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What should one respond if one of the recruiters ask you that your current salary is quite low for your job role. Is there any specific reason.

US41's picture

Why would you tell your salary to a recruiter or anyone else? I'd assume anyone willing to reveal their salary to a recruiter or their next hoped-for employer was fibbing to ensure they got what they were hoping for in terms of their next salary.

If the recruiter says your salary is low, then perhaps you are due for a raise or should set your sights higher should you land another similar position. If they are asking why your salary is low, the reason could be anything. Many of us take jobs at low salaries compared to others because we are clueless as to what our peers are earning. It takes time in a position before you find out what the standard pay is - sometimes it takes getting into management.

I had no idea what my peers made until I took over as manager and was able to see it. And I was wrong in what I had guessed.

tomas's picture

amitkhosla,

The simplest way to respond to the question about salary is with the truth. Dodging the question will only serve to raise questions in the mind of the recruiter, and lying is surely not an appropriate response.

You should, however, be clear about your salary expectations for your next role and have a good understanding of your worth in the marketplace. If there are specific reasons you are being paid poorly then you may want to disclose these. Examples could be that you took the role to gain experience, or that you have taken on greater responsibilities but this hasn't been recognised by your employer, or that you have recently graduated from a degree and are now worth more than your current role would suggest.

I do not see anything wrong with stating that the reason you are looking to change jobs is that you feel you are not being paid at market rates in your current position. What you are currently being paid is only indirectly related to what you expect to be paid in your next role. I wouldn't get too hung up on it.

US41's picture

Here I go again with the non-PC contribution...

I see your response as being well-reasoned and very ethical-minded. Upon further reflection, I also see that this reasoning could be applied to anything in just about any situation...

[quote="tomas"]The simplest way to respond to the question about [[i]insert anything here[/i]]is with the truth. Dodging the question will only serve to raise questions in the mind of the recruiter, and lying is surely not an appropriate response.[/quote]

I would argue that in fact sometimes lying is the appropriate response. There are times in our lives when people ask us inappropriate questions to which truthful answers will only damage ourselves or them, and dodging the question will only create the impression of impropriety or confirm it thereby damaging us or them.

I understand that our society fosters and idealistic view that lying is always wrong, but I have to agree with Dr. House that *everyone* lies. Everyone lies sometime, and sometimes lying is probably the appropriate thing.

If my wife asks me if her dress makes her look fat, and it does, I don't say, "Yes, that dress makes you look fat." Nor do I give her feedback which is truthful and say, "Honey, you're just fat, the dress has nothing to do with it."

Every healthy relationship has some information withholding or small, white lies in it.

We'd all love to live in a world where everyone tells the truth all of the time, but Earth is not that world.

If a recruiter asks me my salary, I'll dodge, or I will quote back about a number favorable to me and chalk it up to the lesser of two evils. It would be worse for me to reveal a very low salary and empower the recruiter with carnal knowledge of my vulnerability to taking on a job that does not pay what I want.

Ultimately the recruiter's desire to know your salary is for his purposes, not for yours.

Do not forget that recruiters are operating with their own agenda: to get the commission from closing the deal - not to make the world have unicorns jump through rainbows bringing us all sunshine.

TomW's picture

I must admit, I've never seen unethical behavior (giving dishonest answers to a direct question about a person's current position) proffered as a good idea before.

Just remember that salary can be verified with former employers. If they (either the recruiter or the hiring company) find out you lied, that could be a good way to lose a good offer. Once you're branded as dishonest in negotiations, you never know how or when that might come back to bite you.

US41's picture

[quote="TomW"]I must admit, I've never seen unethical behavior proffered as a good idea before.[/quote]

I was pretty sure I was pulling the pin on a grenade with this one because in the West most people view "lying" as a black and white issue of either being totally revealing of all of facts or being in a state of "sin." (At least in the behavior of others - they rarely hold themselves to this standard). I just don't see it that way, hold myself to that standard, nor expect or believe others to.

Examples:

* I ask one of my reports if they are happy working for me. They answer "yes." Do I assume that was the truth? No, I assume they are lying because they have motivation to lie.

