Got a call from a rather pushy UK recruiter firm (I live in Europe) from a recruiter I've never spoken to before. His first real question was what salary will I consider for a full-time role.

Question: what is the best strategy for this kind of sudden death salary questions?

I said that I prefer to discuss salary when I'll know at least smth about the job. Did not help. I mentioned that I am not comfortable giving him this info right now, but he pressed on. 

I mentioned along the lines that I have to review every role and salary individually. 
He charged on, suggesting that they will use my indication for _future_ roles they might come across,  and screen me on it.

Which I obviously did not like at all, and suggested I cannot disclose this secret info to him. We both were not really happy about this premature salary discussion. 

How would you go about this kind of questions, without aiming too high to be considered and severing bond with the recruiter? He is not the only one with this kind of quizzes. 


stephenbooth_uk's picture

 I occaisionally get calls like that.  The answer I tend to give is that it depends on the role, location and other simlar factors.  I then give examples like travel, I currently have a cummute of around an hour so if a new role will require a longer commute I'd be looking for a higher salary in compensation, currently I get to and from work by bus (I can't drive due to a disability) with a pass that costs around £50 pcm so if the new role meant that I'd have to use a more expensive travel options (train or taxi) then I'd be looking for a higher salary to cover the extra. 

From talking to friends and colleagues who are seeking work I get the impression that many people look only at the salary, not at other factors.  For example where I am working right now we have a very good company pension scheme (one of the very few left), I have foudn that many of my colleagues are surprised at how much it would cost them to buy an equivalent scheme as a private pension if their new employer doesn't offer something as good.

Raising this tends to get one of two responses.  They either just hang up or they move on to the details of the role they're considering me for.



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"Start with the customer and work backwards, not with the tools and work forwards" - James Womack


TNoxtort's picture

I am not a high I, but I like meeting new people. But I want to build relationships. I look at recruiters in this way. If they are open to building a relationship with me, then I share with them info, which may eventually lead to salary. If not, I've learned that these recruiters are useless and let them go. I have to say though, I am NOT looking right now for a job, so I can afford to have that time. If you are looking, perhaps look at salary surveys and come up with a broad range, and then mention some of the factors that Stephen mentioned.

ChrisH__'s picture

Not sure if it helps, but i'll share a different cultural perspective:


I'm working in India, and here, your salary expectations are key to the hiring process.

There are two assumptions:

1. No one will accept a lower salary when changing jobs (fast growing economy)

2. Your new salary will be calculated as a % increase over your last salary (normally 15 - 25% but a A+ candidate might demand more).


For example, if someone is earning 30K a year (they will need to prove this through pay slips etc) and another company wants to hire them, the company might offer 36K (20% increase). Companies use this as a system to pay the lowest wage possible for any position i.e. we budgeted 45K but his last salary was 30K and he will accept 36K, so why pay more?

Because of this system, the first 3 questions that recruiters ask are: What position do you want? What is your current salary? What is your expected salary?


carlo's picture

I recall a Manager Tool Podcast with Guidance

  1. Don't Play Games
  2. Know The Appropriate Range
  3. State It
  4. Still Use The Caveat



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stevesim's picture

Carlo is referring to the "What Is Your Salary Expectation?" podcast released 9/24/2009.  It was the third in a series of 4 on answering the four basic questions a recruiter wants to know when considering whether you may be suitable for a position;

What's your current situation? - 8/14/2009

What are you looking for? - 9/17/09

What is your salary expectation? - 9/24/2009

How to handle location in an interview? - 12/10/2008 (i.e What is your location preference)

I have a couple of 3X5 cards tucked into the back of my notebook with the answers to these and they get pulled out everytime I get a cold call from a recruiter.  They allow be to quickly, concisely, and decisively answer these basic questions and I've never had a recruiter get pushy, she/he got their questions answered ina way that left no doubt that I had given this a reasobable amount of thought and that I knew what I was looking for.

