a candidate lied to me about salary (maybe)

A reader writes:

We recently offered a candidate a position and offered a salary that we know is fair for the experience and skill set she brings, as we know of 5-6 other similarly sized nonprofits in the same field and their pay scale. She came back saying she was excited, but that her current salary was $7,500 more than our offer. She said she can verify this.

I was very skeptical of the salary she gave, as it is way out of line with all my experience with this organization. I verified with a contact I have there, and she does in fact make only about $3,500 more than offer. It appears she inflated her salary by $4,000.

My initial inclination is to rescind the offer, but she claims she can verify her salary. Should I give her that opportunity? Be transparent about my hesitancy? We did an extensive interview process and I’m disappointed now because it’s such a bad sign if she did lie, but I’m not 100% certain she did.

Well, first, I want to note that, in general, basing salary offers on a candidate’s previous salary isn’t a great idea. You should determine for yourself what a candidate is worth to you, and that’s what you should offer. Is she suddenly worth $7,500 more to you just because you learned that’s what she’s currently making? Setting salaries this way is a recipe for paying people more (or less) than they’re worth to you, creating unwarranted salary disparities on your staff (will she be making more than others doing the same work just as well or better?), and relying on your competitors to set your salaries for you rather than figuring them out yourself.

That said, I get that this happens all the time — I’ve been there myself. You make someone an offer that you think is fair, discover that it’s less than they’re currently making, realize that you can’t expect them to accept a new job for less, and decide that you can find it in your budget to match or slightly top their current salary so that they’ll come on over. (And this is far more understandable with a sum like $7,500 than it would be with a sum like $20,000, of course.)

But I do want you to factor this into your thinking, because you don’t want to get so focused on getting her to accept the offer that you forget to ask yourself if you think it’s fair and reasonable to pay what she’s asking you for — whether she’s earning that now or not.

As for what to do now … if you’re willing to pay her that salary if she’s truly making it now, but you have suspicions about whether she really is, you’re in a sticky situation. If you accept her offer to verify it for you, you risk finding yourself in a situation where you don’t believe her “verification,” whatever it might be (documents that you don’t think are real, for example), and then what are you going to do? Alternately, you could tell her you’ll do your own verification and do a more formal verification — with her permission — with her employer (more formal than just reaching out to your contact there, like you already did) … but I don’t really like that solution, because I don’t actually think it’s appropriate for prospective employers to do that … although if you’re really going to base salary on what people made previously, that’s the position it sticks you in.

So you’re probably left with just being transparent. Say something like, “My understanding is that your role pays $X. What accounts for the discrepancy?” You might find out that she’s lumping in a bonus or something like that into her overall salary figure. (You can ask, “Is this all base salary, or does it include bonuses or other compensation?” to find that out.) Or you might find out that she’s talking about a raise she’s been told she’ll get in three months if she stays. Or, yes, she might be lying.

If she’s lying, it should absolutely be a deal-breaker. But I don’t see how you’re going to find out without engaging in actions I really don’t like (getting formal verification from her current employer). So I think we’re back where we started — offer her a salary that you think is fair and reasonable for the position, independent of what she’s making now.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 175 comments… read them below }

  1. Dan*

    Give her an opportunity to validate that she is currently making that salary, especially since she proactively made the offer to show proof. She could be factoring in bonuses or other compensation above and beyond the base salary you heard about.

    1. Mike C.*

      Bingo! Overtime, odd benefits at her workplace, everything you mentioned could all inflate the stated value of the salary.

      1. Jessa*

        This. There could be other things such as child care or something else included that the person would have to pay for somewhere else. If I had a salary of 20.000 and had the company paying 5.000 worth of childcare for me on top of that, I would absolutely say I made 25.000.

        If my base salary is 20.000 but I always make 5.000 in bonuses guaranteed and have never missed one, sure I’d say I made 25.000.

        Because I’m counting the actual VALUE of what I make, not just my bare annual salary. Because those things would matter to me. I would be 5.000 shorter no matter how you count it, if I said I made 20.000.

    2. Andrea*

      That’s what I assumed, too—that she was including bonuses or other benefits. And I don’t think it is unethical to include those items in this situation, either. I mean, if they specifically asked for her base salary, then sure, but otherwise, I would have added in the extras, too.

      1. Yup*

        Agreed. Maybe current job fully covers health insurance at no cost to the employee and matches retirement plan contributions, but prospective job doesn’t. I’d totally include those things (while clearly explaining the breakdown) when negotiating salary.

        1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

          The problem is, if she IS including those sorts of benefits, then she must know she’s comparing apples to oranges. Presumably, new job has benefits as well; also presumably, ones she has no idea the value of. In which case, she sounds like she wants new company to offer her a salary that matches her salary plus benefits from her old job, PLUS whatever benefits new company offers. That’s stupid.

          Bonuses, sure, if they’re all but guaranteed, then they might be more reasonable to include, though I would still expect her to say “I make $x plus $y bonus, for a total annual compensation of $z” or something like that. If she’s including other benefits, I’d think she was being intentionally dodgy, and that would be almost as big a red flag to me as lying.

          Also, I’m suspicious of the fact that she immediately offered to verify. The assumption is that you have the ability to verify how much you make. The fact that she has a verification plan tells me that, again, she’s trying to be dodgy about it, and has some kind of scenario in her mind where she *knew* she would be asked to substantiate her claim.

          Sure, if you are theoretically willing to pay her above what you think is market for the position, let her show you the evidence. But I would be so put off by this whole scenario that it would be hard for me to justify paying extra for this person.

      2. Anonymous*

        It’s certainly not unethical, but I’d feel more comfortable saying “I make $X, including [benefit] and an annual bonus that I’ve received every year I’ve been there.” That avoids the discrepancies and might help the employer see whether you’re comfortable with, say, a bonus structure or accepting great health insurance in return for a lower salary. In an ideal world, the hiring company would work with you on additional/unusual compensation, but it probably helps to see how similar scenarios have played out for you in the real world.

  2. Kay @ Travel Bug Diary blog*

    An HR person once told me that employers can’t verify salary. Your current and past employers can only disclose that you worked for the organization and the dates. Was this person wrong? I was convinced that I was the only source for providing salary information.

    1. Mike C.*

      That person was very wrong. HR can pretty much say anything they want so long as they aren’t lying. There are plenty of companies that will hand out salary information like candy to anyone that asks.

      Even if this wasn’t the case, an employer could ask for old pay stubs or a W-2.

    2. Ash*

      I was going to say you must be new here if you think that’s true. A lot of HR people say that’s all places can give out because people don’t want to get involved in any potential legal entanglements if an ex-employee tries to sue them for saying they were a bad employee. You can’t get sued if you’re telling the truth (OK, well you can get sued, but the other people will lose).

    3. kasey*

      some companies have that as a policy just to verify job f
      title, employment dates and not to get into any of the dirty details. But no, that’s certainly not every company. So maybe the HR person was referring to one company in particular.

