Why You Absolutely Need to Tell Recruiters Your Salary

interview tips

When we screen candidates, there are a couple questions all recruiters ask, “Why are you looking for a new job?” and “What is your current salary?” Asking someone why they are looking for a new job is straight forward and no one ever has a problem answering that question. On the other hand, many candidates have a problem telling recruiters what their current salary is. Recruiters absolutely need to know what candidates make. It can be detrimental to getting a new job if candidates are not forthcoming with salary information.

Here are the most important reasons why:

Hiring managers want to know.

Let’s be clear when recruiters are screening candidates, they are often doing a first interview for the company they work for or contracted with. Hiring managers dictate what information they are looking for, so that they can make the decision on whether they want to meet with the candidate. The most common questions hiring managers want to know up front are: 1. why candidates are looking for a job? 2. why they are interested in the position or company? 3. why they are fit for the position? and 4. what their current salary is.

Shows you are in the salary range.

When human resource managers and hiring managers approve a new job opening, they put together a salary range. Salary ranges and pay rates identify the level of education, knowledge, skill and experience needed to perform each job and attract the ideal employees. They are set by industry standards, regions and experience level needed. Salary ranges have a low, mid and high of the range. If a person is at the high of the range, they meet all the job requirements including, scope of the job, number of years experience and education. A candidate coming in at the low end of the salary range is someone who may only meet a few of the job requirements, but overall, can perform the job. Someone offered the mid-range is a good solid candidate who the manager feels can do the job but may not meet all the requirements exactly, or currently makes a much lower salary. Finally, a candidate offered the high-end of the range is often considered the perfect candidate who currently makes what is offered or close to it. Given the salary range, hiring managers want to know what your current salary is to see if you fall in the range the company can offer. If a candidate’s compensation package is more than a company can offer, hiring managers are often not willing to take the chance candidates will turn down the job because of pay.

The perfect example of this is, we had a candidate who refused to give us her salary, and despite to our experience in this situation, we put her in the running for the sales job. The hiring manager loved the candidate and offered her the position. The salary offered was $20,000 less than her current base, though the commission package was the same.  The candidate turned down the job. Naturally, the hiring manager was not happy, as this had wasted the precious time of the hiring manager, the executive team who interviewed her and our recruiting team. If the candidate had been up front from the beginning of the interview process on what she made, it would have saved time and the cost of interviewing.

Maybe under or over qualified for the position.

Another reason recruiters and hiring managers need to know a candidate’s salary at the beginning of the hiring process is it can show if the candidate is qualified for the position. Salary can be a good indication of what type of experience a person has. If a job is offering a salary of $90,000 for a product manager position and the candidate applying for the position makes $130,000, this person is obviously over-qualified and is at a more senior product manager level. Right off , if the candidate lets the recruiter know they make $130,000 it will pretty much rule them out of the position.

Will check w-9

As mentioned earlier, one of the first questions recruiters ask when phone screening a candidate is ‘what is your salary?’ This article is about the reasons recruiters need to know your salary but we are also pointing out never lie about your salary. Candidates often think ‘if I tell the recruiter I make more than I do, when it comes time for an offer, I will get the high end of the salary range’. However, it is not worth the risk of the company finding out that what you actually make is much lower that what you’ve initially reported. We have had many human resource departments ask for proof of salary such as a W-2. Obviously, if you have lied anywhere during the interview process it is most likely that the offer will be revoked.

I recently read an article stating never tell a recruiter your salary. However, we take a different view, salary should be discussed so all parties involved in the interview process can better serve the candidate and the hiring manager. The notion that recruiters use a candidate’s salary information to negotiate a better rate for themselves is ludicrous. Recruiters get paid when they make a placement and clearly, they make more placements when all information pertaining to previous jobs and salary is transparent.


Lisa Manley has been a recruiter for leading biotechnology, pharmaceutical and medical device companies.


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