Salary history: Will HR put up or shut up?

In recent postings (How to make more money, Why you should tell me your salary) we’ve discussed whether job applicants should disclose their salary history to an employer. This topic has taken wing elsewhere: On BNet (Should Jobhunters reveal salary requirements?), on PunkRockHR (Candidates, Salary, and Disclosure) and on Job Hacking (What happens when you don’t pay attention to statistics?).

Job hunters seem to clearly recognize why it’s not a good idea to disclose, even if some feel pressured to do so. (Hey, I don’t knock anyone who desperately needs a job and decides to disclose. But I think that’s a short-term fix and later the tire is gonna blow on you big-time…)

Some in HR offer all kinds of reasons to support their position that applicants should — or must — disclose salary history or forfeit their chance at a job. I find none of them compelling.

But I don’t think HR managers are dopes or even disingenuous. I think they’re brainwashed and can’t see past their own bureaucracy. So I’ve been trying to figure out how to turn the tables and help HR solve the problem without waiting for candidates to cough up their salary info. That way these employers won’t have to pass up good candidates.

So here’s my suggestion and my simple business logic. HR contends it’s legitimate to ask for an individual’s salary history and that the information is a crucial component when assessing a candidate. HR contends salary information should be shared in the context of a job application and interview to enable both parties to determine whether further discussion is realistic, and to ensure that if discussions lead to an offer, acceptance of the offer is a realistic possibility. HR contends that salary history helps an employer judge a candidate.

So here’s what HR should do. Following the same logic and rationale, at the point where HR would ask for the candidate’s salary history, HR should instead share: Read more

Why you should tell me your salary

In How to make more money we’re discussing why a job hunter should decline to state salary history. People who stand firm and say NO to the demand for salary info argue it’s the only position to take. HR folks and some headhunters argue that if an employer requires your salary info, you’re dead meat if you decline. They claim it’s not smart to say NO.

Let’s change the question from, Should you disclose your salary history? to Why should you disclose it?

So here’s the challenge to employers (and HR) and to headhunters: What can you tell the candidate to convince her that it’s to her advantage to tell you her salary? How will disclosure clearly benefit her? I’d like to see some solid reasons why it’s to the candidate’s advantage. (“Because if you don’t tell us, we won’t consider you,” is not an answer.)

I think there are some valid reasons to disclose to a headhunter, but no good reasons at all to disclose to an employer.

Uh-oh. A good job board. If you wanna call it that.

It’s easy to criticize all the opportunistic online career businesses — they are everywhere and they’re obvious. So, is every career-related site online worthless, crooked or just plain dog doo?

Of course not. There’s some good stuff online. I regularly try to point you to sites that publish non-career content that I think can be used to advance your career. Now I’m gonna show you a job board — yes, a job board — that’s worth using. I know that no matter how often I recommend using personal contacts to find jobs, many of you will use job boards anyway. So you might as well be smart about it and use a board that actually does what it claims to do: show you real job listings from real companies, and nothing else.

LinkUp is a new job board with some interesting features. Most interesting is what LinkUp does not do. Here’s the FAQ:

Where do LinkUp job listings come from?
Directly from employers. LinkUp does not accept jobs from third parties. You know: multi-level-marketing operators, recruiters who work in dank basements in unincorporated countries, and those iron-curtain identity thieves. All LinkUp job listings come from employers.

How does LinkUp get its job postings?
It uses spiders to gather real job postings only from real companies. LinkUp does not scrape jobs from other job boards (oops… that’s what the other job boards do). LinkUp doesn’t ask permission to gather the jobs, but no company has ever complained that LinkUp is doing it. LinkUp adds a company’s jobs without charging the company. So if a job is out there on a company web site, you get access to it in one place.

How fresh are the listings?
As fresh as last night. LinkUp gathers jobs and updates its listings every night. If there’s a dead listing in there, it’s because a company itself left the job on its own jobs pages on its own site. (Hey, there’s no law against dumb companies.)

How does LinkUP do that?
Really good programmers and staff who work late.

What happens to my personal data when I apply for a job on LinkUp?
This is what I really like about LinkUp. You don’t fill out forms on LinkUp and LinkUp has no job database or resume database or application database. You find the posting on LinkUp and LinkUp sends you directly to the employer’s web site. Anything you submit goes to the employer, not to LinkUp. (LinkUp cannot control whether an employer might outsource its job-board database to Monster or one of the other boards, but that’s not under anyone’s control but the employer’s. Keep your eyes open anywhere you go. All LinkUp does is let you find a real company’s real jobs on the company’s own site.) This is as clean as a job board is gonna get. If you want better service, use personal contacts to find a job.

Will LinkUp find me a job?
No, Dopey. You do that yourself. What I like about LinkUp is that it won’t find you a ton of detritus that’s been lying around some job board’s database for six years. And it doesn’t let dirt-bag “recruiters” dump their trash into your results page.

