The Importance of the Salary Question
When I read this article in FORBES, “What Should I Say When Recruiters Ask What I’m Earning Now”, and I’m sorry but this is HORRIBLE advice and just illustrates why there is so much confusion about this issue which I will clear up correctly in a minute but let’s first off recognize that this author has ZERO background as a recruiter and overall NO real world job experience outside of being a columnist. If you doubt that then please read her linkedin. I’m sure she’s a wonderful person and writer for other topics but articles like this do more damage than good and serve only one purpose and that is to attract eyeballs to a publication and to sell books (you’ll note she’s trying to sell a book at the bottom of the article). It makes no sense to me why anyone would take career advice from someone who is mainly a publisher. These topics (job search, recruiting, careers) are important but time and time again they are washed over with the same ridiculous and misleading answers from individuals who have no business spouting off about it. If you want this answer you should go to a source of actual knowledge.
Now, I own one of the most prominent recruiting companies in the country, Gillian Executive Search, Inc. (focused in real estate development) and I also come from the private sector prior so I know both sides well beyond this author. The angle of this article paints recruiters in a negative light and that just has to stop. Sure the industry swells with young wannabes when the hiring markets hit their highs but the industry as a whole is excruciatingly hard and most folks don’t last more than 2 years. So do yourself a favor and talk to an agency that has not only been around for over 10 years but that also has legitimate and respected leadership and agents. That being said providing your salary has NOTHING to do with a recruiter, young or old, being “afraid” of their clients. Sorry Liz that is just flat out wrong and shows you have no experience in the hot seat other than writing about it. Clients have requests of the agencies they hire to conduct their searches and these agencies must adhere to these requests as it is typically in our contracts to do so. The most basic requests are to provide a resume, a clear and honest summary of who this candidate really is and their most recent salary information.
Providing this is an indicator of honesty. Holding out on providing this information means you, more than likely, will not get submitted because the client and the agency are not going to play games and you have proven to be difficult to work with straight out of the gate. Withholding this information doesn’t provide you with any sort of bargaining chip. Clients study what other firms are paying in order to adjust their offers and benefits to meet or beat the market competition. Even if you feel you are currently underpaid you just simply need to say to the recruiter “I’m making $42,000 right now but I really won’t consider an offer below $56,000 as I know that’s where the market is“. See how easy that is and now you and the recruiter have connected and have a plan. The recruiter can go back to their client and say “Amalia is an awesome candidate but she’s definitely underpaid right now and knows it. We really need to show her something between $56 to $60K to get her attention or better if you can“. You are the one who sets your price and that’s fine but in the real world salary expectations and company offerings might not always line up so there is a balance you must have when planning your next move. Sometimes a position just won’t pay what you want and that’s fine. There’s no need to push something that doesn’t fit BUT the reverse is also true and if you come out with demands before having the chance to impress your audience you might not ever see an offer let alone a chance to negotiate AT ALL!
Team up with the recruiter (who must have both client and candidates interest at heart and make the best deal possible or loose) and help them help you. Executive search agencies provide this advice free of charge and it comes with a ton of deal making experience. Please don’t rely on bogus articles by professional writers who have never been in your position or ours and just want to sell a book.
Last point, recruiters are by and large good and extremely hard working people who are always given short fused demands from clients, timelines that are out of time and millions of unqualified candidates banging on the door. So if a good one calls you please be polite and form a relationship. We exist to help companies and to propel your career. We are not evil.
That is a REAL ANSWER