In response to Liz Ryan’s Forbes Article | “Ten Things Recruiters Don’t Need to Know About You”
I’ve been in the executive search industry for over 18 years and placed up to the CEO level but also placed a number of seasoned people in the biotech industry. While this article makes several salient points, it is also flawed in a number of ways.
First, is the search firm working on a contingency or retained search? If it is retained (and often times contingency), the search firm has likely queried the client on the information they are asking for – up front. Therefore, to say no to a request for salary information is to say no to the client themselves – not the recruiter.
I know a number of larger firms ask for present salary right on the online application so if you decline to answer, the ATS won’t let you apply as it is a required field. These are not search firms I’m talking about. Rather, they are the clients of search firms that candidates presumably would like to go to work for.
Second, salary history and present earnings ARE relevant if they demonstrate trajectory for a reasonably similar position. If your earnings this past year were half of the year before because you worked half time as a consultant – yes, your earnings this past year are irrelevant. However, if you presently occupy a role that is akin to the role being recruited for, they do become relevant as a benchmark. Clients consider three things when making compensation decisions: 1.) Supply / demand for any given skill set 2.) Compensation history 3.) Parity with similar positions within their own organizations.
Third, questions that deal with cash flow beneath one’s present earnings are sometimes asked because cash constrained earlier stage clients often grant stock options as a form of remuneration. They may not be as competitive with “the market” on base compensation so they offer up an alternative form of remuneration.
Where you are in the hiring process with other employers is critical. Please be up front! If you are going to receive an offer this coming week, my client will have no time to react so to present you under such circumstances makes us both look bad!
The recruiter relationship is a partnership – a two way street. The recruiter should be prepared to offer up the client identity (unless it is a stated confidential search), compensation ranges, answer questions and give you an estimated timeline for recruitment at the client. Unless you are in the rather rare position of being a candidate that has little to no competition (high demand / low supply), if you decide to take Ms. Ryan’s advice in an absolute manner, understand that you WILL be missing job opportunities that may benefit you.