how to deal with a rude recruiter

A reader writes:

I’m looking for advice on how to deal with rude recruiters, due to a phone interview with one earlier this morning. 

A third-party recruiter contacted me for a slew of opportunities he was hired to fill for a start-up company. Presumably, he found my profile on LinkedIn, as a few others have in recent months. Our initial 30-minute phone conversation about his client went very well, and after reviewing a position description forwarded to me in follow-up via email, we set a second more formal phone interview, during which he screened me to write a report for his client. This one- hour conversation went very well as well, until he started asking about compensation, at which point his tone of voice became quite gruff, aggressive, and at one point even demeaning.

Recruiter: Tell me what is your compensation structure?

Me: What do you mean by compensation structure?

Recruiter: What is your base pay and bonus structure?

Me: I’m not comfortable revealing that information. I would rather you tell me what the salary range for this Director level position is that you sent me a description for, and I’ll let you know if that meets my expectations.

Recruiter: No, you have to tell me your salary information. This is how it works. Your potential offer will be based on how much you earn right now and without this information we can not proceed.

Me: I don’t understand. Shouldn’t the offered salary be based on the position the company is looking to fill, and the skills and experience which I bring to them? I am not interested in wasting my time our yours either, don’t you know the salary range for this position?

Recruiter: No, it’s not my time, it’s my client’s time that you would be wasting! Yes, I know their range, but the offer is based on YOUR current salary.

Me: I’m sorry, I still don’t understand. Shouldn’t the salary offered be based on what I bring to the firm?

Recruiter: Look, I’ve done a lot of recruiting and occasionally I come across situations like this. Look, you’re just one in a million and so if it’s not you it will be someone else.

Me: Mhmm, well, I can give you a range of what my salary expectations are for the next opportunity I take on.

Recruiter: Okay that is fine.

I gave him my range and he said, “okay, that is in line with the Associate Director position.” I pointed out that I was forwarded the description of Director, and the Associate Director position is for someone with less work experience. He said, “Sure, so the company may choose to hire you at a higher level, in which case your range would still be fine.” I let him know that he should understand my position too of not wanting to be short-sold, and he said that based on my salary expectations I don’t need to worry about that.

Now, without his tone of voice added to this dialogue, the conversation may not seem as aggressive as it sounded to me in conversation. But it is quite difficult for anyone to overlook his condescending remarks about how I was wasting his client’s time and that I was just one in a million resumes that he was reviewing and was easily replaceable. If that were the case, then why did he contact me first for this opportunity? And wouldn’t we have achieved the same outcome if he gave me a range and I let him know it was too low for me? Thirdly, as a representative of the firm he’s hiring for, do I want to work with an employer that doesn’t value me and has the attitude that he can replace me at the drop of a hat? In my opinion, this is no way to hire top talent, especially for a rapidly growing start-up.

I wish I had stood my ground more strongly and let him know that in fact I was averaging 2-3 interviews a week, that many recruiters and HR reps were finding my 5+ years of industry experience and excellent education profile to be quite appealing, and remind him that he was trying to recruit someone who is quite comfortably employed, and therefore not desperate for his client’s offer letter. However, I didn’t want to get in the way of an opportunity to speak to the firm itself.

Do you have recommendations on how I could have handled this conversation better, and the attitude with which I should proceed in this company’s interview process? I’m worried about leaving money on the table, distraught that an opportunity which I was otherwise quite excited about has been tainted by this disrespectful conversation, and worried about what this experience means going forward in the interview process with this firm.

Why, yes, I do have advice about handling conversations like this:  Don’t deal with jerks. You sound like you have plenty of options, so you can simply decline to work with people who operate this way.

At the same time, it also sounds like you took a fairly confrontational approach right off the bat, which you didn’t need to do.

Let’s re-write that conversation to show you how it would have gone with a different approach.

Recruiter: Tell me what is your compensation structure?

You: I’m looking for a range of $X to $Y.  Is that in the ballpark?

At that point the recruiter probably would have just told you, but if not, then you’d get something like this:

Recruiter: What are you making currently? I need your salary history.

You: My employer’s salary structure is covered by my confidentiality agreement with them, but I’m looking for $X to $Y.

