can I show annoyance with a terrible job offer that I don’t plan to take?

A reader writes:

Is there ever a productive or reasonable way to express annoyance at a job offer you don’t intend to accept?

I recently interviewed with a company for what sounded like a lower-mid-level position. The title, described duties, and reporting structure all indicated a position that would be the next step up from what I currently do. I’ll admit, some of the questions I was asked in the interview process were fairly low-level, but the actual duties of the job were complex enough that I chalked the low-level questions to a poor talent pool in our area combined with a new interviewer.

I went through a phone interview, took a full day off for an in-person interview, which was canceled at the last minute, and then took a morning off for the rescheduled interview, after which I was offered the job and told the HR department would be calling me to discuss terms. I was very curious at that point to hear the offer. Like I said, everything about the job was pointing to it being a higher level than I’m currently working, but because of some of their questions, I was prepared for the offer to be more of a lateral move.

HR called, and … their range for the position was really low. It was low enough that I don’t know of anybody in our industry (and I know folks who are working call centers!) who would be tempted to accept. I felt like they had wasted a day and a half of my time and PTO when any reasonable hiring manager and HR department would have known that what they were offering was unlikely to be commensurate with specialized experience (and this was a large company with a formal HR department, not a mom-and-pop who maybe didn’t know better).

Would there have been any way to express my frustration and annoyance at their waste of my time that would have done any good? I had a similar situation a few months ago, where the company handled it in the exact opposite way. I applied to a position that seemed like a lateral move, and the hiring manager emailed me to say that their budget was tight and that, based on my resume, they suspected I wouldn’t be interested in moving forward. They were up-front that the position pays X and said to let them know if I’d still like to schedule an interview. I could not have been more impressed with their respect for my time (and their own!), and I almost wanted to point out the contrast to the HR person at the more recent company. Would that have been warranted? Would any expression of frustration have been?

What I actually ended up doing was telling the HR person that I would need double what they were offering to even consider the role and that it didn’t sound like it made sense for us to continue the discussion. The hiring manager ended up trying to get them to expand the salary rage to at least come cose to what I wanted, because my skillset was exactly what she was looking for, but HR wouldn’t budge, so that was the end of that. But I still wonder if I could have given some indication of how much I felt they had wasted my time when they could have been upfront about the salary range.

Yeah, I can see why you were really annoyed by that. When an employer knows that they’re offering a salary that might be low, or when they have reason to think the person they’re interviewing will find it low (like if the person is coming from a notoriously higher-paying industry), it’s common sense and courteous to talk about it early on the process, so that they don’t waste anyone’s time, including their own.

As for whether you can point that out to them … You actually kind of did, just without spelling out your irritation. “I would need double what you’re offering to even consider the role” pretty clearly says “wow, you are way off what I was expecting.”

But there’s room to say a little more if you want, too. For example, upon hearing the salary offer: “Oh! … (uncomfortable silence) … That is significantly lower than what I’d expect for a role like this one. Wow. I have to be honest, I wouldn’t have invested this amount of time in your process if I’d realized from the beginning that the salary was so far below the market rate.”

That’s blunt, but it’s reasonable. You don’t say it in an angry tone, just a surprised and concerned one.

Another version, for use later on, not on the spot: “Can I pass along some feedback that I think might help with your process? The salary you’re offering is so far below market rate that I really wish I’d known about it from the start, before I used up PTO from my current job to come interview. I think so many candidates will be taken aback by it that you’ll save a lot of time — yours and theirs — if you let people know your range up-front.”

This, of course, is one of many ways that our culture’s weird coyness around salary hurts people. They wasted your time and energy, and they wasted their own too. No one was served by them springing that information on you at the end of the process.

{ 238 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Letter Writer

    Thanks for publishing! Hopefully this isn’t a situation I run into too often, but it’s good to know that feedback -can- be productively provided to maybe save the next person they interview some frustration.

    Reply
    1. HS Teacher

      It may be worth it to institute a personal policy not to interview without a salary range up front. It may seem like it would keep you from getting interviews, but it will actually keep you from wasting your time and taking time off.

      If a company isn’t willing to give a range up front, I feel like they aren’t worth my time.

      Reply
          1. Aaaaaaanon.

            Boom. Across private, public, and non-profit sector jobs this has worked for me. Most jobs that didn’t state a range in the posting either initiated the salary discussion during the initial phone screen or, at worst, I was able to coax a range out of them. It was only a couple organizations that either invited me to an interview without a phone screen or said that they couldn’t discuss salary until after a first formal interview; I don’t think I’m that much worse off for having dropped them.

            Reply
        1. Irene Adler

          Same here.
          In fact, I’m asked to state -up front- the salary range I expect to be paid for the position.
          How can I do that when I don’t know the particulars about the job?
          And they won’t tell me about the benefits so that I can issue a reasonable salary range.
          And to boot, they refuse to tell me their hiring salary range (“we’re not allowed to reveal that information”).

          Learned the hard way when I gave a salary range and then received a job offer that was $10 K below my current salary plus NO benefits.

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      1. Antilles

        Sadly, that isn’t a practical policy for most people because it closes off a *lot* of opportunities – and not just toxic ones but even companies that are otherwise usually fine tend to treat this stuff like proprietary information.
        It’s changing slowly, but not even close to the usual yet.

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        1. Naptime Enthusiast

          Glassdoor has been pretty accurate for me in the past. I can at least guess what the salary will be based on the title and company.

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            1. Candace

              Mine too. I’m a librarian – but not an ordinary front line one. I am a Dean of a research library system. I make just under $200k, and the salaries on Glassdoor are around $65K.

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          1. Chaordic One

            I’ve always heard employers complain that the salaries listed on Glassdoor are inflated and that they give jobseekers unrealistic expectations. But I take that with a couple of bags of salt.

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            1. designbot

              I’ve heard the same. But having heard that, I make it a point to contribute my own information to try to improve it as a resource, since it’s often all we’ve got to go on.

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            2. Antilles

              I would completely ignore that employer complaint.
              Employees have absolutely no reason to inflate their salary. Even if you rightly question Glassdoor based on reviewer bias (someone who’s experience was generally fine is a lot less likely to leave a review than someone who’s furious over an axe to grind), they don’t really have a reason to claim the company’s paying better than they actually are. In fact, to the extent that Glassdoor is inaccurate, it seems likely that it’d go the other ways as angry ex-employees emphasize how crummy the salary is relative to market expectations or the hassles of working at Wakeen’s Teapots.

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        2. Kathleen_A

          Yeah, I don’t really understand it, but there are lots of otherwise perfectly respectable companies that are just so weird and cagey about this one thing. And you can’t tell why. Sometimes they genuinely have something to hide, but sometimes they hide the range because…because….”Because we have never issued a salary range until the candidate gets to stage X.” Or “Because there are just too many factors to consider!” Or “Because, OK, I don’t want to say it out loud, but deep in my heart of hearts, I find talking about money just really uncomfortable.

          I can actually remember the first time a potential employer was completely up front about the salary range – and it almost shocked me, but of course I came to truly appreciate this perfectly sensible approach. I was at the second interview, and I had decided to ease my way into the salary discussion by talking about benefits first, and my then-future employer said, “Let’s start with the most important benefit of all!” He was a good boss, in more ways than one.

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          1. league

            I love “Let’s start with the most important benefit!’ and intend to use it in hiring from now on. Thanks!

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            1. Kathleen_A

              I know – so, so perfect. Warren (who, sadly, died a few years ago) would be pleased and proud for you to use it, I’m sure.

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              1. LG

                Aw, I’m sorry about Warren. (But glad he’d be pleased! And how great to get right too it, instead of pretending everyone looking for jobs wants to volunteer and then just accidentally ends up getting paid.)

                Reply
          2. Aaaaaaanon.

            I wonder if it’s because they feel that their prestige is enough to attract candidates in spite of whatever they’re able to pay them.

            There’s an association in my field that straight up said that they wouldn’t discuss salary expectation until after the first interview (not phone screen, but actual interview). All this for a year-long mat leave replacement. It’s the kind of position that attracted candidates from permanent jobs but you’re asking people to take a huge risk in wasting PTO to interview for a contract position where the compensation is a total question mark.

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        3. Ama

          Yeah I consider my current employer to be pretty employee friendly on most things but they have refused to budge on not putting salary range in the job listings, even though it is becoming more standard in our sector to include it. (Although some of us find ways to introduce our salary range early on in the phone interview process to get around that.)

          I’m hoping that now that our old-school COO has retired and someone new is in charge of HR we can start to adjust that.

          Reply
      2. Lili

        IMO, it’s rude on the end of the company to not advertise the salary range. It shows that they don’t value the applicants time.

        It’s also ridiculous because applying for a job, for the most part, is about salary.

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      3. Jadelyn

        In California, at least, they’re now required to give the range to a candidate who asks for it. It doesn’t *have* to be on the posting, but if an applicant actually asks what the salary range is, we have to disclose that. Part of the same bill that banned asking candidates for salary history. I hope that spreads beyond us, it’s ridiculous that it needs to be said.

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        1. Wintermute

          I agree, I’m a big believer in “first chance libertarianism”– the private sector gets a chance to fix things, sure, but if they won’t or don’t, it’s time for the government to step in.

