what to do when a candidate’s salary expectations are too high

A reader writes:

Our online application system asks candidates to provide salary requirements, and of course we have in mind a target salary for our new hire. How can I best respond to candidates who have salary requirements well outside our range? If the candidate’s target salary is literally double our budget, I don’t want to waste anyone’s time.

My first inclination (almost always) is to just be upfront, to say via email, “Thanks for your interest! I wanted to let you know your target salary is well outside our range for this position. If that’s not firm, I’d love to discuss the role further with you, but if it is, I don’t want to waste your time.” Thoughts?

I answer this question — and four others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • My boss didn’t pay me for canceled work
  • Another department is pushing me to do work that I don’t do
  • I was an hour late to an interview
  • Should I disclose a medical condition to my new staff?

{ 119 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. HigherEdPerson

    I do exactly what Alison suggested. If it’s a candidate with really great qualifications that I’d like to interview, I email them and let them know what we can offer to our top candidate, and give them the choice to move forward with the interview process. I’ll only do this for someone who is qualified AND close in salary suggestion – like if we can offer $50k and someone’s range is $55-$60k. I won’t do it for someone looking to make $80k, b/c that’s never gonna happen :-)

    Reply
    1. JessaB

      Yeh I really am starting to hate all the OMG we must be secret about salary stuff. Mostly because it perpetuates inequalities in pay. But geez, if they’re asking for 50k and you’re paying 30, just tell them.

      Reply
  2. ali

    #1 – I was just the candidate in this situation, and got that email you suggest in response. While I appreciated the honesty up-front, without the range being included, I had no idea if they were talking about $10k less than I asked for (acceptable) or $20k less (not acceptable). I opted to do a phone interview with them anyway, and what we both learned is that I am the perfect person for the job….and I can’t take it because the high number of their range is $20k less than what I asked. Even with great benefits, I can’t even consider that. But now I wish they would have said that upfront (or I would have asked upfront) because now we’re both disappointed that I can’t take the job.

    (It’s a new position at a university, so it’s possible that they won’t be able to find someone in that range and will be able to go back to HR and say they need a higher range. I told them to call me if that happens.)

    Reply
    1. k

      I think that the email without a range is a pretty useless response, and your story is the perfect example of that. If I got the OPs email I might think there range was $5-10K different from what I listed, which might work. I wouldn’t assume it was half of what I was asking and would be kind of annoyed that they wasted everyone’s time and getting hopes up by not being up-front about it.

      Reply
      1. Zombii

        Exactly this. Without someone throwing out real numbers, the discussion is less than useless, and an employer that contacts me about the salary range potentially being problematic but then still doesn’t give a range is seriously wasting my time.

        The employer asks for a number, the candidate gives a number, then.. the employer says that number is too high but doesn’t counter? That’s not how negotiation works. (I realize this isn’t the salary negotiation but it would make me concerned about how this employer intended to handle that part of the process too.)

        Reply
    2. designbot

      I think it’s usually worth a phone conversation, just because things get so reductive over email. My current job called me to have this discussion and it was a good move. They were interested but I was out of range, I explained where I was coming from and that my stated desired salary was based on certain assumptions about bonuses etc. (I was coming from a place known for amazing bonuses, didn’t know if I could expect a penny elsewhere in the industry). In the end I said that if the total compensation of base + bonus(es) hit the mark that would be fine but that the salary alone didn’t need to. I’m not sure how well either side of that conversation would’ve been able to navigate without the nuance of tone and actually speaking to someone.

      Reply
      1. ali

        Yeah, in this case they now have proof that one of their top candidates wouldn’t take the job due to salary and can now go ask the university for more money (assuming they don’t find a great candidate who is willing to take that range…always possible that they will). Now that they’ve talked with me, I’m on their radar still if something else comes up or if they can get a higher salary for this position. If they’d offered the range in the posting, they wouldn’t have ever gotten my resume – in that case, I was out the time it took me to write the cover letter, not a big deal. By not including the range in the email, we were both out a half hour of time but we both know more about what we’re looking for from the conversation.

        (I would not normally advocate for not putting the range in the posting, but in this very particular case it has worked well for both me and the employer, although again we are both disappointed I can’t take the position.)

        Reply
  3. Honeybee

    And taking that one step further, why not list a salary range in your ad so that candidates won’t bother applying if the salary isn’t acceptable to them? If you want candidates to share their salary expectations up-front, it’s reasonable for you to do the same!

    This this this this this this, SO MUCH THIS. We reduce everyone’s wasted time if I already know when I am perusing your ad whether or not I am willing to take a salary within your range. I will decide whether I am intrigued enough by the position to consider applying for something below my range, and then I get to decide how far below I want to go.