* I ask a contractor what they are currently pulling down working for me through their agency to help determine their salary with us. I call their agent, who reminds me this is none of my busines. I ask them, and they quote a really big number that is hard to believe. Telling the truth? Or do I low-ball that number and still bring them on? I typically low-ball them and they accept because they were lying. :)

And it isn't because they are bad people - it is because it is typical human behavior to attempt to conceal the truth or mislead others as a tactic when there is a lack of trust or some material advantage to be gained.

People do this all the time. You've never told a pan-handler you have no money with you, or told a car salesman that you can't afford something when in reality you could but were using it as a negotiating tactic. Don't car salesman lie about the bottom price.

People lie.

So says Machiavelli, and I agree with him.

I think this is one of those topics like the pregnant interviewee where standard operating procedure is taboo to reveal or admit to in public, but it is still SOP.

But fire away. I'm certainly interested in reading the firestorm of responses this might generate.

[quote]Just remember that salary can be verified with former employers.[/quote]

In some cases - not all. I've test-called companies I've worked for before and never had one willing to reveal this information to myself nor anyone posing as a recruiter.

However, if they have a relationship or a personal connection, you're right, they *WILL* find out, and it is a risk.

[quote] If they (either the recruiter or the hiring company) find out you lied, that could be a good way to lose a good offer. Once you're branded as dishonest in negotiations, you never know how or when that might come back to bite you.[/quote]

Agree completely.

I think the danger probably increases the higher up the food chain you are working. A guy making $25K as an analyst in the first two years of his career is at far less risk than someone being recruited to become the COO of a new company (which would be an example of 100% chance of being caught out).

When I read the original post, I drew the conclusion we were talking about a young person being paid a very low salary who knew he was underpaid being concerned about having that salary held against him in his attempts to break out at least into the middle ground of his job's actual pay range in a line job.

I was not imagining executive recruiting.

If I caught someone lying about their previous salary, I probably would not be very upset nor consider it an indication that they were going to steal from us or engage in corporate espionage. I classify that sort of "lie" under strategic behavior along with always smiling at the boss even though you want to punch him in the nose and not giving the boss truthful feedback because "the truth will set you free."

These days, I never ask about anyone's salary and don't want to know and don't care. I believe current or previous salary is utterly irrelevant and the question is inappropriate.

The job pays what it pays - the pay shouldn't go down due to tactical advantage or vulnerability of the other person. They are not negotiating selling their home. Strangely enough, I view that behavior as unethical more than the lying about salary. It's like asking someone if they are faithful in their marriage or if they have ever taken Prozac. It's just not appropriate, and one should not expect an honest answer or a complete reveal from the person asked.

I will not reveal the salary of anyone working for me to anyone - ever under any circumstances.

RichRuh's picture

Tom--

I agree. I cannot advocate lying about salary under any circumstances.

--Rich

maura's picture

[quote] I believe current or previous salary is utterly irrelevant and the question is inappropriate. [/quote]

I wonder, maybe a toned down version of the above is the appropriate answer to give to the recruiter. You're not lying, you're not giving them ammunition to make a lowball offer, and you have the opportunity to steer the conversation back toward what you both really care about: matching your skills to a job opening. If it's the right match, you can talk numbers later, and those numbers should focus around what value the hiring company attaches to the right person in THAT role, not what that person made in their previous one.

Also, going back to amitkhosla's original post... there are a lot of salary survey websites out there these days. Have you been researching what the average salary is in your current role (or the one you are looking to move to)? Do you agree with the recruiter that your salary is low?

Money isn't everything, but there are lots of people out there who see salary as the primary measurement of value to an organization. So, if you have been in a position for several years without much change in salary, someone might look at that and wonder if it was simply a cheap employer, or if it was really because you were underperforming and others who worked harder to get better results got the lion's share of the raises and bonuses. If I were a recruiter, that might be in the back of my mind as I reviewed someone's salary history. Doesn't mean it's true - but why give them the opportunity to wonder, and why put yourself in a position of having to defend it?

WillDuke's picture

Hmm. What's the downside to just telling them? They might lowball you? If they lowball you, don't take the job.

Do your research. Know what a position should offer. Know what you can work for. If you're low now, say I know it's low, and explain why you accepted it. Maybe you didn't know when you accepted it.