          The big problem, and the reason that California stepped in and mandated salary range (though I argue they didn’t go far enough) is that somehow when you let businesses “wait until after the interviews to see what number makes sense” the number that makes sense for a middle class white guy is somehow always higher than the number that “makes sense” for a white woman, and both of those are automagically higher than the number that “makes sense” for a person of color– funny how that works out isn’t it?!

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    2. Specialk9

      I think inherent in your question is the power differential from yesterday’s question. What’s the worst thing that happens if you calmly tell them that you’re frustrated with their approach? You’re not planning on working for a company that is so bent, right? It’s not like you’ll get on a blackball list.

      Reply
    3. MLB

      Curious if you got the feeling that it was more like a lateral move in the phone interview? If so, if this happens again, don’t be afraid to ask questions yourself. If the questions they’re asking don’t match up with the job description, it’s ok to point that out and question it so you don’t waste your time. I’ve found that when you’re job searching, companies are rarely concerned with the time you’re taking to interview. I don’t expect a response for an application, but if they’ve taken the time to interview me in person, I do expect some sort of communication. I’ve had so many companies ghost me after an interview it’s ridiculous.

      Reply
    4. No Mas Pantalones

      I’m curious as to whether they headhunted you, you sought them, or there was a recruiter in the mix.

      Reply
    1. Happy Lurker

      I am angry and sad on your behalf.

      Love Allison’s advice about the blunt and disappointed response.

      Reply
  2. Long Time Reader, First Time Poster

    The OP could have saved themselves a world of trouble by getting a range from the hiring manager much earlier in the interview process. I would never go to an in person interview (full day no less!) without knowing that were were at least in the same ballpark on salary.

    Reply
    1. Letter Writer

      I considered it; however, it’s (annoyingly) outside the norms enough that it makes some hiring managers balk, and the job market in our area is very limited for what I do (thus the low talent pool), so in the end I decided not to risk it. I don’t think it would have helped in this situation–their hiring process was so bureaucratic that HR even refused to tell me the salary being offered until after I went through an HR “screening”–AFTER I had already been offered the job by the hiring manager-. (Seriously, I had to go through what he called the “HR phone interview” consisting of the world’s most generic questions, like “what is your biggest strength”, again, -after- I had been offered the job by the hiring manager, before he would tell me the salary offer. It was bizarre.)

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        1. Letter Writer

          I’m so glad. I work in an industry that’s very, very conservative, so we’re usually behind everyone else on trends like these, but hopefully this will become the norm sooner rather than later. (And that being said, there are a ton of perks to working in an old-fashioned industry that I wouldn’t trade for moving at a faster pace, but I do really hope this is something the workforce starts to see more of in general across the board.)

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          1. designbot

            I don’t even think it’s about being ‘conservative.’ I work in an extremely liberal industry, but the people in design are all terrified of money. Don’t know how to handle it, don’t know how to talk about it, anytime we’re talking money it’s pretty much guaranteed to be a negative interaction, so every generation passes down the message that This Is A Difficult Conversation just by the way we’ve been trained to act around it.

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      1. Jadelyn

        *sighs* On behalf of my profession (I’m in HR), I apologize. Some processes are in place for a reason even if they’re inconvenient, but an additional HR phone interview *after* you’d already been job-offered is pointless. Someone’s just making themselves feel important.

        Reply
    2. The Original K.

      Yeah, I’m interviewing right now and all of my phone screens have included salary discussions, which IMO is as it should be. However, I have an interview later this week and there was no phone screen leading up to it. HR called me solely to schedule an in-person interview; the conversation lasted less than 10 minutes. So there was no opportunity to discuss salary. The application required me to put down my desired salary, which I did based on some research (including looking at salaries for that particular role at that company on Glassdoor), and hopefully them wanting to interview me means we’re at least in the same ballpark. I’m a little nervous about that part though, particularly since the title belies the job description and makes the role sound more junior than it is.

      Reply
      1. The New Wanderer

        Me too – the recruiter brings it up first as “what are your salary expectations” and I always parry with “Could you tell me the range for the position?” All but one time, the recruiter put it back on me with a weak excuse like depends on experience. But at least it’s out there. I end up giving a range (based on market knowledge) that I would say yes to if the recruiter said it first and so far I haven’t gotten pushback on the numbers. But I also haven’t gotten far enough yet to see what the final offer would look like.

        Glassdoor salary info wasn’t directly helpful for my upcoming phone screen for the same reason you mention – the title by itself doesn’t include key words like Senior or Principal and could be entry to mid level, but the job description sounds very senior. So, I put that as a caveat to my salary expectation range (in line with senior/principal roles at that company), while Glassdoor’s provided salary estimate was significantly lower (in line with similar titles at other companies).

        Reply
        1. Rusty Shackelford

          All but one time, the recruiter put it back on me with a weak excuse like depends on experience.

          “What’s the range for this position?”
          “Depends on experience. What are your salary expectations?”
          “Depends on job duties and benefits.”

          See who cracks first! :-)

          Reply
    3. The Ginger Ginger

      Yeah, that sounds nice, but I’ve never interviewed at a place willing to do that. Though theoretically, I know they exist somewhere. When I ask I usually get hit with a super awkward silence and some generic reason why they won’t provide it. I just went through the interview process for a new role INTERNALLY, and they still wouldn’t give me a salary number until they offered me the new position. And I already work for this company!

      Given the way the OP described the job description, it’s reasonable to have expected the company to be willing to pay for that kind of experience if they’re at even close in line with the market. Even if they’re unwilling to share the salary range up front. In this case, they weren’t even in the ballpark. That’s not really on the OP.

      Reply
      1. hbc

        I think it makes *more* sense internally, because unless everyone’s job range is posted, it’s basically announcing what your new coworker makes (assuming you didn’t get the job.) It feels weird to post a job notice telling everyone on the production floor what their new supervisor is going to make, even if they can easily look it up on Indeed.

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        1. AMPG

          But I think a well-run company will have published salary bands as a best practice. They can be fairly wide bands if needed, but it’s reasonable to be able to look at a job title and know your salary is going to fall between $XXX and $YYY.

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          1. Jadelyn

            The key there is “well-run”. Unfortunately, we all know how many companies DON’T fall into that category.

            Reply
        2. Mike C.

          At my company, salary bands are published and we all have a pretty good idea of what each other makes. It works out just fine.

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          1. pandop

            Same here, I work at a UK Uni, and all jobs are graded, with a publically available salary band for that job. You might not know where someone is within their band, but you are certain that people doing the same job are paid similar amounts (longer here = more experience = higher up the band and/or discretionary points) – of course, there are issues with how a job should be graded, but that’s a different kettle of fish.

            Reply
      1. Turkletina

        Yeah, the “Well, *I* never would have had this problem” type of answer doesn’t help the OP — who did in fact have this problem — at all.

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    4. Dolorous Bread

      That doesn’t always help. I once went through a lengthy multi-interview process and reference check for a job where we aligned on salary at the outset. However, when the big boss called to offer me the job they came in a full 20K under my minimum (which would have been a pay cut), because they didn’t actually bother to open the rec beforehand and thus didn’t know the real range they could offer. I was lucky to get another offer around the same time, but I really felt like they wasted both their time and mine. They never replied to my polite decline of the offer either.

      Reply
  3. Loopy

    Does it ever make sense to talk salary before the offer stage to avoid this scenario? Is that acceptable to raise as a question (to get a range at least) in, say, a phone interview?

    Reply
    1. Long Time Reader, First Time Poster

      Of course! I just mentioned this in a comment upthread. I always say something like “I don’t want to waste anyone’s time here, before we go any further I’d like to know the salary range for this position” — I’m just not coming in to interview if we are 30K apart!

      Reply
        1. The Original K.

          I can’t stand that response. It’s a lie. There is an amount over which you will not go. You know it and I know it, so let’s just be real. Gah!

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        2. AKchic

          I cannot stand the “we don’t have a salary range” line. Of course you do. You’ve set aside a certain amount you’re willing to pay a person for the position, so you *do* have a range. You just don’t want to admit how much you’ve set aside as your maximum final offer because you want to dicker. I want to be paid what I’m worth. Hiring Manager can tell me how much they think I’m worth and if I don’t agree, I won’t dicker. I’ll move on to someone who understands my value. We don’t haggle over my value.

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        3. Oxford Coma

          I’d love to really drill down on that response. “So you don’t have a yearly budget? You have no idea what your business costs are? Is the company even making payroll? How long do you think you can operate in the red? Gosh, good luck with your bankruptcy!”

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          1. Not Myself Today

            To be fair about it, I am a hiring manager who does not have a budget. My boss (a senior director) does not have a budget, nor does her boss (a VP). The “budget” actually resides with the second VP up, who is also the head of function with a nice big budget. We are all employed by a very, very large (and fortunately very, very profitable) multi-national with some odd quirks of which this is one.

            So yes, it’s true that I don’t know the budget but no, having looked at our quarterly and annual reports for many years now, I can say with confidence that we’re making payroll and not going bankrupt.

            I’m annoyed about having no designated budget for my team, but I’m not exactly the only one – it’s odd that we’re trusted with hiring and firing authority over 50-70 people and manage literally billions of dollars worth of business but don’t have our own budgets. I agree that it’s absurd and a stupid way to run a business. How do we train people to handle the company’s money with no practice until – Voila! – on your (second) VP promotion you are magically endowed with responsibility for millions?