    Reply
    1. Anonymous Educator

      Yes, why even waste the candidate’s time filling out an application if her salary expectations are way outside of your budget?

      Reply
        1. Zombii

          As someone whose entire working life has been during one recession or the other, can someone tell me whether this was always the general employer mindset or if it’s something that may change in future?

          The somewhat smug “This job pays $X, here’s your new-hire paperwork,” attitude has always been a reality for me and I assumed it had to do with having so many more applicants than positions to fill.

          Reply
    2. Ann O'Nemity

      Yes! I list salary range for the jobs I post. Of course, I get a annoyed when candidates ignore it and ask for significantly higher than the range listed, but that’s a different topic :)

      Reply
      1. Hallway Feline

        This! I have to hire people and I always make sure to include the salary range so they know upfront what we can offer. And like you said, those people who ask for higher salary despite seeing the posted amount get under my skin haha

        Reply
      2. SG

        As well you should! I feel like if the company is upfront with you, you owe them the courtesy of being realistic about your salary expectations. I had a great call once with a job that ended up being lower than I could take – I withdrew and we both went on our merry way.

        Reply
        1. L

          But then wouldn’t it mean that you’ve wasted their time despite the company being upfront? If you’re looking for a role and the salary is too low for you and you know that before even submitting an application – why go through with it if you are not flexible.

          Reply
          1. Jamie

            I don’t know the particulars of SG’s situation but in general I don’t think parting due to salary when the range was posted automatically means the candidate wasted everyone’s time. There are several reasons that could occur such as the range changing, a company being unwilling to go towards the higher end of their range for a specific candidate, a miscommunication of what is included in ‘salary’, new information learned in the interview that changes the acceptable range for a candidate, etc.

            Reply
          2. Annonymouse

            It didn’t seem like the job SG applied for had a range posted.

            But I agree if something is clearly outside of your range e.g receptionist 40 – 45k a year and you’re hoping for 55-60k then it doesn’t make sense to talk.

            If it’s close like top of range is 50 and your minimum is 55 you should go and see if bonuses or benefits make it worth your while.

            Where I’m from (Australia) we post salary ranges up front and say things like
            “Plus bonuses” or “benefits included” do you know if there is wiggle room

            Reply
      3. Rincat

        I work at a state university where we always listed the monthly salary upfront on the posting, and one of my bosses would also reiterate that salary in email to the candidate – sometimes several times – because with the positions we were hiring for, they were set in stone and could not be changed. And still, we would get to the final stages with a great candidate and they’d ask for 20-30k more and would act offended that we couldn’t offer more, despite being told several times, and them assuring us they were okay with the salary. Le sigh. :)

        Reply
        1. Ann O'Nemity

          Yes, I’ve experienced the same thing. I started asking “does the posted salary meet your requirements?” during the initial phone screening.

          Reply
      4. Michelenyc

        I interviewed for a position last week and even before the interviews were scheduled HR made it crystal clear what the salary was. It really isn’t great but the benefits, bonus potential, and work environment make up for it. What I found interesting is that the director I was speaking with told me the first round of interviews were horrible because even after HR communicated the salary clearly candidates still asked for $30k more.

        Reply
    3. Important Moi

      “why not list a salary range in your ad so that candidates won’t bother applying if the salary isn’t acceptable to them? ”

      Because employers would love a candidate who’s worth more to unknowingly take less. That’s a “win win”.
      /sarcasm

      Reply
    4. The Final Pam

      I wonder about this so much. I’m relatively flexible, but if a salary is a LOT less than I need then I’m not going to even apply or waste your time.

      Reply
      1. Green Goose

        Exactly. I work in education but not as a teacher, and when I was looking for work none of the places would put a salary range. It was frustrating. Only vague “competitive salary based on experience” language. One place I interviewed at, which required quite a lot of education and experience, and weekend work took one look at my salary range (which I low-balled) and ended my process there. It wasted everyone’s time. I just don’t understand the practice.

        Reply
    5. AnotherAlison

      #3 – While I agree with the answer in this context, since the OP’s managers didn’t want her doing work outside her expertise or expected duties, I generally disagree with the concept. If I get someone loaned to me for 40 hrs/week, I need them to do the work I have to do. Obviously, I won’t ask someone to do something they don’t know how to do or can’t pick up easily, but we had a lot of administrative and clerical positions eliminated last fall, so sometimes I do need people with expensive skill sets in another area to do some data entry or very entry-level in their own discipline. I totally understand if they ask to get reassigned by their home department asap when work that is a better fit is available, but I’d balk at someone refusing to do particular work while they were assigned to me. (Normally, I would have them doing something higher level and lower level. . .but I might only get one person and they need to do 3 particular part-time tasks on a project.)

