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β€œWhat is your current salary?” is a red flag that you don’t want to work here

Asking for your current salary is not a legitimate question and should be treated as such.

πŸ™„ The dreaded salary question

Here is the context:

You are on the initial phone screen call with someone from human resources.

Since thirty minutes you are trying to explain succinctly what your life has been about in the last decade to a complete stranger.

Maybe you have been teased with tricky questions on how git works internally, and you have done your best to answer correctly.

You are starting to feel exhausted, but fortunately the call seems to come to an end.

Then suddenly the conversation moves to one last thing:

β€œAnd by the way, where are you right now in terms of salary, and what are your salary expectations if you make this move?”

You may feel the rush to address the second part of the question and skip the first part of the question, but don't. First realize that you are being asked an illegitimate question.

πŸ€” Why do some companies still ask this?

I spent too much time this year looking for a job. I would be happy to report that tech companies have gotten this, and don't ask for your current salary anymore.

Alas, it's still a current bad practice.

Why? Because it works.

A surprising number of people in this stressful situation will undercut themselves by answering the question.

But it's not a legitimate question.

Imagine you are on the other side of the job interview.

If Alice and Bob have similar skills and can do the same job bringing the same value to the company, why is it relevant how much they were paid before? It is not relevant at all.

What the question does is that it creates a powerful anchoring effect.

A candidate who gives this information away will typically ask for only a bit more than what she is currently getting.

The human resources dude will then have a big internal smile: the candidate's expected salary is below the range that was decided for that position. He will then happily give the candidate 3.000 dollars more than what the candidate asks for.

How generous?

No, it's not generous. It is actually the absolute bottom of the salary range that was decided beforehand for that position.

So there is a huge downside for you to reveal your current salary and no upside whatsoever.

So you have a simple rule to follow:

🚫 Never tell your current salary

Simple, right?

But if you can, I would challenge you to go one step further.

Asking for the current salary is a bad practice that needs to die.

And you can help it to die faster by pushing back on the question.

πŸ›‘ Consider it a red flag that you are being asked this question

Companies try to be consistent in their hiring process.

If you are being asked for your current salary, it's likely that others candidates are being tricked as well.

It's likely that if you were to discuss your salaries with your future colleagues at the water cooler - or at the coffee machine if you are in Europe - you will realize that some colleagues are wildly underpaid.

Does that sound like a good place to work?

Bonus point if the company pretends to care about gender equality in their marketing document about their supposed "values".

You know that their actual values is that they are happy to leverage the fact that female developers are being underpaid to... continue to underpay them.

πŸ’ͺ How to push back?

  • Recruiter: β€œAnd by the way, where are you right now in terms of salary, and what are your salary expectations if you make this move?”
  • You: You want to know my current salary?
  • You: ...
  • Recruiter: ....
  • You: Why is it relevant?
  • Recruiter: That’s part of our standard process, which is as follows…
  • You: Ah, I see. Thanks for the clarification. Look, I want to be transparent: If you were to make me an offer, it's unlikely I would accept it. Your company isn’t a great fit for me at this time. So I don't want to waste more of your time. But if you wind up brushing up on your interviewing process and making improvements, feel free to reach out to me again for consideration().*

And then: you leave.

(*) line stolen from Erik Dietrich's post on deploying guerilla tactics to combat stupid tech interviews

Does that sound radical to you?

Consider this:

A company has more incentive to be nice to you during the interview process that it will probably never have after. So if that's the way they treat you during the interview, how will they treat you after?

Don't take the risk to work with them.

❓ What about people who don't have a choice?

Some people don't have a choice of rejecting a company, no matter how bad their recruiting process is. What about them?

Well it's precisely because those people don't have a choice that I encourage you to push back against this bad practice if you do have a choice.

Companies try to be consistent in their hiring process, so if candidates who are high in demand start to push back against those practices, the good companies will change their rules, and everyone will benefit.

❓ Isn't that too confrontational?

It's not about being confrontational, it's about polarizing :

I want to spend more time with good companies, and less time with bad companies.

