Man counting out cash at a table.

If you’ve ever worked with a recruiter, at some point you’ve probably been asked, “What is your current salary?”. Many job seekers are taken aback by this question and believe it to be too personal. Today, we’ll be discussing why the question is asked, and under what circumstances you may want to answer it and disclose your salary.

Firstly, we’ll begin by examining why the question is asked, and the purpose it serves. It’s also important to know the difference between types of recruiters. An employer recruiter works for a company within their HR department. An agency recruiter works for a company whose entire purpose is recruiting candidates for other employers. These two different types of recruiters have very different motivations.

Salary Motivations 

Motivations for an Internal Recruiter

A internal recruiter in the HR department has a set budget, and wants to hire the the most cost efficient candidate. They would like to hire the best candidate, but are limited by budgetary constraints, and will take a deal if they can get it. If a candidate comes along who is worth $80,000, but will accept $65,000, they will happily take the ‘discount’. This isn’t true for all employers, but most would take the discount and keep the job seeker in the dark about the actual paying range of the job, and the value of their skills.

Motivations for an Agency Recruiter

An agency recruiter on the other hand, is looking to please both the candidate and the client. They want to submit the best candidate, and negotiate for them to receive a salary that they are happy to receive, and the company is willing to pay. Since the recruiter is working for the client, the best outcome would be for both parties to be happy. Satisfying both parties leads to strong relationships, and potentially more business down the road. So in most cases, it makes sense for these recruiters to keep everyone happy.

It’s also important to note that most agency recruiters are paid commission based on their candidate’s salary. This means it is in their best interest to get that candidate the best salary possible. If you’re wondering if your recruiter is paid by commission, a good judge is if you are paying for their services. If you are utilizing their services for free, they likely have an agreement with their clients. This isn’t to say that you should always disclose your salary. Next we’ll discuss the ideal situations to disclose your salary.

When to Disclose Your Salary

When you’re dealing with either kind of recruiter, you have to consider a few things:

  • Do they have my best interests at heart?
  • Are they being open and honest with me?
  • Have they made any attempt to understand my background?

Ideally, they will have your best interests at hear, and be open and honest. If they are willing to have an open discussion about salary expectations, that’s a good sign. If they are being shady about discussing anything before finding out your salary, you may want to move on. However, if they attempt to understand your background, that is a great sign. A recruiter who wants to find out more about your career path is equipping themselves to go to bat for you with a client. The better they understand your value, the closer they will get a job offer near your target salary range.

This relationship is typically present when working with agency recruiters from the reasons mentioned above. You may encounter it with an internal recruiter, however this is rare. Thankfully, the job market is considerably in favor of candidates right now. This means most companies have to be more accommodating to job seekers. In general, this is causing a more open and honest discussion to be had. If you are curious and would like some more insight into why the salary question is asked, feel free to let us know in the comments. We’d be happy to address any questions, concerns, or curiosities you may have!