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Asking for current W-2 before job offer?

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Asking for current W-2 before job offer?

Postby Dave Walker » Tue Jul 21, 2015 8:59 am

A colleague was being recruited to a new job at a competing company. After being contacted by an internal recruiter and going through a few rounds of interviews, he was fairly confident of receiving an offer letter.

At the last minute, he was asked to provide his current W-2 as a "verification of employment." For some reason this spooked him -- and me, though I don't know if it's an overreaction. Perhaps it was because he was still employed at the time, but it felt like an unnecessary breach of privacy.

I've never heard of this before, but some Googling suggests it's rare but does happen. Has anyone else experienced something like this?
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Re: Asking for current W-2 before job offer?

Postby Dave Jensen » Tue Jul 21, 2015 10:48 am

Yes, this sometimes happens AFTER a person starts at the job! It is all about verification of income. When you are negotiating for your new job, you should never BS your way through the process, because they will eventually ask the HR department at your old company what you made, or they will get it from your W-2, and you'll be terminated if you're lying. Also, they could withdraw the job offer if your friend was BS'ing in his negotiation.

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Re: Asking for current W-2 before job offer?

Postby Dave Walker » Tue Jul 21, 2015 11:56 am

Thanks for the input, Dave. I should clarify -- he got the W2 request before an offer was made. I don't think they talked compensation, other than ranges. I don't he had anything to hide (he didn't BS) but he is worried his current salary would put him at a negotiating disadvantage.

Would you say that it's an overreaction to give the HR department one's W2 before negotiation happens? Is there a worry it's like the old "tell me how much you make now" question in an interview?
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Re: Asking for current W-2 before job offer?

Postby Dave Jensen » Tue Jul 21, 2015 12:41 pm

Dave Walker wrote:Thanks for the input, Dave. I should clarify -- he got the W2 request before an offer was made. I don't think they talked compensation, other than ranges. I don't he had anything to hide (he didn't BS) but he is worried his current salary would put him at a negotiating disadvantage.

Would you say that it's an overreaction to give the HR department one's W2 before an offer is made? Is there a worry it's like the old "tell me how much you make now" question in an interview?


That is totally outrageous to ask for a W-2 before an offer is extended. If they want to verify his employment, they can call the company and ask for him. Or, they can get a W-2 after he has accepted an offer.

I would suggest that this is more than a bit odd, and perhaps an indicator that H/R there is operating out of the norm. It may NOT indicate the company is weird, but it sure says something about the person he's in discussion with.

Here's how I would answer that request: "John, of course, I know that a W-2 would verify my employment, but it does feel somewhat intrusive at this early stage of discussion. I want you to know that I'd be very interested in seeing an offer from ABC Company, because I have a solid track record in this area and really like that job we've spoken of. There are other ways to verify employment -- you could call me at the company, for example. Or, if you'd like, even at this pre-offer stage, I can provide you with the names and contact information of two references, people who I work with here on a daily basis, and who will respect my confidentiality. Of course, you can't talk to my boss at this stage, but after an offer, I'm sure you'd be welcome to call him as well."

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Re: Asking for current W-2 before job offer?

Postby Dick Woodward » Tue Jul 21, 2015 4:14 pm

Dave:

I have to disagree with your statement
Of course, you can't talk to my boss at this stage, but after an offer, I'm sure you'd be welcome to call him as well.
You have an offer, but not a new job. Having the offering company speak to your boss is nothing but trouble. Here are a few things that can happen:

- Your boss trashes you on the phone, thereby causing the offer to be rescinded. Potential here to get fired as well.

- Your boss realizes that you have another offer, and fires you immediately, potentially saving some salary and possibly a bonus.

- Your boss makes a counteroffer to try to keep you. This is not as good as it seems because the counteroffer is often to keep you around until they can find your replacement, at which time you are either fired or transferred to the worst territory there is, causing you to quit.

- Your boss praises you to the skies, causing the offering company to wonder why the boss is so anxious to get rid of you.

The only upside that I can find to this would be the situation where it is public knowledge (at least in your company) that something is happening to your unit that will cause all of the employees to be laid off (acquisition, unit closure, etc.). If the offering company has been made aware of this, then by all means have them speak to your boss. Perhaps you can offer to return the favor and be a reference for the boss, since he/she will also be looking for a job.

Also, be certain that any peers that you use as references are totally trustworthy.

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Re: Asking for current W-2 before job offer?

Postby Dave Jensen » Tue Jul 21, 2015 6:37 pm

Thanks Dick, Well reasoned and I agree. Strike my original comment. I would change that wording to "And after I begin the job, if you need to confirm my employment with my boss, I'll provide you her contact information as well."

That should avoid that particular series of sticky wickets,

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Re: Asking for current W-2 before job offer?

Postby Nate W. » Tue Jul 21, 2015 8:25 pm

This is yet another example of a persnickety HR nitwit. Tell your friend to call the hiring manager and explain to him the situation. Offer the hiring manager a copy of your old W2 from your previous year's tax return where you have redacted your social security number.

The professional approach is to ask for this information after you have accepted an offer. This situation should give your friend pause about working for this organization. I can promise you this company's HR department (and other departments) is probably a pain in the backside.

Don't tell them to call your current boss because this approach could backfire, leaving you with no job. I worked at a University where HR had a policy of contacting your current boss before interviewing if you were applying for an internal position. Anyone have a good explanation for that HR policy?
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Re: Asking for current W-2 before job offer?

Postby Dave Walker » Wed Jul 22, 2015 8:45 am

Thanks for weighing in, everyone. Just for closure I should have further post-scripted my story to say that in the end my colleague found a different position and didn't switch companies.

Good points about tiptoeing around searching for a job while already having one. I also figured it was just a gaffe with the HR department, and thought it would be wise to just approach the hiring manager directly. I like the idea of "call me at work" to verify employment. I'm also glad there might be a way to solve such disputes without coming across paranoid.
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