Why should you never share your salary details?


The world of recruitment has gone through a hell lot of change. And the traditional ways of hiring are now old school. Good recruitment practice now puts the recruiter and the candidate on the same pedestal. No-one is superior or inferior because both will serve a purpose to find a sweet spot.

If a recruiter says “it’s our policy“, see the red flag. The inherent meaning of having a policy is that the recruiter is too weary of losing out a client so he becomes a “yes man” and adheres to any illicit demand of the client.

However, you need to realize that you are not a scapegoat and you don’t need to share any information that you seem private.

Today, we will pick one thing that makes you feel powerless as a candidate. Yes, it is about your current or past salary details.

We will peep into the minds of the recruiters and head-hunters so that you can be confident about choosing yourself instead of getting repressed by the thumbs of the recruiters.

When recruiters act as bullies

Nick Corcodilos, the host of AsktheHeadhunter.com argued that to recruit a candidate, the recruiter doesn’t need his salary details. It’s just a tactic of the recruiter to bully the potential candidate.

Not only Nick, even Liz Ryan, the CEO and Founder of Human Workplace quips and remarks that recruiters don’t need to know your salary history; rather they only need to mention what the salary range they have in mind for the said position.

Why do recruiters ask for your salary details?

 Few reasons compel the recruiters to get your current or past salary details.

Before going into the nitty-gritty, let’s understand one thing clearly.

You hold the key. You don’t need to share your salary details. And you shouldn’t. Just because the recruiter demands it, you don’t have any obligation to share it.

Back to the reasons!

The recruiter doesn’t think much about the interest of the candidate:

A recruiter is never a representative of her client. Rather she is the bridge through which the candidate and the client find the middle ground. If the recruiter only thinks about what her client wants, rarely she would be able to find the best fit.

The recruiter fears of losing out the client:

When a recruiter is being hired to find the best candidate, she needs to have the freedom of how it should be done. She shouldn’t become a follower of client’s orders and shouldn’t learn how to hire from clients. Hiring is the forte of the recruiter and no-one should have a say in it till she is delivering the expected results. However, when the recruiter is too concerned about the revenue and less about doing meaningful work, she goes out on appeasing the client.

The recruiter is not so confident about her skills of acting as a bridge:

When the recruiter is not so confident about her abilities, she goes out to do things that will make the candidate feel pressurized. But the truth of the matter is the best candidate never feels pressurized. And the best also has so many alternatives to go for.

The recruiter assumes that the candidate should be passive throughout the process:

How can a great recruiter think like that? Recruiting is the art of attracting the best candidates for the position a company has. If as a recruiter, you assume the candidates to be passive, how come the candidate will perform at her best? It’s like selling a product and assuming that the consumers will not question anything about the product, isn’t it?

Now you know why the recruiter asks for your past salary details.

But what the recruiters should ask the candidate?

Let’s have a look.

What should recruiters ask you instead?

They should ask you about your salary target (if on phone or face-to-face)

Or better yet, give you a range they are looking at for the said job position.

Have a look at Github’s best way to do a job posting. Carefully notice that there is no mention of “demanding salary information of the potential employee”.

You don’t need to share anything related to your current or past salary history because that’s the norm.

Take a stand.

And be steadfast in your argument of why you should never ever share your salary details.

But is there any reason for which the candidate shares their salary details with recruiters?

Why candidates share their salary details with recruiters?

They should never share their salary details, right? But still, they do it. Why?

Let’s investigate why!

They don’t know that they don’t need to share their salary details:

Many candidates, especially ones who have just started out have no clue that “past salary details” is a confidential information. And the recruiter has no right to know it.

They need the job:

When candidates are in a pressure to crack a job fast, it’s difficult for them to refuse to share their past salary details. When the candidate first enters the interview room, the recruiter gets it from his body language that he needs the job desperately. His desperation doesn’t let him hold his stance.

They feel that they are the weaker side:

Let’s say that a company sells money. And as a customer, you can buy money only with your time and skills. So who is the king? Customer, right? Then why do you think you are on the weaker side? It’s true that the best company will only hire best people. But who said best people need to be weak? Rather best people never compromise on their worth. So shouldn’t you!

It has become a norm:

Even if this thing is wrong, it has become a norm to exchange salary information.