How can you tell at the start of the process that the company is probably not that great?
Well asking for the current salary is a signal as clear as a sign as it can get.
I mean either the question often works or it almost never works.
If it often works, lots of people are working there are underpaid, and that's not a good sign.
If it almost never works, then they are dumb for asking it, and that's not a good sign either.

❓ What if I don't have a choice?

You should still never reveal your current salary.

It's pretty straightforward: you say you are not comfortable sharing your current salary, and you move on.

Still keep in mind that it's a red flag that the company ask you this. If you later have more opportunities, consider changing jobs.

❓ Isn't that common sense?

If it were so, no company would ask this question.

Maybe it's obvious to you who have years of experience in the industry.

But realize that we are in an industry who are is doubling every four or five years.

So there are lots of young inexperienced people who can fall in the trap!

πŸ‘‚ What do recruiters think of this practice?

Obviously, it depends on whether they are good or not-so-good recruiters.
Google What's your current salary? and you will find an insightful article from recruiter Susan P. Joyce:

Asking for your current salary is inappropriate because it is for a different job in a different environment. In addition, this question is illegal for an employer to ask in several locations (listed below).
(....)
If you are feeling brave (or annoyed), you may want to consider going on the offensive and asking them why the salary paid by a different employer is relevant to a company which pays employees fairly. This may end the opportunity quickly, however.
(...)
In a job search, this question is asked by two different people. From an external recruiter, it may be acceptable. From an internal recruiter OR any other employee of the employer, it is not acceptable.

Now, that looks like a recruiter whom you can trust. Thank you, Susan! I encourage you to read the whole thing here

😁 What's next?

I hope that this article was useful!

Next step: let's talk about how you can handle the ssalary expectation question!

Top comments (118)

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256hz profile image
Abe Dolinger

I respond to this question in two ways:

  1. "Oh, yeah, I was going to ask you, do you know the budget for the role?"
  2. "You guys know the market and are good at what you do, I trust you to make a great offer if you're interested."

I think coming out confrontationally isn't going to help you get where you want to go, and if you are interested in the company, it's wise to give them a chance to give you a good offer.

I also really liked the advice Lusen Mendel gave: always know your "happy number" - what you'd love to be making - and your "walk away number" - the minimum you'd accept. This saves you from last-minute internal grappling under pressure.

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄

For sure, you need to know your happy number and your walk away number.

Do you need to tell them though?

I don't think so, what's the upside for you?

On "giving a second chance to the company", well let me ask this:

If you arrive at the job interview two hours late without warning them, do you think they will discard their first impression and give you a second chance?
Maybe this candidate is serious and it is just today that something happens.
My guess is that they will trust their first impression and say thanks, but no thanks.

I think you should come to the job interview with your own set of deal breakers and do the same.

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256hz profile image
Abe Dolinger

Nooo, I wouldn't tell them the numbers! Sorry, I meant, you should have them ready internally, for when they do make an offer. Then you know where it sits on your personal scale, and aren't trying to figure it out during the high-pressure, emotional period of After The Offer.

I agree, it's good to have dealbreakers, and if this is one of yours, I respect that. I think this trick still works for a lot of recruiters, and it's just another tool in the box for them. For me, I feel that if you don't let the tool do its job, but still allow the conversation to move forward, you can discourage its usage without stopping the conversation. Just my approach.

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mrsaeeddev profile image
Saeed Ahmad • Edited on

Hey Jean
Thanks for writing on this topic.
But let me tell you about the situation of South Asian countries. Here even the top companies of the region ask for current salary and if you don't reveal it they will upfront back off. They see it as a criterion for evaluation of technical skills and think 'if this person is so good at their work, why he/she's working on a low salary'. So, it has happened to me as well. When industry leaders in a country follow such bad practices you are left with no choice.

What do you think about how can we deal with this?

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄

Thanks for sharing, I didn't know this.

In Europe, I would say it's only the bottom 20-30% companies who do it, so the leverage to push back is pretty good.

If most company around you do it, of course it's harder to push back.