            However, it is actually the way it works and no, I’m not making that up.

            Now on the flip side, a company this large has a huge “catalog” of positions already leveled and approved with designated salary ranges, so the chance that there isn’t an established range is quite small – but it does exist. Every role had a “first time” to hire that role, and part of the way the range is established is looking at what we need to pay in the marketplace to get someone (qualified) to perform that role.

            If I’m the hiring manager for the first role, I can tell HR that I’ve found the candidate and need to pay 50K in salary for that great candidate – or 100K, or 150K – and that will actually establish the level for that role going forward. HR won’t be able to say much – if they had the market data to begin with, then we wouldn’t be in this position. And yes, our multi-billion dollar employer will be able to pay it.

            All of which was to say that She Looks Familiar had a point. I do understand that the reactions against her comments probably came from a place of general frustration with the perceived power imbalances between employers and job seekers which Alison just wrote about. And yes, there is bad employer behavior that should change –

            – but maybe we could consider the possibility that there may be other (ridiculous and stupid, but genuine) reasons for hearing something other than the speaker’s malicious power trip or game-playing.

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            1. Chriama

              Would you tell a job candidate who asked about your range that you didn’t have one? Or would you actually have some number in mind based on their skill level and what you know about the market rate in the community? The thing people are pushing back at isn’t the idea that you might not know what you specifically want to pay *this* potential employee. It’s the idea that it’s their responsibility to commit to your (actual) job before you decide their (actual) pay. Save the hypothetical hyperbole and address what they *actually* want to know — should I continue in this interview process or are we both just wasting our time?

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        4. SheLooksFamiliar

          Well, no, Elizabeth, we sometimes f*cking don’t. If it’s a newly created role, or if the previous employee was much more/less qualified and credentialed than the local candidate pool and not a good yardstick, or for other valid reasons that – trust me – really do exist, we don’t always have a target salary. That’s why I ask candidates what they want. Surely they must have an idea, yes? No? Then they have a bigger problem than so-called cagey employers.

          Before you get angry with me, let me assure you I have no problem sharing a range or target if I have it. I don’t want to waste my time or burn up goodwill, either. But there are times when the candidate is just going to have to work with me, not in spite of me. If they tell me what they want, I will do my best to give it to them.

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          1. CeeCee

            Honest question (and not trying to start an argument) but if you were looking to fill a newly created role, you don’t have something somewhere in your books that says “Ok, we need this role and we have x amount to spend on someone to fill it”? Wouldn’t that give you an idea of your range? Sure, if you have 70k alloted for a position, you might say your range is $45k to $65k or however you chose to range it, but overall, usually when a company creates a new position, they know how much they can spend on it.

            And sure, a stellar or horrible employee might not be a great yardstick for your new candidate, but you could form a range, say, slightly lower than the stellar employee, or slightly higher than the horrible one. It still wouldn’t just have to be a stab in the dark.

            Sure, the applicant should have an idea of the range they expect, but ultimately, as the company that would be about to start paying them, I do feel like the onus is moreso on the company to have a range.

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            1. AMPG

              Yes, and furthermore if it’s such a newly-created position that you can’t name a range, it tells me that you don’t actually know what role you want this position to fill in your organization, which is setting a new hire up to fail.

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            2. SheLooksFamiliar

              “Sure, the applicant should have an idea of the range they expect, but ultimately, as the company that would be about to start paying them, I do feel like the onus is moreso on the company to have a range.”

              I think this is a debatable point. and don’t agree the onus is on the employer. Most people know what they need to keep home and hearth together, and what they’d like to earn above that – within reason, of course.

              But to answer your question, no. Employers do not always have salary research available. Even if we do, the job market changes every. single day. If the ACA tells me in January that I should pay $50k for an Underwater Basket Weaver, that’s not going to get me a UBW in April who wants $60k, and can get it because UBWs are now in high demand. Someone once told me ‘Comp reports are out of date the moment I get my hands on them,’ which I can say is true.

              To further answer you, even if I have rigid salary bands, I can make a case to go above them for truly top talent – and let’s please not make the mistake of thinking every candidate is top talent. But when I interview someone who is more than we expected but we can see a better outcome with them, I’m going to find out what they want and do my best to get it for them. 90% of the time, I do.

              Which leads me to a final, noteworthy observation: the higher up the salary scale we go, the more open and direct candidates seem to be about their history and/or target. One person recently told me, ‘I have nothing to lose by telling you exactly where I’m coming from, and what I want.’ Yes, we went back and forth a bit, but she starts next month.

              I’m pretty sure this won’t be a well-received response, and I’m not going to debate the issue. I doubt I’ll change anyone’s thinking, but I’m hoping for acknowledgment that salary isn’t the cut and dried issue a lot of people make it out to be.

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              1. Mike C.

                Most people know what they need to keep home and hearth together, and what they’d like to earn above that – within reason, of course.

                You aren’t paying someone based on their home expenses, you’re paying them based on the value they bring to your company. Only you can determine that. I’m not taking a pay cut just because I don’t have children, and you certainly aren’t going to pay me more to get rid of student loans.

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              2. Rusty Shackelford

                I really don’t understand. If an employer has absolutely no way of knowing what a particular candidate is worth, how do you expect the candidates, who don’t have all of your research, to know? Isn’t that kind of like selling a car or a house and saying “well, what do YOU think it’s worth?”

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              3. Observer

                This really sounds like a long winded cop out. If you *really* don’t have a RANGE then you’re not doing your job, and you are most definitely losing good people, because you clearly don’t have the information you need.

                No one is saying you need an exact amount. But while flexibility is important you have to have a starting point.

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              4. Parenthetically

                “Most people know what they need to keep home and hearth together, and what they’d like to earn above that – within reason, of course.”

                I’ve survived on $15000 a year. I’d like to earn $70000. What the hell exactly does that have to do with what this specific job pays? Good lord.

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              5. Totally Minnie

                Your statement: “…let’s not make the mistake of thinking every candidate is top talent,” is rather condescending, and is in response to an idea that no one in these comments is expressing. We know that not every employee is top talent, that’s why salary ranges exist. People who are new to the field tend to get a salary closer to the low end of the range, and people with more experience and stellar references can end up at the higher end of the range. I don’t feel that any of the statements in this comment are great reasons not to include a salary range on a job posting.

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          2. Rusty Shackelford

            You mean you go to all the trouble of *interviewing* people for a position that you haven’t even set aside a budget for? Like, someone decides you guys need to add a Teapot Inspector role and you immediately start advertising and talking to people without having a *clue* how much you’re willing to pay? And then you interview people and they say “I expect $70K” and you say “well, I guess that’s how much a Teapot Inspector makes?”

            Because that seems like an odd way to do things.

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          3. Mike C.

            That’s certainly a response to a fundamental question every single candidate will need to know.

            Furthermore, how is a candidate supposed to understand just how much value they can create for your company, and how much you are willing and able to compensate for that created value?

            Reply
          4. Observer

            I find that hard to believe, to be perfectly honest. If you’re not just flying by the seat of your pants, you must have SOME idea of what your budget looks like, and some idea of how much more or less you might realistically go for someone more or less qualified than the last person (and how far you are willing to go with that.)

            Reply
            1. zora

              Yeah, this seems like a pretty bizarre company, to me, where a hiring manager could turn to HR and say “Well, I want to hire this person, so I agreed to pay her $300,000, so cut her a paycheck” without ANY restrictions on their payroll budget.

              In my current company, in order to get a position approved to hire, there has to be sign off from a few different people about how much money there is available to pay a person, both in terms of our overall annual expense budget, and our site budget. We can’t just tell the CFO one day, oh, we’re going to need $30,000 more in our budget for this year starting tomorrow, thanks! That amount of extra money isn’t just floating around waiting for something to do.

              Reply
          5. Jadelyn

            Even if you don’t have an established/published/formal range, SOMEONE has some vague idea of the general realm of what they’re willing to pay. If a candidate asked for $10m/yr, would your company be willing to pay that? No? Then someone’s got a number in mind, even if you haven’t nailed down the particulars yet.

            And if no one really, truly, genuinely, absolutely has ANY IDEA what the company could pay for the role, frankly, your company has bigger problems than filling the position will fix.

            If you don’t have the data to hand – I’ve had that problem a few times when a new job was still with the comp guy for pricing, so I do get you on that – you can at least tell the candidate that it’s in process and you’ll look into it and get back to them, rather than just brushing someone off with “we don’t have a range”. I mean, regardless of your internal reasoning for not having a range established (such as the previous EE not being a good yardstick, although that brings up the question of how you’re establishing your ranges to begin with if you’re relying on the previous occupant to the role rather than market data), if you’re not sharing that internal reasoning with the candidate, you can’t complain when they see you as just one more cagey employer playing coy. And this is not an area where job seekers are going to give companies the benefit of the doubt, simply because so many companies have jerked people around by hiding salary ranges that it’s become an expected behavior. So when you tell them you don’t have a salary range, they mentally file you under that category, and it’s not fair to expect them to be willing to extend you the benefit of the doubt considering how these sorts of things are so often mishandled.

