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Lying About Your Salary History Is a Bad Idea, So Here’s What to Do Instead

Consider this scenario: you don't feel fairly compensated in your current job, so you start to look around for other opportunities. During the application or interview process, you are asked about your present salary – the same low salary that inspired you to look for a new job in the first place. If you tell the hiring manager the truth, you might wind up with an offer pegged to that low pay. But, if you lie, you'll almost certainly get caught. What to do?

Consider this scenario: you don’t feel fairly compensated in your current job, so you start to look around for other opportunities. During the application or interview process, you are asked about your present salary – the same low salary that inspired you to look for a new job in the first place. If you tell the hiring manager the truth, you might wind up with an offer pegged to that low pay. But, if you lie, you’ll almost certainly get caught. What to do?

gold bars 

(Photo Credit: New Old Stock)

It might be tempting to pretend you make more than you actually do, but it’s important to resist that impulse and stay honest. An employer is likely to immediately drop you from consideration if they find out you are less than trustworthy. If you’d rather not provide that information, fearing that it could result in an offer lower than you are hoping for, here are a few alternatives that will allow you to keep your integrity.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

Focus on the Job Description

By conducting salary research limited to job titles rather than the actual responsibilities involved, you may be getting a false picture of the potential salary range. Make sure you get a job description, compare it with your current one, and explore the salaries that are out there for similar positions. Job titles can be misleading and often fail to illustrate the breadth and depth of duties and skills required of the position.

Choose a Salary Range

You’re not obligated to declare how much you currently make, especially if you would like to earn significantly more. PayScale’s Salary Survey can help you find an appropriate range for the position under consideration, not the one you’re trying to leave.

Make sure that even the bottom of that range is a number you’d be comfortable with, as there’s no guarantee that subsequent negotiations would go in your favor. The salary negotiation could well start at that lower number, so don’t ask for something you wouldn’t be happy taking.

Avoid the Question

Unless it’s a required field in an application form, you might be able to get away with not answering the question directly. Focus on your experience and skills, and come to the negotiating table with an ask based on salary data, not hopes or fears.

And, if the hiring manager doesn’t press you for a number, don’t volunteer. When it comes to negotiating salary, even if you’ve never had a job before, you give yourself the advantage by not being the one to bring up the subject. Allow the prospective employer to present the first number, if possible, and then go carefully from there. You don’t need to let your salary history affect the role currently under your consideration.

Tell Us What You Think

Have you ever been tempted to lie about your salary? Do you have a tip that might make negotiating easier and more successful for other readers? Let us know in the comments or join the discussion on Twitter.

Kirsty Wareing
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