when can I ask about salary if the job posting doesn’t list it?

A reader writes:

I’m graduating from grad school in May, and am looking for a new job. I’ve come across a handful of ads that say that their salary and benefits standards are “competitive and depend on qualifications and experience.”

My question is: When do I ask about range if the salary is unlisted?

Do I ask before I spend time tailoring my resume and cover letter? Do I ask after they respond, but before the interview? After the interview? The positions I’m looking for can have a wide range depending on the industry (private/nonprofit/government), and I don’t want to waste my time and theirs. In addition, some of these are small firms, and I don’t want to ask, find it’s too low, and then come across as rude by not applying since I may need to reach out to individuals again in the future.

Ugh, this whole topic is incredibly frustrating.

In an ideal world, employers would just post the salary range for the job up-front so that if it didn’t work for you, you could self-select out. In practice, many won’t do this because (a) they figure all candidates will assume they’ll be at the top of the range and feel lowballed if that’s not what they’re offered, (b) for a truly stellar candidate, they’d be willing to pay more than the range that it would be reasonable to post for most candidates, and they don’t want those stellar candidates to see the “normal person” range and not apply, or (c) they plan to base the salary on something irrelevant, like your past salary history — i.e., they want to lowball you if they can.

But of course it’s reasonable for you to want to have some idea of what the job pays before spending time applying and interviewing.

The problem is that there are still lots of employers to bristle at candidates who bring up salary early in the process. Read this post for a sampling of interviewers who think candidates who ask about salary early on are “only interested in what the employer can do for them” and other ridiculousness. For what it’s worth, I actually think this is changing — I have more candidates ask me about salary at the phone interview stage than I did, say, eight years ago. But there are still plenty of employers who are horrified to discover that you are working for money, you filthy mercenary.

So, how can you navigate that as a job-seeker?

First, do your own research so that you have a general idea of what jobs in the fields you’re interested in typically pay. Talk with recruiters, check with professional organizations in your industry, and bounce figures off of other people in your field. Once you come up with a range for your experience level and in your geographic area, you can feel more confident naming a salary figure first, without the worry that you’ll be wildly off in either direction. (And yes, if you’re applying in multiple industries, you may need to do this as a separate process for each.)

From there, don’t ask before applying. Yes, it’s reasonable to want to know, but if they were willing to tell you at this stage, it would probably be in the ad. So you’re going to spend time applying for jobs without knowing exactly what they pay. It is ridiculous, but that’s how it works.

Once you’re in the interview process, you’ll have to decide if you’re willing to turn off some employers by asking about salary before they bring it up. The conventional wisdom on this is to wait until you’re pretty far along in the interview process before you ask — i.e., not at a first interview. Personally, I think it’s pretty reasonable to ask before you invest major time in a hiring process, but it really depends on whether you’re willing to risk them thinking it reflects badly on you.

However, there are a few cases where more people (maybe not everyone, but certainly more people) feel better about you asking early on:
* If you’d be traveling for the interview. In that case, most people think it’s reasonable to say something like, ““Before I let you pay for my travel, can we touch base on the salary range for this position so we can make sure we’re in the same ballpark?”
* If you’d be taking time off work: “I hope you don’t mind me asking at this stage, but because it’s difficult for me to take time off work to interview, is it possible to give me a sense of the salary range so that we can make sure we’re in the same ballpark before we move forward?”
* If they’ve made it clear their interview process is a long one with lots of steps and demands on your time: “Since it sounds like the hiring process has a number of steps — which is great and something I appreciate — I thought we should touch base on the salary range, so that I’m not using up your time if we’re not in the same ballpark.”
* If a recruiter has approached you, rather than the other way around (usually if you’re currently employed and not actively looking): “Since I’m not actively looking for a new position, I haven’t given much thought yet to the range for my next job. But if you can tell me the range for this position, I can tell you if it makes sense for us to talk.”

That said, in all of those cases except the last one, be prepared that if you bring the topic up, you might need to share your own range — because their response may be, “What kind of range are you looking for?”

But yes, this whole thing is fully of silliness, and you should brace yourself for an astonishing lack of logic in how companies handle it.

{ 178 comments… read them below }

  1. Not a Real Giraffe*

    I’ve also found that if the first step in the interview process is a phone screen with HR, that’s a good time to bring it up using the same phrasing that Alison provides. (Though, I’ve been lucky in that most HR Reps will be the ones who broach the subject first.)

    1. MaryMary*

      I agree about asking at the phone screen. The purpose of the screen is to determine if you’re a strong enough candidate to move forward with the rest of the interview process. If you and the employer are way off on salary expectations, then it probably doesn’t make sense to move forward.

      I’ve been on the hiring manager side of this too, and it’s incredibly frustrating to choose a candidate you think will be a great fit, make an offer, and discovery the starting salary is less than what she was making at her current job as a waitress. This was at OldJob, with an outsourced recruiting team and where the hiring mamager had no power to negotiate the starting salary for entry level hires.

    2. BRR*

      I agree and found during my last job hunt last fall that a good number of recruiters/HR brought salary up during a phone screen (in the fundraising field). Some asked me and some told me the range. It was a long ways from the ideal situation but I found it more common than my last job hunt in mid 2013.

    3. Sydney*

      Yeah I’ve had employers ask in the phone screen too. I wish they would just say what they pay in the phone screen since there can be quite a range in my job too depending on the position and duties.

    4. SJ*

      Yep — I’m not in HR, but I just conducted phone screens for a job, and I brought up the salary question during the screens. We knew we’d be offering less than what several of the candidates are probably making now, and we wanted to make it clear what our range was (not a huge range, luckily) so we wouldn’t end up with a candidate we loved but couldn’t afford.

    5. Koko*

      Same here. It’s one of the only salient questions HR asks during the phone screen at our company. The rest are basically asking you to repeat information from your resume and cover letter and I suspect is mostly just so they can listen to you talk for a few minutes to make sure you seem like a sane and reasonable person who can compose coherent sentences ex-temporaneously.