Again, at this point the recruiter is probably going to stop pushing, but let’s say that he doesn’t.

Recruiter: You have to tell me your current salary or we can’t proceed.

You: I’m sorry to hear that. I’m assuming you think I’m a strong candidate since you contacted me, and I’ve told you what I’d need to earn in order to leave my current job. But if we can’t proceed further, that’s fine.

Now, I want to emphasize that this advice accounts for the fact that you have options. If you didn’t have options and were desperate for this job, and the recruiter was insistent, you might have no choice but to give in and cough up your current salary.  I think that’s BS for all the same reasons you do (it’s no one’s business but yours; compensation should be based what the company thinks your worth is, not what someone else thought your worth was; etc.), but the reality is that if you’re desperate for the opportunity, you don’t have the luxury of standing on principle.

You sound like you do have options, so exercise them by choosing not to work with recruiters who aren’t rude.

{ 55 comments… read them below }

  1. Sam*

    My apologies for the bad experience here but there are folks that are not as savvy or understanding that they need to create a positive candidate experience. You do have the option to not work with a recruiter.

    Here are my recommendations/thoughts:
    1. Share your last salary, the hiring company will typically verify this anyway before you get hired.
    2. Let the recruiter know what your salary expectations are
    3. Most companies (my hope), will have internal equity controls to ensure consistency with in the organization, the only person that can leave money on the table is you.

    For the record, I do ask candidates “Where are you compensation- wise right now (or last f/t role)”. If the candidate is evasive I explain why and let them know it’s in my best interest to get them as much as possible. I do share the salary range of the role even on my postings.

    All I’ve got is my reputation, is how I see it.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You can refuse, and if you’re a good enough candidate they’re not going to insist. I haven’t shared my salary history in years and it’s never been an issue. It’s more of an issue when (a) they have tons of people they’d be happy to hire and won’t mind losing you and (b) they’re rigidly procedure-oriented and can’t see that your salary history isn’t necessary for them to make you a reasonable offer.

      As a side note, what would you do if a candidate told you that her salary was covered under a signed confidentiality agreement, as some are?

      1. Joey*

        Theyd probably ask for a copy of the confidentiality agreement to see what in fact could be disclosed.

    2. Joey*

      Don’t say it’s in your best interest when a 5-10k difference in salary won’t matter that much to a recruiters commission.

      1. KDD*

        A $5 – $10k difference in salary can be a huge difference to a recruiter’s commission. You’d be surprised!

  2. Joey*

    I say just give it to him. I don’t think the recruiter was such a jerk. Sure it sucks but lots of companies operate this way and will even go so far as to ask for documentation of your past/current compensation. If it turns into something you can always evaluate the offer and turn it down. But, digging in your heels means you don’t even get the opportunity to see an offer.

  3. Kelly O*

    I would tend to agree that your current compensation level should not have bearing on your next level.

    If you asked me where I am now versus where I have been previously and where I want to be, there is a substantial gap. Yes, it can be important to talk about current salary levels, but if I’m reading the OP correctly, there was something of a superior attitude from the third-party recruiter when she didn’t immediately disclose her current salary and bonus structure.

    Now, do I think that there may have been a better way to phrase it? Yes, definitely. But it was no reason for anyone to take a tone in explaining it, or start dismissing the potential candidate just because she wasn’t crazy about disclosing current salary and benefits.

    I think AAM said it the best way it could possibly be said.

  4. Riki*

    I just rolled my eyes so hard that they nearly fell out of their sockets. Let me just say that I have never had a good experience with an outside recruiter, either as a candidate or as a hiring manager. I am sure there are great recruiters/head hunters out there who take their jobs seriously, but I have never met them.

    If you have other options, then exercise them. If you really want to interview for this job, then you have to suck it up. Cost/benefit analysis. That said, you’d think that since this person has done “a lot” of recruiting, he’d have more finesse. You’re just one of a million candidates, yet he choose to contact you. Who’s doing who the favor here? Give me a break, recruiter guy.

  5. Erik*

    I’ve worked with similar recruiters. I just give them the range I’m interested in (X to Y), and that’s it. If they keep pushing for more “data”, then I just hang up on them.

