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Why Share Your Compensation History with a Recruiter?


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Alison Turnbull By Alison Turnbull,
National Delivery Manager at Eagle

Should You Share Your Compensation History with a Recruiter?I came across an article recently that was quite interesting to me personally, and it certainly seemed to be a contentious topic with 488 comments, 6200 likes and 1364 forwards in a few short weeks.  Apparently, (and previously unbeknownst to me), Massachusetts recently passed a new bill preventing employers from requiring salary histories from job applicants.

As a recruiter with 20 years of experience, most of that in permanent placement (in both retained and contingent firms) I found the commentary very interesting.  Most who commented very passionately agreed that recruiters had no right to ask for compensation history, and felt that the ask was ‘unethical’ and a means to get a candidate to the lowest salary possible.

It is very rare that I have had a candidate flat out refuse to share their compensation information with me, but it has happened on occasion.  It always makes me very reluctant to represent them as I find it difficult to effectively negotiate on their behalf, and it often leads me to wonder whether they are looking for a substantial increase over their current compensation that may be outside of the norm.

I always explain to candidates that the initial compensation conversation is between us, and how I choose to position that to an employer can and will be discussed and agreed upon with their input.  As much as I’m unwilling to just throw out an employer’s ‘range’, I’m as unwilling to invest the time in representing someone to a client without having a full understanding of their motivation, expectations, and employment history (including compensation).

It is not unrealistic to expect a substantial increase in some cases and if it is justified, particularly if there are extenuating circumstances like relocation, being long tenured within one organization, niche areas of expertise, an imminent increase or bonus, or just being a passive job seeker who is completely content where they currently are.  If someone’s expectations are beyond what would be considered standard, I can justify that to an employer if I have a full understanding of all considerations involved.

Obviously, it’s important for a recruiter to understand that your expectations are in line with an employer’s range before time is invested on all sides, but should the history of what you have earned be a factor of consideration?  Or should the market rates, your experience and the employers range be the only criteria?  I welcome your thoughts/input below.

4 thoughts on “Why Share Your Compensation History with a Recruiter?

  1. I find that in government situations, whether it is a permanent or contract role, “the range is the range”. Government departments will very seldom make an offer above the range. Applicants need to understand this.

    Elsewhere, the market situation usually dictates. By this, I mean “supply vs. demand”. If there are many more applicants than jobs available, i.e. a high unemployment rate, employers are able to dictate the terms. In this scenario, the recruiter can be very helpful to the applicants, by offering guidance as to whether your rate (considering any differences in skills and experience) is competitive with the rates of other applicants for the same role.

  2. A very good question, Alison!
    I personally think that what you’ve earned in the past has nothing to do with what you deserve. So the skills showing at the interview and in the resume + your client’s pay range must be the only factors determining the viability of the candidate’s “ask”.

    1. Agreed. I’ve often been able to negotiate substantial increases for candidates depending on the specific situation. Having all historical details from a candidate though is definitely helpful.

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