    6. Ordinary World*

      I just recently had an incredibly disheartening experience with an interview in which the posted ‘range’ was actually what a person would be *required* to start at, as the lowest, up to what they would make in 12 years of step increases. The person who looked over my application noted that I requested high end of the ‘range’ as my Minimum Salary Desired, but did not bother to bring this up in a phone screen (because they didn’t do a phone screen) nor in the first 45 minutes of the interview itself.

      I was really bothered that my time was wasted, when a simple question could have prevented that. It made me question how well this company managed time, and how much common sense would be an issue. Had I taken time off for my existing job, I most likely would have been far less gracious in letting them know that Minimum Salary Desired is a thing many people actually take seriously.

  2. peon*

    This is why I like working for the government. You don’t get paid much, but at least you know how much it’s going to be!

    1. melly*

      Yep and you know what your raises are going to look like (until you max out, but even that is helpful info to have!).

  3. Allison*

    Where I work, we only disclose salary ranges on AngelList if we have to, and often we disclose a different range than what’s actually been approved, because we don’t want people to expect the maximum pay. We generally don’t want the pay range disclosed in writing, because it makes it easier for a candidate to reference the range when we get to the interview stage and say “according to this message, you’re only offering me the midpoint, but I’m worth more than that.”

    To be clear, I’m not the one who decided we can’t disclose salary range in writing. I’d rather allow candidates to make informed decisions early on, and I’d like to be able to answer people when they ask about pay via LinkedIn or e-mail prior to the phone screen. Telling them I’m not authorized to disclose it has caused a few people to assume I’m some shady scammer and go dark on me.

    1. Mike C.*

      We generally don’t want the pay range disclosed in writing, because it makes it easier for a candidate to reference the range when we get to the interview stage and say “according to this message, you’re only offering me the midpoint, but I’m worth more than that.”

      So long as they can back that statement up with evidence, why is this a problem unless your company is trying to low ball candidates?

      1. MoinMoin*

        The majority of people think they’re above average? I agree with you that that’s how it should be- the candidate makes her case, the hiring manager takes that into account and/or reasonably explains the company expectations for a certain salary, the candidate reasonably understands where she fits on that spectrum and decides on the offer with that information and without resentment- but I gather this unfortunately isn’t always the case.

        1. Mike C.*

          Who cares if they think they’re above average? Why is it such a terrible thing that a candidate who is trying to sell themselves actually, you know, sell themselves? What’s likely to happen, you tell them no and they accept your offer anyway and that’s it? Why is this such a hardship that it’s used to justify policies that end up low balling candidates and reinforcing pay gaps due to differing race and gender standards?

          1. MoinMoin*

            Maybe we read the OP differently. Like I said, I agree with everything you said. I was just trying to point out that the OP’s experience seemed to fall under the first point made above:
            “In an ideal world, employers would just post the salary range for the job up-front so that if it didn’t work for you, you could self-select out. In practice, many won’t do this because (a) they figure all candidates will assume they’ll be at the top of the range and feel lowballed if that’s not what they’re offered”

            1. fposte*

              But that’s a reason to have quantifiable measures for where somebody is in the range, not for not publishing a range.

          2. Carl*

            I agree with you, Mike. The only reasons companies don’t provide salary ranges is the simplest of all: they hold all the cards, especially in this market. It’s unfair and unethical, but they do it because they can.

        2. Anonymous Educator*

          And the people who think they deserve top of the range who don’t need to know that they’re not above average, and in the hiring stage is the perfect time for them to learn that. Just as the candidate who thinks she’s above average should be able to logically justify why the employer should pay the top of the range, the employer trying to pay the middle of the range should also be able to justify logically why the candidate is not in the top of the range (e.g., no advanced degree, not as many years’ experience managing, etc.).

        3. Koko*

          I don’t understand why you can’t just say, “We offered you a salary in the midpoint of our advertised range because your qualifications were about the midpoint of what we were seeking for. The top end of the range would only come into play for candidates whose qualifications were significantly beyond our requirements, such as XYZ [having an advanced degree, having 10 years experience, insert whatever thing that would have made you offer at the high end of the range that the candidate doesn’t have].”

          I can see someone being offended if they mistakenly think the range was set with a maximum for the well-qualified candidate and less for underqualified candidates. But reasonable people will understand if you give a reasonable explanation. If you explain your salary offer logic and someone bristles and is actually offended at the notion that you only pay super-high salaries for exceptional candidates and not just any good candidate, then they probably aren’t someone you want to hire anyway because they aren’t able to accept real feedback and they’re going to be angry that you aren’t promoting them after six months.

          1. MoinMoin*

            I feel like we’re saying the same thing? I agreed with Mike C that this is how it should work and I would much prefer it to work that way, it just seemed like what the OP was getting at was not having that experience of reasonably explaining to average candidates why they’re being offered midpoint salaries and the candidate reasonably accepting the explanation and making their decision based on that.

            1. Koko*

              Ah, my mistake, I thought you were the person who had started this thread and your reply was her defending your company’s stance, but it was Allison who started the thread.

            2. Anonymous Educator*

              I don’t think we’re saying the same thing.

              You’re saying this is how it should be in theory:

              I agree with you that that’s how it should be…. but I gather this unfortunately isn’t always the case.

              And I think Koko, Mike C., and I are saying that’s what everyone should do, not just in theory. We know it doesn’t happen. We’re saying there’s no good reason it shouldn’t. There are reasons—the reasons just aren’t good reasons.

  4. overeducated*

    I really like the wording for taking time off of work, as that is an issue, thank you! I am pessimistic that it would work for actually getting the employer to name a range though – for non-government and non-union jobs (which tend to list salary ranges in the ad), if salary comes up before the offer stage I’ve almost always been asked about my requirements, and almost never been told what the position’s range actually is. Sigh.