      1. fposte*

        It’s a pretty common myth, though, whereas that as an actual in-practice policy is comparatively rare.

        1. Mike C.*

          There are plenty of industries where managers giving out references is expressly forbidden by company policy on pain of termination. Some managers can skirt the issue, but many cannot.

          1. fposte*

            They exist, but they’re really nowhere near the majority or even the average. The myth is much more wide-reaching than that.

          2. nooeey*

            My company does this, and I find it reprehensible. I’ve been given two promotions and a raise, but my manager cannot serve as a reference. I think it’s designed to stand in our way once we are ready to leave for better paying jobs.

      1. anon-2*

        A mortgage application is considerably different from an HR group giving out salary information to another company – the applicant for a mortgage usually specifically signs off granting permission for this info.

        When you apply for a job – most companies I know will not engage in a “snitch” mechanism.

  3. Sniper*

    Well, this certainly is a quick and easy way to determine the character of your potential new hire. They are volunteering they can confirm their information, so let them do it.

    If they are unable to confirm and corroborate their own story, then rescind the offer. But be prepared to be ready to change yours if they can confirm and you are serious about trying to hire them.

  4. Corporate Drone*

    I have two general comments here. First, I agree with Alison in that what someone was/is making has no bearing on the position for which you are recruiting. You have an open req with a budgeted salary range in there. That is what you deem to be the value of that role. Why does what someone earned elsewhere affect this at all? This goes both ways. What if she were earning $10K less than your budgeted range? What bearing would that have on what you are willing to pay?

    The other, more important thing here is that while you seem positively fixated on proving that she’s lied to you about her salary, you employed a backhanded trick to attempt to verify it for yourself. There aren’t any specifics here, but you say you “verified” her salary with one of your “contacts.” From this, I inferred that you asked someone at her company to do something highly unethical by snooping around, possibly into her payroll file. That is WAY WORSE than a candidate’s strategy of inflating salary by a few bucks.

    Now, you are going to demand that she produce her W2. Then what? When are you going to be satisfied? The unfortunate thing here is that this candidate has no way of knowing about your unethical behavior, and she might actually accept your offer of employment. That would be unfortunate.

      1. Corporate Drone*

        Was this disclosed? Does the candidate know that this manager is having moles snoop around, and that now her current employer knows she’s interviewing? I’m not concerned with who has the authority to say what. I’m concerned with the lack of character on the part of both this hiring manager, as well as the “contact” at the current employer.

          1. Writer*


            Great questions and comments. Some more context:
            -No shady snooping. I verified with their HR Director directly.
            -Employer knew she was looking. She’s in a very unique situation, as her organization is shutting down.
            -We are a school. The organization she works for now is a school district. We (both of us) are in process of moving from a very set pay scale (think lock-step raises, no room to incorporate performance, need, etc.) to a more performance based system. For all roles outside of teachers, we do, as many of you wrote, offer what we think the position is worth regardless of previous salary. Given the complexity of some teachers coming from places where they recieved lock-step raises, and others not, salaries vary pretty widely.
            -no bonuses included here, so I know that’s not the difference. I know their benefits and ours, and ours are stronger.

            I’ll check in again in a few hours if the above context adds new light for folks.

            I appreciate all the thoughts from everyone.

            1. AnotherAlison*

              Hmmm. That does make it interesting.

              What now bothers me is that you said the candidate’s organization is shutting down. Soooo, what she’s making now is even more irrelevant than it was before. That job isn’t going to be there soon.

              I think that if I were in your shoes, if she didn’t give off any other shady vibes, I’d be inclined to simply offer her what I wanted to pay for the position and she could take it or leave it. I’d give her the benefit of the doubt – she’s losing her job & is under stress to replace her income – but I wouldn’t be inclined to work very hard to get to her terms on salary.

            2. EngineerGirl*

              Maybe she taught during the summer, or at a camp or something? That would explain the extra money. And it might not show up in the regular place because it was part of a special program.

              1. PEBCAK*

                Agreed. When a candidate says something like “I can verify it” preemptively, it sounds to me like she knew that the HR verification would come up short.

            3. Jamie*

              (think lock-step raises, no room to incorporate performance, need, etc.)

              Because I fixate on the tangential – need should never be considered in salary negotiations. You pay people according to the value of the position and what they bring to the table – not how much money they need.

                1. Jamie*

                  I didn’t think of it that way – good point.

                  I guess I’ve just seen one too many people ask for a raise because their rent went up or needed a new car and I’ve grown cynical.

                2. Anonymous*

                  In teaching, in-demand skills such as Advanced Placement certification can lead to a higher salary. “Need” could be interpreted as “we need someone to teach AP Physics next semester, and we’ll pay Mr. Smith an extra $5,000 as an incentive to switch districts.”

              1. Peaches*

                I don’t entirely agree with not basing it on need. While somebodies lifestyle choices should be left out of consideration, employers do need to consider the community they are hiring people into. Even McDonald’s workers in New York make more because it’s an expensive place to live. Your workers have to be able to actually afford to live where you need them, and highly valued professionals shouldn’t be stuck in one-bedroom apartments subsisting on KD and hot dogs (unless they want to).

            4. Cara*

              While the fact that her organization is shutting down does shed some light on your talking to the HR person there, I still do not understand why you didn’t simply take the applicant up on her offer to verify her salary. Why jump to conclusions and suspicions and make phone calls without even giving the applicant a chance to substantiate her claim?

            5. anon-2*

              Yes it does. In most places public employees’ salaries are public information.

              I replied before writing what I wrote below. Sorry about that — having worked ONLY in the private sector, I know that the rules are DIFFERENT.

            6. Anonymous*

              What do you have to lose by asking for the verification? If your concern is her honesty, seems like that would give you more info to assess. And there’s the possibility she has a complete and verifiable explanation for the higher current salary. Your estimate was already off once. Worst case, you can still rescind the offer.

            7. Cat*

              Are you hiring for the next school year? If so, what would her lock step raise be for next year? Seems likely that it would put her close to the figure she gave you.

              1. Liz in the City*

                It could be this, OR it could be what Mr. In the City (who’s a public school teacher with lock-step raises) does and teaches summer school, does curriculum development, and advises several clubs — ALL for extra money that wouldn’t be included in his base salary — and he could verify that with his end of the year W2. And his HR director would say his salary is X when it’s really X + all those extras for any given year.

                And as someone who works for a school district, surely you’re familiar with this.

            8. Joey*

              I’d confront her inquisitively and ask her about the discrepancy. I bet she lied in the hopes of getting a higher offer-its pretty common. In case she was telling the truth I also think you shouldn’t consider an increase. You offered what you thought was fair and the market supports it.

            9. Corporate Drone*

              Nope; this does not make an iota of difference. You still went 007 on this candidate, rather than being on the up and up. Your credibility is in the crapper. If you were so worried about this lie, you should have taken her up on her offer to provide proof.