When I was sitting in a large company’s interview room, my co-interviewer used to end his interview with the following question – “what was your last drawn salary?”, as if it is mandatory to share candidate’s past salary details. But I have never seen any candidate not sharing their salary details. Every one of them has shared their past salary details delightfully.

Why am I asking you not to share your past salary details? Yes, it is a private information. Sure, it is something which seems to be your secret in the previous organization.

However, the above are not the most important reason.

The most important reason for which you should never share your salary details

I am asking you not to share your past salary details is because it gives the recruiter an unwanted tool to negotiate your compensation.

If you share your current or past salary details, it’s a norm that the company will usually give you a 25-30% hike on your salary.

But what if you took the previous job out of compulsion!

What if the previous organization wasn’t paying the salary you deserve!

What if you have worked your ass off and grown much more than just deserving 25-30% hike!

Sharing your salary details will be catastrophic for your future employment.

So how would you answer the question “what was your last drawn salary”?

Here’s how you should approach it.

Whenever the recruiter asks you such questions, ask the recruiter a counter-intuitive question like –

“What can I expect the organization to value more – a value based compensation or a price based compensation?”

If the recruiter hasn’t heard this sort of response before, she may respond like this –

“But, I would like to know your past salary details. What your question has to do with it?”

Then the ball would be in your court and you can tell the recruiter –

“Here’s the key. I think my past salary is a confidential information. And a company which values compensation on the basis of the value a potential employee brings to the table doesn’t need to know the past salary figure. I just want to know the range you have in mind for this particular position.”

The next step is optional and it only applies if the recruiter acts in a certain way.

If the recruiter still hangs on the idea of your past salary, say this much and leave the interview room –

“That means your compensation policy is based on the current or past salary details and not on the value I can offer. I am sorry, I am not interested in the job. Thank you for your time!”

However, if the recruiter shares the range of salary, here’s what you should do.

Bring out a report (a one or two-page document) consisting of three pressing problems of the company and the possible solutions for those problems. And tell the recruiter that here’s how you will solve the challenges of the company. This will simply transport the price-based conversation into a value-based discussion.

To do this you need to do a thorough research of the company and how the company can do great work and generate more profits.

This technique is called “briefcase technique” and it is propounded by career strategist and entrepreneur Ramit Sethi.

From that moment onward you can start the process of negotiation.

What about online forms which demand current or past salary details?

The short answer is – “you don’t need to fill it up.”

Nick Corcodilos mentions this in his book “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps“. He says that you should never take the easy way of filling up online forms for job search; rather send emails, meet face-to-face, pick up the phone and talk to a human.

An online form is an automatic screening machine through which recruiters will select or reject your profile.

When you share your current or past salary details, the online form will store the information as an application. When the recruiters will look at the applications as per the salary range of the job, your profile will either get selected for next screening or get rejected completely.

So don’t fill up any salary information.

If it is mandatory, go find another job which respects your privacy and will value you on the basis of your skills and abilities, not on your current or past salary.

Won’t you lose out a lot of opportunities?

You may wonder that if you don’t fill up online forms requiring you to submit current or past salary details, you will lose out on a lot of jobs, right? Wrong.

What would you say if I tell you that this is your first screening of choosing a job that will value you as an employee!

Do you think that screening should only be done by the recruiters, not you? When you are on the job search, would you accept any job that just pays you a salary? If so, reading this article won’t help. And if not, you will devise your own screening methodologies which will help you filter out companies that see compensation as a thing of the past.

In the final analysis

The fight of being valuable isn’t about the salary. It’s about who you believe you are and what you value.

Paying a salary that is based on the past or current salary is unacceptable even if it has become a norm.

Stand against it and use the same as a screening methodology.

The world of great possibilities opens up to you when you refuse to compromise on your value.





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Sayantan Sen

Sayantan is passionate about helping people reach their next level. With 8+ years of experience in both corporate and freelancing, Sayantan has coached & consulted hundreds of people and written for various companies. He has written 20+ books and is an MBA in Human Resources, an NLP Practitioner, and a Graphologist. “Career Hacks” is his brain-child. And his mission is to help people raise their standards and find their best selves. Other than working, he loves to sing, write poetry and read.

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