      Reply
        1. Annonymouse

          It depends on the circumstances of the loaning.

          If Boss A comes to Boss B and says “I’m working on a project and need a designer that can do XYZ but no one in my department can do that. Can I borrow worker X who can?”
          (With time per day/week and/or end date in sight)

          Then you can bet your ace if I’m worker X and being asked to do data entry or other low level work outside my skill set and WHAT I WAS ASKED to help your department with that I’d be pretty steamed.

          It’s different if you loan an admin or entry level person for general admin or because a department needs extra hands.

          But using a higher level worker for low end work if it’s not desperate or under false pretences? No.

          Reply
      1. AdAgencyChick

        I disagree, because it frustrates the *bleep* out of the person being loaned out.

        This happens a lot at agencies — it used to be that when your account was crazy-busy, you hired some freelance help to get over the busy period. That still happens, but after the belt-tightening of the financial crisis, agencies started getting wiser to the idea of actively seeking out internal people whose accounts aren’t as busy and making them help out.

        I think when you’re working with an internal person rather than a freelancer, you need to treat her better than you’d treat the freelancer (who, after all, is making a high hourly rate in exchange for having to do scut work). With an internal person, you’re working with someone who in a way is doing you a favor — they’re going outside of their normal job duties to work for you, so I think it’s unwise to hand that person a bunch of scut work. At an agency, if you do that enough times, that person will find somewhere else to work.

        Of course all of this depends on the agreement the loaned employee’s boss and the manager who’s getting the loaned employee make with each other. If the employee’s regular boss is agreeing to completely give the employee up for the month, then yes, I get why the receiving manager would feel like she wants to be able to treat this person as though she works for her (including assignment of scut work). But if I were the loaning manager, I would want to have a clear agreement at the beginning of what the employee might be asked to do and what she definitely should not be asked to do. I don’t want my direct reports quitting because some other manager decided to dump her grunt work on them!

        Reply
        1. Flapjack

          I agree with a lot of what you say here but I wanted to flag that freelancers aren’t exactly making a higher rate – yes, the number is higher, but that’s not their take-home pay as they have to cover their own PTO, expenses, etc, as well as time taken to do their admin and accounts. It’s higher to cover all that other stuff. They don’t necessarily get more in take-home pay.

          But otherwise I could not agree more!

          Reply
      2. Biff

        Problem: I’m a GREAT teapot clay quality control specialist. I fail at entry level. It will take me HOURS to do what you perceive to be simple data entry work, and it will contain a boatload of mistakes. I have tried gamely to do much better data entry in the last few years. Nope, I’m just terrible at this work. I can’t be the only person with this problem.

        If I know I’m going to be total crap at an assignment, I really do try to make it clear that’s the case and that this isn’t the best way to use me.

        Reply
        1. Biff

          entry level should be data entry. Derp. There’s other entry level admin-type work I do really quite well!

          Reply
        2. Manders

          Same here. I have a tendency to transpose digits when I read and copy numbers, which makes me just awful at data entry. But I can do plenty of other math-related tasks just fine. I agree with AdAgencyChick that it would be best to get a freelancer in if that’s possible.

          I occasionally have to cover the receptionist’s breaks right now. I try my best to be game, but the truth is I’m a lousy receptionist and it’s not really worth it to the company to spend more time training me to do stuff I wasn’t hired for.

          Reply
          1. JessaB

            Yes, data entry is a SKILL. It’s not scut work, it’s not low class work, but there are zillions of people who cannot do it quickly or accurately. In some places good data clerks are worth a fortune (I have a friend who is making a potload of money in banking because she’s the freaking Flash on a keyboard.)

            It’s not appropriate to assign work outside of someone’s skillset unless you’re willing to train them on it and in the interim A: see mistakes, B: see it taking longer than usual and C: maybe have the person a lot frustrated.

            But could we please not parse these tasks as either low level or scut work?

            Reply
            1. Annonymouse

              It’s lower level in the way you can assign it to most people without having to give them specialised training in how to use a keyboard, type and save.

              And I understand that there are different systems, nuances and major ways this can screw a company as someone who does data entry.

              I think it’s fair that other commenters are pointing out that having your top designer/grant writer/accountant/gerbil shampooer
              give up their more specialised task to do data entry or filing to observe that it’s not the best use of their time or talents.

              Especially as you point out they will be slower and make more mistakes than someone specifically trained and good at it.

              Reply
        3. ZenCat

          I’m so profoundly worthless at that kind of stuff too. One of my weakest areas is mindless routine stuff – my mind goes numb and it degrades over time. I have to spread out any of that data entry or moving things from one electronic place to another type of stuff to small bits of time each day because I have so limited a focus before it all goes to hell.