              And what do you mean her organization is shutting down? This comment follows your statement that she works for a school district. I have not heard of any school districts shutting down.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                It’s really not uncommon for employers to verify salary as part of a reference check, without explicitly telling candidates they intend. I think you’re overstating the situation here!

                1. Corporate Drone*

                  I see it very differently. This manager took a circuitous route to arrive at some suspect information about the candidate. She did not go through the proper channels, such as using a third party verification service. Again, what is the big deal with asking the candidate for the proof that she says she can produce? The reconnaissance mission says more about the manager’s lack of credibility than it does about the candidate’s.

                  We will have to agree to disagree. After all, this is “Ask a Manager,” and not “Ask Employees What They Think of Poor Management Practices.”

                2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

                  This is actually a reply to Corporate Drone, not AAM. :)
                  When the credibility of an applicant is in question, I would say the last thing you should do is ask that person for information to verify what they’re saying. OF COURSE if a person is lying and tells you they can prove their lie, they have some kind of evidence. But you’re still stuck in the same credibility issue, as AAM said in the post. Why believe her evidence?

                  Why pay a third party verification service to take a week to provide info, when you can do what many employers do, and what you might have personally done earlier that day for another applicant, and call up someone at the school to verify? There’s no good reason to do that.

              2. fposte*

                It doesn’t have to be the district–Chicago, for instance, is closing something like 50 schools.

            10. Waiting Patiently*

              Is your school a specialized school serving students/adults with special needs? In my area often these schools pay less plus require the individual to be more flexible– one school like that here wants a sped certified teacher but the position requires working a full year as well as providing services in the home. Which most teachers don’t do. It maybe perfect for a first year teacher looking to get her/his feet wet. When I looked into a role similiar to mine there while it paid about the same it required more intensive one to one and the use of my vehicle to transport clients during all kinds of weather.

        1. Kou*

          This concerns me as well. And if it was, say, just a friendly contact and they asked something about what the going rate for a specific position was (versus actually asking them expressly how much this applicant makes) then that leaves all kinds of explanations for the discrepancy that are all more likely than lying. That the contact was wrong, for one, that this person is outside the usual range, that she’s lumping in other benefits or bonuses or an expected raise or whatever.

          1. PEBCAK*

            Oh, good point. I have been given bonuses and specifically been told to keep them to myself on more than one occasion.

            1. Natalie*

              For whatever it’s worth, you can keep that information private if you prefer, but if you are covered by the NLRA (and most private sector workers are) your employer cannot prevent you from discussing working conditions, including pay, with your co-workers.

                1. Anon*

                  Sorry – “supervisors” is what is defined broadly. I’d be surprised if most private sector workers qualify for this treatment.

      2. anon-2*

        I don’t know of ANY private company that would rat out a current employee’s salary to someone outside the company.

        a) unethical as all hell — unless one manages unethically

        b) definitely an invasion of privacy

        c) stinks of collusion, anti-trust, restraint of trade, and what have you.

        And in nearly every instance, when a candidate interviews at company “B” – the process is usually expected to remain confidential. Calling your interviewee’s company and saying “hey one of your people was in here, she says her salary is $xxxxx, is that correct?”

        – Do you really expect an honest answer?
        – What the blazes are you trying to do?

        You could be accused of disrupting her current employment situation to try to get her at a lower price.

        If I applied to that firm, and found out you were going behind my back to my current employer — and ratting me out — you’d be hearing from my attorney.

        1. anon-2*

          I didn’t see the above (school district) — what I wrote pertains to private-sector employment.

    1. KimmieSue*

      I couldn’t agree more!! Did the candidate sign a release or application authorizing the verification? My concern with this letter has way more to do with how the hiring manager mishandled this, than the candidate’s response. Salary expectations should have been discussed in the beginning of the process.
      I really hope that the candidate just happens to read this post today and connects some dots. I’d be very wary of accepting a job at a company that behaves this way. Honest, direct communication would have been the better way to handle it. It would be awesome if the candidate provided the W-2 confirming the salary, hiring manager increased the amount of the offer and then the candidate still declined.

      1. Sniper*

        A ‘release’ or ‘application’ authorizing the verification is not necessary in this situation. The employer/OP in this situation is going to do what they want. As Drone said above, it puts the ethics of the OP in play. Unethical, most likely. Illegal, no.

    2. kryzstoff*

      this is a common strategy used by contract/temp staffing agencies, by investigating your salary history, they can squeeze a few extra grand off the employee’s earning, or find them a dead-end position that will leave them worse off. bottom line, if there are arguments between you and the candidate over what you think they might be worth, then it is far better to end it right there, as they will end up resenting their job for the fact they are being undervalued and underpaid. a genuine employer with respect for their employees would never hire this way.

  5. Janet*

    I don’t know the whole thing seems weird. If you would actually rescind the offer over $7,000 when they’re telling you that they can prove how much they make, it seems really nit-picky and inflexible. Who is the person who you know who verfied her salary? Someone in HR or just someone you know?

    If you can’t trust a potential employee when they are telling you something important and saying they have the proof to back it up, how on earth will you trust them when they begin working for you? If you think this person is right for the job and they are insisting that they are not lying, hire them. Something about this whole situation just makes me itch.

    1. anon-2*

      Or, worse yet — do you expect them to trust YOU?

      If someone treated me like that, I don’t think I could trust them with a Weimar pfennig. Early in my career, I once was accused of thievery — and got myself off the hook with proof.

      But after that, I couldn’t trust ANYONE in there. Phew.

  6. EJ*

    What if the candidate had simply said, “I’m sorry, that salary is $7500 lower than I’m willing to accept”? How would that be different? She knows there’s a chance the increase will be rejected, she’s not asking for fun.

    I’m the end, who cares what she’s currently making. It’s about what she’s worth to you, that’s all.

    1. felipe*

      Definitely agree. I also think it’s a mistake for the candidate to specifically share her current salary. Regardless of how much you make now, you should have your own clear desires and cutoff of what salary you are willing to take at a new job. Maybe mentioning her current salary is supposed to give her more “clout” in the bargaining process, but either way–why put yourself in a position where you have to verify your claim and make the other party feel so defensive and suspicious? Just clearly state the salary you want and walk away if it’s not offered (assuming you’re not currently unemployed, that is).

      1. HAnon*

        This is slightly off-topic, but I’ve been asked point-blank in SEVERAL interviews what my currently salary is, before they tell me the range for the position. And I have to tell them, because it’s super awkward not to, and they know they’re in a position to demand that info. It’s extremely off-putting, as I’ve worked for a couple of smaller companies/start-ups that pay well below the industry standard for the roles I’ve held. I feel like the Hiring Director looks at me like “of course we can offer her whatever we want; she’s making $20,000 – $30,000 less than average right now!” And then I feel like the automatic assumption is that I’ll be grateful for whatever salary they offer me, as long as it’s above what I’m making presently. Thing is, I KNOW I’m worth more, but I had to take a low-paying job to pay bills, and I’m trying to be strategic about my next steps.

