Can you get away without saying what you were paid?

Last week, a suspicious person wouldn’t tell me what they make.  In an unusual move, I didn’t just slam the phone down.  The job they applied for was in the offer stage to another candidate, so it wasn’t worth arguing.  Besides, they may change their mind about sharing their salary.

No, I won’t tell you what I make.  If I do, you will base my offer on my past compensation.

I put up with that as a beginning recruiter.  I got burned in three ways:

  1. I made offers that were offensively low.
  2. I put people in jobs they couldn’t do.
  3. I looked like an idiot when I couldn’t say what my candidates earned.

Now, I understand that the real problem is trust.

If you really think you are horribly underpaid, why should you trust me to pay you what you are worth?  If you don’t trust me, you will also be hesitant to tell me why you are underpaid.  You are sure I will use that information to underpay you again.

Coming into a new area with a lower wage scale, switching jobs to one with lesser pay, not being appreciated, or just being incompetent are all scary.  If you have been on several interviews and don’t believe they told you the truth about why you were not hired, you won’t want to tell anyone your old salary. You don’t trust them to evaluate you without worrying about your past pay rate.

If you’re afraid to let someone else see your weakness, take heart: Nobody’s perfect. Besides, your attempts to hide your flaws don’t work as well as you think they do.  (Julie Morgenstern)

Get over it.

You will be hired and paid based on your past wages and your job interview.  Those are the facts.  I helped a programmer get a 50% pay raise going to a new job.  He interviewed well and was obviously underpaid.  I helped another programmer take a 50% pay cut.  He was moving from one of the highest wage areas in the US to a modest one during a recession.  In both cases the last salary was significant, but the interview made the difference.  In both cases the hiring manager believed the candidate.  The manager didn’t want the candidates to leave for another job, so he offered the best possible wage in both cases. He offered an appropriate wage.

I will no longer put up with that lack of trust.  If I can’t get a candidate to trust me by the second time I talk to them, I give up.

Why it really keeps you from being hired

People who refuse to trust don’t interview well.  They are scared about what will happen when the question of past salary comes up.  They over-promise.  They hide other things. Interviewers feel the evasion and lack of trust. Even if they can’t name the problem, they won’t hire the person.

Get over it.  Learn to discuss your salary or you will do yourself more harm than can possibly be fixed by your new pay rate.

Something to do today

If you can’t stand talking about salary, you’d better practice.

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Later: 3 kinds of death

20 second interview prime time

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Should I trust an agency recruiter?

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