            From the job seeker’s perspective…if it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck…sure, it *could* be a duck wind-up toy, but unless you have reason to look closely, you’re going to just assume it’s a duck. And that’s a fair assumption, and snapping defensively at people isn’t going to help change their minds.

            Reply
          6. Mad Baggins

            Do you go above what the candidate asks for, or do you let them lowball themselves because they didn’t know you’d go higher? Your system of “hope this candidate is immediately able to accurately assess their own skills, the potential value they can bring to my company, and the range for the position that my bosses will accept based on the job description” sounds like a good way to end up with illegal pay disparities.

            Reply
        5. smoke tree

          I wonder if some of these companies think that if they put off the salary discussion long enough, they’ll have won candidates over so much that they won’t even care about getting paid anymore.

          Reply
          1. hmm what?

            The real trick is to make candidates jump through so many hoops and win them over so much that they get hired somewhere else. Then the company saves money and the candidate gets a job that appreciates them. Everybody wins, yay!

            Reply
    2. Junior Dev

      I’m luckily in a position where I have options when job interviewing. I do this. I will ask about a salary range in the initial phone interview. I wish I’d been more upfront about ending the process when I didn’t get numbers in my last job search–i did call out one company that holds a lot of women in tech events, telling them that refusing to give a number is perpetuating the pay gap. If this happens again I’m planning to just say “I’m not interested in moving forward in the interview process if I don’t have a sense of how much the salary range is.”

      Reply
      1. Penny

        In my industry (nonprofits) where I live, it is sooooo common to keep salary range private until you make it to a second interview or job offer! The majority of job listings don’t list a number.

        Reply
        1. AnOh

          I also work in a non-profit (in recruitment no less) and it’s sooooo frustrating that I’m not allowed to post the salary ranges for our exempt positions. We pay below market rate and the main reason candidates don’t accept offers is due to a low salary and yet this still isn’t enough for them to change their mind. We even had an internal candidate ask about the range of a new position and I was only allowed to say that it would be an increase from their current rate, couldn’t give them a number.

          Reply
          1. College Career Counselor

            I hear you on the frustration. I’ve asked on a number of searches if we could disclose the range for the position, and generally I’m told “no” without more explanation. But, I’m not in recruiting, so I’m curious if there is a reason given by your boss/the company for this practice (other than habit/tradition that the first party to name a number loses). If not, I’m assuming it’s because:

            a) we want the applicant to low-ball him/herself to save as much money as possible
            and/or
            b) we can’t afford to pay market rate, so we need to win people over with the culture/mission so that they’ll accept less when we make the offer

            Along with other commenters, I’ve very much appreciated it when the recruiter mentions the salary during the screening process. Unfortunately, it’s all too rare. I think I can recall it happening exactly twice to me in the many screening calls I’ve had in the last 20+ years. For what it’s worth, one time I went forward and one time I declined (would have been a 20% pay cut essentially for a lateral move)

            Reply
        2. Michaela Westen

          I’ve seen enough non-profits using their status as an excuse for low pay that I wouldn’t apply at one anyway – but if I did and they didn’t give me a range when I asked for it, bye-bye.

          Reply
    3. Not Today Satan

      Almost always I (as the candidate) have to bring it up, but no one has ever been offended when I have. I’ve also always gotten a response for the range, which is very helpful. (I usually ask, “Would you mind sharing the salary range for this position?” either as a response to my salary requirement, or unprompted.)

      Reply
      1. A Cita

        Satan: Not today? This is the third time you’ve canceled this month.

        *scrolls through calendar*

        Satan: Does Friday work?

        Reply
    4. The Ginger Ginger

      I always try, but I’ve never had it work out. Usually I just get “we’re in line with market rates” after a very awkward pause. Maybe some day, I will interview for an employer who doesn’t lock salary range down like a state secret.

      Reply
  4. Snarkus Aurelius

    “The hiring manager ended up trying to get them to expand the salary rage to at least come cose to what I wanted, because my skillset was exactly what she was looking for, but HR wouldn’t budge…”

    My hunch is that this company will start complaining about a skills shortage or skills deficit because they can’t find qualified people to take the job.

    That reminds me of Silicon Valley companies that claim they can’t find qualified Americans to fill tech jobs. No, it’s because those companies can’t find Americans who will work for poverty wages in a city that has one of the highest costs of living in the country.

    Reply
    1. Uncle T

      What’s funny is just how skewed the cost of living is there it’s like another country. You couldn’t get me to live there for $200k. Even with that I’d be in a 1-2 bedroom apartment.

      Reply
      1. Antilles

        Based on what I’ve heard from friends who live there, it’s even worse if you’re trying to purchase a place. No matter how small and crummy the condo is, the housing market is so insane that you have to essentially show up to the open house with a large suitcase of cash to even have a realistic shot at getting it.

        Reply
        1. Elizabeth West

          If you’re talking about SF, I have a friend who lives there and he kept saying “Move here!” Dude, you live in ONE room with your husband and three cats. And I don’t even know how they manage that! I’d be lucky to get a garden shed or a corner of somebody’s garage.

          Reply
        2. Kat G., Ph.D.

          Bay Area resident here (but not for much longer!), can confirm. My husband and I were recently house-hunting on Long Island, NY, and people kept telling us that it was a competitive market…we just laughed. Nearly everyone I know who has purchased a (tiny, outdated, overpriced) condo in the Bay Area has (a) paid 20% over asking price, and (b) either put in an offer the same day the place goes on the market, or gotten a tip that it was about to go on the market and put an offer privately. I know several people who purchased homes or condos without even stepping foot in them. It. Is. INSANE.

          Reply
          1. The Original K.

            My best friend’s brother and soon-to-be-ex-wife live in the Bay Area and are getting divorced. They contemplated divorcing but continuing to live together in their rental because the prospect of running two households in such an expensive area was too daunting, and the stuff they’re looking at separately is pretty crappy (and it’s all rentals, they’ve never owned). The divorce is pretty acrimonious though, so they knew they had to live apart for their kids’ sake.

            Reply
          2. Nesprin

            People come to open houses in the bay area with their inspectors so they can put in early, no contingency offers.

            Reply
    2. Antilles

      If you can’t find someone to take your job, there’s a 100% chance that you’re doing something completely out of line with industry standards for the position – typically either your offered salary is way too low or you’re expecting a skillset that’s far above what applicants for the role would have.
      This is one of those situations where the old truism of “what’s the common denominator in all your failures? you” fits right in.

      Reply
      1. Ceiswyn

        Exactly.

        Entertainingly, it was when I ws trying to hire a replacement for myself (I was going back to grad school) that I realised that, rather than being overpaid as I’d thought (I was being paid well above the average for my profession), I was actually being well underpaid for the skillset I have and the responsibility I held…

        Reply
    3. Dankar

      Not that this solves the issue of companies outsourcing duties outside the US, but the H1-B visa–the most common work visa in tech–has a $60k (perhaps soon to be $130k) salary requirement attached to it.

      That might be well under market rate in Silicon Valley, but elsewhere, that requirement does an excellent job of preventing that kind of abuse. I don’t like the implicit suggestion that immigrant workers are essentially cutting Americans out of jobs by willing to work poverty wages. It’s rarely that simple.

      Reply
      1. Kyrielle

        I’m not sure that they could find immigrant workers willing to work for those wages either, but $60k IS poverty wages there. $130k isn’t horrible, but it’s not spectacular either. To quote an article from about a year ago (will link in a reply to myself):

        In the high-priced Bay Area, even some households that bring in six figures a year can now be considered “low income.”

        That’s according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which recently released its 2017 income limits — a threshold that determines who can qualify for affordable and subsidized housing programs such as Section 8 vouchers.

        Reply
        1. Arielle

          Yeah, we’re a low-six-figure household of two working adults and a dog in the Boston area. I wouldn’t call us low income but we rent an apartment in the suburbs because we can’t afford to live in Boston, Cambridge, or Somerville, and we can’t afford to buy a house anywhere.

          Reply
          1. Who the eff is Hank?

            My husband and I just moved out of Boston. We were also making low-six-figures combined and were just staying afloat. Now we have the ability to save more, and soon hopefully travel more!

            Reply
          2. Gazebo Slayer

            I’ve lived in Boston for years and never made more than mid-30s.

            To qualify for “affordable” housing you have to make MORE than I do.

            I lucked into an extremely cheap (relatively speaking) apartment, but if my rent ever goes up significantly I am in trouble.

            Reply
          3. Julianne

            Same (minus the dog). We are just starting the house hunting process and I am not looking forward to what I expect will be an ultimately fruitless, six-month continuous anxiety attack. (To make it more fun, I am tied to my in-person, non-flex job in the city; leaving my job would mean taking a minimum 30% pay cut, which would only put housing further out of reach.)

            Reply
        2. paul

          This really makes me wonder WTF is so wonderful about basing yourself in silicon valley. Try St. Louis. Or Amarillo. Or Corpus Christi. Or Pueblo. Or Farmington. Someplace where 100k is damn good money basically.

          Reply
          1. AdamsOffOx

            Phoenix or Buffalo!

            Both places where you can buy a perfectly good house (though in a sketchy neighborhood) for $25,000. No, I didn’t forget a zero.

            Reply
          2. catsaway

            Because it’s probably hard to attract enough talent, if you’re looking for a specialized skill, when you’re the only game in town unless you’re a large company. I’m not going to move to a city of 100k (size of Pueblo CO) for a job unless the company almost has government like stability, i.e. is very large and well established.

