update: a candidate lied to me about salary – maybe

Remember the manager who suspected a candidate had lied to her about salary? Here’s the update:

As many people wrote in and noted, I needed to dig deeper into what the candidate was considering salary. Upon doing so, I found out she had included stipends she was receiving for extra duties (coaching sports, etc.) as part of her salary. Once those were accounted for, our offer of base salary was actually higher than what she was making. She accepted that offer, even though she is not taking on extra duties yet with us. So, her base salary went up $1k, but overall compensation (and duties) declined slightly.

She has worked out to be a strong employee, and the more we’ve worked with her, the more we realized how much the environment she was coming from affected her interactions with us in the interview process. It’s clear to us she didn’t have a lot of trust at her previous employer, had to battle exceedingly hard to get basic things done, and was used to there being a bit of a contentious relationship between employees and leadership. Early on, she had a couple things she felt strongly on and got fairly fired up about, but they were pretty basic asks (supplies she needed, a scheduling tweak) that we were easily able to accommodate. She and her manager have a pretty good rapport at this point and she actually jokes about how she doesn’t have to battle so hard for things anymore. Lesson learned for me: the workplace PTSD people talk about can have major effects on people early on in their new jobs, and we as interviewers need to distinguish what behavior is caused by current experience and what is a part of someone’s own makeup, and that they will carry with them.

On an aside, many people mentioned the public school salary scales, and how all this information should be able to be found. In my state, we are not bound by those scales and are able to make competitive offers based on the same indicators many employers would: the duties of the individual position, job performance, prior experience, and the market for someone with the specific skills we need. For example, a strong music or special education teacher is harder (usually) to find than a strong middle school English teacher, and thus can sometimes earn a higher salary.

{ 22 comments… read them below }

  1. Anna*

    I can totally understand the previous employer PTSD. Coming in to my current job after the five years of micro-management and crazy behavior from manager and supervisor, I cringe every time my current boss asks to meet with me. I still have a moment of panic when she schedules a meeting, but I’m getting better at remembering that I’m doing a stellar job in this position and she needs to know what I’m doing since my job is promoting where I work. (I could go on and on about how much my life is different now, but I won’t. I will suggest, though, that if Alison ever want to use an example of how volunteer work can lead to a dream job, she can talk to me.) It’s good to hear there are managers out there who realize that some employees are great, but are stifled by their environment. We have to relearn how to be creative and productive coworkers. :)

    1. Lisa*

      I cringe every time my current boss asks to meet with me.

      YES! You never get an internal invite here without there being a major problem, so I expect to be criticized or get a verbal scolding for something i did wrong. Even when I did something awesome, the feedback is wrapped in what I didn’t do and what I could have done better.

    2. Lynn Whitehat*

      At my last job, I got laid off by being called into my boss’s office. It was a total surprise. (They had done layoffs while I was on vacation, but didn’t tell me until I returned.) At my new job, it took me a while to stop being all jumpy every time my boss called me into his office. Once what I heard was, “I’m sorry to tell you, we have some RIFs.” What he said was “I’m sorry about the smell, I had some ribs.” PTSD much?

    3. Anonymous*

      I do the same about cringing every time my boss wants to meet with me. (It isn’t a former job but something more personal that creates that response for me.) But literally every single time my boss has called me into his office and closed the door it has been a fantastically good thing. We are promoting you, you are getting a raise, you are getting a bonus. And yet it is still hard to not have that cringe effect.

      1. TootsNYC*

        It’s a perfectly understandable reaction, actually, for a lot of people.

        I think it’s smart of bosses to forecast a little. “I need to speak with you–it’s all good, though.” Or “Let’s schedule a meeting. I need some input/It’s administrative.”

    4. Lindsay J*

      Yes definitely. I was gun-shy my first three months at this job – it felt like after I got fired at my last job without warning that the same thing could happen here. I was also a lot less outgoing than I would have normally been at the start because I had so many issues fitting in with my coworkers at my last position. It’s been 7 months and I’m just finally feeling like I got my confidence back and am the person I would have been before my last job ended the way it did.

  2. The Other Dawn*

    “Lesson learned for me: the workplace PTSD people talk about can have major effects on people early on in their new jobs, and we as interviewers need to distinguish what behavior is caused by current experience and what is a part of someone’s own makeup, and that they will carry with them.”

    I’ve seen workplace PTSD in action as a manager and it’s a very real thing. It can be very frustrating both for the employee and the manager. The manager doesn’t understand why a simple question or a minor occurrence gets the employee into such a tizzy, and the employee has a hard time moving on from whatever experience created the PTSD.

    This is a great update and I’m sure, in time, the employee will feel even more relaxed. It’s generally takes a long time to get over having an abusive manager or having to fight tooth and nail to get the basic necessities so you can do your job.

  3. LizNYC*

    Wow, the suggestion I gave on the original post (that Mr. NYC who is a public school teacher would be counting his extracurriculars that he gets paid for as “salary” even though his school HR might not) was right on the nose.