        1. felipe*

          Definitely agree with you, too, HAnon. I’m in the same situation as you salary-wise, and it drives me crazy. The letter made it seem like the candidate volunteered that info, which is why I’m questioning it.

          I recently came across a job posting at a very large and reputable foundation that actually said this in the description: “Salary will be determined by experience and salary history. Applications without a salary history will be discarded.” I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I feel like the only way employees can fight against tactics like this is to be aggressive and actively turn down offers that are too low.

          1. HAnon*

            “Salary will be determined by experience and salary history. Applications without a salary history will be discarded.”

            Ick! Well, I guess that’s one way of weeding out potential employers. That kind of verbiage makes me think they’re looking for the candidate who will be the cheapest to retain, not the best performer.

    2. Jazzy Red*

      I agree! The employer has a salary range, so why play all these stupid games? The candidate is the one who will know if the compensation package is acceptable or not.

      1. kryzstoff*

        if you want to waste you human resources’ personel / department’s time, advertising and retraining/induction costs, low-balling a new hire on the basis of their previous income is a good way to do it. you will ensure your business is a revolving door for the best staff and may often wonder why it is so difficult to retain them and keep morale up. no-one wants to go through the stress and uncertainty of changing jobs, only to be paid less than they did before; especially if they think they are worth more and that you are able to pay more. most people will still accept a shit job as a gap-fill measure and/or in the hopes of using it as a springboard to a decent one.

  7. Jamie*

    I verified with a contact I have there, and she does in fact make only about $3,500 more than offer.

    Does she know you’re contacting her current employer before she’s accepted an offer? I hope so, because if not and you tipped them off she’s looking that’s really not cool, IMO.

    This sounds like a casual inquiry – I think your contact is pretty shady to just go around giving out people’s salary information to those who are asking out of curiosity. We need a form signed by the employee before we’ll give out any personal information at all.

    And my first thought was bonus. I would personally split out base salary from bonus if I were giving salary info – but a lot of people don’t and it’s all compensation so I wouldn’t see that as lying. If it was a bonus or OT she could easily verify it via her W2.

    1. Corporate Drone*

      That’s another good point. And most job applications specifically ask for permission to contact the current employer.

      I wouldn’t want to work for this hiring manager.

      1. Cara*

        I agree this doesn’t reflect well on the OP. Either she just got general salary info for the applicant’s position, which isn’t foolproof unless salaries are lockstep there, or she asked about the specific applicant and tipped the company off.

        Now she’s thinking of rescinding the offer based on this “contact,” without giving the applicant a chance to substantiate her salary? Any chance the “contact” may be lying so that you don’t steal her employee?

        1. Brittany*

          I thought this sounded fishy to me as well. If I was a candidate and I found out that a hiring manager contacted X at my current role and got my salary information without asking me, I would find this to be a huge red flag and not accept the offer.

          I really find the OP a bit shady here with some boundary issues. Even if the candidate WAS lying, she should have at the very least been given a chance to verify her salary (which she OFFERED up) before someone went snooping for information in a potentially unprofessional manner.

      2. FiveNine*

        The whole thing seems handled so strangely — do most hiring managers wait until after they’ve made an offer to tell the applicant the salary range? And then this applicant in a SNAP goes from being the outstanding candidate who the hiring manager wants on the team to being someone the hiring manager finds super shady.

          1. DEJ*

            It’s been discussed many times on this blog that compensation can be such a significant deal breaker that it’s often more beneficial to bring it up earlier in the process rather than later – maybe not in the first interview, but in a second interview. This way neither party wastes their time if it turns out to be a deal breaker.

  8. Dorota*

    I work for a third-party recruiting agency, so maybe things are different here since we focus on high-level executives, and there tend to be huge discrepancies in salary based on location, industry, etc. So, we always ask what someone is making, usually in the pre-screen phone call. I think the odds of someone who makes a million bucks wanting to take a 75% pay cut are pretty slim.

    My point, anyway, is that I’m torn. I go on interviews and I’m almost always asked what I make now and I always hear, “well are you ok with making less?” And then there’s no right answer because I almost never know the salary range they had budgeted because it’s so taboo for me to ask, but I’d feel weird saying “nope, deal breaker” when they tell me. If companies were more transparent in the beginning, candidates would self-select out of jobs that paid under what they want/need/expected.

    1. nicole*

      Yes! I could not agree more on being transparent when it comes to the salary range. It wastes time for everyone involved if the salary is below what the candidate is willing to accept. The secrecy is so ridiculous! Let people self-select themselves out of even applying and stop wasting everyone’s time!

    2. Jazzy Red*

      “well are you ok with making less?”

      And the answer is: “That depends how close your range is to my current salary.”

  9. Alexian*

    I strongly feel that whatever the candidate was making at her current job is none of your business. You know the salary you have budgeted for this position; that’s what you base your salary offer on – that and nothing else. You poked around enough to get yourself upset and derail the hiring process, to no good effect I can see. I’m no lawyer, but I have to wonder if using your “contacts” this way was legal or ethical. Also, do you want your organization to get the reputation of a place that does things like that? Or the reputation of a place that plays salary games and lowballs their employees? Please do some serious thinking.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      But the candidate is the one who brought it up; the OP didn’t ask. The candidate made it a topic, so we can’t really say it’s none of the OP’s business (even though we can dispute what the OP did after that).

      1. Corporate Drone*

        We don’t know that the candidate brought it up. The OP doesn’t say who initiated it. I would assume it was the OP, because the employer always asks about current/recent salary.

          1. Corporate Drone*

            So she does. That makes the OP’s actions even more suspect. Why would the candidate volunteer to verify something that she can’t?

            The OP is so fixated on proving that this candidate has lied that s/he has engaged in unethical behavior.

      2. Xay*

        The candidate brought it up as part of the job offer negotiations – it’s up to the OP to decide if the candidate is worth matching the salary they want to make or if they want to hold the original offer, not verify whether they are telling the truth. Even if the candidate is not being truthful about their current salary, the offer is still below what the candidate makes and the OP did not indicate that they made an increased offer. In fact, the OP sounds like they believe their offer was fair, regardless of the candidate’s current salary and that is all that matters.

        To me, it sounds like the OP was looking for a reason to rescind the offer and found one.

        1. Chinook*

          But if the candidate brought her salary up as fact, wouldn’t it be part of due diligence to verify if it is fact because that would go to character? And since they are in the non-profit world, isn’t it possible that salary information is not confidential as it is part of a grant or she is the only employee in a department so her salary shows up on the publicly available budget? It may have even come up when 2 EDs were talking about how they couldn’t believe the other one was paying X for a particular position.

          1. Cassie*

            I agree. The candidate is the one who brought up her current salary and I don’t think it was wrong for the OP to try to verify it. Her contact at the candidate’s current workplace could have declined to provide that info – if anyone violated ethical or privacy procedures/policies (if it would apply, which I don’t think does), it would be the contact, not the OP.