            Reply
            1. Michaela Westen

              Yes that reminds me of one of the reasons I came to the big city. I grew up in a fundamentalist midwestern city of 200k and decent jobs were few. It was factory or retail, and the factories had big layoffs every few years. Fun! :p
              This was decades ago, I doubt if their economy is factory-based anymore.

              Reply
        3. Dankar

          I don’t think they could, either. In my experience, people on H1-Bs are also looking for jobs in the six-figure range out that way, because they know that’s what they’ll need to survive. That’s why I specified that the $60k minimum works excellently elsewhere.

          I just wanted to make the point that foreign tech workers are not some drone labor that will work for whatever is offered to them, and that companies do have minimum salary requirements. They’re a population that I work with, tangentially, and the visa requirements/application process are SO misunderstood. I’ll admit that it’s a topic that raises my hackles.

          Reply
        4. Biff

          When I lived in the bay, my household brought home about 170k a year and we were definitely treading water as the very lower end of middle class. I don’t know how the service industry survived.

          Reply
        5. Jane

          I have a family member who lives and works in the Silicone Valley. He makes ~$80,000 a year. He lives in a van.

          Reply
      2. Mike C.

        The way to abuse that is to simply make them work some combination of more days/week or more hours/day. $60k puts them directly in the salaried category, and I saw this first hand at my previous job. 6-7 days/week, 10+ hours/day.

        Reply
        1. A Nickname for AAM

          My national employer wrote a multi-page position paper to the Department of Labor arguing against raising the salary of managers to be considered exempt. It had exactly one good point, which was that they do a lot of work in rural and poor neighborhoods where a salary of $52,000 would not be feasible for anyone in an entry-level salaried position.

          The rest was about how it cost too much money to pay their salaried employees correctly and that making formerly salaried people punch in and out would hurt their feelings and damage their self-esteem. And yes, they are one that spends a ton of time abusing people’s time, paying someone $35,000 for 40 hours and working them 60.

          Reply
    4. Former Employee

      I keep hearing about how the people who are from overseas and come here on HB1 work visas are being paid much less than Americans. Except that these people live in the same area. How can they afford it on poverty wages? The industry people say that there is a shortage of qualified American tech workers and that’s why they need to hire people through the HB1 visa program.

      I think this could be a great research project. Are there qualified Americans being turned away in favor of lower paid foreign workers or is there a shortage of American workers qualified to do certain jobs?

      Reply
  5. DivineMissL

    The same thing happened to me a while back. I answered an ad that asked me for my salary requirements, so I gave them a range that was a little above what I was making at the time. During interview #1, they asked me about it, and said that was a little higher than what they planned to pay; but it wasn’t until after interview #3 that they told me what their real range was ($23k less than the low end of my range). I was very annoyed to have wasted three half-days of PTO to find out they were nowhere near the range I had given them at the outset (plus the other benefits were worse than what I already had). I really wanted to let them have it, but I didn’t want to burn any bridges going forward. *sigh*

    Reply
    1. Specialk9

      What bridges are you burning? Haven’t *they* burned a bridge with you? Are you ever applying there again, after they burned you by being so disrespectful of your stated range?

      Reply
      1. einahpets

        I can’t speak for DivineMissL, but in my industry there are a lot of people who stay at a company a few years and then go to another company. So, even if one company low-balled me in terms of salary, I’d definitely like to keep the good impression that got me the job offer, if only because the hiring manager there might be somewhere else soon enough looking to hire again.

        Reply
        1. DivineMissL

          This. It’s an industry where a lot of people move around to different places within the same industry, so frequently I’ll run into people who I know from other places. In fact, right after I interviewed, the hiring manager ended up taking a position elsewhere.

          Reply
      2. Antilles

        You’re technically right, but being professional and calm in your withdrawal is really the way to go. There’s no real upside to telling them off and potentially some big downsides:
        >The absolute most satisfaction you’d get would be a half-hearted quasi-apology about “oh, well, sorry we couldn’t work this out”. And that’s at best; there’s a fairly good chance that any company which didn’t value your time enough to let you know about a $23k pay gap would just shrug it off and not even give you that fleeting satisfaction.
        >But doing so will absolutely close some doors. Maybe you’d run into them at a different company, maybe they vent to a colleague about the unprofessional jerk, maybe there’s a future job in a different department/branch of the company which is better run.

        Reply
        1. Mike C.

          You can be calm and inform someone that they’ve wasted your time at the same time. The OP gives a great example of this.

          Reply
          1. Antilles

            Yes, you can. But being professional and calmly assertive is not nearly the same as “letting them have it”. And even though you might not care about burning the bridge of *this* opportunity by giving them a piece of your mind about where they can shove this insulting lowball offer, there’s good reason to not do that and instead be polite and professional even while withdrawing the offer and telling them exactly why.

            Reply
    2. Kitty

      Wow. In what world would they think you’d accept a salary THAT far below your stated range? They’re pretty foolish and wasting their own time as well as yours.

      Reply
  6. MusicWithRocksInIt

    Man, this reminds me of a job interview on once that enraged me. I filled out their (very, very long) online application twice, because after the first time they emailed me and said part of the position description had changed and if I was still interested I would have to re-apply. Both times I included my expected salary range. I do a brief phone interview and schedule an in-person interview which will take place at a hotel attached to the airport. So I drive out there, pay the very expensive airport parking rate, walk the very long distance between the airport parking and hotel and end up waiting an extra half an hour for the interview. All fine if there is a possible good job in all this. Then they call me in and very first thing tell me that the salary of this position is very low (just above minimum wage) and am I still interested in going forward with the interview? I wanted to hulk out on them. So they are fine wasting allll of my time by calling me out to this interview when they have my salary requirements right in front of them and they could have asked this on the phone interview – but they don’t want me to waste theirs by taking up their interviewing time when I might back out once I know the salary range? I was furious. And I told them, no that will not be a problem and went ahead with the interview. Interviewing has always been a weak place for me so I figured I could use the practice and I might as well waste their time while I was at it. It was petty of me and I do not regret it at all.

    Reply
    1. Irene Adler

      I would have done the same thing. Take the interview. See what other shortcomings they might have (outmoded dress code, or no PTO until you’ve worked a year or two, benefits you get to pay for, etc.).

      Reply
    2. John B Public

      I hope you reviewed them and put the salary in Glassdoor. Maybe save some other person time, and/or get this feedback to the company anonymously.

      Reply
  7. beanie beans

    This is so close to what I’m going through right now with a position. They had given me an acceptable range in the first screening interview, but after we wrapped up the (also cancelled and rescheduled) in-person interview, we were discussing “standard HR stuff” and she said she’d push for the higher end of their range, gave me the range, and it was $15K lower than the range the HR screener had given me. YIKES.

    Reply
      1. beanie beans

        nep, this is the same one that you helped me with during the open questions on Friday! The red flags are getting overwhelming!

        Reply
    1. Who the eff is Hank?

      This happened to me as well. I gave my range during a phone interview and was told that was in line with what they were looking at. When I got the offer, they were $20k below the bottom of my range, with no health insurance and 5 PTO/sick (combined) days. I was so mad.

      Reply
      1. WellRed

        How do companies in this day think they can be even remotely attractive without even a craptastic health plan?

        Reply
      2. beanie beans

        I’m tempted to ask if it’s the same company! Although theirs was 10 days combined PTO sick days, which is still pretty bad compared with what I’ve got now. ARGH!

        Reply
      3. Kitty

        I just… can’t understand how these companies can be so (stupid? arrogant?) to think someone would accept a job THAT far below their stated range. WTAF.

        Reply
      4. Michaela Westen

        I think it’s because they want to take advantage of people. The only people who accept their jobs are desperate and don’t stay long, and that’s how they want it. Greedy selfish monsters!

        Reply
  8. Gene Parmesan

    I think I’ve posted this story before in a comment, but it’s relevant here.

    I applied for a pretty high-level position at our department of education in my state. I did not end up getting offered the position, but apparently I impressed one of the assistant commissioners in the interview, and he called me a few days later asking me to apply for an opening in his division. They were looking for someone with fairly specialized technical skills. I got the offer, and the salary was less than half that of the first job. I really felt insulted, because I have a PhD and can do the econometric modeling they were looking for, and the market value for that is much higher than what they were offering. I politely declined the offer and told them why.

    Reply
  9. Call centre worker

    Whenever I’ve seen a job advertised with no salary range, that has been enough to put me off even applying. I suppose if it looked like a particularly good opportunity I might contact them to ask before applying but I’ve never actually done so. I find it pretty disrespectful to expect candidates to guess or waste time applying. I’m sure there are industries/types of job in which it’s appropriate, like very high level jobs, but I would expect for most jobs they should have a range in mind so why not tell us what it is?

    Reply
  10. Serin

    Back when I was applying for admin work, I got to the end of an interview and was told what the pay would be and was so startled that I burst out, “That’s less than the temp service is paying me!”

    The nun who was interviewing me (it was a position at a Catholic-run retreat center) said frostily, “Then there is no point in proceeding.”

    I suppose she was probably working in exchange for room and board, but some of us haven’t donated our lives to a cause and are hoping to be paid for our labor.

