Hey recruiter/hiring managers
March 4, 2016 9:25 AM   Subscribe

How to avoid to disclose current salary without upsetting anyone.

During job hunting interview process, what are good phrases or expression that allows to hold salary information while keeping the conversation flowing? Usually the interviewer ask the question directly and the interviewed doesn't want to be rude but doesn't want to tell either.
posted by 3dd to Work & Money (20 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
"With this role, I'm expecting to see between Foo and Bah, depending on the total compensation package. Is this the range offered?"

If pressed for your current salary simply say, "The roles aren't really comparable, so I'd prefer not to discuss it. "

Usually it's an HR person asking the question, not the hiring manager, the hiring manager doesn't really care, so long as you're qualified and within the range.

If the HR person presses, simply say, "again, I don't see the relevance and I don't want to disclose that information."

If they say, "answer it or the interview is over," that's cool. It's over. "Thank you for your time."
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:30 AM on March 4, 2016 [9 favorites]


Eventually, you are likely going to have to answer the question if you want the job. As a hiring manager, I expect the recruiter to have established that you are within the range. I don't want to waste everyone's time and energy getting excited about a candidate that can't fit.

One way to address the question is to say that a large part of your compensation is variable based on performance.
posted by 26.2 at 9:52 AM on March 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


I have never disclosed current salary. If the question is actually that direct ("What is your current salary") I deflect with "In order to be in line with my current salary and given what I bring to the position, I'm looking for X." X is my current salary plus whatever bump I'm looking for plus a few extra dollars to give wiggle room for negotiation which is almost certainly going to happen.

If what you're looking for is wildly out of range for what they're offering, you don't want the position anyway. If it's marginally out of range, then now you're negotiating.
posted by erst at 10:21 AM on March 4, 2016 [11 favorites]


I found some version of the little white lie of "My current employment contract has a 'do not disclose' clause with regards to compensation" and then follow up immediately with a version of "For this position I'm looking for a fair market rate that fits within your internal equity structure"
posted by alan at 10:32 AM on March 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


I would avoid seeming negative or argumentative in any way: "I'm sure we can find a number that's mutually agreeable" has always worked for me, as well as "I'm happy to discuss specifics further along in the process; do you have a range in mind?"
posted by deliriouscool at 10:34 AM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


My ex boss recommended that you say something like, "For this role at this level I expect my salary to be from X to Y" or similar.
posted by Medieval Maven at 10:58 AM on March 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


^That.
And if they press you can say "It's actually an element of my contract that my salary should stay confidential, but I can say it is close to the range I just mentioned, with salary + yearly bonus."
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:18 AM on March 4, 2016


Another option that I've heard from a candidate is "One of the reasons I'm looking for new opportunities is that my compensation is significantly behind the market rate for my skills and experience."

I thought that was a very good and honest answer.
posted by 26.2 at 11:37 AM on March 4, 2016 [10 favorites]


Eventually, you are likely going to have to answer the question if you want the job.

Bullshit. One party is going to have to give a number eventually, sure, but it does NOT need to be the applicant. I hate this so much.

Look, the HR people and the hiring manager know what the position should pay. They also know what range they're willing to pay. Asking is a way to hopefully secure a lower offer. In some cases it might be used to just avoid the interview process altogether if they're not willing to pay anything near what the applicant gives.

Avoid giving a number at all costs. The key to sales is to get someone to want to buy before the issue of price comes up. If the people who've interviewed you all give the thumbs up, and you're a little above the top of their scale, they will find a way to make it happen. Don't give them a reason to say no before the sale is made, and don't give them a way to lowball you.

I usually just say "I think it's premature to talk about salary at this point in the process". I'd say it works no more than half the time. I might try another deflection or two. The HR person wins more often than I'd like, because I am not as pushy as I should be.
posted by RustyBrooks at 1:19 PM on March 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


They're not really asking what your current salary is, the question they're asking is "What's the minimum amount we can pay you?"

That's an easy one to answer.
posted by blue_beetle at 1:37 PM on March 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


If it truly is a sticking point in the conversation, I don't think that dancing around it with (IMO) obvious white lies and deflections serves anyone. Sure, give them your current salary if they need to fill a box. But make it immediately clear that it's irrelevant with some variation of one of the suggestions above about what salary you expect.

This obviously assumes that you are able to comfortably walk away if you can't come to a mutually agreeable figure.
posted by AndrewInDC at 1:52 PM on March 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


Avoid giving a number at all costs. The key to sales is to get someone to want to buy before the issue of price comes up.

The cost of this at some companies will be not even getting to the interview phase, FWIW. It's not super common, and I don't necessarily agree with it, but I know at least one company that is pretty great to work for (and who pays well), but whose protocol is that they won't even let people beyond the recruiter without getting this piece of information (at least the desired range, if not the exact previous salary).

It's absolutely your right to choose to bow out at that point, but just understand that some companies have plenty of candidates coming through the door, and the ones who make themselves a pain to get through the process are considered to not be worth the trouble. If you have tons of interviews (and therefore lots of negotiating power), go for it. But realize that you may be hurting yourself more than anyone else here, and not everyone has the luxury of walking away from the opportunity to interview.
posted by primethyme at 2:32 PM on March 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


I give a desired salary range in the interview because I know the range is the top end of market in my city. This is based on my research with recruiters, colleagues, coaches, and industry surveys. I give the range so that I can stop wasting time early with companies that cannot meet my minimum requirements.