Honesty and Candor. I think I'll have them tattooed on my fists like Elwood.

asteriskrntt1's picture

I think the danger is that too many recruiters/hiring managers are not MT smart and trained. If you give them a low salary, they start making assumptions.

Their making assumptions is never good and once someone has "assumptized", you are toast - there is no changing their mind or influencing them.

So never mind not getting an offer, it might/probably will prevent you from getting to the offer stage.

And on top of that, (and I can only speak for myself here), it is all well and good to spout idealism when one is gainfully employed or has a great job. Oh boo hoo, you can turn down a job offer. Sometimes the reality is... the bank account is less than zero and you have little mouths to feed. You don't want to give them any reason to say no.

TomW's picture

[quote="asteriskrntt1"]ISo never mind not getting an offer, it might/probably will prevent you from getting to the offer stage.

And on top of that, (and I can only speak for myself here), it is all well and good to spout idealism when one is gainfully employed or has a great job. Oh boo hoo, you can turn down a job offer. Sometimes the reality is... the bank account is less than zero and you have little mouths to feed. You don't want to give them any reason to say no.[/quote]

What's worse... getting caught in a lie and losing the opportunity or getting a lower offer than you wanted? Or, option 3, knowing you got a job based on a lie that could cost you the job later?

Honesty will rarely hurt you after the fact. You never know when that lie might jump up and bite you.

Why can't you answer the question of what your salary is now and explain its position in the industry at the same time?

asteriskrntt1's picture

What is worse? What about option 4? Not getting an offer because you quickly gave them a reason to have a moment they could not reconcile, caused them to make an assumption and gave them a quick reason to say no.

Unless you have walked in someone's shoes, you cannot imagine. It is very easy to be idealistic when everything is going for you. When you can't feed your family (and I am not talking like Latrell Sprewell turning down $21 Million over three years), you might change how you answer this question.

RichRuh's picture

*rntt1,

I'm sorry, but I'm having a hard time understanding your last two posts.

[quote]
I think the danger is that too many recruiters/hiring managers are not MT smart and trained. If you give them a low salary, they start making assumptions.

Their making assumptions is never good and once someone has "assumptized", you are toast - there is no changing their mind or influencing them.

What is worse? What about option 4? Not getting an offer because you quickly gave them a reason to have a moment they could not reconcile, caused them to make an assumption and gave them a quick reason to say no.
[/quote]

Are you saying that answering the recruiter's previous salary question with a number that is too low might cause them to conclude that you're not a good candidate?

--Rich

asteriskrntt1's picture

Rich

That is absolutely what I am saying. Compensation is supposed to be tied to performance. If someone is hiring for a position that pays $100k, and you tell them you are in a position making $50K when everyone else is making $75k, they begin to wonder. And once someone has any degree of doubt in your interview, you are toast.

It shouldn't be such a shock. As M&M say, recruiters use ANYTHING to give themselves a reason to say "No". Doesn't matter if it is not shining your shoes, a bad suit or your annoying tick. The simple rule is don't give them any reasons to say "No."

That being said, these "ethical" threads don't work well on here. One could easily argue how "ethical" it is for any recruiter to discriminate on your shoes. But we all know it happens otherwise everyone would get their dream job on their first application.

tomas's picture

US41,

I think we are all mature enough here to accept that there will be wide variety of opinions about any particular matter. It adds to the diversity and quality of the debate.

Just a point of ettiquette - please do not modify quoted text, other than to cut it down to a particular point. You attributed "The simplest way to respond to the question about [insert anything here]is with the truth" to me as a direct quote in order to set up a strawman argument for you to demolish. I never said that. I was responding to the original poster, not pontificating about right and wrong in every possible situation.

I agree that lying can be an important social lubricant. When my wife asks "Does my bum look big in this?" there is clearly only one correct response, regardless of the underlying truth. The world is a complicated place, and my response will vary depending on the situation.

RichRuh's picture

Thanks for the clarification.

Putting ethics aside for just a second, I guess you have to weigh the possibility of being discriminated against for a low salary vs. the possibility of your lie being uncovered.

As far as to what extent ethics and principles should guide your day-to-day decisions, well, we all have our choices to make.

--Rich

WillDuke's picture

I need to give another listen to the Interview series. I thought M&M addressed this specifically - advocating telling the truth.