    Reply
    1. Q

      That happened to a guy I used to work with! He was temping with us and I pushed for him to be hired on because he was great. I knew they had recently cut the starting salary for the position but I had no idea how low until I overheard him on the phone with HR and he said (much the same way I ma thinking you did) “I’m making more as temp.”

      Sadly for me he was gone within two weeks but good for him because he got a good offer from somewhere else.

      Reply
      1. Bea

        It makes no sense to not know how much your temps are making. That’s such an accounting and HR duplicate blunder.

        Reply
      2. Pinky

        Something like this happened at my previous job. We had a temp and her department was looking to bring someone into the role in a permanent capacity. She applied for the job because she was doing well in it as a temp, but when they offered it to her, it was for $10K less than she was making as a temp. Their reasoning was that they’d make up the difference in benefits (mainly health insurance) but she was still on her parents’ health plan at the time and had no intention of switching, so for her that made no sense. She found a better job pretty quickly afterward.

        Reply
        1. Chriama

          Quite frankly it’s bs on their part because they were probably paying the agency more anyways. An employee’s benefits and stuff can cost 50% more than their salary but I bet a temp agency is paying less than 67% of their rate to the employee.

          Reply
    2. Wee

      Catholic run institutions almost always pay notoriously low wages except for the secular higher ups. Schools, hospitals, non-profits it’s the norm. At least in America. For so long they ran off the nearly free labor of nuns. But as the nun ranks decreased they had to start hiring people. And they just don’t want to pay.

      Reply
      1. aes_sidhe

        The secular higher ups have to donate the money they’re laid back into the church. The nun that runs the huge Catholic hospital in my state is paid $1.5M, but she has to donate it back to the church. I only know that because my mom worked as a housekeeper/personal chef to the parish priest for my city when she was winding down her career before retirement. They talked about all kinds of stuff as if she’d suddenly become deaf.

        Reply
        1. SS Express

          I can see why a nun or a priest would have to donate their salary back to the church, but why would a secular exec a) be required to or b) agree to that? Are they essentially just people who want to volunteer?

          Reply
    3. Michaela Westen

      I temped for 5 years straight in the 90’s because it paid better than the “permanent” jobs.
      I had this happen more than once, applied for a job and the offer was so low I turned it down.
      “We pay starvation wage, but benefits!” I was single, childless and didn’t use much medical care.
      This was also when I started to realize how predatory businesses are. I saw several examples of rich companies that paid their executives millions while their receptionists, secretaries, clerks were barely above minimum wage, and using benefits to help take advantage of parents (especially single mothers) who needed them for their children. :(

      Reply
  11. Katniss

    I really do not understand why employers can’t just list their salary ranges in the job posting and/or upon initial contact. I’ve heard tons of excuses for why they don’t but none of them hold water.

    Reply
  12. Q

    I had a similar experience. In the phone screen they asked my expected salary and I truthfully told them my lowest acceptable amount X. They set up a phone interview and then an in person interview, both of which I had to use PTO to partake in. At the end of the in person interview I am again asked for my salary requirements and I state the same exact number X. She tells me thats really too far about their range and the best she can do it X – $15,000. I managed to keep my cool in the moment but I was furious they had wasted my time like that.

    Reply
  13. Grizzzzzelda

    I’ve never heard of people not being aware of the salary range before the offer.

    In fact, the first thing I say during my initial phone screens with candidates is “The band for this position is $X to $Y, does it make sense to continue our conversation?”

    Too often, if this question isn’t asked, I’d set up interviews for people who’d come in wanting 30K+ what the position offered- wasting their time and the time of the hiring managers.

    When I was job searching, “what is the range for this position” was also a question I frequently asked…albeit not during the phone screen, but at the very least in the interview before the offer was even made.

    I am just flabbergasted. Sorry OP, not trying to blame you, the other things the company did were crappy.

    Reply
    1. Reba

      “never heard of people not being aware”

      New here? ;)

      It’s great to read that you are doing things transparently when you hire!

      Reply
    2. LawLady

      And honestly, depending on position/industry, I’d say that if you’re screening for best people, you’re actually extra likely to only interview people who are above your range. I can imagine a number of jobs where the title and description might describe a lower level role or a higher level role. If the employer has the budget for an inexperienced teapot designer, but doesn’t indicate a salary range and applicants with a wide variety of experience apply, the hiring manager is likely to select for interview those people with more design experience, and thus likely accidentally only interview those who won’t consider the job.

      Reply
  14. Interviewing Hell

    I unfortunately had a similar situation recently. In the initial phone interview they asked for my range. There were then 2 in-person interviews, they checked my references, etc. Then they had the EA email me an offer that was roughly $10k below the range I had provided. I responded and said I was surprised that the offer was so far below the range I had provided. One of the owners called me to discuss and agreed to come up $8k and told me it was a blessing to work for their clients. I turned down the offer.

    1. If you are going to offer something so far below someone’s range, be upfront at the beginning of the process (I would have opted out then) and/or call them before sending the offer to discuss.
    2. They were a for-profit IT firm. If it was a non-profit or there were amazing benefits I would have been a little more understanding about the pay difference.
    3. My landlord doesn’t accept blessings.

    Reply
    1. einahpets

      I hear you!

      One of my old jobs paid terribly, but they tried to up-sell themselves on the great flexibility and the fact that we were doing great things for our clients + patients!

      Both of those things were true, they were doing great things and did have good flexibility in terms of the ability to work from home and work flexible hours.

      But my current company has those same benefits, and does pay market rate for my position. It is not just about money, but honestly I have a mortgage, bills, a spouse with a chronic condition that will require substantial medical costs for his entire life, two kids who may go to college one day, and a general hope that I’ll be able to retire before I’m 70. My former boss was trying to convince me to come back, but they can’t pay me anything comparable. They are having difficulty with retention, and the answer seems obvious to me…

      Reply
        1. DecorativeCacti

          I will start believing in Jesus and pray to him nightly if my mortgage company takes thoughts and prayers.

          Reply
          1. Amber T

            I once had a dream that snuggling and petting my cat helped pay my mortgage off. I’m still trying to figure out how to make that work.

            Reply
    2. Bea

      They have a real low scale for what a blessing is, what a joke. And then coming up 8k but not budging to your lowest amount just 2k more, what idiots! They were lowballing and popping off at the mouth, I’m certain they’re just cheap asses.

      Reply
    3. The New Wanderer

      It’s only a blessing if the clients chip in the $2+ grand to come up to a reasonable starting salary.

      You just know if the would-be boss talks about how it’s a blessing to work for clients, it will soon be “a blessing you still have a job, so work harder!”

      Reply
    4. Chriama

      Anyone trying to tell you that something is a blessing when they want *you* to do something for *them* is a disgrace. It’s like someone telling you “it’s better to give than to receive” as an argument to convince you to give them something.

      Reply
  15. Hiring Mgr

    I would never spend a day meeting with a company without at least having an idea of the salary range. This sort of thing would always be discussed either in an initial phone screen, or in an early stage email exchange before setting up an interview.

    Maybe it’s unique to my industry, but it makes zero sense to me that this isn’t the standard way of doing things. (For both sides–why would anyone want to waste time?)

    Reply
  16. L

    Perhaps there IS something to be said for the burger-flipping end of the scale: minimum wage is minimum wage and there is never any doubt about salary.

    Reply
    1. boop the first

      Ha! This is what I was thinking. Any move I make is a lateral move, and if the wage is slightly higher, it’s a pleasant surprise so keep a poker face on!

      Reply
  17. rubyrose

    I had something similar occur once, but I had not invested the time.

    The job description pointed to someone with a senior level skill set. On the phone screen I asked what the salary range was and they gave me something that was a third under what it needed to be. I stifled a laugh and said “I think you are looking for someone with less experience than I have. Good luck in your search.” About six weeks later they contacted me, told me they had increased the pay range to something in my range, and asked if I was interested.

    Reply
    1. Letter Writer

      I wonder if this is a result of finally seeing the economy recovering. A few months ago, a recruiter asked me if I’d be interested in interviewing for a position that seemed junior to what I’m doing now. I asked her about it, and she said it was in fact junior, but that this client kept turning down everyone with less experience and that the client actually wanted was someone with more/specialized experience, they just didn’t want to pay for it. She wanted to see if presenting them with a candidate with the experience they were looking for would make them become more reasonable on their salary allowance. I wonder if companies are still used to being able to ask for the moon on lower to mid-level positions and get it.

      (I did end up doing a phone interview with that company because they also said they were looking to promote this person very quickly. Turns out they essentially wanted a more experienced person “in the bullpen” to move up because they were expanding rapidly and knew they’d need another person in the higher role pretty quickly–they just weren’t willing to pay for the higher level work until it was actually available. Which makes sense, but…why not just hire the positions separately at that point?)

      Reply
      1. KX

        We have had a position open at CurrentJob for months. Every once in a while, we interview someone. The most recent person turned down the offer (and we don’t know officially know why). I expressed surprise that we are interviewing so few people. The hiring manager said that there are plenty of resumes from people who COULD do the job perfectly well, but they were looking for people who could do the job and would also want to do more than the job, like participate in undefined, potential future projects that might require additional knowledge or skills. The people who could do more than the job are probably applying for jobs that give them more to do (and pay them for it) and so the work in the office is just piling up.