            1. Jazzy Red*

              The candidate said she could prove it. The OP could have just asked her to show him the documentation (sounds nicer than “proof”).

              The OP could have confirmed this immediately instead of sneaking around later.

              1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

                Unless you believe, as OP did, that the candidate might have lied. Why would you ask for evidence from someone whose credibility is suspect (or, at least, why wouldn’t you also independently verify it)?

  10. Fran*

    I’ll say first off that I really hope this candidate wasn’t counting on confidentiality, because now at least one person at her current employer knows that she’s job searching and in the offer stage. Not to mention that if you came right out and said to your contact that the candidate told you she made $X (instead of just asking her salary), you’ve planted the idea that this candidate is dishonest.

    The thing is, I get the feeling that you wouldn’t pay her the extra money even if it turns out her salary is what she said it is. The discrepancy could be for lots of reasons: your contact looked at the wrong paper, the wrong figure, forgot to include a bonus, or just went off the top of her head for what she thought that position’s salary was. But if the candidate shows you a W2 and it proves she made that much, will you pay it or will you backpedal and say that you can’t go that high?

    I get not wanting to hire someone who lies, but you went behind her back at this organization and possibly soured things for her there, so I’m really hoping that you don’t plan on backpedaling if it turns out she was telling the truth.

  11. Wilton Businessman*

    What she makes now is not relevant unless that is within your range to pay. If you are willing to cough up an additional $7500 then it doesn’t matter if she can verify it or not.

    1. fposte*

      Yeah, that’s the part I’m not getting. If the OP can’t pay the $7500, none of the rest of it matters.

    2. Wilton Businessman*

      ..but I’m already getting a strange feeling with this candidate. I’d pull the offer on the grounds of workplace incompatibilities.

      1. Ash*

        You’re getting this feeling, over a complete stranger, from a one-sided story, told on the Internet?

          1. Fran*

            Because somewhere, hedonistic, haphazard decision-making skills are affecting real people at a real company with real impact on its community?

              1. jondunc*

                But debating our opinions is kind of what we do here (or any forum for that matter). I would agree that Wilton’s comment seems, on its face, exactly the kind of illogical thinking he was chiding the OP for displaying.

                1. fposte*

                  Sure, but judging the stories from only hearing one side is also what we do. I don’t have any problem with debate–it just seemed a bit much to single Wilton out for condemnation for judging a situation he didn’t know anything about, when none of us know anything about it.

      2. Xay*

        Yeah, how dare the candidate mention that their salary is higher than the offered salary (which is true although the amount is in dispute). Very strange.

      3. Wilton Businessman*

        I’m getting a strange feeling not because she reportedly makes more, it’s that she feels she has to prove it up front. Whenever somebody presents the evidence before the question is even asked, it gets one to thinking something is up. Presenting evidence is a reactive response not a proactive response.

        1. Jazzy Red*

          I’m thinking that other people have expressed disbelief at her current salary and that she decided to be proactive by offering proof.

  12. Guera*

    In my last job I had a base plus the company chipped a significant amount for childcare expenses plus money into an HSA. And I had bonuses and commissions. I have to consider all of that when telling someone who asks what I make especially if I had an inkling that I would no longer get the childcare and HSA money but needed to make that up somehow. Currently I work for employer who is paying me slightly less than my previous base. However, our finances took a hit because I lost the childcare and HSA money.
    If my employer had called a mysterious, unauthorized contact at my previous employer they may only hear about the base and think they are in line with what they are paying me or that I lied about my salary.
    There is a lot more to a job than salary. That’s what Total Compensation Statements are all about. This employee may have factored several things into her salary and she may know that she’ll lose some of those things by leaving. $4000 is hardly “inflated”.

    1. Jamie*

      Car allowance could be another reason. Even a modest car allowance can top 4 K a year and account for the difference. It could be anything.

      1. Me*

        Yup, I have a fairly low-paying job (first job out of college, so to be expected), but I also get a $4,000 car allowance. Being at the lower end of the pay scale that extra $4k makes a big difference and I would include it if asked my current salary.

    2. Cara*

      I agree. It may simply be that the employee and the hiring manager/contact are considering different things in the salary figure. This doesn’t mean one or the other is lying, just that they aren’t comparing apples to apples. My current employer kicks in a percentage of our salary to retirement accounts as a profit sharing contribution — it’s not a match but a flat percentage they add whether we contribute or not. I would factor that in when comparing salaries, absolutely.

    3. AnotherAlison*

      Yep, totally agree. While I wouldn’t necessarily say verbatim “my current salary is $7500 more” because I don’t call those other rewards salary, I would absolutely factor in everything that affects the dollars in my pocket. My company pays 75% of our health insurance costs. If I had to start picking up that extra five figures per year, that would be a huge impact to my bottom line. Could a company not covering insurance afford to up a position’s salary by $10,000? I don’t know. It depends on the position. If it’s a $150,000 job, probably. If it’s a $30,000 job, probably not.

      1. Kristi*

        @ AnotherAlison, my last job paid for 100% of my health insurance but I’m never sure how to include that number when talking about total compensation. Any ideas how to account for this benefit? I also received a substantial PTO in addition to holidays as well but that’s easier to account for. My salary otherwise was substantially reduced compared to jobs I’m looking at, and like everyone else, do not want to be stuck at that rate going forward.

        1. Yup*

          You could say something like, “My base salary was X. The company fully covered insurance costs for employees, which was a value for me of Y. So to achieve parity, my total compensation would need to incorporate X plus Y.”

    4. Lisa*

      Exactly. With my last employer I had a stated base hourly wage, but I was also paid bonuses and a wage differential depending on whether I supervised an event. When I came to my current employer, I said I had to make the same base hourly wage. Big mistake – my paycheck was cut in half because I didn’t do the calculations and figure out how much extra money I was making with all the perk pay (will NEVER make that mistake again!!!)

    5. mas*

      Agreed, there are also other intangible expenses that candidates should think about when they are negotiating salary, i.e. the dress code at the new job requires suits every day, the commuting costs may change if it is further away, parking is more expensive, etc.

  13. Julie*

    I think the whole thing has gone off the rails. I can see the conversation having gone something like this:

    Hiring Manager: “We’re willing to offer you $X to be our new chocolate teapot assembler.”
    Candidate: “Really? ‘Cause right now I’m making $X + 7,500.”
    Hiring Manager: “Hmm… that seems out of line with what I know chocolate teapot assemblers are usually paid in our industry.”
    Candidate: “It’s TOTALLY TRUE. I can prove it!”
    Hiring Manager: “…Right, well, nice seeing you.” *checks salary unofficially after candidate leaves, leading to OP’s conundrum*

    As other people have mentioned, it might have been best for the OP to just take the statement at face value and determine whether she’s able to budget an extra $7,500 for the position, and whether this particular candidate would be worth $7,500. Whether it is or is not what the candidate is currently making is, ultimately, immaterial.

