Sunday, June 19, 2016

Should I embellish my salary to try to get more from new job?

M.K. had been searching for a new job for months. Finally, after sending out countless resumes, going on several interviews, and being a finalist for more than one position only to lose out to other candidates, M.K. was told by the hiring manager of one of his prospective new employers that he would be offered a job, pending his references and credentials checking out. Given that he had long believed that he was not advancing swiftly enough in his current job, M.K. was ecstatic about the offer.

But after the hiring manager from the new company called him to give him the news, he was stumped by one of the questions she asked: "What's your current salary?"

M.K. was hopeful that the new job would pay more, ideally much more, than he was currently making. He was reluctant to give the actual salary he was making out of fear that the new company might decide to pay him less than it might be willing to if they didn't know how much he currently made. He writes that he thinks he'd prefer that the hiring manager make an offer first and then he could respond if the offer wasn't enough.

He wonders if he should "fudge a bit" and tell the manager roughly what he makes, but add in such things as retirement contributions and other benefits for which his current company currently pays. "Technically, that wouldn't be wrong, would it?"

It's always easy to advise someone what they should have done in hindsight. Here's a case where M.K. should have asked earlier on in the hiring process about the salary range for the position. If it wanted to attract an employee who might be interested in the job, the prospective employer should have given M.K. or other finalists for the position a sense of the salary range earlier in the hiring process.

But now that he is where he is in the process, M.K. is left with the choice of providing the information requested, asking the prospective employer to provide him with a salary range first, or "fudging" on whatever information he provides.

The right thing would be to be honest and to avoid fudging about anything. M.K. can tell the prospective employer his current salary as well as any other fringe benefits he currently receives. Alternatively, he could decide to ask the hiring manager to provide him with a salary range before he provides any more information. But he should not lie about what he currently makes.

Providing false information would be wrong and hardly the way to start a new employment relationship. That the prospective employer might check the veracity of the salary information M.K. provides only to find that he was loose with the truth shouldn't be the chief incentive to avoid lying to try to get an upper hand. Not lying should be the chief incentive.

M.K. can and should negotiate as hard as he can to get the best offer. But he should do so expecting it will be as honest with him as he plans to be with it. If he doubts the new company's honesty, he should rethink taking the new job. 

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Simple Art of Business Etiquette: How to Rise to the Top by Playing Nice, is a lecturer in public policy and director of the communications program at Harvard's Kennedy School. He is also the administrator of, a blog focused on ethical issues. 

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to 

Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin 


No comments:

Do good flower boxes make good neighbors?

There's a bit of a construction boom going on in Theresa's (that's what we're calling her here) neighborhood. Once a qui...