Listen to the full episode here:

How can you not appear difficult when an agency recruiter asks you for your salary and you won’t tell them.

Read Full Transcript

How can you avoid appearing difficult when you won't tell a recruiter your last salary?

I was asked by a recruiter for my last salary and said I don't disclose that information. She said, "I was trying to be difficult and that she can't move forward . If I am not going to be a 'team player.'" Eventually, this person caved in   And when the telling the recruiter the salary.  This is 3rd party recruiter, not a corporate recruiter.

How can you avoid appearing difficult?  How can you stand your ground without you appearing, to put it bluntly, being seen as a "pain in the pot."

The 1st thing to understand is that recruiters, whether corporate or third-party work for employers. The employer sets down terms of engagement.  They want to know salary.

Why Do They Want to Know?
Why do they want to know this?  Because many companies will only offer a percentage increase over what you are currently earning.  They are not in the, "We value this person to ask level" business and, as a result, pay them what they are really worth.  They work on formulas that allow them to only extend an offer by a certain percentage  above a current salary.

No matter what, you are going to appear difficult. Accept it.

If you are extremely placeable to that agency, they are going to cave in. I want you to understand that you hold cards in your hand that represent a fee. If your background is so terrific that the market is clamoring for your skills, they will cave in and figure out a way to present your client without the exact salary.

You can offer them a range. "

I'm currently earning between $120,000 and $140,000. I want to be clear that I'm not looking for the lowest salary. I have picked up a lot of knowledge and experience that will be valuable to the next organization. If you think I'm going to be going for minimal 3% increase, you are mistaken. I want you to understand that I know my value and I want to be paid it."

By responding in that way, you are setting down terms of engagement that, by definition, make you appear very difficult to them because you are not compliant and you are not docile.  

You are not willing to play with in "the system."

So what! Who cares!

Firms that want to hire you for the least amount of money (which is what the agency will try to persuade you to take), well, you may not want to work for them.

However, that premier employer, that one you really want to work for demands that information, you have a choice to make – – to comply or not. Whether to risk losing an opportunity or not.

That's your choice to make, but to let the agency set down the conditions? You can do it differently IF you have the skills and experience that are in demand.

If you are Mr. or Ms. Ordinary , if you have a commodity skill

If you have a commodity skill, it is a lot harder for you. However, don't interpret that statement is telling you to always cave in.

Stand your ground. If you believe your skills are more valuable than what you've been paid and insist that they cave-in by demonstrating your value is higher than what they are going to try to con you in to.

just like a million other people out there, you have less of a chance, less leverage, than a salesperson has who is delivering a book of business worth several hundred million dollars and is a leader in selling this particular type of product or service.


Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, all as well as executive job search coaching and life coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1000 episodes,“ Job Search Radio,” “and his newest show, “No BS Coaching Advice” and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.

Are you interested in 1:1 coaching, interview coaching, advice about networking more effectively, how to negotiate your offer or leadership coaching? Visit and click the relevant tab on the top of the page. offers great advice for job hunters—videos, my books and guides to job hunting, podcasts, articles, PLUS a community for you to ask questions of PLUS the ability to ask me questions where I function as your ally with no conflict of interest answering your questions.  

Connect with me on LinkedIn. Like me on Facebook.

Join and attend my classes on Skillshare. Become a premium member and get 2 months free.

You can order a copy of “Diagnosing Your Job Search Problems” for Kindle on Amazon and receive free Kindle versions of “No BS Resume Advice” and “Interview Preparation.” If you are starting your search, order, “Get Ready for the Job Jungle.”

Don’t forget to give the show 5 stars and a good review in iTunes

If you want to know how to win more interviews, order “Winning Interviews.” You’ll learn how to win phone interviews, in-person interviews, the best question to ask on any interview and more.

Would you like to talk through a salary negotiation or potential negotiation you’re involved with? Order and schedule time with me.

Do you have questions or would like advice about networking or any aspect of your search. Order and schedule time with me.

Would you like me to critique your resume. Order a critique from me

For more about LinkedIn, order “Stacked: Double Your Job Interviews, Leverage Recruiters and Unlock LinkedIn.”

Jeff’s Kindle book, “You Can Fix Stupid: No BS Hiring Advice,” is available on Amazon.

About the author

Leave a Comment, Thought, Opinion. Speak like you're speaking with someone you love.