I only ever disclose past salary in the negotiation phase after the company has given the initial offer. Then, it is provided only as context if needed to justify my request for more money.
posted by crazycanuck at 3:38 PM on March 4, 2016


Bullshit. One party is going to have to give a number eventually, sure, but it does NOT need to be the applicant. I hate this so much.

Here is why I said you will eventually need to answer. On the employment application it asks for salary history. That application is what is used for your background check. If you don't answer that question, you are going to be eliminated from the applicant pool. That's true from entry level positions to senior execs. You must pass background and your application is your recollection of truth.

If you work for a small firm, then maybe not. If you're looking a big corporate, then you will need to answer.
posted by 26.2 at 4:00 PM on March 4, 2016


Here is why I said you will eventually need to answer. On the employment application it asks for salary history.

This has literally never happened to me. I will give an HR person a salary expectation but I am not telling them what I have made in the past. I've never worked for a company over about 200 people (until my current job - but that was an acquisition after I was hired).

It may be common in some places, but not here/not for the jobs I've applied for.
posted by RustyBrooks at 4:35 PM on March 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


I was asked for salary history on a background check form recently. I entered n/a.

Any background check is usually done by a third party after the written offer stage. This party will call you if they have questions. Your answers do not flow back to the new employer. It is fine to disclose at that time if you must as you have already concluded negotiations.
posted by crazycanuck at 6:49 PM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


One thing I'd add to the above answers is to end your non-answer with a followup question. Depending on the vibe of the conversation, I've had the following work out okay as a candidate:
  • Throw out a meaninglessly wide range and ask if that's in line with their idea or if they have another one in mind.
  • Say you agreed to make salary info confidential, but that it's tied to the value you create for your current employer and ask how that is quantified at this company.
  • If you decline and they say something about needing this information to proceed, ask with a chuckle if this means they're offering you the job, because before you're interested in learning more about [culture/some other loosely-related topic that will lead to another conversation] before you could even contemplate accepting an offer.
  • Say you'd need to review the full compensation package with benefits and everything to be comfortable agreeing to a specific number. Ask increasingly detailed questions until they don't know the answer and say they'll get back to you.
I think it's also important to remember that the question is itself a negotiating tactic, neither polite nor rude to ask and neither polite nor rude to decline to answer. Recruiters might be obligated to ask because they can and it benefits their company to know, but they're not going to double down and make things awkward unless the market is heavily tilted in their favor (or it's just an exploitative place to work).
posted by substars at 10:55 PM on March 4, 2016


This has literally never happened to me. I will give an HR person a salary expectation but I am not telling them what I have made in the past. I've never worked for a company over about 200 people (until my current job - but that was an acquisition after I was hired).

I went through an application process a while back where the mandatory online application would not let you proceed without putting a number in the "what are you currently earning?" box. Now, I don't know how they would know if it is an honest number, but I experimented and it was not ok with "N/A" or "0", and also not ok with leaving that box blank.

This isn't universal -- later I went through another that allowed answers like "negotiable" and "N/A" -- but at least some companies are building this into their processes at an early level. Even if you already have a hiring manager wanting to interview you, there is still the HR step and sometimes they want to make it as hard as possible to not answer this. I'm actually ok with answering right now (because I am paid well for my field) but I think it is a shitty tactic on their part and there are better ways to establish if someone's expectations are realistic.
posted by Dip Flash at 11:29 PM on March 4, 2016


I just applied for a job that required applicants to include current salary in the organization's online application form. You literally could not leave those questions blank.

I was told that I could have entered zeroes, but doing so would likely remove me from contention, so sometimes you do have to give up some salary information whether you want to do so or not.
posted by yellowcandy at 11:46 AM on March 5, 2016


If your goal is to avoid a lowball offer, you needn't withhold information. In fact, the only reason to withhold information is because you believe you can be be lowballed if they knew it. So by refusing to give a number, you do not actually avoid a low offer.

The best way to avoid a low offer is a bidding war. Two offers made concurrently. This is hard, especially if you already have a job, since a good candidate probably needs 10 interviews to get two offers live at the same time. And the companies don't like that situation at all and give exploding offers to prevent it.

The next best way is to straight up lie about your current salary. Besides the slimyness of lying to your counterparty, it's also pretty easy to fact check. And can come back to bite you later. Even if current job refuses a call stating '3dd informs us his current salary is $X,' there are ways that information can come back. A recruiter who had access to the data might switch companies. Your new company could buy the old company. Your old boss could be hired on. At which point, you are caught in a lie you made specifically to mislead the company for your own benefit. You won't get that promotion, and may not have a job much longer.

IMO, the way I would approach having a low salary is to answer the "what is your salary" question the following way
"My salary is $X. While every job and benefits package has intangibles that must be evaluated, I [applied/accepted this interview] because I believe my current wage is substantially below market. I believe a starting salary of $Y is appropriate for this role, and I am pursuing several opportunities to improve this.
If you're lucky, your offer is $Y. If they lowball you anyways, thank them for the offer, and ask them for a few days to evaluate the offer and prepare your counteroffer. Put the hiring manager on notice that they'll need to secure additional funding, and if they were paying attention, they know how you asked for earlier in the process. The worst case scenario is that they reject your counter offer, and find the fact that you countered so offensive, they withdraw their offer. This is pretty fucking rare, as the only new information a counter-offer produces is that the candidate wants more money (duh) and that they have some level of expertise in negotiations (usually a positive). If a manager withdraws their offer following a well written, rational counteroffer, you can safely assume your annual raises would be a contentious issue, and that the managerial state of the firm is not strong.
posted by pwnguin at 1:22 PM on March 5, 2016


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