    Thank you, OP, for doing this candidate right by digging deeper and not assuming she was lying, since that would be a ridiculous thing to do.

  4. A Teacher*

    I will say that as a public school teacher I earn a base salary that is based on my years teacher (my step) and the number of graduate hours I have (my lane). I also get paid for 3 mandatory meetings each month and I coach so that is also a part of my salary. It is extra duty but in my district and those around us that is considered a part of your “salary.” If you looked only at my base salary and not the other stuff that I get paid for I would make almost 8,000 less a year and that would be huge. Also, when many teachers, at least at the high school level leave, they are required to pick up some form of coaching or sponsorship of an activity when they go to a new high school and would want to know what that extra duty pay is. All of that would factor in for me to choose to leave–or not–my current school district.

    1. A Teacher*

      So for example if a teacher has taught 10 years with only a BS they make around 40,000 in our district, a teacher with 10 years and 15 graduate hours would make 44000, a teacher with 10 years and 30 hours makes around 48000, etc…this is not counting extra duty pay.

      Graduate hours for most districts (at least in Illinois) go in increments of 15 and you usually max out at Masters + 75 for the lane. You get a small–very small raise–for each year that you teach as well.

  5. Charis*

    I’m working through a bad case of workplace PTSD, and doubt I will ever be entirely free of it. Oh yeah, it’s real. The only thing that really helped was finding a job with people who would never dream of putting their fists through the wall.

  6. Jo*

    I’m loving these updates. They are so positive for the most part, and it’s really inspiring to hear what good advice has been given and taken so well :) Congrats to all those folks who have manned and womanned up respectively!

  7. B*

    “Lesson learned for me: the workplace PTSD people talk about can have major effects on people early on in their new jobs, and we as interviewers need to distinguish what behavior is caused by current experience and what is a part of someone’s own makeup, and that they will carry with them.”

    You seem like a wonderful manager! Congratulations on hiring a great candidate. I wish I could work for you!

  8. NewGirl*

    I didn’t see the original post, and am only just reading the updates. I’m glad that the time was taken to dig deeper into previous compensation, as well as PTSD (yes, yes, yes–I can also vouch that this is all too real: I still have dreams that my former boss is berating me).

    On a side note, I really dislike a hiring system where a candidate’s former compensation is called into question, or where it is used to determine what should be paid in a new position: Perhaps a candidate was previously grossly underpaid, but it was the only work they could get in a tough market? Perhaps they are worth much more than what they were compensated but took a prior job for the experience? Why aren’t new hires simply paid what the company can afford and what they are worth–and skip all the games re: previous compensation? (**I didn’t see the original post, so I may be commenting on a situation that I’m reading incorrectly.)

  9. Lindsay*

    I think when going into a new job, you might have to think about reverse PTSD too. We just got a new VP for my small department (12 people), and she is much relaxed and trusts us with our work more than our last boss. From my experience, and my co-workers, she’ll ask about a task or give her opinion on something, and actually let us make recommendations and go with them. It’s much more collaborative than our previous work environment, and we’re so not used to it. I’ve actually pushed back once or twice with “Are you sure? That’s a big client and you want me on it?” followed with the rational that our previous boss played all of the cards herself, and pretty close to the chest. One of my co-workers even said that we’re all recovering from emotional abuse (although I wouldn’t go quite that far, but understand where she’s coming from).

    So when you start a new job, think about what type of manager was in the role you’re entering.

  10. RedStateBlues*

    I just hate this whole current salary question. What is the rationale behind the employer wanting to know what you are getting paid? I want to think its so they can weed out applicants that make more than what the position offers, but the cynical part of me sees it as a means for the employer to gauge what they should offer the prospective employee. If so, what if I’m grossly underpaid at my current position? Why would an employer think I’d want to switch jobs just to continue to be grossly underpaid? Am I reading too much into this question?

  11. Confused*

    I’m glad you are acknowledging the possibility of former job PTSD. Like you said, as the hiring manager, it’s tough to figure out if it’s that or an issue of personality or skills. As a candidate, it’s tough because it’s not wise to speak poorly of your former/current job when interviewing for a new position. You’re unable to explicitly communicate certain things to the hiring manager or your new manager, whether you fully realize the reason behind your behavior or not. It’s just nice to hear you are going to keep it in mind as a possible explaination in the future.

    When I first moved from my former to my current (amazing!) job, I initially had a hard time snapping out of some of the patterns from my old job where I was constantly criticised and treated like a child. Being treated as an adult is WONDERFUL (!) but, I will admit, it certainly took me aback at first. Also, sadly, I know for a fact this hurt the impression I left with my new manager (who was not aware of the PTSD) and the big boss as a new employee. I’m just glad I was given the opportunity at my current job :)

  12. Mander*

    Honestly, I think I’ve been scarred for life by my first “real job” after college. 13 years and two advanced degrees later and I’m still a bit afraid of going to work in a regular office and talking to customers on the phone. My old job wasn’t even really all that bad but it sure did my head in, so I can only imagine the impact on someone who had a truly horrible experience.

Comments are closed.