Can you guarantee me no problems and that this is legit?
Have you ever heard me guarantee you anything? I don’t. LinkUp was started by GL Hoffman, a guy I’ve worked with and known a long time. If he’s pulling my leg, I’ll never buy him another beer. And when have you ever seen me recommend a job board, anyway?

How does LinkUp make money?
Always follow the money. LinkUp pays me nothing and I don’t pay LinkUp anything. Ever hear of Google? You know those search results up top on the Google page, the ones in the shaded box above the rest of the results? Those are results an advertiser is paying for, but you know that. Like Google, LinkUp puts some paid job listings at the top of its search results, too. But they’re not ads; they’re job listings like all the rest that you’ll see, and they match your search criteria. (They have a colored background so you know what they are.) But if someone clicks on them LinkUp earns some money.

What’s LinkUp going to charge me to searchfor jobs?
Nothing. It’s free for job hunters. It’s free for companies, too, unless they want a couple of their jobs up top in the highlighted section of the results.

Yah, sure. But what does it cost for PLATINUM service when I’m looking for a job?
There is no platinum service, gold service, or anything for a job hunter to buy from LinkUp. They don’t sell resume-writing services, or career coaching, or your information to third parties. It’s free. No catch. LinkUp makes money from companies that want their jobs highlighted in search results.

Well, this doesn’t sound like a job board any more.
LinkUp is not a job board. I called it a job board to get your attention. LinkUp is a search engine that finds jobs on companies’ own web sites.

That’s it. Try it and let me know what you think. If you find a bug, it’s because the geniuses at LinkUp keep tweaking it to make it go faster and to find results more accurately. And if you find something that really bugs you, say so and I’ll dangle a beer to get GL to come over here and answer your question.

How to make more money: Withhold your salary history

One of the most popular articles on is Keep Your Salary Under Wraps. The advice is simple: Don’t disclose your current salary or your salary history when a prospective employer asks you for it.

The reason is also simple: When you disclose your salary information, your negotiating leverage is gone. Your salary history is not any employer’s business. Always decline to disclose, politely but firmly. No matter what they say, no matter what they threaten. In fact, be ready to walk away if they don’t back off. It’s not worth talking to a company that insists on having your salary info.

(Go ahead and post arguments about why employers must have an applicant’s salary history and why applicants must disclose the information if they want to be considered for a job. If you work in HR and I’ve made you nervous, go ahead and level every threat you can think of to protect your hiring hegemony. I’ve heard all the dusty rationalizations. None of them hold water. They are all rubbish. I’ll answer every single one.)

I regularly receive e-mails from readers who take this bold position when applying for a job. They are almost always astonished to realize that employers back off from the demand if the applicant stands firm.

Having controlled their confidential salary information once, people never go back to forking it over. They lose their fear. They are emboldened. They send me stories about how they walk out of interviews when the employer threatens to terminate their candidacy unless they divulge the magic number. People learn to say no, and they realize that conceding is wrong. They realize that employers who insist are a bad risk. Why work for someone who tries to force you to share private information that has no bearing on your interview, on your value, on whether you get an offer, or on what the new salary offer is?

A fellow named Ryan runs a blog called The Idealistic Investor. It’s a new blog, not much stuff on it, but all the articles are about some aspect of personal investing and work — and full of common sense. What I like is that Ryan is a techie. He works in IT (information technology) and he brings a techie’s practical, clear-headed perspective to pesky issues like stress at work, layoffs and what to do with your money.

Ryan is also one of the people who politely but firmly declined to divulge his salary history to an insistent reruiter at a technology company. The phone call ended and so did Ryan’s expectation for a job interview or a job. Learning what happened next is worth your time, and probably a nice bit of change in your next job offer: Do You Disclose Your Salary History? Check it out, then tell me what you think.

[UPDATED 3/17/09] Some of the dialogue here stems from today’s edition of the Ask The Headhunter Newsletter: HR’s salary moxie.

How to hire (or find a job): The 3% solution

Where do companies find the people they hire? (Hint: Dumpster diving is alive and well in Human Resources.)

4% come from
3% come from CareerBuilder
1% come from HotJobs

These figures have not changed since these job boards have been online. 90% of companies surveyed have contracts with 80% with CareerBuilder.

60% of corporate recruiting budgets are spent in online job advertising. (Source for most data in this post: CareerXroads 2009 8th Annual Source of Hire Study.)

The single biggest source of hires (30%-40%) is personal referrals. But spending on it is virtually nil. A top HR exec at a Fortune 50 company complains to me that he has no budget to go out and recruit through personal contacts because execs from the big job boards wine and dine his top execs — and the bulk of the available budget is thereby dumped into the job boards. He’s livid. There is no budget for The Manager’s #1 Job.

But that’s not the main reason the board of directors should heave its own HR operation into a dumpster. Read more

You idiot, you showed this résumé to an employer??

Have you been offered a “free résumé critique” by a big-name résumé-writing company? It’s a tempting thing to try, eh? Just send in your résumé and get a free critique! You could even use it to improve and re-write that piece of paper yourself, at no cost. But did you ever wonder, how do busy, highly-paid, professional résumé writers at a big-name company read all those résumés that people send in, then take time to critique them and offer advice — for nothing?