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      3. Artemesia

        I would be pretty annoyed to be loaned because I am a whiz bang grant writer and they NEED that so bad they need me to be loaned and then when I got there found what they really needed me to do was make coffee, do data entry and book travel. i.e. they didn’t really have enough of the specialized work they begged for me to do and now want to use me as an intern. I hope the OP pushes back hard.

        Reply
      4. JB (not in Houston)

        It should depend on the parameters of the situation, though, doesn’t it? If it’s “Your department is short staffed this month, here is an extra person for just that time, and fyi they are good at shampooing gerbils,” then sure, if you don’t have gerbils that need cleaning, you’re going to put them on something else. And if they refuse, you’re right to not like that. But if the situation is, “we see that your have an unexpected backlog of gerbils needing washing, so we’ll loan a gerbil shampooer from this other department for a month to take care of that problem,” it’s understandable they don’t want to be assigned to organizing your pen caps, and that’s not what they should spend their time on. It sounds like the LW was in the second category, especially since her boss agreed she should not be organizing pen caps. If, in that situation, you’d balk at the refusal to organize pen caps, then you should be annoyed with the higher ups for not providing you someone to do general work. But that’s not who you wound up with.

        Reply
      5. Bonky

        I disagree – it’s totally disrespectful. I hire designers because they’re very skilled at what they do. It’s a total misuse of their time and salary to make them do something entry-level elsewhere; it’ll create bad feelings with them; it’ll send a message about how much the organisation values them and their skillset, and…ugh. No. Terrible idea all around, and awful for morale. Your job as a manager is to enable people to do their best work, to their best potential. This isn’t going to go any way to do that.

        Reply
      6. NW Mossy

        What you’re describing sounds like a short-term assignment, where there’s a formal transfer of the employee to the receiving department for a set period of time to act like an FTE for that department. We normally use the term “loan” in the sense the OP used, where you’re not transferring management and the commitment is to a specific task/project only.

        Reply
      7. tan

        This reminds me of the episode of The Office when Michael hired a stripper for a bachelor party, and when it turned out no one wanted the stripper performance, Dwight tried to make her answer the phones because they were paying her anyway.

        Reply
    6. NoMoreMrFixit

      I wish there was a way to make this mandatory. So many times I’ve gotten to the final stage only to discover the potential new job paid quite a bit less than I was already making. Considering the effort that goes into recruiting new staff I really don’t get why companies still treat compensation as confidential as the nuclear launch codes!

      Reply
      1. AnotherAlison

        I’ve asked at the HR phone screen stage. Have you asked and they refused to tell you? I’ve had them not want to tell me their number, but I’m actually okay with telling them mine. Last time, they replied that that was higher than what was budgeted, but they would talk to the hiring manager. I said no thanks at that point. I didn’t want to be topped out from day 1 in a position, and that, coupled with other factors, didn’t make it worth pursuing.

        Reply
        1. Anon Anon

          It’s why I don’t mind providing my salary expectation range when they are asked for (salary expectations I’m good with, salary history not so much) although it’s always dependent upon benefits. Because if a company isn’t paying market wages then I’m not interested in working for them.

          Although I do wish more companies would also make their benefits available to candidates. Because while I might not apply for a job that pays 50K with standard or sub-standard benefits, if there are truly awesome benefits then I might be interested in compromising on salary.

          Reply
          1. LittleOfficeOne

            Yes, it would be much better to give candidates a look. I had the salary range discussion with a company once that insisted their low salary range was off set by their awesome benefits. When I pushed to actually see those benefits and judge for myself, I was told o couldn’t see unless I hot a job offer which would be several interviews and hurdles down the road. I decided not to waste my time for a too-low salary with *maybe* awesome benefits.

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            1. Anon Anon

              I find a lot of those places that feel that they have “awesome” benefits really don’t. They are standard. With a few exceptions, I’ve found that companies that can afford to provide awesome benefits can also afford market wages.

              Reply
              1. Chriama

                My company explicitly states that their salary philosophy is to pay in the 50th percentile but have above-average benefits. And I’d agree that their benefits are worth at least 10-20% (cash in-pocket only, not including culture, work/life balance, etc) above the salary which puts them above-average for total compensation but not really at the top. So I would say if they’re not even meeting market then the benefits won’t make up for it, but even when the benefits are great it’s not like it turns 50k of value into 80k.

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          2. Just Another Techie

            Yup. I’d happily take 10-15% pay cut if I got an extra three weeks of vacation over what I have now. But as it is, I’m looking for a 15-20% bump in pay in my next job, assuming the same kind of benefits package I have now.