I don't really know what a candidate can do in such a context. Accept it and have your deal breakers somehwere else?

On the other hand, if I was a C-level executive in South Asia, I know what I would do: I would advertise that at my company, the recruiting process is free of this nonsense. You get a competitive edge and are doing Good at the same time, what's not to like?

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deca profile image
Deca • Edited on

I can confirm that also in Italy most of the companies ask those kind of questions...and by the way, salaries here are 1/3 of those my Berlin friends πŸ˜’

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ildar10 profile image
Ildar Nazmeev

To be honest, from my personal feeling , most of the companies except FAANG ask this question in Germany

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄

I don't know, I am myself in Berlin and the majority of companies didn't ask for my current salary.
A very famous fashion company did ask for it, but my friends recommended me before hand to not work there anyway, so it reinforced my conviction that asking for the current salary is a useful red flag.

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adsidera profile image
Anna Costalonga

oh good to know you are in Berlin, as well! Normally I am asked my salary expectations by third-party recruiters, and only a few times by companies directly. Do you think that it would make sense not to disclose salary expectations to recruiters as well?

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itsashleighhyo profile image
Ashleigh Roberts

As an external (3rd party) recruiter myself, I think it makes sense to disclose salary expectations to us because the motivation for asking the question is completely different. It helps us filter out which jobs to send to you and which jobs wouldn't be worth your time. And we're not going to try and lowball you as the higher the salary we're able to secure for you, the higher our commission is.

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄

That's a good point, I also disclosed my salary expectations to external recruiters and it went well

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crimsonmed profile image
MΓ©dΓ©ric Burlet

Totally agree here in Singapore it is a normal basic question. It is asked for the simple reason that a company will want to offer more than your current salary as a normal rule of them ans standard in the industry.

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄

I think almost every developer gets a higher salary when he moves jobs, this has nothing to do with asking for your current salary to anchor the salary negociation to the bottom of the range.

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crimsonmed profile image
MΓ©dΓ©ric Burlet

Not at all in europe I got many offers with smaller salaries but because its a big company then I should join them. And we ask this question at our company and we do not use it to anchor to the bottom of the range. I guess we just agree to disagree.

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄

Then why do you ask it, and how it is relevant?

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xowap profile image
RΓ©my πŸ€–

Well, knowing the current salary of the person you're hiring tells you what kind of gap they're jumping to join you. It gives more meaning because you know if the person is considering lowering or expanding their salary.

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄

I understand the upside from the employer to know that information, but what's the upside for the employee?

And frankly given the need for developers, I take it as a given that when you move after 2 users of experience+ or more that you will have a higher salary

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄

Hello @mrsaeeddev
I have got some feedback from Erik Dietrich that could probably be useful for you:

That question used to be pretty standard fare, many years ago when I did job interviews. The way I always handled it was to understand that they didn't really have any specific means of verification of what you told them, especially if you talked about your "total compensation"

So I'd start with my salary, add in the last bonus I'd received times 1.25 (I mean, you have to assume this year's will be higher), the pro-rated salary rate for any weeks of vacation above 2, the 401K match amount, the total tuition reimbursement available to me, $1K for the free lunches usually provided, etc, etc, etc. I'd then answer that question with "my total comp was X"

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mdrijwan profile image
Md Rijwan Razzaq Matin

but then they'd question this after you have to provide them with your payslip which would take place after they've sent you the offer letter.

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄

What? You have to provide them with your payslip in south Asia?
Didn't know that either and that is very weird to me.
Frankly at that point, I think the solution is that you should unionnize to defend your rights

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mdrijwan profile image
Md Rijwan Razzaq Matin

we do yeah! i guess to ensure them that we weren't lying about it before. it's ridiculous!

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dannymoerkerke profile image
Danny Moerkerke

Do not EVER give them a payslip. That is just ridiculous and is just to lower the offer. I know it happens in certain sectors here in the Netherlands as well but this is about as red as a red flag can get. You do NOT want to work for such a company.

