoid such companies. As you point out, all these HR depts are doing is hurting their own companies. So take the Zen approach: When you cannot climb over the mountain, go around the mountain. Or look harder: There IS no mountain.

Invest time to find the managers and talk to them directly. Meet employees and people who do business with the company. Get introduced, so you will be judged by who refers you, and by who you are, so you won’t have to fill out a dopey form to get in the door.

Please: Don’t let your frustration get in the way of common sense. Forms don’t hire anyone. HR doesn’t hire anyone (except other HR people). A company’s jobs page is not the only door.

By Kelly
March 2, 2011 at 8:37 pm

Hi Nick I really like your approach and advice. When job searching a variety of strategies are required to achieve your end goal. It is not always easy however as you have suggested shifting your mind set and thinking outside the square certainly helps. Your point about Forms, HR and the Job Page not being the only door are important for job seekers to always remember.

By Anonymous
March 3, 2011 at 4:02 am

Hi, I’m the same “anonymous” as above – I think largely because of the recession and the fact that employers are bombarded with resumes that it is becoming increasingly hard to get personal with anyone in HR unless you happen to have a real “in” in the company. HR depts. are keeping their phone numbers secret and even when you do get through you’re never allowed to speak to a live person or at least one that matters. They’ve done everything they can to keep people out because they just don’t have the time to get personal with everyone who wants to chat them up. There are just too many of them. It’s a whole new ball game in this recession. Much harder than before.

I am an executive admin. assistant and for someone in my line of work it is very hard to “network” as I don’t have business contacts everywhere in my area. I have only a few and these days unless you have someone very close to you who is brothers with the CEO and is willing to go above and beyond for you, it’s not going to convince anyone to give you an interview much less hire you.

I had a head hunter tell me that in this economy in my area (Hartford, CT) if you’re over 50 and highly qualified, it’s like hitting the lottery to get hired. And that’s from the horse’s mouth.

By Anonymous
March 3, 2011 at 4:13 am

By the way, it would be suicidal to avoid companies that engage in these practices as that has been all of them I’ve dealt with so far. This is the new corporate America. People think Hartford is a big metropolis, well it’s absolutely nothing compared to NY or Boston in terms of opportunity (and I know because I’m originally from NYC). I am unemployed, having been laid off in 2009 from a Fortune 50 company. I can’t afford to avoid any companies in this present economy and in my present situation. Those are luxuries of a bygone era….They can pretty much get away with anything they want these days, and they do.

By Your Thoughts: Candidates, Salary, and Disclosure | Punk Rock Human Resources
December 21, 2011 at 2:37 pm

[...] Nick Corcodilos, of Ask the Headhunter, advises you to never disclose your salary to a recruiter or company during your job search. [...]

By Chris
February 22, 2012 at 4:29 am

I have to say I agree with Nick on this one and will add the following for those arguing it is standard policy to get salary information:

Ask your clients for a copy of their employment agreements, I bet you in more than half the cases they also metion that salary information is confidential. Saying a company has a standard policy for such information is also asking someone to break ‘contractual law’. Rules of not, these agreements exist for a reason and salary levels are often protected information for a reason.

Secondly, as an employer we have a range we budget for a position that we let the candidate know up front. If the range is too low, then they can make the decision to not fo further. However, we use this range as a guideline and will exceed it if the candidate seems worth it (which in all but one case they were).

In the past I have used Nick’s advice and was recruited for a position where the initial salary offer was 38% more than I was making at the time. After I was hired, at my 90 day review, they felt that I was doing such a good job they gave me an additional 15% raise. So I support Nick’s point that it is about your capability to contribute to the company’s success that matters, not some arbitrary number which means nothing.

Yes, I know it is standard practice among many employers. But pushing people to divulge this information that is protected by employment contract or disqualifying them from the interview because they won’t violate contract is setting many companies up for lawsuits. You may want to advise your clients of this especially if their employment contracts contain the same provisions.

By Chris
February 22, 2012 at 4:37 am

@Anonymous – March 3

These are not luxuries of a bygone-era, they are employers looking to take advantage of the market who put a low value on people to begin with.

Yes, those without a job will feel this way to get anything, but the market is shifting permanently to where good employees will be in demand. In effect, with today’s market I always tell people to find a way to build your demand for company’s to come seeking you.

One way is to blog about your subject matter. Companies will then see your thought process and analysis and many times send inquiries to you. Another is to write free articles for professional sites in your market of expertise. These are just two small samples. I’ve made these recommedations to two friends in the past and it worked for both of them.

Just some food for thought.

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