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          3. paul

            agreed. If you pay my whole health insurance premiums or offer a baller 401k match (say 2 for 1 to 5 percent? I can dream) that’d be worth something too.

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          4. all aboard the anon train

            Seriously. All the companies I’ve looked at, applied to, or interviewed with usually say “health, dental, vision” but the type of insurer or plan they have can make a big difference. I’m not going to think a dental plan with $500 coverage is great, but I’d take a small salary cut for a plan with, say, a $4K or even $2K coverage.

            I’ve definitely gotten annoyed recruiters when I ask to look at the health plans during the offer stage, and I never thought that was an unreasonable request.

            Reply
          5. JessaB

            Exactly if I’m making 50k and my insurance costs 5k that’s one thing, if they’re paying 45 but they’re covering 100% of insurance, and extra time off and all kinds of things, well that matters. Benefits matter. Good insurance vs bad insurance and what your pay in is MATTERS. Moreso now than ever. We’re on the route back to the only way to have good insurance is at work. If you’re not willing to talk benefits, then you’re gonna have to pay me as if I have to pay for my own. And that’s gonna be way higher than you probably want to pay.

            Also seconding whoever it was that said they didn’t want to be maxed out walking in the door. If your top range is 100k and I walk in at 100k, especially if I have to negotiate that, the likelihood of me getting a rise of pay in the next couple of years is pretty slim. Which may be a reason NOT to take your job offer. A lot of companies think that their top range number is something you’re supposed to work up to, so if you walk in there with it, you get into a problem later.

            Reply
        2. all aboard the anon train

          I’ve had companies where, after telling them my salary requirements, didn’t really say anything other than an “ok, good to know” and then the offer I received was significantly lower.

          Or a “that’s higher than we usually pay, would you be willing to negotiate” and then after the interview stages go on to offer me like $20K-$30K less than my minimum.

          At this point, I don’t really have the time or energy for companies who aren’t upfront about their salary ranges. It’s always been a waste of my time.

          Reply
          1. Chriama

            I feel like if they ask for your salary and then ask if you’d be willing to negotiate then they should be prepared to give a range before you proceed further in the discussion. And they should be prepared to give you benefit information in case that’s a tipping point. In the first case then yeah, I agree that you can’t do much about those guys. But I think candidates sometimes do the same thing where they say it’s ok and then turn around and ask for 10k above the top of the range. Both sides are hoping that the other side will be so enthusiastic that they’ll be willing to bend things a little bit, and it does happen sometimes. But you don’t always know what will be a dealbreaker to the other side. Sometimes 10k is an outrageous demand, sometimes it’s not a huge deal.

            Reply
    7. BRR

      It’s incredibly frustrating spending time on application materials only to find out a job pays a low salary. Salary commensurate with experience is an awful substitution. I was recently sent a description to look over for a position we will be hiring for and I strongly suggested we include salary range probably to the surprise of our director.

      Reply
      1. Anon Anon

        I hate that “commensurate with experience,” phrase because I find many of the companies who use that language don’t know the market rate for the experience of a candidate, and they tend to underpay.

        Reply
        1. designbot

          I also find that it leads to underpaying, because they’re constantly saying how you don’t have enough experience to warrant market rate. Well, if I don’t have enough experience, why are you hiring me in the first place then?

          Reply
        2. Manders

          I’ve been hearing that phrase a lot from companies that are also calling jobs that require multiple years of experience “entry level.” Ok, maybe the salary you’re offering is on par with an entry level job, but this isn’t actually entry level.

          Reply
          1. all aboard the anon train

            Entry Level with 5-10 years experience and a master’s degree preferred. Those job listings annoy me so much.

            Reply
          2. Anon Anon

            OMG Yes!

            And as “all aboard the anon train” mentioned the number of ads that I see that require X number of years of experience plus credentials or education that is of that of a seasoned professional is ridiculous.

            I will never forgot during the height of the recession that someone asked on my industry’s listserv why their applicant pool for the entry-level receptionist job was crummy. It was pointed out to them that perhaps requiring a bachelor’s degree and 5-7 years of industry specific experience wasn’t realistic list of qualifications for entry level job that paid less than $10 an hour.

            Reply
    8. paul

      If I could instantly change one thing about job listing norms in this country, that’d be it. Right there.

      Reply
    9. Argnonymous

      I applied to a position where they required a desired salary in the application. That was how it was worded – desired salary. So I put in a salary that seemed reasonable, then they came back and told me the position would be paid hourly (and poorly at that). The thing I found really frustrating was that they were clearly willing to disclose the wage, since they did so immediately after I gave them my number – so why didn’t they just say it up front instead of asking me??