    I had one recruiter several months ago who was talking me up for a position, and since I wouldn’t be a match, he decided to quickly change the tone. He started asking for information about who was my boss, my boss’ boss, etc. – phone numbers, names, etc. The worst part is that he was being extremely rude and pushy.

    He ended up listening to a dial tone.

  6. Meredith*

    I have a question, and maybe it should get its own post, so if you want me to actually write in, please say so! I’m graduating from law school in May and went straight through from undergrad, so I’ve never actually had a full-time job before with an annual salary. I’ve had part-time jobs, jobs with stipends, etc., but nothing like a “real” job. I’m applying to a lot of smaller companies and non-profits, so it’s harder to know what I should be asking for in terms of salary. I read your article on how to research salary information, but I’m not sure how that applies to me as a new grad. I have experience in my desired field–those years of internships and fellowships added up–but I don’t have a salary history to draw from and I’m not sure how much my value is decreased by being completely new to full-time employment, if it is at all.

    Our career center is basically worthless for real information like this; if you’re not going to work for a big law firm making $160,000 out of the gate, they’re not really interested in helping (and possibly even lack the knowledge to help). Given this economy, that’s a tiny percentage of students going into BigLaw from even my big-name school, so I’m really not sure why they’re not getting with the times and helping the rest of us out, but that’s a rant for another day.

    Anyone have any advice?

      1. Meredith*

        Excellent! So it’s mostly about the position then even in my case? (With of course situational adjustments like COLA and seniority?)

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I don’t want to hijack the thread with off-topic discussion, but I’m not clear on why it would be any different. You’re still looking for info on this work, in this geographic area, with this background/amount of experience.

  7. Vicki*

    The problem here, as I see it, is that the OP did not want to answer the question at all. All of AAM’s suggested rewrites of the conversation involve the OP answering the question.
    > Recruiter: Tell me what is your compensation structure?
    > You: I’m looking for a range of $X to $Y. Is that in the ballpark?

    I think the point here is that, yes, OP did not like the question and did not like the way the recruiter reacted. But when you say “I’m not going to answer that” and insist on a different arrangement (you don;t get to ask me that; instead you have to show me your cards) I’m afraid that you need to be prepared to walk away. It’s like buying a car. One side asks “How much are you prepared to pay?” and the other asks “How low are you prepared to go?”

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Well, to be clear, my suggested rewrite doesn’t actually answer the question about salary history. Instead it says what the OP is seeking to earn at the next job — a different thing, but the far more relevant one.

  8. Jocelyn*

    Hi, I just want to know why people act like their salary is a secret? If you make 60K, so you make 55-70K and it’s not like it matters when it’s checked, a range is a range. There are salary ranges listed online so if you make 100K, and fall in the 100-140K range, state that. Yes the pay is important but it’s also important to not be confrontational and appear as if money will keep you from doing the job. Provided it is too low, then you will know that after the offer. I feel like it’s best to play along and see what happens, providing a range will never hurt you. Also, as stated by someone else, their commission is part of it all and certainly can make them stressed out and I agree can be off putting and annoying.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      People don’t always want to share their salary info, because they rightly feel that a new salary should be based on the value to the company and not what they were being paid previously. Employers should pay based on their assessment of your value, not what their competitors thought you were worth. In my opinion, insisting on salary history is the mark of a lazy HR department that doesn’t trust their own ability to set salary correctly.

    2. Karthik*

      Providing a range can always hurt you. What if you thought 150k was generous, but the company needs you so badly that they’d have accepted 200k? Or, what if they wanted you at 90 but not 120?

      The company knows how much they can afford for a position and how much they’re willing to pay. The only reason to ask the candidate for the range is to end up paying less than they would otherwise. If the company is going out and recruiting someone (as opposed to being at the end of a resume vacuum), the ball is in the recruitee’s court.

      In many cases, money *will* keep someone from doing the job. That’s the whole point of a job – money for service. If I’m making 120k now, I’m definitely not going to jump for your offer of 80k, and probably won’t jump for 125k (hassle), but I might for 150k…then you get back into the first paragraph scenario.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes, each side wants the other to throw out a number first. But someone needs to, and sometimes an employer won’t budge. You can decide to walk away over that, of course, if you want to. I just don’t have a problem with throwing out a well-researched range of your salary expectations because you should know what your work is worth, but I do think salary history is relevant.

