Our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy have changed.

By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to the new Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

Should you lie about your salary?

job_interview.gi.top.jpg By MP Dunleavey, contributing editor


(MONEY Magazine) -- You might be tempted to inflate your salary during job negotiations these days -- after all, raises have been scarce.

Why tell a prospective employer what you really earn when you should be making more, perhaps quite a bit more? If a little padding can help you get to the number you want, what's the harm?

Well, if you're found out, "your credibility is diminished, and your entire career could suffer," says Lee Miller, author of Get More Money in Your Next Job ... in Any Economy.

Nevertheless, 23% of job seekers say they have lied or would lie during the interview process, a recent survey by job site Vault.com found. And even the experts admit that being too honest can be to your detriment. You might set the salary bar too low and lose out on real money.

Your best move? The artful dodge. Proceed like this:

Dance around the facts

Many companies will press candidates to reveal their salaries early on. But you want to avoid talking hard numbers until an offer is on the table.

If you're faced with an application, write, "To be discussed in person," or leave it blank. If asked in an initial interview, say, "I'd like to focus on the opportunity here, and whether it's a good fit," suggests Jason Levin of Vault.com.

Never report blatantly phony numbers, especially in writing, says Kathleen McKenna, an employment lawyer at Proskauer Rose in New York City. Most applications include a warning that reporting false information is grounds for termination. And anyway, the company may make its hiring decision contingent upon its ability to verify your salary.

Inflate your number fairly

Once you begin negotiations and real numbers are required, "the phrase to use is 'my total compensation,' " says Miller.

Add to your wages the value of any stock options, 401(k) match, bonuses, and upcoming raises, and say something like "My total compensation is in the range of $150,000." That swells the figure you can cite without distorting the facts.

You don't want to price yourself out of the ballpark, of course, especially in this market. But this approach allows you to negotiate all aspects of your pay to arrive at a complete package that's fair.

Focus on greater truths

After establishing what you're being paid now, you'll want to change the discussion to what this job should be paying.

Research salaries for comparable positions at Salary.com and Payscale.com, so that you can say, "But my understanding is that a job at this level should be in the range of $X." And when an offer is made, negotiate upward. Doing so can't hurt, even in this economy, says Levin: "It shows that you respect yourself."  To top of page

Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed4.02%3.99%
15 yr fixed3.16%3.18%
5/1 ARM3.31%3.40%
30 yr refi4.06%4.01%
15 yr refi3.18%3.20%
Rate data provided
by Bankrate.com
View rates in your area
 
Find personalized rates:
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 19,756.85 142.04 0.72%
Nasdaq 5,444.50 27.14 0.50%
S&P 500 2,259.53 13.34 0.59%
Treasuries 2.46 0.08 3.23%
Data as of 2:25am ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 23.09 0.14 0.61%
Ford Motor Co 13.17 0.14 1.07%
Chesapeake Energy Co... 7.72 0.12 1.58%
Twenty-First Century... 28.21 -0.43 -1.50%
Apple Inc 113.95 1.83 1.63%
Data as of Dec 9

Sections

Even Carl Icahn, one of President-elect Donald Trump's biggest cheerleaders on Wall Street, thinks the post-election exuberance in the stock market has gotten a bit out of hand. More

Republican leaders keep saying Obamacare is hurting the economy and killing jobs, but there's scant evidence for it. In fact, a number of studies show that the economy has been growing. More

Facebook admits it messed up more ad metrics than previously thought, potentially eroding its trust and relationship with marketers and publishers. More

The Los Angeles city attorney is suing four major retailers over claims that they deliberately inflated the original price on some items that misled customers into thinking they were getting a better deal. More