      Reply
    10. Elizabeth West

      Hell yeah. I won’t even apply if you’re paying McDonald’s money, but I’d rather not go through all the rigamarole of an interview just to find out I can’t afford to work there.

      Reply
    11. Super B

      Not sure I agree – the company I work for did not post the salary range but asked for candidates to put their desired salary in the cover letter. I put 75-80k (more than I was making). The hiring manager emailed me directly saying my resume was impressive but this position paid 50-55k. I said the lowest I could go at this point of my career would be 70k, and only because this job was just perfect for me – location, hours, work life balance. But I never expected to hear back from them, and moved on.
      A couple of months later one of my now bosses called me directly saying the position was still open, they were really interested in me, confirmed my minimum rage, and said he though they could possibly meet if I was the right person. Ended up meeting with a bunch of people and offered the job for $70k. If they had posted the 50-55k salary range in the ad, I would never had applied, and I am SO glad that I did…

      Reply
  4. LeisureSuitLarry

    #1. My company put the salary for the job I eventually got hired at on the job posting. It was just a straight up range. I thought that was the most refreshing thing I’d ever seen in job postings. I knew right away if I would be able to live at the low end of the range, and I could pretty accurately figure out where I would fall in terms of that range if they offered it to me. I LOVE when employers are as up front with me about salary as I’m expected to be with them.

    Reply
    1. Kvothe

      My job I’m at now didn’t list it in the ad but when I came in for the interview they told me their range and asked me where I felt I belonged in that range. I already had a decent job and basically said it would have to be the higher end and they ended up offering me more than they initially stated!

      Reply
        1. calonkat

          I’m sure this is a reference to something more current, but all I can think is “They Call the Wind Mariah”

          Reply
    2. PlainJane

      Being upfront may also get an employer more good applicants–if the salary is competitive. I applied for my current position because they posted the salary range. Other indicators, including the type of organization and the location, suggested the pay would be too low. I wouldn’t have made the effort (it’s an academic faculty job, so applying takes quite a bit of time and work) if I didn’t know that the range was workable for me.

      Reply
  5. The Final Pam

    Kind of a related question, but sometimes I see jobs listed somewhere that have an almost impossibly large salary range listed, like $28,000 – 55,000 or something – is there any way to gauge what they’re really going to offer? Because I’ve seen a lot of jobs lately where I absolutely couldn’t take the lower end but I could take the top end of the range.

    Reply
    1. Anonymous Educator

      I’m guessing they’re being incredibly honest, and that’s the actual range.

      For someone who has very little experience (or relevant degrees) and who may need extra training to get up and running, that’s probably $28,000.

      And for someone who has a lot of experience and relevant degrees and who may even bring more to the position than is required (such that the responsibilities of the position may even be slightly altered), that’s probably $55,000.

      Reply
      1. AnotherAlison

        To your point, an entry level person with the “level 1” title at my company could easily be making half of what the subject matter expert “level 6” person in the same job family makes.

        But, what would be weird is that there would be a single job ad soliciting the entire range of people in that job family. For level 1, we would take someone with a college degree in the field and the duties are generic, but the experience and duties are much more specific for a level 6.

        Reply
        1. Anonymous Educator

          Yeah, it really makes sense only if the job duties also are modified, which I’ve seen happen.

          Reply
      2. Kyrielle

        This. The position I’m in now had a range wider than that – but they needed to fill a skill set and had three or four levels of classification that you could end up in depending on how experienced you were.

        Weigh your skills and experience against what they’re listing, and then some of it’s a guess from there if you’re not at one of the extremes.

        Reply
      3. PlainJane

        My experience with public sector jobs is that most places rarely hire above the midpoint. I don’t know if that holds in the private sector.

        Reply
    2. Trout 'Waver

      Submit an application and ask at the phone interview step, if you make it to that. It’s pretty common for a wide range to ask what someone at the top of the range looks like and what someone at the bottom of the range looks like. I wouldn’t put the interviewer on the spot by insisting on the higher range at that step, but you can decide if you match the higher side or lower side of the range.

      Reply
    3. Ann O'Nemity

      There could be a lot of explanations. Maybe they don’t know what they’re looking for and are just fishing. Maybe they’re really flexible. Maybe they’re hiring multiple positions.

      I think if the range fits what you’re looking for, it’s worth applying. Just make sure that your skills, education, experience, etc align with where you are on the range – e.g. if the ad asks for 5-10 years experience for a salary of $28-55k, you shouldn’t expect to be at the high end of the salary if you’re at the low end for experience.

      Reply
    4. Grapey

      The higher end of the range is usually if you meet every single requirement and you need very little training in the most important areas. (Usually the first or second bullet points.)

