Most job hunters have heard the standard advice: Don’t share your salary history.
If you tell a recruiter or an employer what you earn, or the salary you want, you can damage your candidacy in one of two ways, the reasoning goes.
If you state a number that’s higher than the amount budgeted for the job at question, you’ve priced yourself out of consideration.
If you state a number that’s lower than the amount budgeted, you’ll get a lowball job offer and lose out on income you might have received.
Conventional wisdom says to always get the recruiter or hirer to state the salary, or at least a salary range, first. That advice also says you should do company, industry and job category research to have a solid idea of what the job should pay and know ahead of time what range you’ll accept.
But ideal-world advice is hard to follow in the real world. Eager job applicants want to please, not rile, potential employers who are asking. And, in some cases, failure to state a number presents an absolute barrier to further consideration. So what makes sense may not be possible.
Here’s another angle suggested by Nick Corcodilos, who writes the online Ask the Headhunter advice column. To understand his advice, it’s important to know what he means when he says it helps job hunters to reveal their salaries to headhunters, but not to employers.
Corcodilos is a professional headhunter. He doesn’t work inside any human resource department. He is hired and paid by companies, by organizations, to find and send them qualified candidates for positions they’re trying to fill.
Corcodilos says he — and other reputable headhunters — can do a better job for the individuals they recommend to their employer clients if the individuals disclose their salaries. Here’s why: A headhunter will work to get you a higher pay offer because of self interest “in part because the headhunter wants valuable referrals from you after you accept a new job she’s helped you land.”
Corcodilos argues that by understanding an individual’s salary history and expectations, he can do a better job recommending the candidate for the right job (and can earn his fees).
But there’s definite nuance to his disclosure advice. He recommends revealing salary only to third-party recruiters, aka headhunters, who are not employees of the company. Many companies have in-house “recruiters,” and it’s important for job hunters to understand just what kind of “recruiter” is asking for salary information.
Salary revelation to an in-house recruiter is ill advised. Revelation to a third-party recruiter is OK, Corcodilos says, as long as you gain assurance from the headhunter that she or he won’t share it with the client employer.
The terms “headhunter” and “recruiter” can be confusing. It’s in job hunters’ best interests to be clear about whom they’re talking to and, if it’s external headhunters, to be convinced they won’t reveal numbers you don’t want them to.