  9. Jocelyn*

    What AAM wrote above is what I meant, a range. Don’t say exactly what you made but state the lowest you are willing to work for and so on. If they turn you down because you expect too much, oh well, there are more jobs and if you seriously want an amount and aren’t going to get it, then it wasn’t meant to be. I feel this whole “game” gets sort of tiring. Just say what you want and add I am negotiable. That’s what I meant by it won’t hurt you, I mean just let them know you are willing to talk pay, not hide it. Take control of your job search!

  10. A nony cat*

    While, I do agree that your new salary should not be based off of your previous salary, I should mention that every now and then, providing salary can help you, or at least it helped me. For my last job the negotiations (well, the salary part) were similar. I applied to a job that I was a really great match for, but the new job was a definite step up in responsibility.

    The negotiations went a bit like this:
    hiring manager: “what is your desired salary range?”
    me: “my salary range is flexible depending on the full benefits package available. what range where you thinking of for this position?’
    hiring manager: “no, really. you need to tell me your range.”
    me: *awkward pause* / hiring manager: *really mean glare*
    me: “umm, well, umm, I was thinking something in the low to mid 90s (example number), depending on the full compensation package. Could you tell me a bit more about what you are offering?”
    hiring manager: “That’s a bit high. we were thinking of something closer to 85K”
    me: “well, I really think I bring a lot to the table. I have success in, blah blah blah…”
    hiring manager: “yeah, that is a bit higher than what we were thinking” *sounds annoyed* “what are you making now?”
    me: *really high pitched, mouse-like voice* “$88K + excellent benefits”
    hiring manager: *still sounds annoyed* “well, I guess your range is sounds a bit more reasonable if that is what you are currently making.”

    That was the end of the discussion, but when the offer came, I was offered something well within my range (let’s say $94K) soI guess it all worked out, even though I am a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad salary negotiator.

  11. Chocolate Teapot*

    Many years ago, as a fresh graduate, I had an interview, and had been asked to give salary expectations. Since trying to find figures for comparable jobs was nigh on impossible, I gave a figure which seemed fair, based on a couple of newspaper articles about current graduate pay.

    Come the day of the interview, the interviewer came to the end of the interview, and informed me that they couldn’t discuss the salary for the position (not even a range), but what I had put was in excess!

    Well, what did they expect me to say? I don’t mind as long as I can pay the bus fare to work and receive an unlimited supply of Chocolate Teapots?

  12. Curious*

    I have stopped giving out my previous salary because it was about twice what I would be willing to take now I have been on UI for a while. I have had perfectly good interviews die on their feet because the interviewer asked what my previous salary was instead of my expectations and I was silly enough to answer honestly. I actually had an HR rep look at me and say – ‘Wow, lucky you. Obviously this role doesn’t pay that and there is no way anyone who was on that salary previously is going to be happy here’.

    Now I know to always answer with my expected range.

  13. David Gaspin*

    It’s a common stalemate, and one where I think you have to take emotion and personalization out of the equation. In this situation, the company is the buyer and the candidate is the seller. The buyer knows how much is in his/her pocket and how much s/he can afford to put on a credit card, and the seller (should) know the price of whatever s/he is selling. Does anyone go into a store, grab something off the shelf, walk up to the register and say “I’m willing to pay 50 bucks for this thing. Is that OK?”

    No, unless you’re at a yard sale. And if you consider yourself yard-sale level talent then you’re already in a hole.

    In our society it’s incumbent on the seller to name the price for the goods. After that, negotiations can begin and there may be haggling back and forth. But by stating the cost, you’re indicating to the buyer whether you’re a great deal, reasonably priced, a bit expensive but potentially worth it, or just completely unaffordable. That’s why it’s always a good idea to start high. There’s no reason that you can’t answer the question with “I currently make a total package of X and would be looking for at least XX to make a move.”

    Then let the chips fall where they may. If you are in fact a bargain and still come in under budget for the company, but you still get a good raise and you’re happy with the money, who loses out? Nobody.

