June 22, 2023

Cracking the Career Code: The Legality of a Recruiter Asking About Current Compensation


Episode Highlights

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This is a 5-part series where Matt and Kierra will be covering how to discuss compensation with a Recruiter. In this segment specifically, part 3, they discuss the legality of a recruiter asking about current compensation. Tune in to learn more!

Episode Transcript

So another thing when thinking about compensation when talking with a recruiter is, can a recruiter ask your current salary or their salary history? So what do you think about that Kierra? Yeah, it definitely depends on what state you live in. There are certain states where this is legal and there’s also states where it’s not.

So it’s important to know what your state’s policy is. But you can find this by searching online. There are different resources where you can look it up that will tell you if this is okay for a recruiter to ask you. And there’s just different ways that you can navigate this.

If you don’t want to tell your certain salary that you’re making, which I know a lot of people are hesitant to do, some people are totally fine with it. It just depends. But you can always flip it back on the recruiter and ask the recruiter, what is the budgeted salary arrange for this role? Yeah.

There is other ways to navigate it. You can always say that you’re not really concerned about the compensation this early in the process. But during the interview process, you’ll be able to learn more about the expectations and responsibilities that will kind of give you a better idea of what you would be targeting.

Mm-hmm. So that’s just one way to kind of navigate that and get around it. But there’s also things where applications will require you to put a salary for you to fill out while you’re filling out an online application. I’ll ask, what is your budgeted salary?

So what would you do? How would you navigate that, Matt? Sure. Yeah. So a lot of times in those states where it’s legal to ask current salary or salary history, you know, you’ll see that field to enter in the application process. So what I suggest is if you can just enter all zeros, you know, then talk about it when you’re live on the phone with a recruiter.

Also, if that’s not like a dream job that you’re applying to, maybe just move on to the next application. That doesn’t require you to do that. So even in states where it’s legal to ask what someone’s salary history is or what their current compensation level is, you can navigate that tactfully and be able to kind of dance around it.

If you think you don’t want to price yourself out of the role, or you don’t want to low ball yourself. And that’s why knowing your market value is so important that we already discussed. Also, that can help you determine what type of roles that you’d want to move forward with or interview for.

And here, I know we recruit for a lot of the same tech roles, but let’s talk a little bit about how job titles can be misleading across different industries and different companies when it comes to compensation. Yeah, so that’s really interesting.

When you have a specific job title, it could mean one thing at one company and a completely different thing at another company. We’ve seen lead engineers making more than managers and directors. It just really depends on the company and the types of responsibilities that you have. I know that a lot of bigger companies sometimes the roles you’re doing more niche responsibilities because there are teams specified and siloed for different responsibilities that someone at a startup company or smaller company would get access to.

And so I do think it is important to know the responsibilities of the job, to help understand where you would be on the comp range. What else have you kind of seen, Matt, when you’ve been talking to different people that come from same titles but are really targeting completely different comps.

Sure. Well, you mentioned a few things. You know, size of company is important. Is it a startup? Is it a small to medium size business? Is it a large enterprise? Also think about whether the company is privately owned or if it’s public and traded on the stock market. That can influence what the compensation level might be.

Also just company performance in general, and if they’re profitable. If they make a lot of money and are able to reinvest that into like bonus or profit sharing programs, then compensation’s probably going to be higher at those types of companies. And also just those in demand skills. So being in tech, you know, in 2023, we hear this all the time about machine learning and AI.

So those individuals that have those super in demand skills, like machine learning and AI right now, can demand, a higher pay because it’s so hot and it’s a growing industry and everyone’s talking about it, and there aren’t a lot of people who have that type of experience, so it’s highly competitive.

And so is the compensation in those fields. Right. Right, and just looking over the job description, you can usually tell, what the types of responsibilities are and see if those align with what you’re currently doing or what you would like to do. That will also generally give you a good idea of what to expect, but also talking to the recruiter, asking them questions, that they know specifically from the company, the environment, culture.

I think those all play a big role into overall compensation as well. Yeah, and just asking for the budgeted range. Again, some corporate or internal recruiters won’t really share that with you. You’ll have to play their games, but it’s just best to ask before you tell. Agreed. Agreed.

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