    1. Charlotte Collins*

      What always gets me about this is that there are also benefits that might make me more or less likely to take a certain range. I always say, “Dependent upon benefits,” but I’m not sure if the recruiters fully understand that.

      1. Lowballed bc of benefits*

        On the flip side, I once interviewed passively for a position. I didn’t have benefits in the role I was in at the time because I was a contractor, but that was irrelevant because my husband has amazing benefits (I’m still on his, even though my current company offers ‘good benefits,’ they’re not nearly as good as his). I told the recruiter I wouldn’t leave for less than X a year. She tried to argue me to X-10k! Because “our benefits are so good and I’m sure that you do not have benefits given that you’re a contractor.” I told her no, I mean X flat because I am on my husband’s benefits and therefore wouldn’t consider leaving for that much of a pay cut (X was already a 20k pay cut from my pay at the time because I was going from a contractor to an internal employee. I wasn’t willing to take a 30k paycut). She immediately backtracked and came fully to X and I was just like, really, your benefits are worth 10k a year? Highly doubt it.
        So, dependent upon benefits is GREAT but to me that would only mean a small flexibility – up to 5k annually maybe – not 10k or more.

        1. soooo Anon*

          That really depends though. Our company benefits are worth considerably more than that, in actual cash plus the traditional benefits. Completely company funded ($0 employee contribution), company funded retirement contributions (not a match, full out contributions in a significant amount) profit sharing, etc. But I do get your point- most companies tend think their benefits are better than they actually are.

      2. Waiting*

        I’m in a related situation right now – I gave a range, only to learn after getting an offer that benefits are a lot worse, which impacts my lowest number I’d expect. I felt a little boxed in to my original range and wondered what flexibility to negotiate I had. I had a conversation with HR, and fortunately it sounds like they’re going to be flexible, although I’m anxiously awaiting their response to my counteroffer right now!

    2. TL -*

      I had a company that asked me about my range (twice) before I did any interviews, and then after the interview, say that my range was higher than they wanted to pay and did I have any flexibility?

      I said no, I’m pretty sure the hiring manager stepped in (HR was handling the salary talks) and the offer came in at the range I wanted. But that was incredibly frustrating.

    3. Koko*

      Unfortunately this is one of those things where the company usually has the negotiating edge because they have more options. They’re not especially invested in you yet and have plenty of other applicants.

      But if you have options too – a current job you don’t hate and could stay at, very in-demand skills that will make it easy for you to get hired into a good job – you can set a floor that is genuinely what it would take to get you to quit your job:

      “I can tell you that I can’t see myself leaving Teapots Inc for less than $X. That said, I’m sure you understand that I can’t be sure whether that number makes sense for this particular job until I’ve had a deeper conversation with the hiring manager about what the role will entail. A lot of job descriptions that sound the same actually carry different salaries!”

  5. Lalitah*

    I’m going to rant on this: it’s ridiculous in this age of instant information that this information is not posted with the job. There’s this site called Payscale.com, there’s DOL sites of states that give salary ranges and there are other job ads that have salary ranges. Why is it that they can’t just post the salary range that is well-researched and market-rate? The rationale is BAFFLING to me. It’s like they don’t want to waste their time but they waste your time on this. There’s really no excuse for this. rant off/

    1. overeducated*

      You have to suspect it’s because the salary range isn’t well-researched and market rate…or they’re hoping to lowball people…or if they pay above market rate (e.g. the same job at a university could pay anywhere from 20-100% more than what it pays at a non-profit in my field), they expect hundreds of applicants anyway.

      1. BRR*

        I had a big case of the first situation. I did a phone screen and we talked salary. They wanted to pay $10K less than the job I accepted for similar responsibilities but on a much larger scale. It was a good thing it was a phone screen because I did not have a poker face at that moment.

        1. Charlotte Collins*

          That’s why “competitive salary and benefits” means nothing to me. Nobody ever claims otherwise. (I once saw a posting where one of the “benefits” was something required by labor law. It makes me question so many things about an employer that they felt the need to add it…)

          1. Lowballed bc of benefits*

            Yea and like I said above – every company claims to offer ‘great benefits’ but to me that isn’t a 10k difference. If I’m at X as my bottom dollar and the company want X-10 as their top dollar I’m not going that far down because you have ‘great benefits.’ Sorry. Either you come up because I’m worth it or this isn’t the right match for either of us.

          2. BRR*

            I ignore that statement. I’ve adopted the philosophy that competitive can mean it’s poor competition to other salaries. Numbers are the only thing that’s quantifiable, everything else is subjective.

            1. overeducated*

              Or “legally mandated minimum”? (“Generous” vacation = 2 weeks plus state holidays? Not really….)

          3. Rusty Shackelford*

            (I once saw a posting where one of the “benefits” was something required by labor law. It makes me question so many things about an employer that they felt the need to add it…)

            It’s like hotels that advertise “color TV.” If that’s the only thing you can brag about…

          4. Just me*

            I saw a listing that said “No benefits, but working at this great company is a benefit itself!” Like working at a decent company can replace health insurance.

    2. Student*

      Then they might have to pay people according to their ability to work, instead of according to who they like the most.

    3. Mike C.*

      The reason is only baffling if you presume that the employer is acting in good faith. In this case, they’re trying to low ball candidates.

  6. Bee Eye LL*

    What about potential employers who first ask what your current salary is? I HATE that question because I feel like they will use it to determine how much to offer me. If I tell them I am making 50k then they may only offer my 55k to lure me away, but if I lie and say I only make 40k then they might just offer me 47,500 or something along those lines.

      1. Anonymousaurus Rex*

        I can attest that Alison’s method really does work! I held firm that I don’t disclose my current salary but I’m looking for $X-Y in my next position and I ended up getting an offer in my requested range! (which was 35% more than OldJob…and the minimum increase I needed to consider leaving that job, which I loved so much)

      2. KC*

        How do you handle an online application that requires the salary history field of your past positions to move forward in the application? Often these fields will not accept text.