    1. bAnon*

      I agree. Also, the op could have asked their contact if chocolate teapot makers make x+7500 and not actually given a name. I

  14. wahhhhh*

    I know work/hiring isn’t about being fair and all but….well, I do see it that way–you take a job at a time when you desperately need a job, and that low salary follows you around for years. That is unfair.

  15. KellyK*

    Wow. I think confirming someone’s salary without their permission is way out of line, like others have said. I really hope you haven’t just sabotaged her current job.

    Really, before you worry too much about what she’s currently making, you need to figure out whether she’s worth another $7500. If she isn’t, then it doesn’t matter. If she is, it *still* doesn’t matter what she’s currently making, but if she lied to you, then that definitely matters.

  16. Coelura*

    One comment for the OP –

    If you really think she’s lied to you, will you be able to trust her as your employee? Or will you end up being biased toward her from the start? Can you give her the clear & unbiased fresh new start that all new hires should be given?

    If you will continue to view her suspiciously, then you need to reconsider her as your top candidate.

  17. Ralish*

    I’m confused. The candidate offered up that she could verify her salary. But instead, the OP asked a contact about a potential hire’s salary? If you really don’t believe the candidate, why not ask for that verification instead of having this back-channel conversation? It doesn’t make any sense to me. And, as others have pointed out, the checking in with a contact at a candidate’s current employer sounds sketchy based on the details provided.

  18. Mike C.*

    OP, what are you going to do if the candidate is fired because she is looking for work and you told her representatives of her current employer that she’s looking elsewhere right now?

  19. Sarah*

    Is it just me or is anyone a little weirded out by the OP’s scepticism? I too make more than most people at my age/professional level and have been job hunting. I had one lady become completely overwhelmed when she asked what I would like to make and I told her 3,000 over what I’m currently making since they didn’t have health insurance. She actually said “Uh, no way you make that much”. At that point, even if she offered me 10k over my asking amount I wouldn’t have taken the position since she had proven she doesn’t behave professionally. If you want to hire this girl, but can’t afford what she’s asking, I would just be up front about it and not say anything that sounded like “I don’t believe you because I went behind your back and asked some people”. She obviously has a well paying job and doesn’t NEED the one you’re offering. I would just think about you and what you are willing to pay for her to work there and forget about the rest of it.

    1. JLL*

      I actually had a woman sit in front of me, openly question the amount that I told her, asked my weekly salary, and BROKE OUT A CALCULATOR, to indeed verify that i was not lying about making that salary.

      Needless to say, it didn’t work out.

  20. AmyNYC*

    What would be the right way to approach this as the job seeker?
    If you have a job at Company 1 doing A that pays $xx and you have budgeted your life (rent, car, loans, food, etc) around that salary and get an offer from Company 2 also doing A than is less than you can afford to accept, how do you explain that without saying “that’s less than I currently make”?

    1. Elise*

      Why not just say, “I need an offer of at least X or I am unable to accept the position?”

      1. The IT Manager*

        Exactly. “I won’t (or am unable) to accept the position for less than X.”

        You don’t need to add that the reason is because your previous salary was as low as you could go and going any lower would leave you hungry or homeless. What you need to live on is unrelated to your value or worth to your employer. And your employer is going to pay you based on what you’re worth not on what you need to maintain whatever lifestyle you’ve chosen for yourself.

    2. Mike C.*

      I don’t see why saying, “you’re asking me to take a pay cut to jump ship” is inappropriate.

      1. The IT Manager*

        Only if she was actively recruited away from company 1. If AmyNYC was job hunting and got an offer, I wouldn’t really say the potential employer was “asking her to jump ship.” She offered herself to them as an employee.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I think it’s fine to say that. Honestly, the reality is that this happens ALL THE TIME. Employers says, “we can offer X” or “the range is X,” candidate says, “I’m currently making Y,” employer says, “let me see what we can do to match that.”

        I’m not saying it’s how salary negotiation would ideally work, but it happens all the time, and as a result, I’d never advise a candidate against saying it because it works. Often more reliably than just “I’d like Y.”

  21. HR Pufnstuf*

    This is at the offer stage, the point in which references and info are checked with current employers.

  22. College Career Counselor*

    I don’t know how Alison feels about my mentioning these sources, but perhaps you could do some additional salary benchmarking/research with the guidestar.org salary tool or the Economic Research Institute? This doesn’t negate what Alison said about the issues with basing your salary offer on what she makes currently, but it might be another data point to see if in fact your applicant is playing fast and loose with you.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Problem with Guidestar for this is that they’ll be a year behind (since it’s last year’s tax docs), if they include her at all (which they may not; it’s usually just the 5 highest paid).

  23. Anon*

    Agreed that their could be other parts that contribute to what she makes. Retirement matching? Extra medical? Extra Flex Pay perks?

    Heck – I don’t know if I’d even consider it lying if she was factoring in her gas for a longer commute.

    Bottom line -have her verify it.

  24. BCW*

    I echo what a lot of people have already said. Either you think she was worth the extra $7500 or she wasn’t. Its as simple as that. If you don’t think she is worth it or REALLY can’t afford the extra $7500, then tell her that. However, you did seem to go about this in a shady way. If she offered to prove it, why didn’t you just let her do it? It seemed you went looking for an issue and found one.

  25. Anonymous*

    Oh, give me a break. Title of this should be “a hiring manager is lying to me about salary”.

    There are 2 possibilities here:
    1. Candidate inflated her salary by $4,000, and hiring manager lowballed by $3,500.
    2. Candidate told the truth, and hiring manager lowballed by $7,500.

    So if OP thinks the candidate’s too dishonest to work with, well, the OP really needs to look in the mirror. OP either doesn’t know the pay scales of their industry as well as they keep insisting they do, or else they are deliberately trying to lowball candidates.

    1. anon-2*

      And everyone is saying “oh, you poor OP, how can you trust this applicant? ”

      It seems like I’m the only one asking “Hey OP, what you did was unethical — and YOU have blown up any trust you might have with this person BEFORE you even extend an offer…”

      I recall one major company I worked with – who was trying to low-ball me — I did advise the HR rep = “GET SERIOUS. You have already wasted enough of my time…!” She replied “If we offered you more money, would you consider…”

      OK – they just tipped their hand and their high card is a six. Bluff failed. I said “if you are coming back with a second offer – make it your BEST – I will give you ONE shot and one more shot only.” Fifteen minutes later the phone rings. New offer is in the range.

      1. Jazzy Red*

        High five, anon-2! I only wish I’d had the nerve to do that.

        Although, I did do that when I bought my first house, so maybe I’m not as wimpy as I think I am.

        1. anon-2*

          What they basically were trying to do – is accept the position – there was a range – and they want you to come in no higher than the 33d percentile.

          I was ALREADY making that. One thing all these managers forget – is that if you REALLY want a candidate – you have to give him/her an incentive to leave their current situation and come over to a new one. Now, there’s another factor here, too – the candidate’s job is about to be eliminated. So she has less leverage.

