Sometimes when you’re talking to a recruiter they might say something like “We can’t proceed without getting your current salary.” It’s tough, because you might be excited about the company and don’t want to appear uncooperative, but at the same time, you might not feel comfortable sharing it.
As someone who has been on all three sides of the table (candidate, recruiter, hiring manager), I think an empathetic approach here goes a long way. You need not feel indignant or powerless. Keep your eyes on the prize – finding a great team to work with that compensates you well for your contributions.
The best thing is to figure out why they’re asking you for this information. In fact, you can actually ask them and most good relationship-building recruiters will be happy to answer. Here are some possible reasons:
Sometimes, companies require by policy that they have this information about every person in their interview process, and the recruiter may not have an option. You can ask them if it’s official company policy, and usually they won’t lie about that answer.
Actual response: “I’d be happy to share that information as we get farther along in the process. Is it official company policy to require this information?”
Sometimes, this information is used as an input to compute your future compensation offer. If a recruiter asks you this questions late in the process, it’s a good sign. But giving up your current salary puts you in a disadvantageous negotiating position, so instead you can volunteer your desired compensation range and see if that satisfies their requirements.
Actual response: “I’m not comfortable sharing that information out of respect for my current employer, but I’m happy to share my expected compensation range if that is what you’re looking for.”
If the recruiter asks you early in the process, this might be them trying to figure out if the company can afford you. If the company can’t afford you, why waste your and their time going through the whole interview process? This can happen at companies that compensate on the lower end of the market. But not everything in work is about salary, so making that clear might put your recruiter at ease.
Actual response: “The opportunity to work with great people and on a great mission is part of what I view as compensation, and my contributions at my last company are different than my future contributions at a new company. So rest assured, I’ll give fair consideration and be flexible on compensation if it’s a great fit for both of us.”
If the recruiter has already shared the comp range for the position with you, it’s not unreasonable for them to ask for your current comp as a quid pro quo. i.e “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours”
Actual response: “I’m happy to share my current salary information, but first, could you answer a few questions for me about how the company views compensation and the ranges for the position we’re talking about?”
You can use your current salary to your advantage when negotiating future salary. E.g if the company makes you an offer that’s 90K and your current salary is 100K, telling them your current salary is a much better negotiation tactic than simply demanding more.
Finally, if you still don’t want to share your salary information, that’s totally up to you, and you should stand your ground.
Actual response: “I’m sorry, but as a personal policy, I do not share my salary information with any potential employers unless I have an offer in hand. I remain very excited and interested about joining the team, and hope that you can understand where I’m coming from.”