    1. Anon for this*

      I’ve actually seen this work in the candidate’s favor once. When candidates come in for an on-site interview (they’ve already passed a phone screen at that point) they fill in a paper application which includes a question about salary at past jobs. Typically the hiring manager doesn’t look at the application until they’re ready to start checking references. In one case, I decided on my top candidate, then looked at the application and discovered they were already making more than the top of our budgeted range–so I went to HR to argue for a higher salary for the person.

  7. Snarkus Aurelius*

    If an ad doesn’t show me the salary range, I immediately look to the years of required experience.

    For example, I saw a job that was at a Director level, which is what I am now.  The duties matched up to my experience and current position as well.  But the employer only required 3-5 years experience, and I have more than double that.  I don’t apply to anything that isn’t in my years of experience because I assume the pay will be crap.  (I’m not even going to get into the unrealistic demands of wanting a Director with so few years of experience.)

    My husband totally disagrees with me and says that I should ignore the years of experience required and use the non-advertised salary to my advantage.

    If these employers showed the salary range, then I would apply no matter what the years of experience are.

    Am I wrong?

    1. AW*

      use the non-advertised salary to my advantage

      How? I don’t understand how it’s an advantage to not know whether the employer’s salary expectations are realistic. It’s not like you can trick them into paying you more than their budget allows.

      1. Snarkus Aurelius*

        Because I could wow and charm them so much so that if they had a range but didn’t advertise it, I could name my own salary which could be much higher. I wouldn’t look greedy because, hey, I don’t know how much they want to pay.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, your husband’s kind of a pipe dreamer on this one. Probably most places won’t even call you in because they’ll believe your history means you won’t be happy with this role, but those that do aren’t likely to just hand over extra money. It could happen once in a bunch of chances, but that’s a lot of work to go through for a rare outcome.

          1. Snarkus Aurelius*

            And I think it’s more something a man could get away with than a woman. Multiple studies prove that.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Obligatory note that many, many women successfully negotiate for higher salaries.

              Yes, studies show that in the aggregate … although as someone — maybe fposte? — has pointed out here before, those studies aren’t even based on real-world outcomes; they’re based on research subjects in a lab. But regardless, many, many women successfully negotiate, and it hurts women more when they don’t.

              Sorry to be a broken record on this, but it drives me crazy to see women buying into the idea that negotiating will hurt them. (That’s not at all directed at you, Snarkus Aurelius, just a general statement on the issue.)

              1. fposte*

                Oh, were you referring to negotiation studies, Snarkus? I wasn’t really seeing this situation as analogous to a negotiation–it’s more slipping in in disguise and hoping to get a prize out of it.

              2. neverjaunty*

                I agree that women shouldn’t then go “oh well no point in negotiating” – but women should be aware of those stereotypes and attitudes when they do negotiate.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Sure, although people shouldn’t see it as actionable information because it really isn’t. And too often on this site it gets repeated as a gloomy prognostication for individual women when it should not.

                2. fposte*

                  Yes, it starts seeming like the parent who tells you how terrible everything is and how little chance you have just to protect you.

              3. Negotiatrix*

                Successful female negotiator here – I negotiated up about 11% from my job’s initial offer. Then they promoted me a few years later and I negotiated an additional $3k on top of the raise they offered – it’s definitely do-able, don’t let the stats get you discouraged or thinking you shouldn’t try!

            2. fposte*

              I don’t even think it’s a “get away with” thing, or that it would be that common for men either. (Are there gender studies about people getting offers for higher-rank jobs when applying for entry level? That seems remarkably specific, though research does get that way sometimes.) It’s a slightly more sophisticated variant on the gimmicky resumes. Sure, every now and then one will work, but most of the time it just looks like you don’t know what’s going on.

            3. TL -*

              My first boss (male) was really happy that I (female) negotiated salary! He thought it showed chutzpah and a good kind of shrewdness.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      I think the “3-5 years experience” thing can be tricky. If it’s 3-5 years of Director experience, then I’m assuming they expect the candidate had 5-10 years of total post-grad experience before they became director. Sometimes it’s unclear if they mean total experience, relevant industry experience, or like-title experience.

      1. Snarkus Aurelius*

        Huh. I’ve never read it that way. I always assumed it was 3-5 years total.

        I look on Glassdoor so it reads like this:

        Years of experience: 3-5

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        If they’re saying “3-5 years of director-level experience,” then yes.” But if it just says “3-5 years of experience,” it usually means post-college work experience.

          1. fposte*

            I think it’s reasonable to assume that it’s entry level unless it’s clear that it’s not–entry level is going to be a lot more common.

            1. Entry Level Snark*

              3-5 years isn’t entry level. Entry level IMO is anything requiring 1-2 years or less of experience. The first one year of working is SO important and you’re a very different candidate with 1-2 years than you are with zero. I consider anything with less than 2 years required entry level, 2-5 associate, 5-7 senior associate maybe manager level, 7+ it all jumbles in. (someone with 7 years of really good, relevant experience would be equivalent in my mind to someone with 10 years of experience and only 3 of them really relevant to the job, you know).
              Said as someone who is senior management who’s been working and hiring people for 20+ years (I’m dating myself now…)

              1. fposte*

                Yes, fair point. What I meant was that, in general, neither the job nor the experience should be construed as director level when those positions are comparatively rare.

    3. Over Development*

      I work in a town with more non-profits than restaurants and gas stations combined and it’s crazy to see the Director of Development ads.

      We have a lot of these where the work description and the experience level don’t add up, and it’s because they want to pay someone $30k to be a department of one.

      But I’ve learned the hard way that even for the ones where the duties and experience level line up, the pay is ridiculously below market.

      I wish more people would disclose salary upfront!