          This is another factor that is used — if you’re out of work, you won’t get as much money than if you were. A hiring firm will exploit that.

          On the other hand, it shouldn’t shock hiring managers when a viable candidate expects to receive a motivating offer to make a move. The game is played both ways.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      ” OP either doesn’t know the pay scales of their industry as well as they keep insisting they do, or else they are deliberately trying to lowball candidates.”

      Um, no. Industry payscales are not so exact and universal that a role couldn’t pay this much more somewhere than somewhere else. Particularly in nonprofits, where there’s often wide variation. Industry norms are ranges, not precise figures, and there’s plenty of variation within those ranges.

  26. Dan*

    I’ve posted before that my job pays me by the hour, and I get a pretty decent rate to begin with, so working 50 hours every week is like getting a 25% raise.

    But there’s just no way I’ll ever fill in a number in a box on an application. That number is either my base pay (too low, and not what I want to be benchmarked against) or my OT (not a number that I can be certain HR would provide if I was interviewing with someone like the OP and they pulled stunt on me like that.)

    So, the safe number is way too low, and my “real” number risks having my offer revoked because there could be a “communication breakdown” and I’d never be the wiser.

    Basically, I hope the next time I have to speak $ with people, that they’ll be adults and have an open and honest conversation. That’s the only we can talk about that subject, without a bunch of us getting our feelings hurt.

    As long as I have this job, and have some desire to stick around, the onus is on you in the salary discussion, not me.

    1. Anon. Scientist*

      I was in the same situation as you, Dan. I was willing to provide my base pay as requested, but I added “my base salary may have been this, but I got an $8,000 bonus and overtime equivalent to an additional 10% of my base salary… ” I provided my W-2, which reflected my total from the previous year, plus documentation of my most recent pay raise (year after the W-2). If they went to HR to check, I didn’t hear about any discrepancies.

      In my case, I would be moving to a location with a much lower cost of living. And things were complicated by the fact that I was moving from an overtime-expected position to one where I would not be paid overtime. They increased the base pay so that my take-home was in the range of my old base + overtime, not including the bonus. I was pretty happy with that – they didn’t need to know I would have taken a pay cut to escape my old job!

  27. Katie the Fed*

    Every so often, I get really burnt out and frustrated at government work. The bureaucracy, the pay freezes, the pending furloughs, congress, etc. But then I read things like this and feel better.


    1. The IT Manager*

      :) I know. I have worked for the federal government all my adult life, I have never had to neogoiate salary, and I am so damn happy about that.

      And because my salary has always been public knowledge I just cannot comprehend why so many people want to keep it secret. Admitedly when I was in the military it was much easier for people to figure out my salary – rank, time in service, any dependents*. In the GS system the steps make it more difficult for someone to know how much a person makes.

      * Because yes, people in the military who are single make less money than those who are married or have children for that very reason. Such injustice! If a commercial company paid all the married people more money just because they are married, can you imagine the uproar?

      1. Wilton Businessman*

        Surprise, surprise, the Federal Government pays people more because they have more dependents. Sounds like the basis for most Federal programs.

      2. Amy*

        Isn’t the difference in military pay based on family size just the housing allowance? That is, because the military provides free or subsidized housing for soldiers and their families, and people who have a spouse and kids get a bigger house than single people, their pay if they choose to live off base reflects that? In fact, according to the pay calculators I looked at, there are only two options: no dependents, or dependents. So people with 7 kids get the same housing allowance as people with just a spouse. And spousal income over a certain amount changes your tax advantages such that it counts against you.

        I agree, that means that total compensation is higher for some people with dependents than it is for some people without. But it’s not as simple as saying they’re “paid more.”

        You can play with the numbers yourself here: http://militarypay.defense.gov/mpcalcs/Calculators/RMC.aspx

      3. Amy*

        And actually, I’ll say that a lot of private companies do “pay more” to people with dependents, if you’re counting benefits. For example, some companies offer free or subsidized health insurance for dependents, meaning that a married person who carries her spouse on her insurance gets a bigger benefit than a single person. Heck, if you’re allowed to invite your spouse to the company Christmas party, your company is paying for an extra free meal for you that they didn’t give to the person who doesn’t have a spouse. Is it strictly “fair?” Maybe not. But I’m not too terribly worked up about it.

        1. The IT Manager*

          This is base pay that’s seperate. The depedents also get all the extra perks you mentioned too.

  28. AB*

    Wow. I came to check AAM’s posts today after work, and this is the first time I see myself disagreeing with the large majority of comments.

    Many comments are saying “it doesn’t matter whether she truly earns X more or not”, but really, in the context of the question, to me it matters very much. First, I would not want to hire someone who voluntarily told me “I currently earn XYZ” if they didn’t. Second, even if the candidate was, as some suggested, factoring in other things like bonuses and allowances (which don’t seem to apply based on the OP’s update in the thread), as a hiring manager, I’d expect the person to be clear about it — especially since the OP posted in the comments that the benefits in the new job are better than the candidate’s old job.

    So, if the candidate says “I earn XYZ” while including fringe benefits, well, the comparison with the new job should also be based on total compensation and not base salary. But in order for the right comparison to happen, the candidate would have to be transparent about the calculation she is making.

    In the OP’s place, I would not have asked the current employer to confirm the candidate’s salary, but if I were willing to cover the higher salary, as the OP seemed to be, I would definitely accept the candidate’s offer to produce proof, because there is reasonable doubt about the salary voluntarily given, and under the circumstances I would need to confirm that the person is trustworthy before I made a final hiring decision.

  29. Steve G*

    I agree w/ AB. Even if the inflated salary included OT, a bonus, or some other benefit, it still would irk me that the candidate slid those costs into the salary. At the least, this is a huge lack of attention to detail – especially given how important every step of a hiring process is.

    I also find it odd that people think it is outrageous how the OP verified the salary (I agree it shouldn’t be used to base a salary, as I took a low paying job during the recession, then got offered a lower amount to start at my current job, and my salary and duties were so out of line I got 3 raises my first year, increasing my salary over $20K, $28K from the previous job…it had to be approved by the CEO, it was more dramatic than it needed to be)…..if you just meet someone and are trying to build a rapport or level of trust, the accuracy of the data on their applications is a great way for them to build credibility. If they lie there, they blew their chance. If they left off a detail as to why they are inflating their salary, they also blew it.

    1. AB*

      Steve, it’s a great compliment to your performance how quickly you started recovering from the loss caused by your new salary being based on your last compensation. Congratulations.

      I’ve often offered my salary information to hiring managers asking for it, but in a very specific situation: I was being recruited out of my existing job, and since they were trying to recruit me, and my salary is way above average for my role, it was to everybody’s advantage to bring it into record as soon as possible. This way, if I’m out of their range, we don’t waste each other’s time, and if I’m in their range or budget, it’s a matter of negotiation depending on how much they want me and how much I want them.

