How to Overcome the Recruiter’s Salary Question – My Wife’s Story

Why Recruiters Need to Change Their Approach

Salary History

If you’re thinking about or going through a job change grab my eBook, the Free 3 Way to Win. I wrote it to go with this post. It’s a guide for what to say next time you’re asked for your salary history by the recruiter. Click here for your free copy.


Following my last post on Why Recruiters Want to Know Your Salary, I wanted to share my wife’s story.


A recruiter recently called my wife, he had an interesting job in London to speak to her about. My wife and I live outside of the city, she’s works close by to where we live.


She’s thinking about a job change. Because the salaries are higher in London, she’s interested in a role there. Unlike where we live, in London she can safely expect a salary 30% to 40% higher than she’s currently earning.


After doing her due diligence on the hiring company she gave permission to the recruiter to represent her for the role.


Her resume goes to the client. Now, before she has any interview with the company, the recruiter calls her to ask her salary history.


She’s stalls, unwilling to tell him, she’s unsure about giving too much away. He says that he needs the salary to “complete the form for his client”. There was nothing to worry about and it was “standard”. She gives in and tells him. By this stage my recruiter and my wife have spoken for a total of less than 5 minutes.


For the Job Seeker, Being Able to Trust the Recruiter is Key 


They’ve never met in person, the whole engagement has been on the phone. She doesn’t know this guy from Adam. There’s a level of trust here that’s unique to recruitment.  


A week passes and still no interview but instead the recruiter calls her. The recruiter says the client is interested my wife’s profile. She has a doctorate in programming and a few years under her belt at a major blue chip organisation.


However, they’re not willing to pay more than 15% than she’s currently on. The recruiter sympathizes. He knows she’s underpaid and will “try” and see if there’s flexibility.


So the recruiter has gone from, ‘this is a standard, complete the form’ type of conversation to her current salary has become part of a binary decision for the client.


Now, keep in mind had she been in London, her starting point would have been much higher. If she was already working in London and had the same conversation, the client would have said the same “we won’t pay more than 15%”.


This speaks volumes about the recruiter as it does about his client. They want quality people on the cheap, below the market. 


Apparently, the laws of wanting an attractive deal shouldn’t apply to job seekers. They should fall over themselves to accept a job that will pay less than their worth. 


If you’re going through a job change and you’ve found yourself in this position you should see a massive red flag. Asking yourself one thing. If this company is willing to try and screw me before joining them, it tells me how poor the relationship must be with their existing staff.


For them, each employee is a unit of productivity. If they’re willing to do this before starting, think about where the boundaries are if you join.


If you’ve been successful in your interviews, you’ll be offered a job. This part of the job change should be when you’re on cloud 9. A successful job change should be about a the potential ahead and excitement by what’s on offer. 


Recruiters Play a Numbers Game


To the recruiter, we’re just a transaction. The conversation the recruiter had with my wife was one of many similar conversations he’ll have that day. For him it’s a numbers game. He doesn’t care, he’s already trying with several other leads.


This approach to hiring helps no one. For the sake of argument my wife interviews and gets the job. Within 1 month she realizes she’s as underpaid in her new role as she was in her previous role and she starts looking for another job change.


Her career has a wobble with a short spell at the company. The recruiter looks bad since someone has left within their probation and the company is still without a someone for the job. 


What a complete waste of everyone’s time. The blame for this would laid squarely with the recruiter.  Rather focusing on trawling through as many resumes as possible he should be focusing on the quality of the conversation with his client.


By quality I mean frank. With experience comes the ability to tell client that their expectation are way out of line with the reality. And they can do so this without being fearful of losing the client’s business. A recruiter’s job is to have difficult conversations with the client.  If they are not prepared to do this, they’re a human version of what LinkedIn is already doing.


Take Away: How to Deal with the Salary History Question


The takeaway to this story is that my wife stops goes no further with the conversation with the recruiter. She emailed him to instruct him to take her off his database. She will pass the story on to colleagues in the months ahead. This is how bad reputations ferment and spread.


As part of your job change, you might find yourself in a similar position to my wife. There are ways to make sure you’re in control. You can work successfully with a recruiter as part of your job change. Grab your copy of the 3 Ways to Win eBook.  Download it here.

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