      Reply
    5. all aboard the anon train

      I’ve been laughing about this recently because Glassdoor just started putting estimated salaries on listings based on, I assume, user data, but some of the ranges are so large. There was one that had $35K – 90K, which is a pretty huge difference.

      Reply
  6. Elle

    The first time I clicked on the Inc. link (through Feedly) it took me to a page on Inc. asking me to create an account to read the article. Clicking on the same link from the AAM site worked just fine.

    Just thought I’d mention it.

    Reply
    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      It will often do that if you have an ad-blocker. (Although that doesn’t address the feedly v. AAM issue.)

      Reply
    2. Murphy

      I just tried it from feedly to see what happened. It was there for less than a second, but then it took me to the article, without me having to do anything.

      Reply
      1. Larry Scroggins

        It took me forever to figure out that my ad-blocker was the thing that was preventing me from reading the Inc entries.

        Reply
  7. Trout 'Waver

    #3, I tell my employees that if someone from another department tries to give them a significant bit of work, they should refer that person to me. If you can’t get anywhere with the person, just refer them to your boss. It sounds like you have support from up the ladder which is very useful in this situation.

    Reply
  8. Larry Scroggins

    #4. I was once 3 hours late to a job interview. It was my second interview with them, so I knew I was a pretty strong candidate, but still… 3 hours. I didn’t even have the luxury of having a traffic jam to be the cause. My lateness was 100% the recruiter’s fault. The (internal) recruiter sent me an email with the appointment at 2pm Eastern Time Zone. The people I was interviewing with, the recruiter, and I were all in the Pacific Time Zone. As soon as I saw that I called the recruiter to confirm that the team would be expecting me to arrive for my interview at 2pm Pacific rather than the 11am it translated to. He replied, “No, if I said 2pm I meant 2pm.” Kind of dickishly, too. So, the next day I show up at the office at 2pm. I told the director and the guy that would become my manager that I hoped they weren’t expecting to see me at 11am, and they both said they were. I explained that the recruiter put the time in the invite wrong and that I’d confirmed that I was supposed to be there at 2pm. Ultimately, they were forgiving and I did get the job, but the whole mix-up ended up being just the first of many signs that I should have avoided the company.

    Reply
  9. LittleOfficeOne

    #1 yes, please just put the salary in your job ad!

    I know that employers leave salary ranges out in hopes of getting a unicorn with poor self esteem (aka, a perfect candidate who asks for much less than they are worth) but is that really the way you want to treat people? Hiring doesn’t have to be so adversarial. It would be nice to think an employer might value skill and talent enough to compensate accordingly. In my perfect world, at least.

    Reply
  10. Flapjack

    I once failed to get an interview for a job which required very specific, hard to find expertise I totally have. I called and asked why (yeah, gumption move I realise). They said, slightly indignantly, that I asked for too much money. Well, said I, you forced me to include a salary and gave me nothing to go on and it wouldn’t let me write negotiable.

    The gumption worked, insofar as they invited me to interview for a more senior job. I declined. As it happened I wouldn’t have accepted the salaries they offered so it would have saved everyone wasting their time if they just PUT IT IN THE ADVERT.

    Reply
    1. Amadeo

      Depends on the state, LOL. IL civil service positions do in fact do that. I had no idea what the salary offer was going to be for my MO staff position until an offer was made. Fortunately for me it amounted to a 30% increase and I happily bounced out of that IL position.

      Reply
    2. jamlady

      True, but the ranges can also be ridiculously vast (with the top end lower than industry value, unfortunately). I’m up for a state job that listed 35k-60k as a range – I almost didn’t apply to it because of that range. I have a conditional offer right now and all they’ve told me is it could be between $47k and $60k, but to expect the middle because it’s just how that works, which is a pay cut for me. Since I’m being offered $65k elsewhere, I’m likely going to end up turning the state job down.

      Reply
      1. jamlady

        FYI, my point was that if they had offered the more realistic range of $47-54k, I wouldn’t have applied in the first place and gone through a 4 month hiring process that will now need to be repeated on their end because they can’t meet my salary requirements.

        Reply
  11. Hannah

    I have skipped applying for jobs that don’t list salary range (many in my field do list it). It’s so annoying, especially when it isn’t exactly obvious what level the job is hiring for–I use salary range to determine what level of experience that they are expecting, not just whether or not I’d work for that much.

    Reply
  12. Argh!

    re: #1 I know someone who was rejected for a job with the reason “We can’t pay you what you’re used to.”

    What they didn’t know was that his wife had just gotten a very large raise and a salary cut was not a concern for that family. There were other factors why the job was desirable.

