Why You Should Want Your Salary To Be Your Recruiter's Business

Posted on 5/2/2016 by Duane Cormell

A couple of weeks ago I came across a blog post by a distinguished HR professional on LinkedIn. Throughout the post, they promoted their viewpoint that a jobseeker’s salary is none of a recruiter’s business. They even went so far as to detail a fictitious dialogue between a recruiter and a jobseeker: ‘Recruiter: If you can’t tell me your current salary, we can’t continue this conversation…[Jobseeker]: That sounds great – please take me off your list in that case, and have a great day.’ I was rather taken aback that someone so experienced in the field of HR would feel that way, let alone advocate a non-disclosure.

In her post, the author suggests that recruiters should ‘demonstrate their suitability to be your professional representative’. Frankly, I could not agree more. When you go to a recruiter you are to some extent putting your career in their hands. Is your career not one of the most important facets of your life? If you think so – and I imagine most people will do – then surely it is vital that you work with a good recruiter.

As a starting point, a recruiter should be able to convincingly convey that they understand your circumstances and aspirations correctly, as well as demonstrating a true grasp of the market they operate in. A recruiter that cannot do these things is probably the sort you ought not to work with. A good recruiter will really come into their own by acting consultatively (the clue is in the title, ‘Recruitment Consultant’), in assessing all the information you have provided them with and then accordingly offering you well-informed advice. Any recruiter can promise you the world and then never get back to you, whilst most can even find you a job that you end up leaving after a couple of months, whereas a good recruiter will provide you with insight, an honest appraisal of your prospects, and ultimately deliver. The problem is, a good recruiter cannot offer you reliable advice if they haven’t correctly understood your circumstances, which they won’t have done if your default position is one of non-disclosure. 

Whether we like it or not, in the world we live in there is a practice, described by the author of the blog I read as ‘pathetic’, whereby employers base the offer they make to a jobseeker in part on the jobseeker’s current salary. Yes, a good recruiter should advocate for the jobseeker, offer both them and the client advice on fair market rate and try to steer the employer away from lazily making an offer based purely on the jobseeker’s current salary. Yes, a good recruiter will also explain these points in more detail when a jobseeker queries why it is that they need to divulge their current salary. None of this, however, would seem to negate the recruiter’s reason for wanting to know the jobseeker's current salary, as things stand. 

If truth be told, nearly all of the jobseekers I have ever worked with have been glad to share information regarding their salary with me, though I would never force someone to disclose any information they truly felt uncomfortable sharing. What is more, in the majority of instances in which I have worked with a jobseeker whose current salary doesn’t fairly reflect their skill set or experience, the employers I have recruited for have been understanding of that fact and taken it into consideration when determining what level of salary to offer the jobseeker.

So if the argument for non-disclosure is that sharing your salary with the recruiter undermines your bargaining position as a jobseeker, particularly if you are already poorly paid, then the author of the aforementioned blog would seemingly be barking up the wrong tree. The issue would seem to lie at the door of those employers that fancifully make unconsidered and often derisory offers.

Not only were some of the author’s comments misrepresentative of the way truly consultative recruiters work (don’t get me started on this notion that we have lists of clients and candidates we blindingly email!), but they serve to reinforce the mistrust that a lot of jobseekers sadly already feel towards recruiters. Your relationship with your recruiter is like any other relationship, in that it will not flourish if there is an air of hostility and mistrust at the outset. On the contrary, if you seek out a good recruiter, sharing information with them about your salary and aspirations should only increase their ability to offer you sound advice and, more importantly, advocate on your behalf. 

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