- If a recruiter tells you the salary is between X and Y, is this a white lie?
The real question here is not whether this is a lie, white or otherwise. It's simply not important at this stage whether this is true or not. The chances that a recruiter would lie about a salary range on a job offer are low. It doesn't make sense to state a range that is too low for most of the potential candidates. Whether you choose to proceed or not, is up to you. What do you want to earn for the responsibilities that have been proposed?
If you have decided to continue, keep the range in mind. No matter where you are in the process, the ideal salary you have in your mind is not the number you really want, and it might be unjustifiably biased by the range the recruiter provided to you. You should guard against revealing it. Always politely deflect the attempts at getting you to disclose your ideal number. This includes the question: "How much is your current salary?" You should be able to do this while asking important questions about the role.
Always thoroughly interview your interviewers. It's not an interrogation of you or of them, however, you are both trying to get to know each other's expectations. It's the expectations that are important to the real value and potential salary. Only after you have established the expectations, usually after the technical interview, can you really begin to consider whether the proposed range given to you by the recruiter is the right range for what is expected of you and your potential employer.
Now seems like a suitable time to point out that benefits like working from home, professional improvement, training, and of course medical, 401k contributions, equity and the rest all play a role in placing an acceptable salary on the expectations. Will the range you heard from the recruiter prove true? Maybe. This is where negotiation should begin.
While I'd love to expound on the topic of negotiation, there are far better teachers than me. My favorite is Chris Voss, a former FBI hostage negotiator and author of Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as If Your Life Depended on It. I recommend it. If for no other reason than he has some brilliant insights into negotiations on rent, salary, and career advancement.