TomW's picture

[quote="asteriskrntt1"]Rich

That is absolutely what I am saying. Compensation is supposed to be tied to performance. If someone is hiring for a position that pays $100k, and you tell them you are in a position making $50K when everyone else is making $75k, they begin to wonder. And once someone has any degree of doubt in your interview, you are toast.

It shouldn't be such a shock. As M&M say, recruiters use ANYTHING to give themselves a reason to say "No". Doesn't matter if it is not shining your shoes, a bad suit or your annoying tick. The simple rule is don't give them any reasons to say "No."[/quote]

"Right now I'm making $40k. I realize the industry pays $70k for this position, but I decided I to take a position for a non-profit that did not pay as well."

How hard is that? Mark often says people who dodge questions in an interview are already a reason to say no. Simple, direct, honest answers are the way to go.

I see ethics as being just as important when the cards are in a person's favor as when when they are against them. If ethics can fail in one situation, they can fail in both. I worry about someone who uses their current situation as a reason to be unethical.

The other question that no one asked yet, what if the current pay really is all that the candidate has earned? I've seen a lot of people genuinely believe that they were worth a higher salary than they truly were.

James Gutherson's picture

If I have a history of telling the truth my wife would know what to expect when she asks 'that' question. It is the series of little white lies told before hand that put you in that position.

(I'm not saying that this is me - far from it - but I have identified it as a fault and something I need to work on)

tomas's picture

Two observations from the "dark side"....

1. You aren't smart enough to lie. Recruiters interview people day in day out and will spot your lie a mile away. You just aren't that good.

2. If you really are worth $75k, for example, why the hell are you earning $40k? Either there is a real reason, or you've been asleep at the wheel.

skwanch's picture

[quote]I see ethics as being just as important when the cards are in a person's favor as when when they are against them. If ethics can fail in one situation, they can fail in both. I worry about someone who uses their current situation as a reason to be unethical. [/quote]

IOW, situational ethics = NO ethics.

skwanch's picture

[quote]We'd all love to live in a world where everyone tells the truth all of the time, but Earth is not that world. [/quote]

We may not be able to live in the world where everyone tells the truth all of the time, but each individual CAN live in a world where he/she tells the truth all of the time.

[And House is a jerk, no matter how hard the series tries to paint him as noble. The idea that being smarter confers the privilege to abuse those of lesser intellect (which is one of the core messages of the show) is deeply repulsive to me. Intellectual bullying is still bullying and anyone who engages in it is an immature, incomplete, unhappy human being. ]

asteriskrntt1's picture

Will - no need to re-listen (if that is even a word). That is exactly what M&M said. They also said (paraphrasing of course), that you frame your answers in a way that is positive to the recruiter.

Think of the incongruity placed before you. I, as a recruiter, essentially have no rules - I don't like your tie (or whatever ridiculous decision made), you are gone. You (the candidate) MUST be perfectly ethical (whatever that means). Then look at the little video clip “You Are Not As Good As You Think You Are:You’re As Good As The Recruiter Thinks You Are.” And couple that with the M&M statement that "the default answer is NO!).

Given the presumption that compensation is tied to performance, if you give a lowball salary, the recruiter THINKS bad things "why is she/he working so cheaply?" "Are they underperforming" "If someone was doing all this good stuff, wouldn't they be making more to the norm?" "A quality performer wouldn't be making that little" "This must be an indicator that this person isn't good at negotiating, organizational politics or career management or realizing their own worth - not very self aware -probably has some communication issues...."

We are all professionals and on this site sharing because we find great value in what M&M say. However, as they also say, being a manager means making tough decisions...and we don't work in an ideal world, otherwise there would be no need for managers to make tough decisions.

You want to test this? Go from a job where you were making $150k or other good salary and apply for an entry-levelish position. EVERY recruiter and hiring manager will raise concerns about why you would do this - the answer they come to, real or not, is that you are desperate. And no-one hires desperate people. Dude, you took your last job at a low-ball salary because you were desperate - there must be a reason no one would hire you and you worked for such a low salary and even if I don't know what that reason is, I am not touching you.

In closing, you should all thank your lucky stars (or whomever it is you thank) that you are not in this position and hopefully never will be.

