Salary Secrets and Lies

Dear Cubicle Coach: What's the best response when a recruiter asks in an interview how much money you make at your current job? I know everyone lies, and I'd like to get in on that, but I don't want to aim too high and blow the deal.

Dear Money Maker:
The Coach knows all your tricks. If you duck the question by saying, "What I'm looking for is . . ." that means you're currently underpaid. Go the "my total compensation" route, and that means you've calculated in your health insurance, 401K match, and the occasional stale coffee roll left in the office pantry. Remember, an experienced recruiter has seen hundreds, if not thousands, of people in your field, so he pretty much knows where you are. I expect interview-ees to exaggerate by 10 to 15 percent, so just go ahead and save us the dance. But if, after stating your salary, you hear me gasp or laugh (and I've done it occasionally when interviewing people from a company I fondly call "Our Irrational Competitor"), dust off the résumé again. You overshot--and shot yourself in the foot.

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