You know what sucks? Applying to a job because you're underpaid, and then being asked by the recruiter, "What's your current salary?" as if they're not going to use that information to give you a lowball offer.
I want to tell you the secret to not giving away your current salary.
First, I need to acknowledge that it is illegal in some states in the US to ask about your current or past salary. Here's a handy guide to check the laws in your state.
That said, these tips might apply to other questions that you don't want to answer, so let's dig in to what you can do in these situations.
I want you to practice saying the following:
My current contract does not allow me to disclose that information, and it's important to me that I keep my word
Make sure you've had a look at your current contract. Is there a clause about not disclosing your salary?
Salary disclosure is a complex topic. One common misunderstanding is about "Pay Secrecy", which is a concept in the US dating back to the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 and reaffirmed as an Executive Order in 2014. The short answer is that it is illegal for companies to prevent co-workers from discussing their own compensation with each other.
However, the law doesn't mean that companies can't require employees to not talk about salary externally. Read your work contract and see what it says for you.
If you don't have a clause against disclosure, or if you are being pressured to disclose anyway, here's what you say:
"I'm not comfortable discussing my current salary right now, however I am really excited about this role. I think it's a great fit. Compensation is not going to be a problem."
Focus on the next steps for moving forward, and how compensation is not a blocker for you.
Note: this has nothing to do with wanting a high salary and planning to negotiate later. Like I said in my last post, application questions are not negotiations. Focus on getting interviews so that you get a great offer you can then negotiate.
If the recruiter continues to press you about the past, ask:
"Can I get back to you about my current salary later?"
Then never get back to them about your current salary.
The question they should be asking is, "What compensation are you looking for?"
This is a great question for everyone to get on the same page:
- The recruiter is trying to figure out whether you're going to end up wasting their time
- You want to make sure you're not wasting your time, either
If a recruiter continues to pressure you about your past salary, move the conversation to what salary you're looking for:
"I'm not comfortable discussing my current salary right now, but I can tell you what compensation I'm looking for in my current job search."
It's important to have a good answer for "What compensation are you looking for?" but I've reached the end of my time today, and will leave this post as a cliffhanger.
Next week I'll dig into the specific numbers and phrases you can use to most effectively discuss compensation expectations.
☆ Compensation history laws by state: https://www.hrdive.com/news/salary-history-ban-states-list/516662/
☆ More info on "Pay Secrecy"
- National Labor Relations Act of 1935: https://www.nlrb.gov/how-we-work/national-labor-relations-act
- Executive Order in 2014: Non-Retaliation for Disclosure of Compensation https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2014/04/08/executive-order-non-retaliation-disclosure-compensation-information
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