Should you stop sharing your salary with recruiters?

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Job applicants have reservations about disclosing their salary and providing their pay slip. (Shutterstock)

It is believed that the disclosure of your current income bracket limits the potential increase you would receive if your salary were not disclosed. Providing a salary bracket, or emailing your pay slip, allows the employer, recruiter, or hiring manager to negotiate a salary below maximum potential for the position, to the disadvantage of the job applicant. New York City recently made it illegal for employers, recruiters and hiring managers to ask job seekers to supply their salary history.

For example, if you’re already underpaid at your current role, you won’t be offered much more at a new role simply because the hiring managers will be able to entice you with anything more than what you’re currently earning. This is even truer for interns wanting to move up the ladder, or employees who recently received their second or third qualification.

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If hiring managers were legally banned from requesting pay slips, this would counter the common cognitive bias, thereby greatly benefitting the job applicant. Malia Mason, a professor at Columbia Business School says, “Salary history is not a relevant reference point. The reference should be what the market pays.” Jonathan Kingwell of #JobSeekersWednesday adds that recruiters should take the applicant’s skills and experience into consideration when deciding on a salary offer too.

It seems that many job seekers are reluctant to disclose their salary by providing their pay slip. Many locals who we’ve asked on Facebook and Twitter have stated that they believe this is not only a breach of privacy but it also weakens their power during salary negotiations. On the other hand, those who said they don’t mind disclosing their pay slip argued that they have nothing to hide and want to showcase their trustworthiness by being transparent.

Even though job seekers have the right to refuse, in order to make an informed decision it’s important to consider the benefits of providing your previous salary and pay slip. According to Jeannine Scheltens, HR Manager of 24.com, disclosure provides the opportunity to compare previous and potential remuneration and benefits. Kingwell explains that your pay slip produces more than just recent salary.  He says, “Pay slips answer a wider range of questions including confirmation of the job title, start date, and previously existing employment benefits (as well as) performance level and seniority.”

Yes, it is common practice and the reasons why recruiters request pay slips are valid, yet candidates are not legally obligated to produce their pay slip in South Africa. Unfortunately, there are certain consequences job seekers need to consider before refusing. Firstly, applicants’ reluctance may indicate they’re hiding something, or as Kingwell puts it “as if they are being dishonest with their current earnings.” He adds that refusal to disclose may result in an offer well below your current salary, or worse, your candidacy being revoked completely.

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Our advice: if a recruiter requests that you submit your pay slip along with your other application documents, submit it. Then, brush up on your salary negotiation skills, believe in yourself, and ask for what you want. You deserve it.

Kingwell also suggests that candidates should consider disclosure as something positive. If you “use the process to demonstrate your credibility and worth” followed by an impressive interview that “show(s) that you are capable of earning more than (your) previous sum,” it could greatly increase your chances of being chosen above the other applicants.

However, you should also consider that job seekers seem to underestimate their power: if you’re a skilled worker with an exceptional track record, you should be able to negotiate your ideal salary because companies are fighting for high-performing employees. In fact, talented, sought-after employees are able to pick and choose where they will be spending their working hours, and companies therefore need to offer more than good salaries and competitive benefits these days. Thorough background checks, reference feedback, digital professional reputation research, as well as your performance in the interview, should provide a solid indication of whether or not you are an excellent candidate and puts you on a good footing to negotiate your remuneration package.

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