Sometimes the advice you find online really is bad advice!

I recently read a piece of advice online pertaining to salary, and my immediate response was. . .are you crazy? The title of the piece is  “Never, Ever Disclose Your Salary to an Employer,” and it’s another column from the PBS Newshour “Ask the Headhunter” series.

The article begins with a question that goes back to a previous article on this topic, “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps.” In both articles, the “Headhunter” (Nick Corcodilos) advises job seekers to ignore any questions from prospective employers about their current salary. A reader had written to him asking how one could ignore the question when it is often a required field in an online application form. Mr. Corcodilos advice: Don’t ever apply for a job using an online application form! He says, “Most jobs are found and filled through personal contacts. Eliminate that urge to take the easy way — avoid the forms.

I found his advice really irresponsible, but since I haven’t applied for any jobs in recent years, I decided to check with two professional colleagues who work in recruiting. One works for a recruiting company and the other recruits for a multi-billion dollar multinational corporation. I asked them to read the article and tell me what they thought of this advice. They had different opinions, but they also added some interesting insights.

The professional from the recruiting company agrees that you should avoid divulging your salary, but says that in many instances you must apply for a job before you can be interviewed, so those “personal contacts” can’t always get you in the door. She wrote:

When I apply for jobs I always skip the salary portion on online applications, and I always advise friends/family to never volunteer salary information unless absolutely necessary.

As a recruiter I could use a candidate’s indicated salary as an easy dispositioning tool. I could look at the current or past salary indicated on the online application, then based on that information I could disposition a candidate as “not a fit.” This is because their indicated salary could be too high or even way too low for the experience level (even though they could have been willing to accept less). When there are numerous candidates applying for the same role, and the recruiter is trying to narrow down the candidate pool, the candidate shoots themselves in the foot by indicating their salary.

The issue that a lot of candidates run into is that you HAVE to apply for a job for most companies before they can ever reach out to interview you. It is a requirement for many companies in order to remain OFCCP compliant:

The professional who works for the large corporation, however, found the article ridiculous. She wrote:

What an odd article.  We do a salary background check with our other checks.  So, if you lie to me upfront about what you are making, it will come out in the end.  You can say what your expectations are along with what you are currently making (have a good leg on why you think you should make $20K more than you do now), but most companies are going to ask for this info. And what a stupid answer to not use the forms. It’s the process and any legally compliant company is going to make sure all candidates complete the same application process as all the others.  Also, I get very frustrated when people dance around the comp question.  I only have a certain amount of time, and I have 20 other people I can talk to that will give me a straight answer.

My take away on this topic is two-fold:

(1) It’s likely that you’re going to be asked what salary you require, so do your research and know what a reasonable salary is (see the previous blog entries for how to figure that out as well as Tips 6 & 26 in my book).

(2) If you are currently working in the field, you may be asked about your current salary. You will have to use your judgment about what to disclose, but if there is a big gap between what you currently make and what you are asking for, be sure you have solid evidence to justify the increase. If you are a new college graduate with no prior professional experience in the field, you can get away with ignoring the current salary question as you don’t have one!