That’s none of your business!

“I can’t believe the nerve of that recruiter, asking for my current and past compensation. What I’ve earned before has nothing to do with my future positions.”

Sound familiar? When you’re working with a recruiter, you will usually be asked for your compensation figures, which isn’t a conversation many people are happy to jump into. It’s an uncomfortable topic, but asking doesn’t make them bad at their job; in fact, they’re doing everything in their power to ensure that you find the best fit possible, while maximizing your chance for success.

First, let’s clear the air. It’s absolutely your prerogative to share whatever information you want to share, and keep private all the information you don’t want to. Period. But before you shut the door on that conversation, it may help to understand the logic behind asking such an obviously personal question.

Think of a silent auction – there’s a lot that you really want to win. You could bid low and hope that nobody else is interested in the item, or perhaps you could bid high to help solidify your chances of success. But without knowing how many bidders are competing or what their budgets are, there’s really no way for you to know if you’ll be successful. Wouldn’t it help to know how much everybody else has bid before you submit yours?

And that’s precisely the sort of inside information a good recruitment partner can provide about a potential opportunity, and usually quite a bit more. A recruiter will make the effort to understand your expertise, career history and ideal path, and your prioritized list of motivators. Similarly, the recruiter should be able to provide just as much information about the client, including details about their environment and teams, their short-and-long-term objectives, and the key requirements for success. More importantly, in many cases, the recruiter will know what the ideal budget range is, and how flexible the hiring manager can be for the right candidate.

By understanding the details of your experience, skills, and rate history, your recruiter can then market your profile to its best advantage. Sometimes a candidate’s rate falls outside the budgeted amount, but armed with your compensation track record, the recruiter can illustrate not only the value you bring to the table, but what other employers are willing to pay for that expertise. By painting a complete picture of your candidacy, a recruiter can create a sense of urgency around your profile, and in many cases, increase the budget to a more competitive rate.

It should go without saying that if you are seeking an increase in compensation when exploring new opportunities, a strong recruitment partner will work with you to help you achieve your goals, and if an employer is not willing to meet your needs, then it is entirely your decision to withdraw from consideration; but it makes sense to understand the market dynamics and the specific opportunity conditions before making that decision.

As always, our team welcomes the opportunity to discuss this, or any other employment-related topic you may have questions about. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to your IT/IQ recruiter, or email our team at


“Canadian money is pretty!” by rick is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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