"How do you respond when the recruiter may ask how much are you making currently? They make it seem like they need the answer NOW. I usually try to hold off, but sometimes my answers don't get them to stop asking. Ideally, I don't want the recruiter to know my pay until I am receiving a job offer.... What is the best response?"
I have two answers for this:
1. If the recruiter is new to recruiting - say less than 18 months, you can hold off. However, it's in your best interest to share that info - they want you to make as much as possible (that benefits them as well) but need accurate information to do so. The recruiter can't likely submit you as a candidate without having your current salary, and your requirements to make a move.
2. If you are early on in your career, say below 5 years, don't be coy. Share what you're making.
"Typically it's like a game of cat and mouse when I'm in this situation. I feel if I share what I'm making, I won't get what I'm targeting. Could this be the case? How would I know if a recruiter is new to recruiting? If I decline to share, what is the worst scenario for the recruiter?"
Your salary history is important to the process. A recruiter will want to work off of accurate information. Just because you say you make $40k/year doesn't mean the recruiter will try and find you a job that offers $39k.
It could mean he/she won't waste your time with anything below $42-45k/year.
Worst case scenario? You demonstrate you are difficult to work with and they move on to someone else.
"I've always been in that mindset that they're fishing for my salary and read on many articles to not disclose salary which ends up you being on the losing end of the negotiation. I always thought that was how it worked since everytime I got off the phone with a recruiter, they almost always ask for my salary and I took that as something I should keep quiet about. I'll keep that in mind then, not sure why many articles put salary fishing as a negative and something to keep to yourself until the end of a job seeking process."
I should clarify something about sharing salary. I think you may be confusing some positions.
Search Firm/Agency/3rd Party Recruiter: Share your salary
Company HR/Internal Recruiter/Hiring Manager: Don't share your salary right away. This is where it is a valuable negotiating tool.
Do the differences above make sense? So, Wells Fargo has its own internal recruiters, and you don't need to tell them your salary. But say, Robert Half Recruiters might be recruiting FOR Wells Fargo because Wells Fargo is their client. It is in your best interest to share salary with that person.
I know it is confusing. The 3rd Party Recruiter (say Robert Half) wants you to make as much as possible (they then make more), so it's to your benefit. The Recruiter/HR at Wells Fargo doesn't have that same motivation.