“So what’s your salary, then?”

This is a question that seems to be driving a lot of debate at the moment, so we thought we’d wade in with our own advice on how to answer it.

Or, more pressingly, whether you should have to answer it at all. There’s a popular school of thought now that what you’re currently earning should bear no relevance to your job application whatsoever.

Well, there’s no set answer to this, but here’s three common scenarios which should cover our thoughts for the majority of cases we tend to see.

Scenario 1: A direct competitor approaches you and the question comes suspiciously early in proceedings. Alarm bells start to ring – why do they want to know that, I don’t even understand the job they’re trying to recruit yet, and I’m not convinced I’m even interested? The answer here is clear. Don’t tell them. Job applications are always a two way street, and if you’re being met with one way traffic – we want to know this, tell me about that – with no information as to why you should be interested…shut it down. If you feel uncomfortable doing that, tell them what you’d need in order to make a move, but explain that you’d like to learn more about the opportunity before divulging the full details of your remuneration. You’ll soon see if they’re serious or not.

Scenario 2: You apply to an advertisement through a recruiter. The job’s advertised at £60,000 – £70,000 plus benefits. You’re currently on £45,000 but you know you’re worth more – former colleagues have moved on to much bigger and better things. The recruiter calls you, gives you a quick overview of the position which is essentially what you’ve already seen on the advert, and says they’d like to put you forward, so what’s your current package? Shut it down. How can that recruiter represent you if they haven’t got to know you? How will they be able to justify why you’re looking for an increase without knowing your reasoning? How will they fight your corner? They won’t. That employer will see you as a £45k candidate looking for a big rise with no just reason, and you can kiss goodbye to your true worth.

Scenario 3: Same as scenario 2, but this time the recruiter talks you to for an hour, really getting to know your motivations for applying and telling you all sorts of interesting things about the role that makes you realise they’ve got an excellent understanding of their client. After an hour, once you’re confident they understand you and your value, they ask you your salary. Tell them. A good recruiter will work with you to justify your worth to their client, there’s no reason to hide anything. Chances are, they’ve been through the same thing fifty times. Remember what we said about the two way street? Here it is. They can explain to the client why you need what you need, and if the client disagrees about your worth…well, that’s up to them – you’re better off waiting until someone values you than allowing yourself to be beaten down on price. But a good client will trust their good recruiter, so chances are, you’re onto a winner.

In conclusion, the answer, whilst different in different scenarios, boils down to this. Recruitment is a relationship-driven industry. If the person on the other end of the phone, or on the other side of the table, isn’t investing the time and the effort to build a relationship with you, shut it down.

Personally, I believe that a future employer does have the right to ask you what your current employer values you at (in other words, your current salary). It doesn’t mean they’ll value you in the same way, but it gives them an opportunity to put an offer on the table that shows real commitment to you. If they make an offer blind, then we’ll end up in a Wild West of interviews where an awful lot of people end up disappointed, with a whole load of time wasted. A clear statement of “this is what I earn, these are the benefits I receive, and this is what I’m looking for in my next role” allows us, as recruiters, to represent your interests properly and with no guesswork. But skipping the relationship part? No, that can’t work. Clients, candidates and recruiters all need to invest time into building those relationships – if any don’t, the whole house of cards comes crashing down.

Have you got a “go-to” recruiter? If not, you should. Someone who understands you, someone who has your best interests at heart. It’ll take time – we’ve known some of our candidates here for 15 years – but each and every one of those relationships started with that hour long phone call. Drop us a note and we’ll make it happen.