      1. Snarkus Aurelius*

        And don’t get me started on the entry-level jobs that require years of experience. Either it’s entry-level or experience is required but it ain’t both!

        1. Over Development*

          Oy! An organization here was posting for a $10/hr data entry/gift processing “entry level” position and one of their required qualifications was “2-3 years using the Raiser’s Edge system.”

        2. Felicia*

          I’ve actually never seen a job that was labeled “entry level” that didn’t also say “2-3 years experience required”. My same aged peers have the same experience. It’s sad.

          1. Entry Level Snark*

            I think often that’s considered nice to have or a bonus – but we’re willing to train you if you don’t have it. I wouldn’t let it deter you from applying.
            Many companies assume an entry level candidate will be a quick learner, and sometimes even attractive because they don’t have bad habits (you can mold them into whatever kind of employee you want them to be).
            Often an ‘entry level’ candidate might have some experience in various programs from undergraduate coursework, internships, or something.

          2. Carla*

            I recently saw a job ad for a junior graphic designer position that required candidates to be fluently bilingual and have 12 years of experience! I sincerely hope it was a typo and they meant 1-2 years, but based on some of the qualifications they were asking for, I have to wonder.

          3. Stonkle*

            “2-3 years using the Raiser’s Edge system.”

            I am seeing this frequently as well. It’s frustrating.

      2. BRR*

        I saw this in my last job. Director of development positions, experience closing six and seven-figure gifts, be a department of one which includes doing a ton of other shit, 3-5 years experience. Probably would pay in the $50s.

    4. Washington*

      One of the common hiring manager confusions is defining how years of experience is expressed. In saying “3-5 years of experience”, Manager A wants someone with 3-5 years of experience in that level/type of role. For Manager B, he wants someone with 3-5 years of experience post-college.

      I can’t find a common thread for country, culture, type of industry, etc. for this split.

    5. Lily Rowan*

      On the flip side, because of personal connections to a job posting like that, I found that it actually paid a salary that was in line with the ~10 years of experience I had, and that is actually what they were looking for! No idea why the posting said 3-5 years or whatever it said. Clearly, the hiring manager wasn’t paying enough attention to the postings.

    6. Koko*

      That’s definitely a good way to avoid jobs that will pay too little.

      But it’s harder if you’re going for a “reach” position that’s a few years’ more experience than you have to estimate what the salary should be. You’ve never worked at that level before and likely don’t know any or very many people who do that will share their salary with you. Maybe it’s 15% more than what you make now. Maybe it’s 75% more. You have no idea!

  8. Noah*

    The recruiter thing annoys me to no end. If you call me up out of the blue and want me to take the time to prepare and interview for a job I didn’t even know existed, at least have the courtesy to be willing to share a salary range with me.

    1. Andrea*

      YES, THIS. This has happened to me and to my husband several times. It’s like, I’m employed and not actively looking, you contacted me, and now you want to be all coy when I ask you about salary? Nope, go away.

        1. Andrea*

          I have done that a couple of times, just said nicely, hey, you contacted me, I wasn’t necessarily looking, and before I would consider this job, I’d need to know if it is worth my while. And they usually still deflect and refuse to name a range. Maybe their hands are tied on this issue? Now, one time, a recruiter told me that they couldn’t name a salary because it would be based on my current one, and I just ended the conversation there. I explained why, they wouldn’t budge, but I’m just not going to play that game.

          1. Lily Rowan*

            The last time I talked to a recruiter, I just said, “I wouldn’t consider leaving my current job for less than X.” (And I said it several times, whenever the topic of money came up.) She didn’t need to know that I was making $10K less than X at the time! It worked out, too.

  9. Susan C*

    One more relevant thing: What to do when the employer *asks* for a salary expectation early on?

    I know it’s something many people hate about automated application systems (as if they weren’t annoying enough), but I’ve also encountered it in multiple first round interviews / phone screens, and ads that specifically request you put it in your cover letter.

    Honestly though, the written versions of this, I don’t even mind as much, because then I can have Mr. C standing behind me looking stern and reminding me not to low-ball myself. :) Then again, it might be easier because I’m not overly concerned with the question of benefit packages (here, health isn’t the employer’s business, and a lot of other things are fairly restricted by law), so the question “what’s the minimum amount I want to make” is fairly straightforward to (approximately) answer.

    1. Susan C*

      [scrolling back up, I realize I might’ve wanted to refresh the page before posting. Oh well.]

      1. Lowballed bc of benefits*

        I wouldn’t put in the ‘minimum amount I want to make’ because I might have to go down to that to negotiate. I’d start with the Blue Sky best-but-still-fair I would want to make. (like If my minimum is 75k, I might put in 87k in the form).

    1. De Minimis*

      That’s a very popular site with my co-workers! Our executive director was the one who got everyone hooked on it.

    2. Recruit-o-Rama*

      It’s generally not “HR Staff” who decide what the company policy is regarding salary disclosure on job ads. I post lots of ads, I create no policy.

      In my role as a corporate recruiter, I can see both sides of this issues. There is no way to make everyone happy. Our ads do not disclose, but I disclose the range in the first few minutes of every phone screen. This bites me about 50% of the time because everyone thinks they should be at the top of the range and a lot of people think we have tons of flexibility and can go outside the range. It’s generally not true, except for truly exceptional candidates. Again, most people think they are truly exceptional; most people are not truly exceptional. The ranges are determined by market forces and budgeting matters and are decided prior to posting positions and are not related to any one individual candidate.

      There was is no “right” answer and the way people generally feel about it is roughly related to how recently they have been on one side of the negotiation table or the other.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        When you disclose the range, do you point out that they’re unlikely to actually hit the top end of the range? As in, “our range is X to Y, and new hires generally come in at the midpoint?”