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mrwensveen profile image
Matthijs Wensveen

I've never heard of this in the Netherlands, but that doesn't mean it doesn't happen. I lot of companies ask what you would like to earn (aka the happy number), and then proceed to offer you somewhat less. I always exaggerate even the happy number and then say that I'm open to any reasonable offer.

Negotiating is tricky business and a source of unfair gaps (possibly the gender gap, too).

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190245 profile image
Dave • Edited on

I have to say, as an employer, you don't even get an interview unless you disclose how much you want to be paid. Doesn't matter if that's inside, under or over my budget.

During interview, I'll judge if you're worth it, and place you into "zones" within my budget scale for the role. HR then get to do the negotiation within the boundaries I've set.

I couldn't give a damn how much you're currently getting from someone else, even if it's an internal hire from another team.

Before anyone asks, yes, I talk to candidates that say they want more than my budget allows. Either they'll demonstrate their wishful thinking & I'll determine they're not worth that amount, or I'll make the case with my boss that we should blow the budget on an excellent candidate.

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mrwensveen profile image
Matthijs Wensveen • Edited on

But why is the onus on the interviewee? You could easily turn this around and state the salary upfront, and negotiate on merit alone. Want better people? Advertise a higher salary. Easy.

To clarify: get the best person fitting the salary instead of the best/lowest salary fitting some person. Obviously you can't negotiate skills with a specific person (they either have a skill or don't). But you have to make sure the pool is big enough so don't be greedy if you want skillful people.

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190245 profile image
Dave • Edited on

I think you miss the point.

Our job advert, for each level (junior/mid/senior) specifies the salary banding we operate within - so if a candidate thinks we're underpaying, they can save time & not apply.

I expect each candidate to specify how much they want to be paid (ideally within the banding, but if they are happy under it, fine, and if they want more, they'll have to justify it).

From there, during interview, I see:
a) if I want to hire them (team fit, job ability etc)
b) how much I think they're worth paying.

Lets say hypothetically, a junior role is 20-30k, a mid is 30-40k and a senior is 40-50k. I set "zones" of low/mid/high within those bandings, so I would expect to pay a "low junior" 20-23k, and a "high mid" 37-40k.

I've had a candidate apply for a junior role, stated expected salary was within my junior range. I interviewed them and it was obvious to me that they were misjudging their own ability, and we offered a "mid mid" (basically more than 10k over what was asked). I also threw that candidate a relocation package and a few extra perks. A few months after they accepted, I've also put them on a career/training plan to bump them through the senior payscale (potentially giving them another 15k rise over the next year/18months).

There's no reason I couldn't do that for an exceptional senior candidate either.

I'm not a fan of "race to the bottom" in salary/skills or anything else. But I also have to be realistic and work within financial projections up to 18months in the future, and when I want an exceptional candidate, blowing the budget comes at the cost of something else. Sadly, I haven't found the elusive money tree yet.

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mrwensveen profile image
Matthijs Wensveen

That sounds fair. That's a pretty good middle ground.
One last thing I want to add is that when the money question comes up I either go blank or panic. You probably have a lot of experience with that subject but for me it's terrifying.

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄

Oh, I don't think you are alone!

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190245 profile image
Dave

It's funny, I've always hated negotiating my own salary and defaulted to a "make sure my bills are paid & keep me happy/interested."

Never be afraid of negotiating though - the worst that can happen is that they say "no."

Lets say you're negotiating salary with our HR - they offer, you ask for more, they say no. At that point, the offer is still on the table (and you choose if you want to accept it or not). HR will always make the offer first, which puts you in the position of power.

Conversely, I always hated going to my current boss and saying I should get a raise. One time I did that, and was told "the only way I can give you anything from the budget is if you threaten to leave." So I interviewed elsewhere, put it to my current employer, and they couldn't compete - so I left.

Know what you're worth, understand Imposter Syndrome (and if you can, beat it) and stick to your guns.

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄

I couldn't give a damn how much you're currently getting from someone else, even if it's an internal hire from another team.

