Disclose Salary? Never, Sometimes, or Always?

There is so much confusion around when executives should or should not disclose salary. I see the salary questions posed on Linked In (have you joined our CFO careers group yet), on Quora, in recruiter and career practitioner forums, and yes … frequently in my coaching sessions with my clients.

Take Bob.

Six weeks after we put his marketing documents together and honed his communication message, he received a call from a retained recruiter with the kind of opportunity he had his heart set on but wasn’t really sure would come his way. Certainly not so quickly.

The recruiter was brisk, a bit lacking in relationship skills, all business (my guess is a high D on the DISC), with little – okay no – reassurance for my client as a top candidate and who was well-liked by the C-suite of her company.

The salary question threw him for a total loop. Does she have a right to ask that, he asked me. This early in the process, he continued. I know what the company has budgeted and my current salary is much lower than that … won’t disclosing this to her nullify my candidacy?

Maybe you’ve wondered similar things when it came time to talk salary.

The recruiter does have a right, in fact an obligation to his/her client – the company – to ask the salary question. And you, as a prospective candidate, should answer that question. I would give different advice if you were dealing directly with a company. We’re talking about the recruiter.

Even as we strategized on how to move forward regarding the salary gap – honestly and truthfully – I could feel my client’s insecurity over the issue. Nevertheless, he heeded my counsel and responded to her just as we discussed.

If a company is paying you based on what you currently make rather than the fair market value of the job you are being asked to do and the responsibilities you are being asked to hold, then it might not be a job you really should consider. And lying or exaggerating or misleading or refusing to answer the recruiter’s question around salary might just get you eliminated anyway.

I bet you’d like to know how the story ends, right?

My client just received an offer from his dream company that more than doubled his salary. He’s a happy guy.

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2 thoughts on “Disclose Salary? Never, Sometimes, or Always?”

  1. What I have heard is that the search firms generally use this info to corroborate their classification of the candidate. For example, two potential candidate have the title of CFO – one makes $50,000 and the other $250,000 in their last role – it is likely that the latter is more suited to a CFO search than the former.

    Regarding individual firms, if going through their web sites, they will not accept the application unless the salary box is filled in. Not disclosing is not an option unless the applicant has a human route into the role.

  2. Thanks for taking time to comment, David.

    You make a great point and that is one way recruiters do use salary information. Particularly in the case with multiple candidates and such a disparate number.

    You offer the perfect justification for NOT using the resume black hole as a job search strategy … particularly as a first point of entry. Attracting recruiters is always more effective than pursuing them.

    Warmly, Cindy


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