        Reply
      2. rubyrose

        Actually, this was in 2006!
        The company was in a town where people with my skill set were not readily available. They were accustomed to trying to grow people from within, with little success. They also had an inflated sense of their company.

        Reply
  18. A Person

    I’ve had more than one experience where they posted a salary range for a position that was acceptable if the offer was in the middle of the range or higher, only to find out at the interview that there was a mistake in the upper range posted or they were only hiring at the minimum salary regardless of experience.

    It’s frustrating when you can’t even count on the posted range to be accurate but I always appreciate it when they proactively let me know during the first call so I can decide if I want to proceed!

    I have learned to always confirm the starting pay range before taking time off for an in person interview. Maybe this used to be a deadly sin, but no one has given me a problem about it.

    Reply
  19. Totally Minnie

    This is one of the things I love about public sector work. Since our jobs are taxpayer funded, salary ranges for all of our positions are listed on the municipality’s website and included in all job postings.

    Reply
    1. puzzld

      Yep. My first real job was for the city. My name and what I was paid was listed in the newspaper.
      The state job I have now? We have a website. You can search any position / person and find out what the salary is and the handbook with the benefits is linked there too. We post a salary range when we are hiring and are really transparent about the fact that the range is the range and movement in the range is based on education & experience.

      Reply
    2. Government worker

      Yes, except we advertise a range even though it’s official policy to only offer the bottom 25% of that range. I mean, it’s great that we tell people ahead of time that the range is $40-$47K. But if we have no intention of offering more than $42K, it seems misleading to provide a wider “range.”

      Reply
      1. Totally Minnie

        Our job postings list the range and say that new hires will begin below the range’s midpoint, so at least applicants will have a heads-up.

        Reply
    3. Brett

      That ended up being a really awful curse for me when I tried to leave the public sector. Potential employers kept looking up my salary and assuming that was a good salary for a role in my specialized industry. I had one incident where I was chastised for asking for a salary so far above what I was currently making. “Um, you looked up my salary? You understand that one of the reasons I am considering leaving is that I am extremely far below market rate.” (Turns out they wanted to pay even farther below market rate, according to the person who did they did hire who left 3 months later.)

      Reply
    4. WeevilWobble

      This used to be the case for my, also public sector, job. But lately I’ve been seeing a lot of postings that have “salary commensurate with experience.” I don’t know how they get away with that.

      Reply
    5. Aaaaaaanon.

      In my corner of the public sector (Canadian public post-secondary institutions), some orgs don’t bother to post salary ranges, especially when they’re hiring for a position that isn’t part of a bargaining group. Even Crown agencies are hit or miss in terms of posting salary ranges.

      Reply
    6. Julianne

      Or working in a unionized position where the salary scale is easily searchable online! I already knew what my salary offer would be before even applying to jobs, because we don’t have ranges for my job classification; just find the intersection of education and years of experience, and there’s how much they’ll offer you.

      Reply
  20. nep

    I really liked the way an employer handled pay recently. There was an ‘e-mail screen’ of sorts, in which someone at the organisation sent candidates a note explaining a bit more about hours and gave the pay range. Ended the mail with: ‘Does this sound like something you’d be interested in?’
    From there an interview was scheduled. Seems to me it’s in everyone’s interest for the employer to put such information out there at that point, before anyone has invested more time and energy.

    Reply
    1. Jules the 3rd

      It is in everyone’s interest, if you look at a job hunt as ‘two entities with similar power trying to see if they can come to a mutually beneficial arrangement.’

      It is not if you look at it as ’employer trying to get labor as for as little pay as possible because they think that means they’re getting their labor more cheaply.’

      Some people do not understand ‘you get what you pay for’ and ‘the long view’. Also, the power differential can vary a lot over time or in different areas – SF coders have a great shot at those 6 figure salaries, right now, but in 2003 they didn’t. Finance people seem to be hot again, but 2009 / 2010, finance employees had no leverage. Pun intended. Bosses set policies in lean times that become encoded into the company genes even when they don’t make sense anymore, and the business cycle isn’t long enough to shift the balance quickly.

      Reply
        1. nep

          (But point taken — I get it. What makes sense for employer today might not down the line, but sometimes employer’s got to do what works right now.)

          Reply
  21. Master Bean Counter

    This brings back memories. I had not one but two interviews with a local accounting firm. They asked my desired salary range at the first interview. I told them between x and y depending on benefits. I figured they had no problem with it, as they called me in for a second interview. Then the offer came, x-20% and terrible benefits. This was on the phone. I asked them to repeat what they said. Surely I didn’t hear something right. Nope. I told them I hoped they understand that they were 20% under my minimum and I couldn’t accept their offer. They seemed genuinely shocked.
    Shortly after that I interviews for another local firm. That interview ended with them not sure if they could even put together a reasonable offer, but they would get back to me. They never did. The guy I interviewed with is my companies external CPA now. The first few meetings were awkward.
    Anyway as I am in the same profession as these interviewers I often attend a monthly luncheon with many of them. They complain over and over that they just can’t find qualified candidates in the area. I sit there smiling.

    Reply
    1. Jules the 3rd

      That is the problem I have every time I hear the ‘we need to align schools with businesses’ and ‘we can’t find qualified employees’. Pay more and employees will come. Those employers just want to increase the supply so much that they don’t have to pay more.

      Reply
    2. Irene Adler

      I’d love to ask these folks what all they are doing (and considering doing) to procure qualified candidates.

      Reply
      1. Master Bean Counter

        Mostly they want the noobs straight out of school and freshly certified that just don’t know any better.

        Reply
        1. Bea

          Which is all fine and dandy only after they get their feet wet, they jump on over to somewhere that pays 20+% more. Piss poor retention method but at least new grads have a place to start out with.

          Reply
          1. Irene Adler

            So I gather that the high turnover rate -which can cost a company serious $- is okay with such an employer? Such thinking really amazes me.

            Reply
          2. Chriama

            To be fair, that can be a valid business model. I’m thinking of those huge accounting firms that hire an incoming class of graduates every year. You stay with the company for 4-5 years to get your CPA and some experience, then you either move up into manager/partner level in the firm or you leave and get into private practice.

            In your case it sounds like they just don’t want to pay market rate, and that can be a problem with professional sole proprietors (I’m thinking of lawyers who want a paralegal for the price of an entry level admin assistant, or dentists/doctors, etc). It’s fine to hire someone unskilled and pay them less, but either you pay them more as they become more qualified or you deal with the revolving door of entry level trainees. Either way, you can’t escape the requirement of paying people according to their actual qualifications.

            Reply
  22. Lenny Sanders

    Even asking the salary range upfront doesn’t always work. I had an internal recruiter contact me about a position and I made it clear that I needed a certain salary, it wasn’t even a range I told her the exact number. She said she would check with the hiring manager. Called me back the next day and said that wouldnt be a problem and they liked my background. I went for an interview the next week which went great and they made me an offer 3 days later for 20K less than what i requested. I wish I could have billed them for my day off.

    Reply
    1. Rusty Shackelford

      I want you to accept the offer and then say “But of course, I’m only working 30 hours a week. I mean, if you’re offering less than my required salary, you must be offering less than full-time work, right?”

      Reply
    2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

      Lenny, I was once lured into a situation by a headhunter – who lied to me about the range – and also lied to the employer about what I was willing to work for. It was explained to me, by the headhunter, that it was a position that used my skills – was geared to my computer specialty.

      I get there and it turned out to be a clerical job. And paid nowhere near what I had been told. The hiring manager was upset (not with me), and so was I.

      Recruiters will do anything to get you in the door. The honest/ethical ones will do the right thing, but many in my day didn’t.

      Reply
    3. Chriama

      If you ever feel professionally safe to do so, call them out on it. As in, “I’m surprised. When we spoke, I told you that I absolutely couldn’t leave for less than $x and it didn’t make sense for us to keep talking if that was out of your range. Your offer was for 20k less, which is pretty significant. What happened?”

      They’ll probably bluster about how they couldn’t get approved for more or benefits or something, but you can say “Well, I was pretty clear about that salary being my bottom number and I wouldn’t have continued in this interview process had I known we were so far apart in expectations so I’m a little disappointed. Anyway, best of luck in finding the right candidate.”

      The point of forcing the uncomfortable conversation is to make them realize that this game does not work. Not all candidates will be so invested in the job that they will ignore their previously stated requirements. And if it was a mistake/miscommunication on their part or they got overruled by someone, they know what not to do next time and have evidence if someone tries to overrule them again.

      Reply
  23. Ursula

    I really wonder how this type of thing (pay that’s ludicrously low) even happens. I was once got an email from a recruiter for a temp position that was exactly my field – and offered half the pay of what they should be given the job requirements. The best part was that they later sent a follow up email saying “please don’t reply unless you have all of the requirements listed!” I almost replied back to tell them that the reason they’re not getting people with the experience they want is that they’re offering half of what they should be in pay. But this email came from a recruiting agency. Even if their client doesn’t know how to price a job properly, they certainly should!

    Reply
    1. Cedrus Libani

      Some people just want to put butts in seats as cheaply as possible. It’s shortsighted, but common.

      I once interviewed at a place where they’d hired some poor kid fresh out of college to do a job…when the person they needed was a PhD with at least a decade’s experience. Said kid was in way over his head, and knew it. He’d finally managed to convince the higher-ups to hire someone else to supervise him.