US41's picture

[quote="tomas"]1. You aren't smart enough to lie. Recruiters interview people day in day out and will spot your lie a mile away. You just aren't that good.[/quote]

I've heard Mark say the "You're not that smart" thing a lot, and I often agree with him. In this case, I don't agree with the application of this statement.

It's a valiant attempt to turn a subjective discussion of what is ethical into an objective set of results, but I don't think it really passes logical analysis.

I think the general population *is* that smart, they are that good at it, and probably most recruiters and hiring managers never have a clue that anything has gone past them.

I'd turn the statement around to recruiters and hiring managers: You're not that smart, and you won't be able to detect a lie by most people because most people are fairly well practiced at lying about whether or not they were listening, pretending to be amused at the boss's bad jokes, smiling when they are unhappy...

The more political skill someone has - the farther up the corporate food chain they work - the better at this kind of thing they have to be.

For what is politics if not the careful management of relationship by tailoring communication using careful word choice, avoidance of difficult topics, and sometimes deceitful, dishonest expressions of emotional comfort, friendship, and admiration.

Surely you are not going to suggest that managers tell the truth and the whole truth all day long in their jobs? That would be absurd.

If you have to lay off an entire department by the end of the year, and you tell everyone immediately or truthfully answer any questions about it, the people will be jumping ship before you can move to shut it down, and you're management will reel you in to explain the mishandling of the downsizing.

If you are in a merger and the company taking yours over is in every way incompetent compared to your own, and your new boss asks how you feel about the merger, go ahead and say "I think this blows, and you guys are dumb jerks," and you're finished.

The problem with the "You're not that smart" argument is that it is ad hominem: it is a logical fallacy to move from criticizing the argument to suggesting that the person arguing is incapable or ignorant in some way.

I don't recommend inventing a salary. I really liked the suggestion of using the diplomatic deferral. "I'd rather defer that discussion to another day when perhaps something more concrete is on the table," seems like a really good response.

I was very impressed and agreed with the poster that suggested that.

[quote]If you really are worth $75k, for example, why the hell are you earning $40k? Either there is a real reason, or you've been asleep at the wheel.[/quote]

This is also a logical fallacy. Here we assume the conclusion follows the premise - that the man's salary must therefore indicate his deserving of that pay.

I assume he's young, inexperienced in his field, and has begun to expand his awareness and now is becoming aware of what pay he is owed.

There's no need to cave in and reveal salary. There's no reason to ask or answer that question.

I've never asked anyone their previous salary in an interview, and I have conducted hundreds of them. I've never been interested in it or provided that information.

Maybe the correct answer is that if you are asked your salary, you're not dealing with a recruiter with your best interest in mind, and maybe rather than lying or deferring, the best response is "Later, dude."

I can't imagine what a recruiter could possibly use someone's salary information for that is in any way helpful for the job hunter. The only thing I can imagine is that it is gathered in order to determine how difficult they will be to place and what kind of offer they are likely to accept.

Seems more like a bid in an auction than a helpful question.

Again, if you are shopping for a c-level job, it's probably different than if you are interviewing as a grocery store cashier - and I'm sure the need to know salary and the valid use of it increases with the increasing responsibility of the job for which you are looking.

US41's picture

[quote="skwanch"]We may not be able to live in the world where everyone tells the truth all of the time, but each individual CAN live in a world where he/she tells the truth all of the time. [/quote]

Yes, you can. You just can't do it and stay employed.

tomas's picture

US41,

Clearly you are much smarter than I am. I am still trying to follow the logic whereby someone is both clever enough to lie convincingly about their salary but is also "young, inexperienced in his field".

Must be nice to be that smart. So if the recruiter asks you what that salary is on a monthly basis you just do the math on the spot. I guess you also memorise the tax tables so if they ask you what that is after tax you just work it out. And remember to give the same answer when you interview with the company, or another recruiter from the same firm. Sounds like a whole lot of hard work to me!

stephenbooth_uk's picture

[quote="asteriskrntt1"]What is worse? What about option 4? Not getting an offer because you quickly gave them a reason to have a moment they could not reconcile, caused them to make an assumption and gave them a quick reason to say no.[/quote]

If you're in the situation where your salary is low for for the job that you're doing then I think it's important to be prepared to follow up with the why, not just the truth but the whole truth. Don't leave the recruiter to reconcile the apparent anomaly, clear it up for them before it has a chance to fester.