  14. Jamie*

    Ugh – this is such a huge pet peeve of mine.

    All employers have a range for the position – just state the range from the beginning with the understanding that where you fall in that range will be based on experience, special skills, etc.

    Both parties should know if they are in the same ballpark before they suit up for the game.

    If I am going to buy a new car I’m not heading to the Porsche dealership, because all the negotiation skills in the world won’t bridge the gap between what they are willing to take and what I’m willing to spend. It’s the same thing.

    This can be particularly onerous in IT, because the same titles can apply to radically different jobs in different companies. A System Analyst position at company A could be worth 90K and at company B 65K or 125K depending on how they are defining the job.

    The company wants to rent the services of a new employee. I have no problem telling them my acceptable range, but they should also be upfront about their budgeted range – it would save so much time on both sides.

    1. Jamie*

      Also, part of the reason salary history is a bad way to determine a new starting salary is because it’s not an equal comparison.

      Current salary levels as based on so many factors that don’t transfer. The job responsibilities may be different, economy at the time of negotiation, raise and promotion policies at current company.

      If you’ve been in a position for a while you may have had such an increase in responsibility that your job is fundamentally different than when you negotiated your starting salary. And everyone knows that internal raises tend to be lower than what a company would pay for someone new coming in with the same skills.

    2. Anonymous*

      All employers have a range for the position – just state the range from the beginning with the understanding that where you fall in that range will be based on experience, special skills, etc.

      I had an interesting experience with that sort of thing once. Job ad contained a salary grade mentioned, so I called up the HR department, and found out what the range was. When I was speaking to the hiring manager about the same, it became clear that the top of her range was equal to the bottom of the salary grade mentioned.

  15. Anda T*

    Okay, so I’m probably totally screwed if I have to mention my salary history since I’ve been in a creative position within education for over 4 years vs the private sector. Is it ever okay to “adjust” it if I were to apply outside the educational system? How do I handle that? Especially since I work in an area flooded with creative positions and 3 different art college graduates vying for the same jobs. (Read as: they’d love a chance to lowball me despite 15 years design experience.)

  16. Anonymous*

    What about if you’re relocating to a much more expensive area?

    I took a job in the midwest and am hoping to move back to the east coast in the next year or two. When I got this job, I was seriously low balled and was only able to squeeze a little extra in negotiations. However, to move back to where I lived before, I would need to make a substantial amount more than what I’m currently making just to maintain my standard of living.

    The tricky part is that I work for a public university so my pitiful salary is publicly available if one knows how to look for it… (and really, it’s not hard unfortunately)

    1. Anonymous*

      I think again this is where you adjust what your salary expectations are, rather than divulging (or embellishing) your salary history.
      I have had to do that in my job search as I work somewhere where everyone works a 35-hour week (9-5 with an hour for lunch). Most workplaces in my area are a true 40-hour week, so 8-5 or similar. As pitiful as my current salary is, I’ve got to factor in that extra hour of work per day when I set my new expected salary range.

  17. mh_76*

    How rude. I can “hear” the tone of voice through the text. In the future, if anyone is that rude to you, simply end the conversation politely and move on.

    As for revealing what you’ve earned, that is up to you the individual. Some recruiters will be OK with you sending the question back to them and asking what the position’s pay range is and some won’t. Some recruiters are gems and some are horrible. When you encounter the horrible ones, there is no proverbial bridge there so cease communications and move on.

  18. Anonymous*

    What’s mystifying to me is that I’ve been a recruiter, and I was always very kid-glovey with my candidates. If I ticked them off by insisting and being pushy and threatening, then they might very well walk away from me and my opportunities and then where’s the commission?

    I don’t understand a recruiter who would behave that way. (Not that I’m saying this dude wasn’t a pushy jerk; I think he was.)

