Should I Tell A Headhunter My Salary?
This question often brings strong opinions, on both sides of the fence. I’ve seen advice stated firmly for and against, and I’ve seen some of the experts waffle on the issue. If you’ve followed this blog for long, or you’ve read my resume book, you know I don’t waffle, so here’s my two cents.
Really? You ask.
I could cite a long list of why you should, but there’s only one real reason why—because the headhunter’s client wants to know. Headhunters work for the company. That’s not to say they take sides or that they’re against you. Headhunters are not against anyone. A good headhunter strives for only one thing—to fill the job with the best possible person. And when I say the best possible person I mean the person who will work best for the client, and, experience a great career move for themselves.
If I present a candidate to my client and they ask what that person is making, I have to know. I can’t say, “they won’t tell me.” If I do, I won’t have that client for long, and, that client won’t see that candidate. Both of us would lose.
I Know The Argument
Yes, I really do understand your concerns. Many candidates think that if the company knows what they’re making, they will base the offer on the person’s current salary. In some respects the candidates are right. There are companies that will make a low-ball offer because they think they can get the person for less money. But the power is in your hands. You don’t have to take that offer. If you run into a company like that, and you can’t negotiate what you think is a fair offer—turn it down. No one is forcing you to take it.
I also understand that for some of you—if you’re unemployed—getting a job is a necessity, and quite often an immediate necessity. In other words, you don’t have the luxury of turning down offers, even if the offer isn’t what you think is fair. Just remember, if the company is making you the offer, they think you’re the best person for the job. Use that to your advantage and leverage your negotiating. (We’ll be doing a future post on negotiating offers.)
Not All Companies Are Bad
Every company I deal with goes out of their way to make a fair offer. I realize there are some that don’t, but if you run across a company like that you’ll have to make your decision. I can tell you that if you’re dealing with a good headhunter, they’re not going to sit by while their client presents a low offer. They’ll advise the client on what is fair and what they should be paying.
I had one candidate who was horribly underpaid. He was making $105k when he should have been far above that, but he was in a small town with a low cost of living and he had put up with it. When I called him for a better opportunity, he was interested, but he wouldn’t tell me his salary. I knew why, and I told him that his salary wouldn’t affect an offer, if one was coming. I don’t think he believed me, but I finally told him I wouldn’t represent him without the details. He relented and gave me the information, but he did worry that his low salary would keep him from getting what he was worth.
When we got through the interviews, the client offered him a salary of $179k, which he was ecstatic with, and he accepted the offer. That was four years ago. He’s still with them and making a good bit more now. Even more importantly, he’s happy with what he’s doing and feels as if he’s being treated right.
I know that many of you will fight this no matter what. All I can tell you is that I don’t know of a single reputable search firm that will represent you without having your compensation information. And I don’t just mean salary. You need to be honest with the headhunter. They’re there to help you. Tell them your salary, bonus, stock…anything that makes up your compensation. If you’re dealing with a good headhunter they are accustomed to negotiating deals. I have personally negotiated salary/comp packages for hundreds of candidates, and 99% of them have worked out great.
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