      But really, it’s not smart at all for companies to try and take advantage of a bad economy, offering low compensation to the candidate they want just because of his salary history. They will end up with one of 3 things: low performers who stay because they have no other option; unwanted and costly turnover if they do hire top talent that other companies will steal at the first opportunity by just paying market salary; or a highly demotivated team members who won’t give their best because they know they’ve been shortchanged.

  30. A teacher*

    I just wanted to chime in as a teacher, you can certainly look at my base pay as I’m a public employee but my pay is higher because I coach, teach an overload and serve on a paid comittee which is more than 7000 over the base and I would count in my salary if asked.

  31. Anonymous*

    Why does no one bring up the possibility that the HR contact that gave the OP salary info lied?

    I’d lean more towards “lie of laziness” than “lie of malice” as a general assumption. A process like, “Oh, I just looked up Joe’s salary recently, it was $X. Now that this other person is asking about Jane’s salary I’ll just go with $X without double-checking; their jobs are kind of similar.” My room mate’s HR department did something very similar recently.

    Though it’s worth mentioning that school districts can be kind of clique-ish and I wouldn’t entirely discount malice as a possible motive for a lie from HR, especially if someone’s job is what’s at stake.

    When you have to decide which of two random unknown people to trust, don’t trust either. Both or either could be liars. Both or either could be incompetent. Get some verification, see what the employee can produce. If you aren’t satisfied with her proof, then move on to the next candidate.

    1. Meg*

      Why would it be malice if the organization is closing? The candidate will be jobless regardless.

  32. Meg*

    Aren’t public/government job salaries public information and readily accessible anyway? I remember looking up how much my high school teachers made (as I attended public high school) just because it was available.

    As far as the question, I don’t think it’s necessarily shady or unethical to research someone’s salary history. I’ve done it before – but only when the jobs were similar. For example, our commission structure was different than other cell phone stores in that you made hourly + commission. Some stores made no commission, some stores made only commission. It was mostly to see how likely a candidate was to accept a position, because frankly, we didn’t budge. $8/hr + comm for no experience, $9/hr + comm for experience, $10/hr + comm for managers and managers-in-training. That was it. We expected at least $800-$1000 in commission from each employee, and we could figure compare our figures with other cell phone stores, if they were coming from one.

    If they didn’t have the cell phone background, or their recent employer wasn’t cell phone, it was a step we didn’t need to take.

    1. fposte*

      Yes, generally such salaries are public record, though as far as I know there’s no stipulations about the kind of availability for the records (ours used to be available only in the university library in print, for instance, and you had to ask for it). And these records have a high error rate–mine is very wrong, for instance, and I wouldn’t accept a job based on what it lists for me.

    2. jondunc*

      Public school salary scales are available. However, to my knowledge, individual salaries are not. So, one would need to know the years of experience the district had awarded the teacher, whether the teacher has any additional paid responsibilities (coaching, tutoring, committees, etc.), and potential extras (test proctor, certification compensation, etc.). Now with many states moving to performance based pay, it is not even that simple to get to total compensation.

  33. The IT Manager*

    My initial inclination is to rescind the offer, but she claims she can verify her salary. Should I give her that opportunity?

    Yes, give her the opportunity to verify her salary. Why would you not give her this opportunity? I am not as negative on you as a lot of commenters are. I didn’t see evidence of any dishonesty on your part, but why would you not give her a chance to prove her innocence? As other commentors have mentioned, there may be extras she including in her salary that don’t show up in the base pay (which IMO does not make her a lier).

  34. Tiff*

    I totally understand that no one wants to hire a liar….but I also feel like the OP sounds a bit paranoid.

    I think an easier solution would be to simply ask her what the compensation included when she told you what it was. As others have pointed out, there really is no evidence that the woman is lying. I wonder where your suspicion comes from, and whether it stems from the candidate’s behavior or simply sticker shock from her previous salary.

  35. SunshineDC*

    Given how much less equally qualified women (and non-white) professionals are still being paid compared with white men, demanding to know their current salaries and basing a new offer on that (instead of what the job is worth to your company/organization and what they would bring to it) really BEGS for applicants to lie, if you force them to tell you (or snoop around to get the info yourself.)

    Really, it seems that in such cases, LYING may be the ONLY way they could possibly get close to anything approaching pay parity.

    I’m not saying that lying is”ok.” No. Absolutely not. BUT… I can definitely seeing it potentially leading to two wrongs (the real, documented FACT of pay discrimination per gender/race/ethnicity + a lie about a current/prior salary only to the extent of bringing a woman, etc., to a comparable negotiating point to a white male) possibly making a right (closing the pay gap for women and so-called minorities such that they are compensated on par with a white male of equal skill, education and experience.)

    I hope more companies, institutions and organizations will take AAM’s advice to base salary offers per her excellent advice.

    Job candidates should not lie—but neither should they be backed into corners that will be forced to continue along a path of discriminatory compensation which will only get wider and wider as they go along in their careers, so long as every new job salary is tied to their last one.

  36. kryzstoff*

    in some countries, this information is restricted by privacy laws and employers can be sued for giving it out. furthermore, it is common for employment contracts to include a clause restricting employees from discussing remuneration with third parties — for the candidate to discuss it may even be a contractual breach.

  37. Igbee*

    Wow, I am amazed that most people do not have a problem with prospective employers requiring you to provide your current salary. I have always provided it and assumed they researched it by paying for a credit report or something along those lines but I still find it really off putting. It really seems to cross a line as far as using leverage against someone, but I guess that is America Inc, our business leaders got rid of the unions and can basically trade employees like commodities. I guess we have to take what they give us even from one job to the next. … and they say the middle class is disappearing

  38. Cheryl*

    Let her verify it. I know from my own experience working at a non-profit that my base salary actually became $8,000 more because of consistent overtime I had to work. So basically, on paper my salary said one thing BUT the hours I was made to work (which was 6 hours of OT every week) resulted in a salary that was about 8-9K higher. The OT I had to work was non-negotiable and I had to do it so it did change what I was suppose to be making based on what their offer was on my offer letter. HR even told me to expect this. It’s possible her employer is telling you her base salary, not what she was actually making.

  39. Another Job Seeker*

    Very late to the party here, and I’m sure this was resolved for this OP long ago. Thought I’d add my $.02 anyway.

    At one point in my career, I was moved from Supervisor A to Supervisor B. That particular organization can move slowly on some items, and there are quite a few politics at play. My HR records were updated after the organizational change was made. They said that I reported to Supervisor A when in fact I reported to Supervisor B. I would hate to lose a job offer based on something like that. A situation of that nature would lead me to realize that I might need to offer the same type of proof to the employer with whom I was interviewing. (I would have the proof available, but I would not offer it because it does appear shady. Unfair, but true).

    All that said, I understand why people are skeptical, and I don’t advocate lying. I also do not agree with the OP’s decision to go behind the candidate’s back and let her current employer know she was seeking another position. I understand that the current employer was shutting down. That does not change the fact that, based on the OP’s inquiry, the candidate’s current employer might push her out of the company before she is ready to leave.

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