    As far as the buyer/seller analogy goes, well, the yard sale analogy isn’t quite there. It’s more like selling a house; the candidate is the seller, the employer is the buyer, and there are a lot of houses to look at. A home seller who doesn’t understand the market potential for their house is nuts. And it doesn’t matter if seller bought the house for (or previously earned) $1M. If the market won’t bear that, you’re not gettin’ that for your house.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m so glad you posted this, because this is exactly the point: There ARE good recruiters out there, and they’re the ones candidates should want to work with, and behavior like what the OP encountered is a big red flag signaling that that recruiter wasn’t one of them. It’s important that people not feel like, “Well, if I want to work with a recruiter, I need to put up with this,” and instead realize that you really only want to work with the good recruiters. (If you have the luxury of options.)

  19. Panchhi*

    Thank you AAM and to all the other commentators on this post, for your thoughts and the time you made to respond. I am fortunate that this is the first time I have dealt with a disrespectful recruiter, and that in general I have not had to deal with many disrespectful people in life… However, that also means that I have little experience dealing with them with poise, without getting flustered and emotionally upset.

    My stance going into this interview was not to share my current salary or salary expectations with the recruiter. I did not want to share my current salary because the job opportunity (private sector client work) was different from what I was doing now (public sector client work), and therefore the pay scales were not comparable. I did not want to share salary expectations because I felt the offer (if it came) should be based on what I can bring to the start-up firm in terms of skill set, and be competitive with what the start-up’s competitors pay.

    I had done research on what the prospective employer’s pay grade would likely be before the interview, and so had set my next-opportunity-expectations accordingly, and gave a range accordingly when forced to do so. Based on AAM’s recommendation, I gather that it is okay for the interviewee, rather than the interviewer, to give up the expected salary range for a new job and that perhaps I should not have expected to get away with not divulging that information.

    While I expected a conversation about compensation, the recruiter asked the question in such an abrupt and direct manner that I was taken aback, and immediately became flustered. The suggestion of announcing my current compensation structure as confidential is an excellent one that I will remember for future use as well. At the very least, this experience prepares me better for the next such conversation.

    Thank you so much for your advice, again.

  20. X*

    As a recruiter I am sort of mystified by candidates who won’t divulge their current compensation. For some, I chalk it up to the fact that if they have never had the authority/responsibility to hire maybe then they wouldn’t know that our clients want to know what each candidate they review is earning. When they start getting cagey or testy about it, their candidacy is officially on thin ice. In some cases it is a cultural thing, but the bottom line is that if there can’t be open & honest dialog through the interview/recruitment process and if I don’t get my client the info they need then I’d rather focus my efforts on those who behave more professionally. As executive recruiters we deal daily executive level individuals on down who have no problem discussing salary- that’s the way it works. I’m happy to let the maybe 1 or 2 percent who are weird about go annoy my competitors.

      1. X*

        Surely I am capable of that. Why do I need to know candidates’ current compensation? Because that is information my client pays me to deliver. Plain and simple. When someone has a problem with talking about what they make, I’m inclined to think a couple of things: a) They are currently drastically underpaid and know it, or b) They view the recruiter as a not-quite-necessary evil & hope to eventually deal directly with the hiring authority regarding compensation. If they’re underpaid, why is that? If they think they’ll bypass me & go direct with the manager? Good luck and Godspeed; I work on a retainer basis & will get paid regardless, while they will come off as stubborn & recalcitrant. Not a good first impression. Furthermore, I’ve place currently underpaid professionals into roles paying upwards of 30% more than what they were making. Someone who stays with a company for several years is typically getting a salary bump of 3-5% maximum in annual merit increase. Conversely, someone jumping ship every 1-2 years may be less qualified but will have leap-frogged multiple salary bands and is usually earning more than tenured employees. Smart managers can see this & will rarely use someone’s loyalty to their current employer as leverage to pay them less. Since this blog is called Ask a Manager, why don’t you reach out to a couple of hiring managers and ask them, “What would you think of a candidate who looks good on paper but refuses to divulge their current compensation?” I have a hard time believing you’ll find any hiring authority who doesn’t view that as a red flag.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Um, the blog is called that because I am a hiring manager. Or was, until I quit to do this blog and associated stuff full-time.

          And no, I have never insisted on knowing a candidate’s salary, particularly if they didn’t want to tell me. And I know lots of good hiring managers who operate that way as well. There’s just no reason that you need that information, and your clients who are insisting on it are wrong. You should educate them.