We don't disagree so far then :)

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pblitz profile image
Blitz

Hmm, interesting.
If I'm asking, I'm usually asking for a range that the person is looking for - and tbh that's what the question is about. I can also live with no info from the candidate, but it will make life a lot harder. In general, you always have a range for the role you're filling. If somebody is already above that range, it will make our discussion a lot harder. If they are below it, great. I'm pretty sure i'll get to hire that person, because I can offer her/him more money than they wanted in the first place.

If I'm being asked, I've usually said my current salary outright, and then my expected salary - which of course shows quite some privilege. But if you can pull that off, it work decently.

so TLDR: I'd agree that asking for the current salary is not the best form, but asking for the expected salary is a totally valid question.

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄

The expected salary question is another question, I plan a second article on this :)

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ildar10 profile image
Ildar Nazmeev

So, that's why better if candidate asks for a range for position and decides if it is ok for him or not

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gwutama profile image
Galuh Utama • Edited on

Here’s how I do it instead, which I think is more elegant.

Recruiter: so, you’re asking for xxx Euros per year for salary. May I know what’s your current salary?

Me: Well, my asking salary is around where my current salary is right now, adjusted to several factors such as roles, responsibilities, know-how and experiences that I can bring to the table.

The idea is to divert the question to your skill and what can you contribute to the company instead of discussing what your current compensation is.

If the recruiter still forces you for an answer, just politely say that you won’t discuss it. At this point usually I already lost interest in the company anyway.

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄

If the recruiter still forces you for an answer, just politely say that you won’t discuss it. At this point usually I already lost interest in the company anyway.

This is also basically where my red line was one year ago.

Since then I moved my red line a bit further after realizing two things:

  • That it was useful to have a criteria to filter out companies early in the process, so that I can spend more time on the good companies. The hiring process is like the honeymoon of your working relationship. If the company acts in such a gross manner during the honeymoon, how will it act later?
  • That if a company asks me what my current salary was, it probably asked it for all the colleagues too. Which means that some colleagues will be underpaid, just because they are bad at negociating salary or they used to be underpaid. Typically the female colleagues. I would rather not have this.
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recursivefaults profile image
Ryan Latta

Whoa, one of my articles was referenced! 😊

My typical response to the, "What is your salary" question is:

"I'm not prepared to discuss numbers yet, but if we each decide that we're a good fit, I'm sure we'll find something we are happy with."

As for external recruiters I take an extrely hard stance of telling them I will not disclose numbers with them at any point. The reason there is it is sometimes hard enough to negotiate as is, but nightmarishly hard when you have a middle-man like a recruiter.

Shameless plug I cover a lot of this in my book and first-ever class

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄

It was a good article, thanks for writing it down :)

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fjones profile image
FJones • Edited on

I agree insofar as it is indeed an illegitimate question designed to give them an idea of how low they can go.

However, there's two things worth noting:

  • if salary is your main driver for a new job, you should have key figures in mind anyhow - there'd be no point negotiating down against your previous salary if you already have an ideal and a lower bound in mind. In fact, you can precisely state that you aren't happy with your previous salary and that's why you want a significantly better offer.
  • if salary isn't your main driver, you can still negotiate a harsher increase. Why not? After all, you can argue your other reasons for choosing them over other offers.

Questions (and answers) about your prior salary are absolutely in poor taste, but I would refrain from making that a hard pass on the company. Instead, you can very much use that to your advantage in negotiating.

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mmanousos profile image
Melissa Manousos

In many states here in the US it is now illegal for interviewers to ask this question. This change is especially great for people who are career changers who may not be making even close to what developers earn. It’s also good for women and other folks who are underrepresented in tech who are routinely underpaid. If any of those people have their next salary based on their previous salary it will only perpetuate the problem.
Anecdotally, I fall into both categories I just outlined and my last full time role (before I started working in tech) paid half of what I am making now!

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄ • Edited on

Hey @mmanousos, It's awesome that you are finally getting a fair salary!

About laws: I'm happy that there are laws that will help companies think twice about asking this kind of question.

On the other hand, let's be honest. If some company do ask you an illegal question, and your answer "this question is illegal", then what follows is that the odds that you are getting the job at the company is 0%.