For example my salary is currently about 30% below the average for my role. If a recruiter asks what my salary is I tell them but immediately follow up by explaining what non-salary benefits I get (leave, flexi-time, one of the few good pension schemes left &c) that offset the low salary.

Stephen

WillDuke's picture

Wow, another hot topic! Who knew?

I get what US41 says about stating a low salary and the message that might deliver. But the assumption there is that you state the salary and nothing else. Don't get me wrong, you don't want to protest TOO much, but a little explanation is appropriate. That explanation, if done well, can save the recruiter the trouble of inventing a scenario to explain the low salary. Thus avoiding the negative impact.

I also agree that I wouldn't ask this question. If I did, it would probably be out of curiosity. Just taking the opportunity to check in on the competition. But honestly, that's just the recruiter being lazy.

I know everyone lies about salary. M&M say it all the time. But is that really how you want to start out a relationship with people you will hopefully be spending many years with?

skwanch's picture

[quote]For what is politics if not the careful management of relationship by tailoring communication using careful word choice, avoidance of difficult topics, and sometimes deceitful, dishonest expressions of emotional comfort, friendship, and admiration. [/quote]

Politics <> effective relationship building. Engaging in 'politics' rather than 'relationship building' is where one goes awry.

skwanch's picture

[quote]Yes, you can. You just can't do it and stay employed.[/quote]

Sure you can, if you accept one small caveat/rule, which is that you can choose to stay silent, or redirect the conversation rather than lie. There are dozens of possible responses to most question, some truthful, some not. A diplomatic answer is not automatically 'deceitful', just because the words are chosen carefully.

skwanch's picture

[quote]I agree that lying can be an important social lubricant. When my wife asks "Does my bum look big in this?" there is clearly only one correct response, regardless of the underlying truth. The world is a complicated place, and my response will vary depending on the situation.[/quote]

I disagree with the 'there is only one correct response' - that's a humorous statement based upon tired stereotypes, not a statement of reality.

Taking the example seriously, one can reply in a million truthful ways - "You look great", "What about your blue dress?", "Maybe you want to try something else", "That's not really working".

I use responses like this all the time with my girlfriend (whom I've lived with for 6yrs) and she usually appreciates the honesty because she's not trying to 'trap' me, she's trying to get a second opinion on her attire. Sometimes she takes my advice, sometimes she doesn't. Either way, I don't have to insult her to be 'honest'.

US41's picture

There have been some really awesome responses in this thread, and I have had my thinking expanded by reading them all.

One line in particular caught my eye... Was this honest communication?

[quote]Clearly you are much smarter than I am.[/quote]

I don't think it was. The guy who wrote it may have intended that way, but that is not the conclusion I drew from that behavior. When someone dissembles, redirects, avoids, responds with sarcasm,refuses to answer a question I put to them or sticks to talking points, I interpret that behavior as dishonesty.

Likewise, if I ask you if my shirt makes me look fat, and you answer:

[quote]"You look great", "What about your blue [shirt]?", "Maybe you want to try something else", "That's not really working". [/quote]

I'm the kind of person who will look at you as if to say, "Do I look like a moron?" and ask you to answer the darn question.

But hey, that's just me. We all have different values. We can pretend we don't or that "honesty" or "ethics" is some universally held black & white document, but it is not.

All that we can hope to agree on are results and risk assessment.

I come away from this discussion with a few points:

* Asking someone their salary clearly has an agenda behind it, and it is not a helpful one.

* Answering with an invented number as a tactical ploy is possible to pull off, but the risk of being caught increases as the number outstrips your resume's potential to support it.

* The risk of being caught misstating your salary increases as the salary and importance of the position you seek increases. (lie about your salary and the grocery store manager will never find out - lie about your salary and the press will devour you as you run for president)

* You can dodge the questinon or defer to answer, but some people will interpret that in just as severe a fashion as they do absolute lying depending on what kind of person they are

* You can answer the question directly with absolute truth, and you can tag on some explanation, but the question still had an agenda behind it, and it reveals your true bottom line. You lose power in negotiations with this choice, but avert risk of losing the job later.