      At the end of the interview, they asked my salary expectations. I told the truth – as per my research, market rate for someone at my level is $X. But frankly, the person you need is me in fifteen years, not me today. So I’ll do it for 90% of X.

      They looked at me like I’d asked for three firstborn children and a llama. That was still way above their range. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that they basically needed to add a zero to their range in order to get someone qualified.

      I had another interview that week, for a role at my actual level. HR asked, I said $X. Hiring manager asked, I said $X. Hiring manager sighed. “You already told HR that, didn’t you? Don’t worry, I’ll fix it.” I got an offer for $X + 30%. And took it.

      Reply
  24. Czhorat

    QUestion: what do you feel you have to gain by going back to them to complain about it? I understand your frustration, but there’s really no way in which you’d be better off after speaking to them then you are now.

    As much as it hurts, I’d probably let it drop.

    Reply
    1. Letter Writer

      Because a) it might save someone else from going through my same frustration and b) while I do think they bungled the hiring process, the team otherwise seemed like a good one, and I really do wish them the best in their search–if I can provide feedback that assists with that, I will.

      Reply
    2. Beth Jacobs

      I think it matters that the offer was so below market rate; less than for call centre work. If OP had scoffed at a mid-range salary, the hiring manager might remember her as a bit demanding.

      But since they’re paying half of what they should be, they’ll have to realise OP was right once all the other candidates turn down the offer as well. And they should be thankful OP was honest with them about why. Of course, not all hiring managers are reasonable, but it’s unlikely they’ll be so unreasonable as to hold it against her at some point in the future.

      Reply
  25. Just another voice in the echo chamber

    I feel like you’d be doing the entire world of working people a favor by doing this OP, as should we all in solidarity.

    Reply
  26. Argh!

    The place to show annoyance is here on AMA, or talking to your friends. You never know who you will encounter later in life. You don’t want to be that scum who dissed us when you apply for PerfectJob at PerfectPlace and your hiring manager happens to be that person you dissed in 2018.

    Reply
    1. Letter Writer

      I’m unsure where you got the idea that I want to “dis” anybody or why you think that doing so would make me “scum”, but I can assure you that neither is the case.

      Reply
      1. Argh!

        People can be judgmental and harsh, and when you’re dealing with someone you don’t expect to see again, you have no way of knowing what they’ll be thinking. If they get no pushback at all from applicants and then you say something, you’ll stick out in their mind. It’s entirely possible that 5 years from now they remember things entirely differently from the way you meant them.

        I wouldn’t say anything at all. Just move on. Leave a neutral or positive impression as you go.

        Reply
    2. Kathletta

      Wow scum is really harsh!

      Even though most of us don’t agree with not revealing salary early on, I don’t think anyone is seriously suggesting OP “diss” them, just give polite feedback on their hiring process.

      Reply
      1. Argh!

        I meant that in the mind of the hiring official, not my opinion. People can have long memories for unpleasant experiences, and they won’t remember the things you say they way you meant them.

        Reply
    3. WellRed

      My kindest assessment is there is a language barrier here on which Argh! Isn’t clear on how “scum” translates.

      Reply
      1. Workerbee

        I took it as Argh! paraphrasing what a hiring mgr/person of power in a prospective future company might think due to how word can get around. In that case, “scum” is probably a mild substitute! I’ve heard unshielded opinions from hiring mgrs over the years. *shudder*

        Reply
  27. Garland not Andrews

    This is so totally why I love US Federal government jobs. You apply for a specific job with a specific grade or grade range and the salary levels are available. There are local differentials, but even those are available.

    Reply
  28. KX

    The Good:
    I am job hunting. I have had four phone interviews. All of them ended with a conversation about the salary range. One of them had posted it in the ad. Only one of the HR screeners asked me first what I was expecting, and when I said I couldn’t possibly know without details blah blah she gave me the range.

    I am getting the feeling that at least in my large city this is fast becoming a norm.

    The Bad:
    CurrentJob didn’t give me the salary until the offer. That was three years ago. I was reentering the job force and didn’t know to ask/was happy to have a job with benefits where my friend worked. When they gave me the salary, it was a number and they told me they would not negotiate so don’t bother. So I didn’t negotiate.

    Reply
  29. Disappointed

    I went on a government job interview recently. The ad included the salary range. I was mid-range and have a number of years experience (20+) so I thought I would be an appropriate candidate salary-wise. The interview and presentation they asked me to prepare went very well. They called my references, which also went well. They hadn’t asked about my salary requirements at any point. The hiring manager called and offered me the job, at the very lowest end of the salary range (the very, very bottom number). I asked if they could go higher as this was a significant decrease from my current salary and I have several years experience. The hiring manager said she would have to talk with her boss. She called me the next day and said that the bottom of the range was the salary. I politely declined, the hiring manager said she understood. I thought it was strange that there was absolutely no flexibility on the salary. The person who was in the position had been there several years so would not have been at the bottom of the range, but I don’t work there so don’t know the details of how salaries work in that government office.

    Fast forward a few weeks and another posting pops up in a different department at the same place. This time I know someone who had worked in the department, so I call and we chat about the position, what it may entail, etc. I also ask about the salary range and relate my offer story with the previous opening and and ask how much flexibility a hiring manager has (since this job has a slightly higher range but the bottom is still less than what I currently make) and am told that the hiring manager has the discretion to hire anywhere within the salary range. The person who related this worked in their HR department so I believe it’s true.

    I was already disappointed about having to decline the first job. The original interview was a panel interview and my understanding is that all panel members score the potential candidates in various skill areas and their scores are combined and the candidate who has the highest score is offered the position. I have been mulling it over for awhile now and wonder if I was not the hiring manager’s preferred mchoice and the hiring manager used salary as a way around the panel process to hire her own preferred candidate.

    Very disappointing to actually get the job and have to decline it, but maybe I dodged a bullet if that’s the way that manager works.

    Reply
    1. Chriama

      What I’ve read from other commenters on this site is that sometimes the range in the ad is the internal HR range for the position. So they don’t really want to hire anyone at that rate, it’s just what you have the “potential” to make over time with seniority and cost of living increases, etc.

      Reply
    2. anon for this

      Australian government here, so I’m not sure how much of this is applicable to you, but FWIW: each position has a salary range (agreed between employees and agencies; every few years we negotiate updates to those ranges and a raise schedule).

      Advertising may show the range, but new recruits or promotions almost always start at the bottom of that range. Over a few years, people rise within their pay range until they hit the top of the advertised range (plus any general increases that have kicked in over the same time).

      It’s rare for somebody to start higher in range. The most recent time I can think of was when we had a good staff member on a temporary contract at APS6 level. Due to hiring restrictions, the only path to permanence was for her to enter our graduate program, which meant dropping to APS4 level, a significant pay cut. In that case she started at the top of APS4, which made the cut somewhat less drastic, but still significant.

      Reply
  30. ME

    As an employer, we always share the range upfront. We practice open book management, so it’s not like it’s going to be a secret what people make relative to their coworkers once they start.

    Reply
  31. Upfront salaries are excellent

    As a young and stupid I applied for an agency job that had me do 3 months of (paid, poorly) training that took up every evening and weekend (l3 intense assignments a week)… because they “only hire the best”… after I passed they offered me a position for $15K less than I was currently making.

    I took the job… and learned my lesson the extremely hard way!

    Reply
  32. cncx

    this happened to me, i was headhunted for a job which seemed interesting and- this is relevant- wanted the hire to be mid-level and speak three languages in an expensive area. When it came to salary, their “top end of the range” was 40,000 less than normal for that kind of position, and about 20,000 less than entry level for that field. people in call centers here definitely make more. People in fast food probably make more.

    I basically said a variation of AAM’s second script, i was polite and informed them “as a courtesy, from someone who knows the market in this region,” that their salary range was not even close to being in line with the market, and that for what they were offering they would probably get entry level and 1.5 languages but that that person would probably bolt after a year for a more normal salary.

    Reply
  33. Clark

    Is it a practice to give your first choice a standard pay estimate and then for next choices lower the amount significantly?

    With the idea being that the value discrepancy between your top choices and the amounts you suggest to them still favoring the hiring company and basically just creating a chance that someone good is so desperate to change positions or ignorant of market rates that they take a low salary while still keeping a first choice person in reserve?

    I am basically ignorant about all this, but I wonder if an offer too low to seem real could be just that, like something that exists only to fish for an atypically inexpensive person.

    Reply
    1. Michaela Westen

      I think they’re hoping to find someone desperate enough to take the position and stay a year or two. But I’m not in HR.

      Reply
  34. A People Person

    I once had a recruiter ask for a salary range during the initial phone interview. After giving her a range a little higher than my current salary, she shook her head and said, “oh no, with your experience and what the client is looking for, you should ask for at least X.” X was 10k higher than the high end of my range. That was nice.

    Reply
  35. Big Biscuit

    I do interviewing in my position, but I have a screening recruiter who asks the salary question before an in person interview is scheduled, it really saves everyone a lot of time. When I was job hunting about 10 years ago, I did have several recruiters ask for my salary range before any formal interview happened. I sort of thought the trend is towards getting the salary question out of the way, but maybe not?

    Reply

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