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June 17, 2010


Some potential employers will want to see your pay stubs.

It's just better to refuse the question.

[HS: Usually, not answering the question is not an option. Because every other candidate is willing to answer the question, the employer will just tell you that you have to answer the question or you can't continue with the hiring process.]

I am glad that HS is not in the "two wrongs do not make a right" philosophical camp. If liars, thieves, and murderers do not give society and their fellow human the respect they deserve, why should they receive it in turn?

Why not just tell them what you think you should be making. As George Constanza says, it's not lying if you believe it.

I never lie or misrepresent my technical and engineering abilities (e.g. materials science, thin films, control systems, etc.) and I have turned down opportunities that I did not think were relevant to my knowledge and background. I am very upfront with prospective employers and clients about what I can and cannot do. I have the same attitude towards languages. I can speak and read Japanese, but not Chinese.

However, I think lying about income and any of the "soft" crap that HR people ask about is fair game. The reason is because the "soft skills" that HR people are so obsessed about have no relevancy to any kind of work that the job or position would involve. The soft stuff is not intellectually demanding and, therefor, is easily acquired in a very short period of time.

The other reason why I like to lie about the soft stuff is because I am contemptuous of anything that is not technical or not foreign language. Foreign language ability is the only non-technical ability that is worthy of being called an "ability".

HR people are nothing. The purpose of dealing with them is to snow them such that they will put you in contact with the hiring manager (the person you will actually work for if you get the job). HR people are not technical, manufacturing, or sale people. Therefor, they are not qualified to decide who would make a good engineer or sales person.

Some potential employers will want to see your pay stubs.

If you're talking about a fairly menial job maybe. In most lines of work people have a fairly good idea what the market will bear. If you make 85K as an assistant controller at a corporation and tell a competing firm that wants to hire you that you make 105K and you need 110K to switch no one is ever going to check, or care. They'll pay you what they think your worth. So lying to me is almost irrelevant. If you lie and say you make 165K, they'll tell you you should stay where you are.

[HS: If the maximum that the potential employer is willing to pay is 110K, then 105K is the correct answer. Saying you make 115K means they won't offer you the job, and saying that you make 85K means they will offer you 90K and you get screwed out of 15K/year which is a lot of money.]

I think it's pretty clear from the context (as well as from his background*) that the "small people" comment was just a result of English not being BP chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg's first language. It's bogus to treat the man as if he were Marie Antoinette just because he's not idiomatically fluent in what might be his third or fourth language.

*Svanberg's bio says that "as a student he held several jobs doing manual labor in construction, on the docks, and in garbage collection."

Read more: Carl-Henric Svanberg 1952— Biography - Learning valuable lessons, Asea, Security services, Assa abloy, Leadership style, Ericsson http://www.referenceforbusiness.com/biography/S-Z/Svanberg-Carl-Henric-1952.html#ixzz0r8os2MsW

"Foreign language ability is the only non-technical ability that is worthy of being called an "ability"."

It's amazing how often people try to lie or "fudge" about their foreign language ability - and it's obviously not hard to check. I've had lots of college grads walk in with Spanish, Mandarin Chinese or German on their resumes. I know enough of each language that I can tell if someone has at least reasonable competency. The panicked look on some of these kids faces when you ask them "Also, es steht hier geschrieben, dass Sie Deutsch koennen, Herr Anderson?" is priceless.

I agree its stupid to lie about language ability. This is a very easy thing to check. You just interview them in the language they claim to speak. I've had several interviews in Japanese because the person that was interviewing me could not speak English and it was easier to talk to them in Japanese.

The reason why I think its reasonable to lie about your previous salary in a job interview is that the prospective employer should set your compensation based on your value-added to the company. This is the only rational basis for compensation. If they want to know your previous pay, it is obvious that the compensation they want to offer has no relationship to your actual value-added of your work. This is similar to rent-seeking parasitism.

I think HR people, in general, have their heads up their asses. I interviewed for a job once where the HR manager had me take an on-line "personality" test. This was to test for my "extroversion". This was for a national sales manager job. This test asked me questions like "do you like to work with kids or old people" and the like. I answered the test truthfully because I figured what the hell and I wasn't sure that I wanted the job anyways.

During the interview, the HR lady made a comment about how my test results showed that I was "introverted". I told her that I moved from my hometown to SoCal following my graduation from university and that I moved to Japan about 6 years later. I created a new life with all new friend as a result of each of these moves. If that is not extroversion, then extroversion is a meaningless concept.

I have no idea how psychologists define extroversion or introversion. However, I can tell you that a good outgoing sales person is someone who likes to be around and works well with his "peers", meaning people in the 25-55 age range. There is a big difference between socializing with "peers" in the prime of life and dealing with either children or old people. This test obviously does not differentiate between these two cases. Also, being able to move to a completely alien culture (when I moved to Japan, I had been outside the states only once before - a three week trip to Mexico) and create a whole new life for yourself is about the most perfect demonstration of extroversion there can be. If psychologists differ, it simply means that the field of psychology is complete rubbish (which of course it is).

All fields that are not based on exact science are complete rubbish. Anything that is not testable repeatably is mental masturbation.

Peter: Funny thing is that I could easily translate everything in that to English aside from "geschrieben" without knowing any German aside from what I know of Modern and older Englishes. So I guess I understand German.

Kurt9: It would really depend on the language. My wife lists 5 languages on her resume. English and Mandarin? Easy enough to test. Taiwanese? Few people would know where to look for someone who could test that.

I am in financial services. When someone would want to join our referal network we would simply ask them to show us a copy of their tax returns. 90% of the people in my field exagerage what they earn. Sales is a lot like sports in that it is a very easy field to quantify. I am not sure if that is legal to do but we were not hiring a secretary.

Koroviev -

Sales is the only job where I can see this question being legitimate - after all, in sales your compensation is directly tied to your output. For the rest of us drones, however, it should have no bearing on anything.

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