It would be like taking your malfunctioning car to a mechanic who spends time figuring out what’s wrong, writes up his analysis, gives it to you, and doesn’t charge you a dime unless you agree to have him fix it.

Imagine if doctors offered such a deal. You’d get a full diagnosis, but there’s no charge unless you want treatment. “You’ve got pellagra, M’am. Two months to live. Let us know if you want it cured. But today’s diagnosis is free. Too bad your kids will be left motherless because you were such a moron and didn’t take care of yourself…”

And that’s what a lot of those “free résumé critiques” sound like. You idiot, you showed this résumé to an employer?? You’re dead meat! Let us take care of this for you!

Well, I’ve figured it out. The mechanic didn’t really diagnose your auto problem. And the doctor? Sorry, you don’t have pellagra. In both cases a chimp pulled your diagnosis out of a bag. Likewise, a monkey copied and pasted your résumé critique into an e-mail and sent it off to you, along with a note attached that asks, You idiot, you showed this résumé to an employer??

The great thing about being the Ask The Headhunter guy is that people all around the world send me neat stuff all the time. Recently, a reader sent me a multi-page crib sheet that a major résumé-writing mill apparently provides to its writers. Every problem your résumé could possibly suffer from is dealt with on this sheet. All the résumé writer — or reviewer, or monkey — has to do is pick them off like fleas, paste them into an e-mail, and there’s your sales pitch. You idiot, you showed this résumé to an employer??

The résumé-critique crib sheet is too long to print in a blog post. But you’ll find it on my web site. Free résumé critiques: The new career-industry racket. And it includes a little challenge from me to you:

Help me find the firm that uses this crib sheet.

If you have received such a résumé critique and think you’ve been scammed (and probably insulted) by a monkey sitting at a keyboard, compare it to the verbiage on the crib sheet. Do the phrases match? Which firm gave you the critique? I’d love to know, and if we figure out who it is I’ll share the results with you. The link to submit your sample is on the web site.

I’ll tell you what I’ve learned on my own. Good, honest résumé writers don’t use boilerplate to write critiques, nor do they use canned résumé components. This new scam seems to have been spawned by the big job boards and “career” sites, which continue to find new ways to fleece people to support their insupportable business models. They seem to be behind the crap that masquerades as “professional writing” in the résumé business. And all this does is corrupt the business for the honest practitioners. So caveat emptor — know the résumé writer you buy from. Hint: The good ones are the those who will actually talk with you.

(Have you encountered a different kind of résumé scam? That’s what the Comments section is for below.)

Forget your job, distribute yourself

If your job is in jeopardy, why be an employee if you can be a distributed innovator? If you’re a manager, why interview applicants if you can meet people who are innovating on the edge of your industry?

I’ve already written about how some of the best career advice doesn’t come from career experts. It’s between the lines in business articles. Here’s another example of how to put business ideas to work to save your career.

In the February 9 edition of ComputerWorld, tech guru (and former director of the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center) John Seely Brown talks about the silver lining in our broken economy. He says now is the time to live on the edge (like we have much choice). Here are a few ideas I’ll bend into shape for you: Read more

An open letter to recruiters who use TheLadders: Stop complaining

My posting about TheLadders has more comments on it than any blog entry I’ve ever written (including while I was blogging for InfoWorld). What’s interesting is that no one defends TheLadders. Even people with embarrassing stories about wasting their money and getting burned came forward to share their pain and anger.

Then a recruiter posted a comment about how she has found some good candidates on TheLadders. I’m posting my reply here because, well, it’s my blog and I can post where I want ;-). Sorry for pulling rank and bumping up my comment…

Check Audrey Chernoff’s post in the comments section. I don’t know Audrey, but she sounds like a nice, responsible recruiter who tries to do the job right and with integrity. But she blames job hunters for diluting the quality of responses she gets from her Ladders job postings. Give me a break. The problem is bigger. Read more

A company’s greatest weakness

In yesterday’s Career Journal (a publication of The Wall Street Journal), #1 of the Top Ten Stupid Interview Questions was once again dissected, analyzed, and solved.

What’s your greatest weakness?

In the annals of interviewing, we know a wag once offered the best answer ever heard — “Chocolate.” — and that’s when it was time to retire that corn-pone question from the canon. But it lingers.

The question itself reveals what is perhaps an employer’s greatest weakness — stupid interview questions. “My greatest weakness is intolerance for psycho-babble that passes for a job interview. Do you want me to show you how I’ll do this job, or shall we move on to what animal I’d be if I could be any animal?”

The Career Journal addresses this interview hurdle thus: “The key? Thorough preparation.” Preparation for what? To come up with yet another clever answer that the interviewer hasn’t yet read in some interview book? I suppose one could prepare diligently by reading the hundreds of books that offer clever answers.

Then the article offers this pinnacle of organizational idiocy: Read more