Your Guide to Money Etiquette
Q: Can I lie about my current salary on a job interview?
A: It’s certainly tempting to exaggerate in the hopes of getting bumped up to the next pay bracket. And about one in six job seekers has done just that, according to a study done by the career website Vault.com. But you shouldn’t, says John Hasnas, an associate professor of business ethics at Georgetown University, in Washington, D.C. “Even though you don’t work for the person conducting the interview, you’re still obligated to be ethical,” he says. “Plus, how would you feel if the employer lied to you about the salary?” Also, he adds, it’s inappropriate to ask someone to make a judgment based on false information or suggest that a company needs to pay an inflated amount to retain your services.
If that’s not enough incentive to tell the truth, realize this: Chances are you won’t get away with lying, says Patrice Rice, the president of Patrice & Associates, a recruitment agency in Dunkirk, Maryland. Most businesses verify new-hire information using W-2 forms or pay stubs, and if an employer discovers even a modest embellishment, that shiny new offer could be rescinded. (If you include a bonus or a projected raise in your quoted figure, mention it so the math adds up.)
To get more zeros added to the end of your salary without bending any ethical rules, explain the circumstances that may have reduced your income—a pay freeze, an organization that doesn’t pay the market rate—and why you deserve a jump. Rice suggests you say, “I’m looking for career growth and hoping that additional responsibilities will bring more earning potential. I hope this is that opportunity.” You’ll enjoy the bigger paycheck even more when it comes with good karma.