          1. X*

            After checking out your LinkedIn bio this all makes sense. If you build a career in the non-profit sector I suppose salary is, to some extent, a moot point(?). Like most other executive recruiters I work specifically FOR profit so I’ve got no frame of reference here. Thanks for putting so much time in on the Marijuana Policy Project though– fight the good fight, dude.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Thanks. Salary isn’t a moot point in nonprofits though — it’s the organization that isn’t making a profit, not the employees. In my experience, employees in any sector care about their own salaries! (And smart nonprofits strive to pay competitive salaries and benefits so that they can hire great talent.)

        2. Jay*

          So, sorry – but are you just blatantly admitting that you just need the current salary so that the employer can low ball the potential candidate?

          On no planet does current salary pertain to what the individual is woth now, for this new position.

          It’s not such a big deal that the reason IS so the employer can illogically low ball them, but it does seem like a big deal to me why the employer (or you) just admit that’s their strategy: to use irrrelevant data, to make illogical stretches in hopes to lowball a candidate salary, hopefully below market value.

          Why not just say upfront that this is the “strategy”? Perhaps people would respect the recruiter profession more than they do now.

    1. Panchhi*

      Firstly, based on my extensive experiences interviewing over the last few years, during which this is the first time I’ve come across a recruiter who has been so adamant about knowing my current salary, I’m inclined to believe that transparent conversation about the candidate’s salary is not “the way it works.” If it is open and honest dialog you are after, then be open and honest about how much your client is willing to pay for the position they are looking to fill.

      Secondly, I fail to understand how it is the candidate that is behaving less professionally, than the recruiter who resorts to bullying someone into divulging personal information he/she is not comfortable sharing. As I expressed earlier, rudeness is no way to attract top talent.

      As AAM and others have shared in this thread, top talent has many other options to go to, your competitors being one of them. And I doubt your competitors will be annoyed about receiving commission off a signed offer letter.

  21. X*


    Please see above. Feeling ‘bullyed’ into divulging personal information only reflects your lack of experience/knowledge as to the hiring & recruitment process from the Company side. Also, if your recruiter is not giving you a compensation range for the position they’re working to fill, that is a problem. Ultimately, I’ve found it best to walk away from ‘bad business,’ whether it be in the form of a rude recruiter or a cagey & dishonest candidate. Move along & find someone who suits your style better.

  22. Mitch Sullivan*

    My advice would be to back-out of the process right there and contact the company direct.

    If they don’t know who the company is then I would question why they even committed to a 30 minute phone interview.

  23. Rachel*

    I think the main problem the OP made was in not being forceful enough from the outset. Whenever the question of current salary comes up, I always just say “I don’t discuss how much I charge other people for the service I provide to them, would you like to know how much I’m seeking in order to consider this position?”. If they say “no, I really need to know how much you make in your current job”, I say “then you’re focussing on the wrong thing; I’m quite certain you’ll find someone cheaper than me and who presently makes an income you may find more satisfactory – the unemployment queues are full of them; have a nice day”. I’ve never yet had a recruiter fail to then hurriedly tell me that it’s fine to discuss my expectations rather than my current remuneration after that.

    FWIW, I also think it was a mistake to let the recruiter presume to assess you before you even spoke with the end client or saw what they had to offer. I always insist on speaking with and being assessed by the actual hiring manager. If they don’t think the role is important enough to spend their own time on, then I consider that it’s not worth spending my time on either.

    Don’t let false manners hold you back in a negotiation. You’re not there to make friends, and you’re not there to make some ten-a-penny recruiter feel important by allowing them to “interview” you for a job that isn’t in their power to offer you, and that moreover they have no meaningful insight into. If they’re looking for the cheapest solution, they’ll undoubtedly find that; just make sure they don’t find it with you. You need to instead focus on being more desirable than other candidates, and make sure they know from the outset that you’re offering them the highest quality, not merely the cheapest price.

  24. Job-seeker*

    If you think that was rude, I can tell you some stories. Recruiters are not like they used to be, and the hiring game has changed. Best to forget about t he negative experience, and move on in a positive fashion that will best benefit you, and your career growth. At first I thought I was the only one experiencing the negative recruiters, or well-intentioned recruiters, that no matter how they try, really are rude.

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