Employment, past salary, and credit checks in the information age
August 21, 2014 4:12 PM   Subscribe

At what point in the process can a prospective employer get my actual salary amount from my soon-to-be-previous employer?

The gloom of the global recession is starting to lift from my preferred industry (technology) and I'm reaching a point where I can move from the employed-but-underpaid portion of my career back into reasonably-compensated territory.

The part of the USA where I live is very boom and bust technology wise; it's finally booming again and there is starting to be more demand for my tech skill set. Most of my colleagues are either still employed, changed careers entirely, or moved out of state.

The last thing an internal recruiter just told me was that they've got to do a background credit check on me as a condition of employment. Not a big deal, I know my score and it's not stellar but it's not terrible. I'm on the white hat side of things and have no criminal background here or close extended family.

But when they had asked me for a salary number at my current job, I bumped it up a couple of thousand. As in, if I log in and print out a "compensation statement" it shows A, but I told the recruiter A+4k.

When I've read advice on salary talks in the past, "they" say to include base salary, bonuses (I've gotten none), and the amount the employer pays on my behalf for health insurance, life insurance, 401k match (which is about 2,100 this year), and a few other benefits (for example I get a several-drink Starbucks card or "gold pass first run" pair of movie tickets every month or so for work I do towards one of our 5% focus projects) which is how I got to 4k+.

So my question is this; would the credit check show my salary? I've heard rumour that big payroll processing companies also allow companies to "peek" or find out the information that way, but I can't find the cites for it.

I'm assuming I won't get a salary offer after the credit check, but they wouldn't crank it back just because they think I lied, would they?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
A credit check does not show your salary.

4 Things That Won’t Show Up On Your Credit Report
posted by GuyZero at 4:22 PM on August 21, 2014

Don't worry about it, unless they ask to see your W-2s they won't know.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:23 PM on August 21, 2014

would the credit check show my salary?

No. You should get a copy of your credit report just to put your mind at ease. You can do that here.
posted by jessamyn at 4:38 PM on August 21, 2014

While it isn't on your credit check if the background check includes checking previous employment and you give permission to contact your current employer then they will probably ask that. If you don't get permission they may ask you to provide some sort of documentation.

The question really is, Do they care? Some places do and some places don't. My current employer doesn't really care what you make now and doesn't base offers on what you make now, we only ask to find out the likelihood of you accepting an offer we make. In our background check we don't check salaries. But, many companies do check and do base offers on what you are currently making.

If anyone does ask a question about a $4k difference then just explain where you came up with the number. You're including extra perks and health insurance.

Yes you should include bonuses in your salary number but I don't include perks and benefits. I say I make $x in cash plus approx $x in benefits/perks, it is weird to me to include benefits in your salary number, it is a part of your total compensation and that is what you should look at when evaluating job offers but it isn't your salary. That said, I don't think anyone is going to care.

I'm not sure what area of "tech" you are talking about but $4k doesn't seem like a lot to be off by, I wouldn't bat an eye at that (unless we are talking like $16k vs. $20k).
posted by magnetsphere at 6:00 PM on August 21, 2014

Depending on where you're at career-wise I would have these recommendations:

* Definitely don't exaggerate. As a matter of course. It hurts your credibility and it's commonly a tactic that reveals a lack of confidence, or sometimes passive-aggression, even just a tiny bit. Right off the bat you said "a couple of thousand" which is really twice that -- "4K." They won't find out about it but it might make you seem squirrelly and less confident. But don't worry about it, just move forward.

* If a recruiter says "how much were you making" you should be able to say "X, but I'm done making X and I need to make $X+4K to be where I need to be in my career." The recruiter wants you to have a job and to make their cut -- they will often make more money if you make more money.

* Definitely don't lump perks into your salary. It's just not a direction we need to go in as a country...compensation is pay for a job well done, and benefits are perks and benefits and perks so that you will continue to be a functional employee in a demanding job. It kills me when employers start to lump them together when benefits are something they should be offering to be attractive rather than a sword dangled above.
posted by aydeejones at 6:51 PM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Sorry, I missed "internal recruiter." I'm not accustomed to that term :D A typical head-hunter certainly is going to be going after a higher rate but I've never relied on one. I've always been honest about what I made and your leverage is trying to make a distinction between what you did before and what you will do now, or asking for a significant bump at your 90-day mark or an extra week of vacation. If you're in demand, be a little demanding for sure. Not ridiculously so, but don't let the employer run roughshod or it will affect your performance and your ability to pay the bills.
posted by aydeejones at 6:54 PM on August 21, 2014

I just had a background check done for a software development job. I had to sign an information release form which had an option to request a copy of my background report. I am looking at my copy right now and this is what it has beside basic info such as name and last four digits of SSN: previous employer (company name only), education verification, list of previous addresses, criminal record (no court records found), sex offender (national registry, not found). That's it. The background check provider is listed as "Trusted Employees".

Also, the internal recruiters that I've worked with, either hiring or looking for jobs, were not "real" employees. I cannot be sure if they were salaried employees or contractors but they'd usually come and leave within a few weeks once some specific hiring effort was done. They were always quite separate from HR and seemed more like temporary consultants.
posted by rada at 6:54 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

And in my state (CO) employers who contact previous employers can ask when you worked there, and what your title was, and they are entitled to no other information and usually skittish about prying for anything else because it exposes both parties potentially to unpleasantries.

Delving into pay is typically seen as unprofessional or prying, and a company that is fishing around trying to figure out how little to pay you isn't going to be a great place to work anyway.
posted by aydeejones at 6:57 PM on August 21, 2014

If your previous companies have shared your salary information with The Work Number (which is owned by Equifax), then your actual week-by-week salary data CAN be verified there, though you will have to sign something or otherwise consent to this level of background search. At one point there were rumors that at least one of the major payroll processing companies was also sharing data, but I don't know if that was ever verified.

You can find out what they know about you by requesting your own report, here. The depth of information available will frighten most people.
posted by toxic at 8:57 PM on August 21, 2014 [5 favorites]

As seen recc'd here many times, Ask A Manager has this relevant article and several linked relevant articles.

If there is a need or opportunity to correct it, do so, especially, if as noted here, you are apparently calculating it incorrectly.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 5:27 AM on August 22, 2014

toxic that is an awseomely scary link. A thousand times thank you.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 5:27 AM on August 22, 2014

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