      2. Judy*

        I’ve never been a hiring manager, but I’ve been a senior individual contributor working closely with a hiring manager in a F50 company. There was certainly policy at that company about what had to be in the job postings. Education requirements for the position, travel requirements for the position, separate lists of “need to have” vs “want to have” items, EEOC statement were all policies enforced for all job postings for the corporation.

        1. Recruit-o-Rama*

          Yes, of course there is policy. It is generally not created by “HR Staff”. Or at least not the front line HR people candidates interact with in the beginning of an interview cycle.

        1. F.*

          OMG, Yes! I cringe every time I read one of those rants bashing HR (on any issue) and get so frustrated because at most companies, HR’s options and flexibility are very limited by management.

            1. F.*

              I will readily step up and admit when I (HR) am the problem. But there is a tendency to blame HR for many things that are totally out of their control. Didn’t get my time off request, must be that darn HR woman, for example. However, I do not want to derail this thread. Just as an aside, it would be interesting to have a post where HR people can write in and explain what their jobs entail. I think it would help to clear up some common misconceptions about who HR is and what we do.

      3. F.*

        “It’s generally not “HR Staff” who decide what the company policy is regarding salary disclosure on job ads. I post lots of ads, I create no policy. ”
        Same here. I am HR manager for a small (<50) company, and the owner wants NO salary information in the ads. We do not phone screen, either, but generally use resumes to determine who we want to bring in for an interview. Before I schedule an interview, I require a simple application be completed and request their salary requirement.

        (Before I get to the next paragraph, please do not derail this into a discussion of whether or not my company pays an appropriate wage. I have no say in it, and the owner does not read this forum.)

        The starting wage for most of our positions is approx. $15/hr. No college education is required, and we provide the necessary industry certifications. While it is a little time consuming, one can go on various salary aggregator sites and learn that, while we are on the lower end of the average range, it is typical for our industry, location and size of company. However, you won't believe the percentage of applicants who will apply and provide a salary requirement of $50,000 – $60,o00/year. We could conceivably negotiate with someone who wants $40,000, since there is a lot of overtime during the construction season, but anything much more than that is too far out of the ballpark.

        Interestingly enough, when I posted an administrative assistant position WITH the wage range listed (owner thought we could get someone qualified for $12-14/hr), the majority of applications (over 100) wanted $45,000 up to $70,000/yr! I really don't know what those people were thinking.

        I think many of these applicants who want the high wages are not doing their research into the size of our company and average salaries for the position. Many of them also seem to be basing their salary expectations on what (I estimate) they currently make. Even if you have 25 years of experience in another field, if your experience does not translate into the requirements for our particular position, then you are only worth the entry level wage to us. And in the case of the admin. position, we simply couldn't afford to pay more than $14/hr.

        1. Recruit-o-Rama*

          It sounds like you and I work in a similar situation. I also recruit for management and corporate office support positions, but the majority of my job is recruiting direct labor at a similar wage with similar industry specific certs.

            1. Recruit-o-Rama*

              Highly regulated transportation equipment repair, maintenance, certification and retrofitting.

        2. BRR*

          First I completely understand you do not set salaries or hiring rules.

          Have you ever gone to the owner and said you are getting many applicants who are giving a much higher salary than you could afford and it might be easier to list the salary in hopes they would self-select out?

          As the last point I see that a lot with admin positions. A candidate might have tons of experiences but the market rate just doesn’t account for that (recognizing that a great admin is worth A LOT and they can often times be the one running things).

          1. F.*

            I have tried talking to the owner, but he has his own ideas. Sigh.

            As for the admins who want $50k and up, that is simply not the norm for a small company in the suburbs in our geographical area. An experienced executive assistant for a CxO at a large corporation downtown *might* get that much, but not likely. (I used to be an admin at one of those corporations and didn’t get anywhere near that much.)

  10. Eugenie*

    When I apply I’ll typically include a statement at the end of my cover letter stating what range I’d expect for the role, if they contact me to begin the interview process then I assume we’re on the same page and they’ll typically be proactive about confirming that during the phone screen. However, I am at an advantage compared to other job seekers because I’ve been in my industry 10+ years, it’s non-profit so top salaries are disclosed via 990s, and I’m at a pretty senior level where it’s generally considered pretty normal to talk money upfront (no idea if that’s common across fields, but it’s been my experience that the higher you get the more people recognize that you work for money, not for “exposure,” “passion,” or any of the other BS entry-level folks often get told).

  11. IT_Guy*

    I’ve found that companies are more amenable to other compensation things if they can’t budge on the $$. I managed to negotiate an extra week of vacation/year since they weren’t allowed to give more $$ Other things to possibly ask for are: Work from home days, a better office/cube. It really depends on how interested they are to bring you on board.

  12. Preggers*

    Ugh this is my biggest frustration with job hunting. In my field job titles are often misleading and job descriptions are vague. So a Teapot Coordinator could be an entry level position paying $25,000 or a high level management job paying $80,000. I’ve found no other way around it other than to either spend hours researching the position trying to find a more clear job description or you just apply and hope its the type of job I’m looking for.

  13. Bonnie*

    A commenter in a past thread about discussing salary mentions that on cover letters she writes what she’s looking for because (as is with nonprofits) she’s been burned in the past and is comfortable with sharing. Something quick and simple like: “Like any ambitious professional, I’m looking to increase my current salary for a position like {this one} which represents increased responsibility. While a compensation package is more than just a salary, I’m looking for something in the $45-55K range.”

    What do people think about this for a nonprofit job? Likely you aren’t lowballing yourself and can save both parties a lot of time.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Don’t do it. It’s jarring to see it in a cover letter — maybe just because it’s so outside the norm, but jarring regardless. Even as someone who hates the coyness around salary, I still think it looks … unsavvy? to put that in a cover letter.

      1. De (Germany)*

        Interesting cultural difference here – I have alwas written my salary expectation into my cover letter, and usually it was even requested in the job ads.

