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That salary question recruiters ask…

Recruiters asking about your current salary… so invasive right?

It’s such a personal thing to ask. And who wants to be potentially judged at how good or successful they are by what they earn?! Let alone tell it to someone you don’t even know.

I totally get why this question is one many of you don’t like or refuse to answer.

So, I thought I’d at least give some of my reasons as to why I ask it when speaking to prospective candidates…

1. To give me more of a steer on what roles I have that could be of interest. For example if you’re on £65k and I have a role that ticks all the other boxes you’ve told me you want but will only pay a max of £55k, then regardless of how many times you’ve told me it’s not about the money, a £10k drop is going to take a lot of free fruit and breakfast to make up for. Similarly, if you’re on £40k and I have a role paying £45k but you’ve told me you want £50k for some reason, I can then at least advise more around the non-monetary benefits of looking at the £45k role, knowing that you will still at least increase on what you’re currently on.

2. In some cases, it will help prevent a low-ball offer from a client. Or at least I’ll try not to let it get to you before the client does something about it. For example, if I know you’re on £60k looking for £65k or more, and after interviews etc, the client then offers £60k, I can then go back and try to negotiate on your behalf letting the client know, to see if we can at least increase on your current take-home before presenting you with a final offer. Without knowing, it makes it harder for me to justify why they need to reconsider their offer before I present it to you.

3. Some clients will insist on knowing as part of their process – am guessing for similar reasons to the above or perhaps market intel as well.

Other points to note…

  • Most recruiters earn commission based on a fixed percentage of the candidates’ agreed salary that gets offered. So, the more you earn, the more they do too – provided it still fits within the client’s budget of course. Bare this in mind if you ever think a recruiter’s trying to screw you down on the salary – most will be better off if they can get you more! They may just be trying to sound out your minimum parameters but better if they could just tell you that from the start.
  • Don’t feel you need to be reassuringly expensive – most good recruiters and clients will understand if/why your salary might be lower than current market averages – especially in cases where you might have stayed with the same company for a long time (you rarely go up as much internally as you could do externally with a move every few years), you work for a charity or start-up (as in 3 man-band sort of start-up, not backed by an oligarch type of start-up).
  • Don’t believe the hype – sorry to say, just because you get called/emailed 10 times a day by cowboy recruiters about a Lead role at £70k, when you’ve got 2 years’ experience but your Linked In profile or CV contains a good number of buzz words also shown in the job brief they’re working on, doesn’t always mean you should be looking for £70k.

I always have the mindset of conversations between myself and a candidate being almost doctor-like, in that anything that’s said is confidential and won’t go further without the candidates’ approval.

If you’re looking for a new job and don’t feel comfortable having discussions with a recruiter over the phone about things like what your current salary is, then my advice would be to get to know and meet 1 or 2 who can build up some trust with you and really get to know what’s important to you. It’s certainly not the only way to get a new job, but it’s a pretty good one in my opinion. May also save you more time in the long run, compared to dealing with multiple calls and emails, from people who don’t really know you.

Anyway, hope that might give some sort of insight as to why some of us ask that question. Am sure some recruiters have more of a top line view about it, but there you go. More and more recruiters are up-skilling these days, focussing on consulting rather than selling (and believe it or not, it’s for your benefit and approval!). Granted, many, if not all of us want to make money from it but we’ll only get there if you do too!

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