    I think that really stinks and that employer was really irresponsible.

    Reply
    1. Zombii

      How so? It sounds like it was more irresponsible of the candidate to list an expected salary that was comparable to his current/previous salary if he was actually willing to take a lower salary. Sometimes employers believe what candidates tell them and don’t want to waste anyone’s time.

      Reply
      1. Anonymous Educator

        Last time I took a pay cut for a job, I made it very clear from the beginning that I knew I’d be (and was okay with) taking a pay cut. My question for hiring managers was really how much of a pay cut I should expect at their position. But if I hadn’t made that clear, I don’t know that I’d have been hired for the types of positions I was applying for (which had less prestigious titles than the one I had before).

        Reply
      2. Lexicat

        Where does it say the candidate gave an expected salary? It sounds more like the company was working from a salary history, which the candidate may not have been able to avoid giving.

        Reply
      3. Annonymouse

        It sounds like the employers based this off salary history rather than expressed range.

        There are all sorts of reasons a person might be happy to take a pay cut if you have a discussion with them.
        (Better work life balance, smaller company where you can make a bigger impact/expect less pay, looking for a job with less management/responsibility as they discovered they don’t like it)

        This is different from a person clearly applying for a job that’s not going to meet their range.

        Reply
  13. MuseumChick

    Pleases, please, pleases, pleases add a salary range to the job description. It can be really frustrating as a candidate not knowing what a company is willing to pay. A simple “$xx,000 – xx,000 depending on experience” will cut down the frustration for everyone and keep candidates who are well outside that range from applying.

    Reply
  14. New hiring manager

    Frustratingly, my company won’t allow us to post the salary range in the job ads, but I make sure to make that part of the very first screening call.

    What kills me are the people who say nothing to indicate that the stated salary won’t work for them, go through multiple interviews, and then turn down an offer based on the previously-stated salary! I’ve had this happen multiple times (in my notoriously low-paying industry) and I’m always so frustrated at my wasted time.

    Reply
    1. Persephone Mulberry

      Those are the people who are coached not to say anything about salary “until you know they want you” because OF COURSE you’ll be able to talk them into adding 20-30% or more to their budget to secure your awesomeness.

      Reply
  15. The New Newbie

    I remember applying to a job and, in the salary range fields, I put $16/hour to $16/hour since that was what I was making at the time and wouldn’t leave for a job that paid less.

    The organization called to schedule an interview because they were “very interested” in talking to me, and we played phone tag for a while. When I finally got a hold of them, they acknowledged that my preferred pay was $16 an hour, but the job only paid $11 an hour, and they wanted to know if I was still interested in interviewing.

    Waste of time. =/

    Reply
  16. Ponytail

    I’m from the UK, so we do usually get a salary mentioned, usually a range. There are employers who don’t list any sort of salary, but they’re rare enough in my field that when me and my colleagues see a job like this, we’d laugh over it and say disparaging things about the employer !
    What has bitten me in the bum before is when a salary range is posted, but the employer has no intention to pay anything above bottom of the scale. Some, admittedly, do say this – something like “we are looking to hire at bottom of the posted range, unless the successful candidate displays exceptional experience” – but some (cough, the UK’s largest employer, cough) don’t. They tell you the range and if you ask for anything above the bottom of the scale, will move on to the next candidate, even when they have to start the process of recruitment all over again (i.e. if they don’t have any other suitable candidates). I speak from experience…

    Reply
  17. Klew

    LW 1. I recently called our local university about a job opening. Just as soon as I mentioned the job I was inquiring about, the woman on the phone said “Before we go further the salary is $x”, which I think is low for the job. I am guessing that they already had a number of people turn it down so decided to be upfront so no one wasted their time. I was very thankful for the honest information.

    Reply
  18. The Rat-Catcher

    #1 – I wouldn’t put so much stock in what candidates write on the form. LOTS of people, myself included, write numbers that are higher than what they might actually accept, because we’re afraid to lock ourselves into a low number. Without knowing a lot more about the job than what is typically available in a job posting (benefits, work hours, expected overtime, office culture, and host of other variables), I can’t even tell you with any kind of certainty what one number I would accept.
    Even though I’m currently low-paid, I have great benefits, great work hours, no mandatory overtime, and the flexibility to take off when I need to for my kids. Current salary + 10% would not be enough for me to move unless all those other factors were similar. They might be, but I probably won’t know that before interviewing with you.

    Reply
  19. The Rat-Catcher

    I forgot to say that a lot, I would venture to say most, candidates have a hard minimum number – all other factors aside, there’s a salary X and they can’t accept a lower number. So if you aren’t paying X, there is zero point even proceeding with applications and interviews.

    Reply

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