        But it’s also fine to ask for money as a wedding gift here, so…

        1. The Alias Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

          *gasp* Asking for any wedding gift, money or otherwise is a big no no here. Not that people don’t do it, but it’s seen as rude, like you’re only inviting people for the gift.

          1. De (Germany)*

            Yeah, the German mentality towards it is more like “everyone knows it’s expected anyway, so why be coy about it?” I like it.

          2. De (Germany)*

            (Also, because I fear this will just lead down that path, I truly don’t want to start a thread on whether asking for wedding gifts is fine. It was just the first comparison that popped into my mind.)

      2. Lore*

        Even if the job posting has requested salary expectations with your application? I always end up putting something of that nature at the end of my cover letter if I’m asked to give a salary range (not the first “ambitious professional” part but the “compensation is more than salary” and my range.

        1. BRR*

          When I did it, it was the last or second to last sentence in my letter. Something like “As requested in your posting, I am seeking a salary in the range of $X-$X depending on benefits.”

  14. TCO*

    The last time I was interviewing, I was firmly seeking a pay level that I knew might not be realistic for some of the employers in my field. If the salary was posted and/or I knew enough about that organization to guess at the salary range, I didn’t apply if it was too low.

    But there were some openings where I just didn’t know the pay, so I applied. When those places called me for interviews, I’d say something like, “I’m really interested in this position and excited to interview. However, I’m seeking a salary that I know is on the high end for some employers in our field, and I don’t want to waste your time if my range is unrealistic for you. Would you mind telling me the hiring range for this position?”

    I turned down a couple of interview offers when it became clear that we weren’t going to be compatible on salary. (These were mostly nonprofits, so they usually can’t just drastically raise their hiring budget no matter how great the candidate.) Each of those conversations was friendly and positive, and I don’t think anyone was put off by my asking about salary early on. I made sure to 1) acknowledge that my range might be too high, so as to not look out-of-touch and 2) emphasize that I didn’t want to waste their time.

    (I did end up finding a job at a place that surpassed my salary expectations!)

  15. some1*

    “I have more candidates ask me about salary at the phone interview stage than I did, say, eight years ago. ”

    And I think this correlates to it being more common to have multiple interviews before getting hired than it did eight years ago, because most candidates don’t want to invest more time if the salary isn’t going to work.

  16. Terra*

    Always check if the company/job has a listed salary on Glassdoor! Granted since those are self-reported and sometimes anonymously they aren’t always perfect but it’s better than nothing when you’re deciding to apply or not. If the company is listed but not the job you can compare the salary for a job that is listed with the salary of the same job at another company for some idea of whether they might be high, low, or average.

    1. anonanonanon*

      I take anything on Glassdoor with a large grain of salt because there are plenty of companies out there that filter and change info to make the company seem better. My last company encouraged people to write positive reviews and positive interview experiences and had the executive management create accounts to post positive reviews/inflated salaries, because they desperately wanted the company to look like a great place to work. It was a big corporate company trying to be a “cool” startup. They filtered out any less than positive reviews (I wrote one and it mysteriously never appeared on Glassdoor, and the same thing happened to several other colleagues).

      My department only found out when someone saw an EA salary listed as 40K when it reality it paid $25K.

      1. overeducated*

        That seems like such an obviously bad idea – at least for salaries like that, the jig is up when offer time comes!

      2. KR*

        I think that Glassdoor and other sites were created with good intent, but in practice I rarely find it useful. People either write reviews because they’re upset with the company (something to be wary of on product or restaurant reviews too), or they write reviews because their company strongly encouraged them to do so, or the company edits out bad reviews. It’s almost never a good idea to blast your company online by name and I think I would be nervous writing a review of a company I worked for and having it being leaked back to me. Just my experience.

        1. anonanonanon*

          Yeah. Whenever I write reviews of anything, I try to be as objective as possible and include any good aspects with the bad aspects. Reviews are also so subjective. I know people in my current company who have written bad reviews about our department saying that they always have to stay late and there’s no work/life balance, but these are people who I personally know are the type to make more work for themselves and can’t manage their time efficiently so instead of working the normal 9-5 everyone else does, they’re working 8-5 or 9-6 to catch up (when no one forces them to stay since my department is really laid back and accommodating about that type of thing)

          I find the really negative Glassdoor reviews tend to be like hotel reviews that claim a hotel in the middle of a busy city with an active nightlife is “too active or loud” or product reviews where people give the item 1 star because it didn’t match their personal design preferences or something else inane.

          1. Stevie Wonders*

            Can you elaborate on this glassdoor filtering process? I was under the impression that wasn’t allowed. But I’ve heard others say their reviews got deleted too.

      3. F.*

        Employers cannot change reviews on Glassdoor, they can only respond to them. I know exactly who wrote which reviews on my company’s Glassdoor page. One of them left a very thoughtful, truthful review which basically echoed the discussion I had with him at his exit interview. He brought up both good points and bad points about working here and did so in a respectful way. The other two reviews are from disgruntled, fired ex-employees. I take anything on Glassdoor with a large grain of salt.

  17. BethRA*

    We don’t post salaries, and it drives me NUTS. It’s not fair to applicants, and it winds up wasting a lot of staff time, too, because we wind up dealing with a lot of applications that just aren’t appropriate for the position level. I’ve been encouraging hiring managers to bring it up in their initial contacts with people, but I”m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.

  18. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

    One of the ways we have tried to combat the issue of candidates wanting to be at the top of the band is to use “salary is $xx,xxx+” with a note that salary can be increased based on experience.

    It’s still not ideal, but I think it helps.

    1. straws*

      This what we do too. We post a “salary starts at” number, so that there’s at least some expectation of the ballpark range. I like to think it does help for those who are significantly out of our range at least.

    2. Roscoe*

      Yeah, I think that is great. Even if your salary range is 60-70k, and you say salary is $55k +, then at least no one looking at jobs at less than that won’t apply

  19. The Alias Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

    This is especially frustrating when applying for internal jobs. My company doesn’t post them even internally. We don’t even know the range. You can ask if you know the hiring manager, if you know who it is, but if you ask HR, they won’t even respond.

