By Mary Alice Kuykendall, Search Director, Momentum Search Partners

So far, fifteen states have enacted legislation that precludes employers from asking about current compensation from job applicants.   See   Texas being a pro-business state, this type of legislation has not been enacted in Texas and was not a topic of discussion in the current legislative session, nor will it likely be in two years when the session meets again.   So, the question for Texas job applicants continues: “Should I disclose my current compensation in a job interview or application”?    

Employers understandably want this information, and not for the reasons that candidates think.   In our experience, employers (and primarily Firm Administrators or Recruiting Managers) want this information as a screening mechanism – to figure out whether the person is within their compensation range.  They don’t want to waste anyone’s time – their own, the firm’s, or the candidate’s - with a lengthy interview process, only to learn at the offer stage that the two sides’ expectations are too far apart to bridge.     Nevertheless, firms receive a lot of hesitation, push-back and sometimes a refusal when asking a job seeker about their salary.  We often hear “it shouldn’t matter what I’m currently making, only what I want to make”.  Also, career counselors (on LinkedIn and other sites) almost unanimously advise job seekers not to disclose compensation.  

Also driving this withholding of compensation information is the broad salary ranges amongst law firms.  Salaries can vary greatly for similar jobs with similar firms.  Discussing salaries between co-workers is taboo, even grounds for termination with some law firms.  Management’s nightmare is for employees to know what co-workers are being paid and begin dissecting the formula wondering why their neighbor is making more.  Some firms have a mathematic formula: X years’ experience + Y education + law firm secret sauce number equals starting salary.   Speculating about what a colleague is paid can lead to a competitiveness that fuels poor morale.  Actually knowing what a colleague makes may cause a mutiny.  A no-win situation.

Secrecy and non-disclosure are a couple of reasons accurate salary data is hard to find.  Services and companies like Robert Half and Glassdoor tabulate statistics, but those numbers can be outdated or, at best, a guesstimate of what an employee might expect to earn.  There is often poor participation in many of these surveys, which skews the results even more. 

The services of an experienced recruiter who works in your geographical area may be your best source of real-time, market compensation.  Since recruiters talk to candidates all day, every day, they have a wealth of information about current salaries and bonuses.   Although our ethical guidelines and placement agreements likely prevent us from disclosing specific compensation details about any particular firm, we can provide guidance and insight into what we’re seeing and hearing about different types of firms and jobs.

In any event, despite the increasing reluctance of candidates to not disclose their current compensation, in our experience, firms do not offer less to a candidate simply because they’re currently earning less.  The firm desires the new employee to remain at the firm for as long as possible and to prevent turnover, which is very costly, in terms of the direct and indirect costs associated with hiring and training new personnel. Turnover also reflects poorly on a firm and can hurt morale within the remaining ranks.   So regardless of what a candidate is currently earning, a firm is typically motivated to offer that person fair market compensation in order to prevent that candidate from being lured away for a higher-paying position.

But the debate will likely continue.  More transparency would be welcomed on both sides, but job seekers and employers will continue to keep their cards close to their vest.  Hopefully we can all meet in the middle, with employers being more transparent about their pay ranges and the criteria that affect where someone lies within their scale, and employees being more open about what they’re currently earning and what they need to make a move.






McCarthy Print, Inc. Official ALA Print Sponsor

McCarthy Print began in 1997 when owner Teri McCarthy sought out our location on the “East Side” of Austin.  Our corner, at MLK and Chicon was a scary place back then, but what a great decision it was.  She was actively involved in the East Austin revitalization efforts, and we now occupy a prime downtown location on 1804 Chicon.

McCarthy Print is 100% woman owned, a certified HUB vendor, and a City of Austin Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise (MBE/WBE).  We are a certified GreenWorks printer, using all vegetable based inks, recycling all paper, ink and recyclable products.

We are an active member of Austin Independent Business Alliance and highly value giving back to the Austin community by supporting local Charities such as Sammy’s House, The Center for Child Protection and United Way to name a few. 

Our success and growth has come from the relationships, trust and the service we provide. We are known for our quality and guidance.  The money you spend on your printing needs to reflect the standards you set for your business.  We don't take your order without offering advice to make your process more efficient with your time and your dollars; everything from Business card “shells”, to Presentation Covers, Pocket Folders, Letterhead, Custom Notepads- all matching your paper system and your PMS colors. Our goal is to know all your needs and personally communicate, bring proofs and assure your job is of the highest quality and delivered on time.

We service The State Bar of Texas, The City of Austin, Austin Energy, Austin Community College, The University of Texas and many private companies that make Austin great.

We welcome the opportunity to serve and build relationships with the members of Austin Association of Legal Administrators and to provide the same consistent service that has set us apart for over 20 years.

Please contact Deanna Rademachir at [email protected] or 512 478-8938 for a personalized tour or visit.