Background Checks

Believe it or not, there actually are job search consultants out there who tell people they’re advising that it’s okay to be less than honest when telling a prospective employer what his/her previous salary was!

The thinking is that most employers won’t disclose what a former employee’s salary was – so there’s no way for a prospective employer to check the accuracy of what a job seeker claims it was.

While it’s generally true that most employers won’t disclose a former employee’s salary, there are a couple of very easy ways for a prospective employer to find out if the candidate for employment is telling the truth or not.  The first way is simply to ask the candidate to bring in a recent pay stub.  The second way is to ask the candidate to bring in his/her most recent W-2.  Either document will make it possible to determine what the candidate’s salary was.  Furthermore, if the candidate is telling the truth, he or she shouldn’t mind bringing in one or both of the documents just cited.  If, on the other hand, there is some reluctance to provide the requested information, the prospective employer just might become slightly suspicious about the candidate’s veracity!

So this won’t all sound so one-sided on behalf of the employer, what can a job seeker do to increase his or her chances of getting a nice increase in salary?  What seems to work best is, first, being honest about what his or her most recent salary really was.  Second, making the point that one of the primary reasons why he or she is looking for other employment opportunities is to find a more challenging position with a complementary salary.  Then, the candidate should begin to tick off accomplishments in the previous job that directly relate to the position being sought with the new employer.

There’s nothing wrong at all with making it clear that hoping for a higher salary is one of the primary reasons why the candidate is in the job market.  During this exercise the point can be made that the level of responsibility – and salary – weren’t reflective of what the candidate believes he or she can contribute to the prospective employer’s organization; and then a candidate must be prepared to illustrate why that’s so.

To suggest, however, that the candidate overinflate his or her previous salary – in hopes of not getting caught – is really bad advice!