At the end of September 2014, Liz Ryan, a consecrated Forbes contributor, wrote an article on what to do when being asked about your past salary during a job interview. Her article advises readers to maintain privacy regarding their salary and how this practice can increase your hiring leverage. In her article, she argues that such a question is actually an ‘illegal’ interview inquiry between a potential employer and employee. She also argues that not disclosing such information can actually work to the advantage of the job seeker if handled correctly. We endorse this sentiment whole heartedly. If you’re at a job interview and the recruiter or headhunter asks you about your current job salary, politely decline to answer. As Ms. Ryan indicates, you should instead note your salary target instead. If you do answer this question, not only are you caving to the hiring manager’s illegal question. But, you could ‘shoot yourself in the foot’ by making the potential employer offer you just a bit more than you currently earn. This may occur despite the fact that your qualifications and new job position would make you entitled to earn much more. The job market is too strong for anyone out there to be selling him or herself short through such self destructive behavior.
The Forbes article argues this very point. Beyond the basic principles of the matter, Liz Ryan proceeds to argue that our economy is currently witnessing a shift in both the job market and the economy at large. The inquiry about past or current salaries is just one of many illegal interview questions that were largely tolerated during the recession and weak job market. Things are not the same now. The job market is widely becoming a ‘buyers market’. This is due to a shift of power from the employers to the workers, she argues. Experts predicted this shift would occue with the economy’s slow but steady recovery. Job seekers are not, and nor should be, as desperate to find a work place as they were in the years past. Successful recruiters will ‘cope’ with this loss of power by improving their technique. The first step to this technique is to stop asking abusive questions that open their company up to litigation.
Most recruiters realize that asking about one’s salary in an interview is not entirely kosher. Many times, they will disguise their intentions by telling interviewees that they’re just curious about their competitors’ salaries for the position. However, this is a pretty weak excuse. If a company is truly interested in learning about the job market’s median wages, they should hire an outside consultant to do the investigation for them, not ‘pump’ their interviews for information (which is probably just a lie). The Forbes contributor’s advice for this situation is to maintain your calm and to reply with a salary that you feel is adequate for the position. If the hiring manager continues to press you, state that your salary is confidential. The discussion about salary can be one of your most powerful job hiring leverages if used correctly. Your ability to avoid this answer can make a huge difference between getting the salary you deserve or being underpaid by a shady company that doesn’t value its employees. Remember, if all else fails, you can always walk away from the interview entirely.
Other illegal interview questions include personal questions about religion, age, sexual orientation, or personal life plans (such as asking women if they are pregnant or if they plan to be). These questions are another form of abuse and potential discrimination. You should always politely avoid answering them by focusing on material relevant to the job interview (or simply walk away if the questions become downright offensive). After all, a recruiter (and by extension an employer) who can’t keep up with current trends is bound to fail. More importantly, you want to land a job with the right kind of employer. Any employer who asks these follows such abusive interview techniques is bound to treat their employees poorly.
The jobs (and their representatives from the recruiting department) are the ‘products’ of an employer. Always remember that a company must sell itself to you just as much as you must sell yourself to the company. If the recruiter doesn’t know how to sell him or herself properly, then he or she won’t get the customers (ie: employees) necessary to maintain and grow a thriving business. In today’s job market, a job candidate is aware of his or her value. Never settle for an employer who does not offer a fair wage, or who cannot adapt to our societal norms.
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