What is the best strategy when a recruiter asks you your current salary before making an offer?

Originally from: my Quora . ( Quora is my crack. Or, more accurately, it’s an open-repository Q&A site.  Or, back to my un-PC verbage, it’s an amalgam of opinions: ranging from the the stupid and stock to the brilliant.  It’s like having Big Macs and Le Truffle Noire at the same buffet table.)

As a recruiter, from the money standpoint, I ask for two things: current/recent compensation and desired compensation range.  Reasons being:

  • I take a holistic viewpoint.  I’m not looking to see if your comp needs match what can be offered by one opening.  Day in and out, I’m looking at a plethora of openings offering different ranges and I need filters– filters in the geographic/work commute area, skillsets/role area, money area, etc.  Even if you say you are flexible, everyone has their own bottom line.  For example, some VIP/lead in big data architecture within the equities market is used to commanding anywhere from 180k base with 20% bonus; another is making 150k base and, then, an additional, 100k guaranteed bonus.  One person may need 100k bottom line to sustain his lifestyle; another much more or less.  Each individual professional has a different story and different subsequent needs. I need to understand the backdrop.
  •  I need to manage expectations on both ends– the candidate’s and the hiring manager’s.  If someone is expecting a bottom line of 115k but a hiring manager has only been allocated a budget of 90k for an opening, I need to know how wide the gap to figure out if I can even try asking for an exception in the rate, etc.
  •  Some clients DO ask for verification of current or most recent salary after making an offer.  If someone is at 50k and asking for an 80k raise, better for me to beforehand ask them how they arrived at this number.  Is it a lack of market knowledge, or can candidate back up this pay bump request?

Lest a candidate fear I’d use their current/recent comp to lowball them, I tell them honestly, it’s never my intention to lowball them.  Lowballing someone means you are creating a flight risk– someone who will easily leave your position for another that will pay what he/she is actually worth.  Why would I want that risk hanging over my head?  Happy wife, happy life.  Happy you, happy me.

Closing points: I’m not out to get you when I ask for your current comp. I’m not playing smoke screen games.  I want to understand where you are coming from and where you are looking next.  I am on your side and I look at myself as your partner.

Caveat: There ARE recruiter who will lowball, who will do a ‘bait and switch.’ My best advice is:  If, in your gut, you feel you can trust a recruiter, be candid.  If you feel like a recruiter for whatever reason reminds you of an oily salesman, you are free to refrain.











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