Steven Simmons

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

The answers above have the wrong focus, I think.  The question here isn't what the right salary number is, but rather whether a question so asked deserves an answer.  As I have said before, you're entitled to an honest answer to any question to which you're entitled an answer.

The appropriate response here is to politely decline to answer, with an eye towards not forming a relationship with this recruiter.  I can't imagine a professional recruiter asking salary questions first, let alone as brashly as this appears to have been.  (So, folks, if this has happened to you, you weren't talking to a professional.)

This is one of those things that gives the recruiting industry a bad name.  It's not a reasonable or appropriate question to ask without a relationship.


PS: I just re-rad this before posting, and I want to be clear: DO NOT ANSWER THIS QUESTION AND DON'T FORM A RELATIONSHIP WITH GUYS LIKE THAT.  Tell him not to screen you, period.  (There.  Clear.  ;-) )

afmoffa's picture

A recruiter cold-calls you, is brusque and/or intrusive, makes you feel uncomfortable, and your concern is that you didn't give him the right answer?

Often, in business, I have to bite my lip and get along with bosses, co-workers, employees, and clients (especially clients!) who rub me the wrong way. I do my best to be pleasant and accommodating. But those are people with whom I have to get along. They were part of the package I agreed to when I took this job. Random people who accost me on the street (or via telephone) are a different story.

It would be one thing if this person were in your network of friends, or if you had actively sought his involvement in your career. But this guy called you out of nowhere. A recruiter who makes you feel uncomfortable, who downplays your concerns, who doesn't value what you value, that's not someone who's going to be helpful to you. At best, he's going to try to line up jobs for you based on salary alone, which you've already indicated isn't a be-all-end-all for you. And he's going to be similarly cavalier with the employers he talks to. The best case is you land a job that pays a bit better, doesn't reflect your values, and where the hiring process has left everyone a bit bruised. Hang up on this guy and get on with your day.

Edwin's picture

I was thinking about this thread yesterday when a vendor show up yesterday at my house and was brusque.

He came by to sell me solar panels. This is something I am interested in.  About 5 minutes into the conversation, he started asking a lot of personal questions.  Some of the information would be useful after I decide I was going to do business with him, but he would not even give me a ball park of price.  I told him we can get to that information after we get a little further in our relationship.  At that time, he hem and hawed and left saying that if there is "no trust, he can't do business with me."  This was less than 10 minutes after I met him.  

I wonder who I am going to get solar panels when I decide to get it?

Likewise, find a good recruiter and set up a relationship with him/her.  It takes more than 1 call.  Pay should not be in the first 10 seconds of the conversation.


jrb3's picture
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BLUF: To me, salary not secret information, but it's certainly not public.  I can tell my friends, thus, I have to consider you my friend first.

 I subscribe to the "honest answer to any question you're entitled to an answer" attitude.  I simply say "compensation appropriate to position and role as presented to me".  Then give three different openings to determine whether recruiter wants this call to be a relationship-builder or a tick-mark "yeah made five cold-calls today".  At least one of those gives a general sense of my present, and another provides a sense of my intended future.  If he skips past all three, he won't build an effective relationship with me, why should I expect he would build one with a potential matching employer / partner?


Den's picture

  Thanks a lot to everyone for their comments; I guess it's safe to close this topic. To summarise, the advice I've got is below:

- Don't aspire to form any solid relationship with recruiters who open their phone calls with salary questions. They are rather likely to be 'keyword matchers or cold-callers cowboys'. Tell them politely they don't seem to respect your values and if they won't reconsider request not to screen you at all. 

- If one still wants to persevere and keep talking, the answer might be a wide range with a caveat that it depends on the role, location and other factors. This was not a popular strategy though it might be culture-dependent.

- Listen to the relevant podcasts:  "What Is Your Salary Expectation?"  - a good one, I didn't' know about it.  The other ones I found helpful are  What's your current situation? - 8/14/2009 What are you looking for? - 9/17/09 What is your salary expectation? - 9/24/2009