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Feb 11, 2016

A recent international survey, the Intelligence Group’s Global Talent Acquisition Monitor, asked 64,000 respondents from 45 different countries about their honesty during a job interview.

Specifically, they were asked to indicate whether they mention the real salary they earn in their current/previous job, or, choose to overstate it.

Not surprisingly, the survey shows that many individuals misstate the actual amount they make. In most of the cases, they choose to overstate their current salary with the hope that their new (potential) employer will match or even exceed that amount.

Worldwide there are great differences between countries and regions. The No. 1 on the list is China (including Hong Kong), where 63 percent of all people overstate their salary.

Top 10 countries for salary overstatement

  1. China
  2. Chile
  3. Mexico
  4. Romania
  5. Czech Republic
  6. Germany
  7. Taiwan
  8. Hungary
  9. Switzerland
  10. South Korea

Great differences when it comes to overstatement

Although the top 10 gives an overall view, there are also great differences to the extent to which people choose to overstate their salary.

On average, people choose to overstate their salary by 5 to 10 percent. This way they can name an amount that is still realistic for their specific profession and industry.

However, this does not necessarily apply to everyone, since one-fifth of the people in Mexico and Chile choose to overstate their salary by as much as 25 percent.

If stating a higher amount really can bump up your salary, is everyone doing it? Are recruiters and prospective employers just accepting the fact and deducting a certain percentage off the stated amount?

The simple answer to both those questions is “no.”

Although some may not lose any sleep over it, many others will feel morally inclined to be honest during a job interview. In fact, there are several counties where the great majority of the people is completely honest about what they earn.

The country that leads in being honest is Vietnam, where 84 percent mentions their current salary exactly as it is.

Top 10 honest countries for stating their salary

  1. Vietnam
  2. Norway
  3. Lithuania
  4. Latvia
  5. Japan
  6. South Africa
  7. Thailand
  8. New Zealand
  9. USA
  10. Australia

Aside from the moral argument, there may be several cultural aspects that determine this degree of honesty.

The discussion of salary tends to be a taboo topic in some countries like the Netherlands, Germany, and Austria. Americans, on the other hand, are relatively transparent and open about discussing their salaries.

This greater transparency may call for more honesty because of the fear of information leaking. Also, knowing that there are great consequences and repercussions to being “caught” can motivate greater honesty.

In some countries, people even understate their wages

In some exceptional cases applicants have indicated that they understate their salary during a job interview. Although this seems uncommon in most countries, 44 percent of the people in Slovakia and 23 percent of the people in Portugal choose to understate their salary.

This may be because they have been told that they earn too much in their previous job. Also, they may understate their salary when they have been out of a job for too long and are willing to accept a lower pay just to get the job.

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