Practical Job Search Advice: Give up salary history?

I just love Liz.  She is so practical and down to Earth. There are just so many half-baked ideas out there on how to forecast performance of a new hire.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Give up salary history?

Hi Liz,

I learned about a position of interest and I emailed several LinkedIn
connections asking about the co. and if they knew of an appropriate contact, to (tactfully) avoid the HR black hole. Each time I was told to contact their HR. I contacted HR and was told to complete an online app. I completed the app and drafted a very tailored cover/pain letter, customized my resume and submitted both online. I exceeded their experience by more than double and met their ed preference for a grad degree. At the bottom of the app after completing everything as I went to submit it, I was informed that I was subject to a background check and verification of salary/experience. I wasn’t thrilled about it but had invested a lot of time so I submitted the app. I received a call from
HR asking me for my salary requirements – I gave the range and was told it was high and asked would I flex $10K? I wasn’t excited but said depending on their compensation package, I would. Then in spite of the years of direct experience I exceeded vs. their requirements, she
commented that it had been several years since I’d performed the management areas needed by them ( in spite of having documented solid results for 4 companies on my resume), vs. what I’ve done with consulting the past few years.
From her comments, it sounded as if they haven’t found the right person  – now I know why. I was starting to feel like I was getting attacked to bring me down.
While I could commute, it would be 2-3 hours commute each way, so I told her I’d need to relo and wouldn’t commute. Right now I’m honestly ambivalent about this whole situation.

Since I submitted the app acknowledging past salary/employment verification,  if I am contacted re: an interview or additional info, in spite of my favoring your recommendations to not disclose past salaries, do I have to provide company HR contacts for salary verification  or- can I provide an employee reference to verify salary? I won’t lie but I want to avoid HR.
I also don’t want to disclose consulting income – do I say that’s privileged as part of my  tax reporting information?
What else would you recommend addressing with this co. upfront before I commit to more time/meetings with them?

Thanks, Liz,


———————- NOTE FROM LIZ:—————————

Dear Carmen,

You filled out an online application, and in that process you gave the employer permission to contact your past employers. That approval has NOTHING to do with your own disclosure of your past salaries or your consulting income. It is entirely up to you whether to say anything about that, or not.

As you mentioned, I don’t see any reason for an employer to ask about your past salary, and I encourage job-seekers to keep that info to themselves. Here’s a little script for that conversation:

THEM: So Carmen, what did you earn at ABC Plastics?
YOU: I’m focusing on jobs in the $55K range, so if this position is in that
ballpark, it makes sense for us to talk about it.
THEM: But what were you earning at ABC Plastics?
YOU (big smile in your voice): I think it’s important for us to determine
together whether the job opening is in a range that works for me, and whether my skills and background work for you and would command a $55K job in your pay structure. Do you think that is something we could figure out in this phone call?
YOU: Well, that number is in our range — it’s at the high end.
YOU: That’s great, then, if you feel I’ve got the background that you’re looking for, let’s figure out what the next step is.

You are already ambivalent about the job, and who can blame you? Who wants to commute hours every day? Your on-the-fence-ishness is one more reason to keep your past salary info to yourself. Don’t worry about giving the employer ways to verify your past salary. If you’ve already given them permission to get that info from your past employers, it’s up to them to do that spadework. Lots of them won’t bother, if your background fits the job requisition.

As for consulting income, you don’t have to spill the beans on that, either. Why should you?

Before you agree to more meetings, I’d get a straight answer on these questions:

1) Is your desired salary in their target hiring range?
2) Is there an opportunity for relo, or for you to telecommute, at least part of the time?
3) Given the concerns that they expressed about your past management experience, what is about your background that makes you still a candidate for this job? (If they won’t give you a clear answer on this one, RUN!)

Carmen, the biggest piece of advice I can give you is to trust your gut. If you’re qualified, you’re qualified. If you’re not, you’re not. Companies who put down their job candidates are not generally companies that anyone enjoys working for.



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