* Whatever you do, never admit that you lie publicly or recommend that others lie publicly, you will find yourself being hanged in the town square for "sinning"

[b]Conclusions:[/b]

There is no happy ending here. The recruiter wants carnal knowledge to strengthen his position, you weaken yourself by answering, weaken yourself by deferring, outrage by lying, and disable yourself by walking away.

This circles us all the way back to "Have a better salary", but now we find ourselves in a catch 22: Having a low salary will cause others to find us work at a lower salary, thus creating a tendency for us to be stuck at a lower salary.

========

This all reminds me of an experience one of my acquaintances had about eight years ago. She was out of work, down on her luck, and going from temp job to temp job in a futile attempt to find something that paid more than $25K. She had no college degree, barely scraped out of high school, and no hard skills to sell. Basically, she brought nothing to the table that would show up on a resume. She was a perma-receptionist.

She knew that in order to improve her resume, she needed a REAL job. She also knew that she could not get a REAL job with her resume.

Here was her solution: She took mine, changed the name, address, school names, dates, and simply submitted a forged resume. No, I was not aware of it at the time.

She found a job quickly, because what she was looking for my resume would land or result in "over-qualified." They found out about it about six months later and fired her.

She quickly found yet another job. They found out about six months in, and they fired her too.

She put both jobs on her REAL resume, and then she found a third job, and they kept her, and she now works in her industry making somewhat more than I do.

Unethical? You're darn tootin' it was unethical. When I found out, I was outraged.

At the time, I was trying to hire someone with some IT skills, and I had about 200 resumes on my desk. I decided to hold phone interviews for my "short list." Each of the resumes had a "skill set" section on it (IT contracting companies like to re-write resumes to have this section on them) listing particular skills.

Learning of my acquaintance's dishonest behavior, I lost some of my faith in humanity, and I started challenging the items on the resumes pretty hard. I asked "Your resume says you know Oracle."

They would respond with "Yes, I know Oracle." Normally this would have been the end for me, but I pressed on now, filled with righteous indignation.

"So, if I give you a set of CD's and plop you down in the data center with a server terminal, you can install, configure, and build me an Oracle database? Can you normalize and defragment what we have? If I show you SQL scripts we have as stored procedures, can you debug them?"

The applicants, to a man, responded that in fact they did not really "know" oracle so much as they had just brushed past it. One said, "I once used a billing system as a customer service rep, and it had some oracle in it, they said."

Such abilities as I asked for were irrelevant to the job posting I was interviewing for, but I was irritated that people would lie on their resumes so much just to create the impression of having really cool, if unrelated, hard skills.

So, I abandoned my short list, now determined to find an honest man somewhere out there. I tore through resume after resume in phone interviews.

By the time I was done, I had gone through nearly all of them, and every one had some sort of fiction on it. Either their title was wrong according to the previous employer's HR person, or the dates were a little shifted to show more time in the job than they had, or the responsibilities were overblown to make answering phones look like project management, or they claimed technical abilities that they barely had or did not really have as if they were fluent and expert.

At first this was infuriating. Had the world gone loony? Am I the only hiring manager actually following up on resume content and challenging the applicants on the specific claims they make?

My outrage toward my acquaintance cooled a lot, and I began to realize that not everyone is as straight-shooting as myself, and in fact such people might actually be rarer than I once thought. I've since come to view such behavior as so common for line positions that some questions and challenges, which are not BFOQ for the job in question, are just better off left unasked, because people lie a lot more often than we like to believe.

They don't have to be smart, and we don't have to be dumb. Practice just makes perfect, and people practice a lot more than our often tele-tubbies view of reality would lead us to believe.