So you might as well leave the room in disgust like I suggest.

So the law itself is not a complete remedy, bad recruiting practices are best fought at the same time from above (the law) and below (us being assertive about what we don't like).

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mmanousos profile image
Melissa Manousos

My recommendation would not be to answer "that's illegal". Instead I'd encourage interviewees armed with this information about the illegality of the question to be confident dodging it or flat out declining to answer. Countering with "I am looking for something in [x] range for my next role" or, even better "Can you tell me about the salary range you have budgeted for this role?" The onus of providing salary information is on the hiring party, not the person applying for the position.

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merkrynis profile image
Julien Bouvet

Nice article :)

When I switched job, I wasn't asked for my current salary, but how much i was expecting. If this doesn't send the bad signal that you mentioned (and the company work for is actually really nice), it does product the same effect of suggesting a number not so high compared to salary grids.
In such cases, it's good that you suggested what others says, that emphasizes this point.

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄

I will definitely write about the salary expectation question.

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plembo profile image
Phil Lembo • Edited on

The salary expectation question deserves its own article, and I have no doubt you'll handle it expertly. As an old timer I've grown impatient with watching newer developers taken advantage of in this and too many other ways. A long time ago a critical mass of people in our field decided we wanted to be considered professionals rather than tradespeople. In many places tradespeople join together in trade unions to protect themselves. That's usually not the case with professionals. As a professional you're on your own. That means being educated on the market and looking out for your own interests during the hiring process is on you. It also means that there has to be a certain level of agreement among those in the profession, usually through professional associations (e.g. bar associations for lawyers), on minimum standards that as a profession won't be compromised. None of that's enforceable, of course, other than by good sense.

 
xowap profile image
RΓ©my πŸ€–

Well because the salary is part of the conversation. That's literally why you go to work. It should not be spoken of? How do you even know how to setup your salary grid if you don't ask what people want?

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄

The salary expectation should be spoken of, of course.
On the other hand, I see no reason why good, skilled people who used to be underpaid should continue to be underpaid, just a bit less.
It's none of the companies's business.
The company should only care about how much value the candidate provides for what price.

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miso profile image
Michael

Why is it bad-practices to ask for the current salary? You also don't want to pay for something more than you have to. Recruiters and CEOs know that an employee gets a higher salary when he or she changes companies. But why should I spend more money on an employee than I have to? If I know how much the potential employee earns now, it can be a win-win situation and everybody is happy: The new employee gets more money than he got before and I as a recruiter/CEO don't have to pay too much.

IT employees, whether they are developers, project managers or administrators, already receive a very high salary and I am beginning to wonder if it can be so healthy for the future of IT when we are so overpaid for skills that can be learned in a year or two.

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄ • Edited on

Well yes as the recruiter/CEO you are free to try to underpay me, but then I'm free to think that you don't have my best interests in mind and move on to a better company.

If I know how much the potential employee earns now, it can be a win-win situation and everybody is happy: The new employee gets more money than he got before and I as a recruiter/CEO don't have to pay too much.

It's a win-win situation only for the recruiter/CEO who wins on two fronts:

  • on one hand he feels generous because he gave more than the employee
  • on the other hand he probably gave the absolute bottom of the range that was agreed on for that position.

For the employee, it's a loose-loose situation:

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miso profile image
Michael

It's funny that we are only underpaid and never overpaid. Sure I could get more money but I must also know for myself with how much money I am satisfied at first. As long as I get the money I am happy with myself, I cannot lose. Of course, when I learn that other colleagues with the same job as I do earn significantly more, then I immediately think I'm underpaid. But we should perhaps ask the question whether the others are not overpaid and are also not paid fairly. The only way to eliminate this problem is to introduce uniform payrolls for all employees, so that all transparently are paid according to pay grades.

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄

Sure, some people are overpaid, it's just that the topic of my blog is how to not be underpaid, because it's a more pressing topic IMHO.

