What do you say when recruiters ask "What is your current comp?"

Searched the forum for an answer to this but all previous threads seem to focus how to answer this question to negotiate a higher comp offer.

I've reached the point in my career where I've gained a couple years under my belt post undergrad. At this point, the volume of calls/emails/LinkedIn IM's that I've received from recruiters has scaled as well as the quality of mandates which they are putting forward. I've attended a couple of interviews so I'm fairly confident that the mandates that I've been discussing are "legit".

Question: specifically when a recruiter, who has a portfolio of mandates which he/she thinks you suit, asks "What is your current all-in comp?", what's the best strategy for a response? I'm slightly confused with this because:
A) As opposed to a company's HR, who are only negotiating 1 position, a recruiter with a solid portfolio of say 5 mandates to discuss may rule out 3 due to your implied salary expectations, even if you say you're willing to tone down your comp expectations. However, if you low ball to try and see all 5, he/she may only present you the lower salary positions.
B) As opposed to a company's HR, recruiters typically don't like to take "market" as an answer and may guesstimate what market means when presenting mandates to you, which brings me back to problem (A).

Comments (13)

Jan 24, 2019

I've never gone through a headhunter, so I'd be interested in opinions of those who have.

That said, my answer would be "None of your G-D business," in the politest way possible. I just don't see how giving away that information would be to my advantage.

Jan 24, 2019

Like dick size, always give yourself some extra margin

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Jan 24, 2019

Yeah I always lie a bit. Though I got my bluff called by a rather large firm (think ML/MS/WF/GS) and they asked for my W2!

Jan 24, 2019

you should just say "my confidentiality agreement prevents me from disclosing my comp...however, my comp is the going market rate...and i'm flexible depending on the opportunity"

just google it...you're welcome

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Jan 24, 2019

I always read your comments, no matter how helpful they might be, with a grain of salt because of the "what does your name mean?" forum...

Don't @ me

Jan 27, 2019

This is a dumb answer. There are only two approaches. Tell the truth or lie. Dont pussyfoot.

Jan 25, 2019

Nothing since they're probably just looking for data points.

Have them give you a range they're looking to fill the role at. If they won't, then ghost 'em.

Most Helpful
Jan 25, 2019

A. For recruiters, you need to know a reasonable target market range for the recruiter's portfolio, that suits your skillset, target position, and company expectations.

B. You don't need to say "market" but always say a range. You can change your range later too, once you know more about the company and expectations.

Even if they're asking what your salary is today, you should withhold that, until you feel more comfortable with the person. Let them know your target first, and keep in mind, if it's a 2x jump in your expectations from where you are today, you're going to look stupid.

People are not too uncomfortable with you withholding your actual salary today, because they know it's a prudent decision. But not having a target range makes recruiters and HR feel like you could potentially waste their time, and they may just decide to move to the next candidate.

If they press for your current salary later, remember that you didn't give an unreasonable market and bump up from where you are. Phrase it as you think you have skills that fit the current market rate.

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Jan 27, 2019

If you are in NYC, this is relevant:

They can't ask you your current comp anymore.

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Jan 27, 2019

This is the only answer for anybody in NYC. I've NEVER had a recruiter ask current comp (only expectations) since this law went into effect. If your recruiter is asking you this in 2019, he/she is not worth your time. It's also poor form to ask which firms you're currently speaking with. They are supposed tell you which mandates they have, and it's your job to let them know if you're already speaking with that firm. In that order.

Jan 27, 2019

I wouldnt lie personally. Im sure it only happens sparingly, but a potential employer could ask you to prove your comp and then disqualify your ass.

Jan 27, 2019

You should give a rough ballpark of your current comp or mention "market." If you are in banking, it doesnt really make sense to make something up since there are a lot of data points. One of the reasons why they ask for comp is to make sure they don't put you in process with an employer who doesnt have the budget to match or exceed your current comp thus wasting everyone's time.

Jan 28, 2019
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