I have to wonder why a recruiter, who must wade through such nonsense on a daily basis, would bother asking someone their salary, given the tendency of people to fib during the hiring process (or any other challenging social interaction). I'd think he'd want that from an external source, or he'd keep his feet on the ground and ask for the range you were looking for without asking about your previous salary to avoid the entire messy dodging, ducking, deferring, lying, or low-balling that would result from the qestion.

stephenbooth_uk's picture

[quote="US41"]By the time I was done, I had gone through nearly all of them, and every one had some sort of fiction on it. Either their title was wrong according to the previous employer's HR person,[/quote]

That's not at all unusual these days, in the UK at least, especially in the public sector. Generic job descriptions and job titles seem to have come into vogue so the job title in the HR system (which may just indicate roughly what level you're at in the organization) may bear little resemblance to the real job title (the one that says what you actually do). For example in my previous job my real job title was "Senior Oracle DBA" but if you looked in the HR system you'd see my job title as "Business Officer/Project Leader" (actually you'd see "BUSOFF/PROJLDR" but I expanded the abbreviation), right now my real job title is "Technical Analyst" but my HR system title is unchanged even though my day to day work is completely different. Other real job titles with the same HR system title include "Business Analyst", "ServiceDesk Team Leader", "Problem Analyst", "Senior Systems Administrator", "Change Analyst" and "Administration Supervisor".

[quote="US41"]or they claimed technical abilities that they barely had or did not really have as if they were fluent and expert.[/quote]

This reminds me of something I read in a number of books on job hunting the last time I was unemployed (mid-1990s). Each of them had a chapter with a title like "Applying Overseas" or "Jobseeking Overseas" which, this being the UK, would include the US. A common, universal even, statement was that in the US the norm is to amplify claims of ability and knowledge on your resume in comparison with UK/European CVs. The books emphasised that this was not a case of lying, just that the common yardstick was different. Therefore if applying for work in the US a UK job seeker would have to step up their claims of skills and knowledge somewhat, similarly a US job seeker applying for work in the UK should tone down their claims to avoid being misjudged.

Additionally I have talked to a number of friends from the US about what is in their resume and frequently found that they make claims of being 'very experienced' or 'expert' in something where I, with the same level of experience, would claim only 'some knowledge of', when we discussed it they just said that that's the way things are done in the US. One IT trainer (normally UK based but sometimes runs courses in the US) I have known for several years frequently complains about how attendees in the US will often arrive claims extensive knowledge of a system when in reality they have just read the first few chapters of the appropriate "For Dummies" book the weekend before.

[quote="US41"]I have to wonder why a recruiter, who must wade through such nonsense on a daily basis, would bother asking someone their salary, given the tendency of people to fib during the hiring process (or any other challenging social interaction). [/quote]

In my experience recruitment consultants are often the worst offenders. Over the years I have been to literally dozens of of job interviews where the interviewer has thought I had years of experience in something that I barely know because the recruitment consultant has made claims just not supported by my CV. One I went to last year started with the interviewer saying "Ah, I see you have 10 years experience of Microsoft Visual C++ programming.", which I don't (I've never even used that product). After explaining that I didn't have that experience we both looked at the copy of my CV that the recruitment consultant had sent him and compared it with my actual CV. There were massive differences, basically everything was exaggerated massively, the claim of 10 years experience in Microsoft Visual C++ seemed to be based on the fact that 10 years previously I'd attended a short course in Introductory C Programming. Obviously I didn't get the job, unfortunately I had to go in pretty much blind (I was told about the job at about 18:00 one day and the interview was 08:00 the next) so hadn't seen a job description or person spec before going in and all I had to go on was what the recruitment consultant told me. Had I seen the person spec I could have told them immediately that I was not suitable. I did call the consultant and asked about the changes to my CV and his only response was that that was the only way to get the company to see me and there was no-one else on his books who came even remotely close to what they wanted.

There are a lot of recruitment consultants who, in my experience, deserve the sort of reputation normally reserved for secondhand car salesmen.

Stephen

Mark's picture

Amit-

I don't understand your post.

Did a recruiter simply comment on your salary after you shared it? Or did they question your truthfulness? Did you previously know that you were low relative to the market? Or did their (comment) surprise you?

And in what context did they raise the issue?

Mark

Mark's picture

All-

This is not the place for feedback, as it is public, and it would be in writing anyway.

Nevertheless, some of the comments here have enough edge to them that I'm asking everyone to take a look at their own and see if we can't be touch more civil.

The purpose of the forums is to help others. Yes, we do get to debate sometimes, and we can certainly disagree. But when the debate leaves the plane of helping the original poster, I think we lose our way.

Mark