I agree with your last sentence in salary transparency

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miso profile image
Michael

I know your topic differs, but you cannot divide the whole topic into small parts without looking at the big picture.

But to be clear: I totally agree with you to not tell them the current salary! But to tell them the amount of money you want + a buffer to be traded down to your desired salary <3

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alexmartelli profile image
Alex Martelli

I see your points, and the ones made in the many comments. However... my problem with interviews in the last 15+ years (as I've been working as a high-performing, very senior engineer at Google) has been more or less the opposite! You may wonder why, being happy with my job and total comp, I'd be interviewing at all... I just want to know experientially how things stand, just in case I may be missing something even better, and to calibrate me (when I am a hiring manager rather than just a very senior IC) in terms of compensation budgets.

Anyway, I seem to pass maybe two thirds of the interviews I do (interesting in itself: it shows there's no single linear scale of "desirability to ANY employer", it varies case by case!) -- and then inevitably when I get an offer the total comp is simply ridiculous compared with what I'm making TODAY. (Obviously, since I'm happy where I am, I wouldn't even dream of moving without major improvement in total comp, +20% or more). This makes most of those interviews something of a waste of time -- not a total waste, I DO learn something anyway!, but mostly a waste.

So nowadays, when approached by a sourcer/head-hunter (which still happens very often), I mention FIRST THING the ballpark number of the total comp package I'm looking for, before I'll even consider changing employers (in addition to other constraints I just won't be flexible about, such as: I want to keep working close to where I live, in the heart of Silicon Valley; no commuting, no moving, not much traveling either) -- and usually never hear from them again, saving everybody time and effort!-)

Of course this is the viewpoint of a very senior, well-known engineer (I've written popular technical books, there's a Wikipedia entry about me, I'm in the top first-page of Stack Overflow responders by reputation, I enjoy a long tenure with a known-to-be-employee-cuddling star company, ...) -- I might have felt very differently, much earlier in my career!-)

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄

Thanks for your insightful comment.
I feel, and you will probably agree, that there is a difference between you choosing to tell your current salary, and a company asking for it to a junior / mid-level candidate.

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alexmartelli profile image
Alex Martelli

You're right, it IS an important distinction!

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kaeptnkrunch profile image
Stephan B. R. Langenau • Edited on

Thanks for this post. A lot of companies here in Germany ask so many inappropriate questions like this. I hate this, some good companies destroy their image for me because of these kind of questions.

Some examples I have been asked by companies:

  • How often were you sick last year?
  • Do you have any illnesses or disabilities?
  • What is your nationality?
  • Do you have children and are you planning to have more children?
  • ...

And the companies were not small or medium-sized companies, there were large international companies that I had to reject because of such questions.

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄

Thanks for rejecting those companies, you are helping bad recruiting practices to disappear.

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jack_garrus profile image
Nadia Guarracino • Edited on

In Italy asking for the current and desired salary is a common practice, and I have never met a single company that does not.
Personally, I feel quite uncomfortable when I hear these two questions. I mean, we developers are constantly contacted by companies; very rarely do we actively seek work. So it's pretty dumb for me to answer these questions when it's the HR who contacted me first for the position. It's like they want to flip the cards by turning the conversation around as if I contacted them first and that by doing that interview with them they are doing me a favor.
So annoying.
Then they post on Linkedin how us devs are spoiled and unprofessional.

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄

I removed this paragraph from the main article.
Please read them because they are good!
It's just that because they are broader than my point on "What's your current salary?", they distracted some of the readers

πŸ‘‚ What are others saying?

Here are what two popular articles from fullstackcafe and recursivefaults on DEV.to:

5 Secret Rules of Salary Negotiation
Rule 1: Never tell your current salary
Rule 2: Never tell the salary you want
Rule 3: Know your minimal acceptable salary
Rule 4: Someone who has money (employer) names the price first
Rule 5: Always keep your offer opened, don't burn all the bridges

So now let us break down the rules I follow in negotiating salary:
Rule 1: Don’t say a number
Rule 2: Be ready to walk away
Rule 3: Have stories
Rule 4: Don’t do it on the spot

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