    1. MoinMoin*

      Yes! This kills me. I worked somewhere whose policy it was to not even send an inquiry to the comp committee until after you’d accepted and moved into the new position, so when you did find out the salary you’d already been in the position for a month and were a lot more invested to accept it. You could say no and move back to your old position, but management would pretty much tell you that with that attitude you weren’t going to be offered another chance to move up. And they tended to offer very low entry level salaries with the promise that they promote primarily from within and there’s lots of opportunity to move up (later you realize it’s because attrition was around 70%)- but their policy was to cap promotions at a 10% raise and then 1-3% COL otherwise, so it was pretty much impossible to every “catch up” to industry standard in any position beyond entry level. It was all kinds of bad, and an endless font of “bad workplace” stories for me.

  20. Jen*

    This is so hard. I’m a hiring manager and I often have a very flexible budget for roles.

    For example, if I’m hiring for a product manager, I will pay 80k for someone with less experience in either the industry or product management, but for someone that comes in with 5 years of directly relevant product management experience, esp if from a direct competitor, I’ll offer 100k. If someone applies with exemplary credentials and I have the budget, I’d even consider bumping up the role in title and trying to get them on board if their skills are right for our company.

    Posting a salary range of 80-100k+ means I’ll have candidates that are really only worth 80k in the market thinking I’m going to pay them 100.

    Having a conversation up front about the candidates expectations (either current salary, which is less important, or desired salary, which is what I actually want to know…) helps me level set with them. If they want 140, I tell them it’s not gonna happen for even the most qualified candidate. If they are looking for 60 and they are worth 80, I offer 80. It is not in my interest to totally lowball someone because I end up paying for it during merit/promo time anyway, or I end up with an employee that eventually realizes they are way underpaid, they either want a big bump or they leave.

    So, as a candidate the best thing you can do is research fair market rate for those roles in your area, factor in where you are on the experience scale, and use that as a starting point.

    1. Roscoe*

      So is there a reason you wouldn’t narrow your range a bit? I mean a 20k range is a lot, what if you just said 80-90k? Then if you offer them 80, your lowest, and they want more, you still aren’t likely going out of your range anyway.

    2. BRR*

      Have you tried explaining the reasons to the $80K candidates why you value them at $80K instead of $100K?

      1. Jen*

        Yep! I’m talking specifically about posting the salary with the job. Putting 80-100 on a posting sets underqualified candidates up for disappointment and often deters candidates that I might pay 110k for from applying.

        I’m fine verbally sharing with candidates that salary will depend a lot on experience and skill set, once we are actually interested in the resume. I’ve even asked the recruiter to say something like “given your experience my best guess is the hiring manager will be looking in the X-y range”.

        1. Jen*

          We also use language like “the entry point for this role is around 80k, but this job has a very broad salary band so there is room to bring candidates in at a few different levels in order to allow growth”

          But none of that goes on the job posting itself.

          1. BRR*

            Thanks for answering! I imagine it’s hard when you have a broad range in the budget and I like this language a lot.

  21. Rebecca*

    It’s not just the salary, but other costs too. I was pretty excited to see a job open up locally that I thought would be a great move from my current job, but I learned it was starting pay of $10.14 or so per hour, plus the health insurance costs were pretty high, as in several hundred per month for a single person plan, and it went up from there. Those things are important. If you’re just starting out, and living with your parents, this might be feasible, but otherwise, I don’t know who could afford to work there.

  22. Adam*

    Looking at Alison’s explanations why some organizations don’t post salary ranges in the job listing, would this be a possible middle ground (assuming we’re leaving out the jerks who intentionally look to lowball you)?

    Instead of posting a range that may disinterest high performers and leave everyone else thinking they’ll be at the top, perhaps they could post something like. “The salary range for this position begins at $60K per year”. That way everyone knows where the floor is and then the ceiling is up for negotiation for those who are still interested.

    Are there any drawbacks to this approach? I suppose this may give the company the ability to hold most candidates towards the low end of the range, but I’m assuming in these instances that in addition to not lowballing you the decision makers would also be the type to negotiate in a reasonable and mutually beneficial fashion. Also while this can be hard to do I think most job seekers can do at least a little research in regards to what positions they are seen are typically paid in their local area and have something of a base to begin with in the discussion.

    1. BRR*

      Interesting idea! It’s a step in the right direction. I just wish if a candidate questions why they are not at the top of the range, the hiring manager could state why they offered what they did and what a candidate would need to be offered more.

  23. LawCat*

    I have also found this frustrating in the past. It seems like a huge a waste of everyone’s time when the salary range is such a key piece of information for candidates. I remember a job that I went through the whole song and dance for a position. I liked the people, the work seemed interesting, but when they made an offer it was 17% lower than what I was making at the time (and I wasn’t even paid that much!) and no benefits for a year. They were only willing to move a small amount on salary, and not at all on benefits. They would have had to be willing to pay at least 10% more than what I had been making with benefits for me to even consider leaving. I would never even applied for the position had I known the salary range and position on benefits. I quickly turned them down and they seemed so surprised. The whole thing certainly was not a good use of anyone’s time.

    1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

      I had this happen too. I liked the team and the company so much that I actually did a budget to see if I could live on a $20k pay cut.

      I couldn’t do it, and I when I started to think about what a step back like that would mean for future earnings, I had to give my regrets.

    2. Stevie Wonders*

      Did they know your current salary? Because I’m utterly baffled at this trend of expecting folks to switch jobs for less money.

      I’ve become pretty aggressive at establishing salary as early as possible after wasting interviews on jobs where the pay was hopelessly inadequate.

  24. Fabulous*

    I just had this issue come up for me a few weeks ago. I guesstimated, from what I knew of the organization and researching their most recent Form 990, a ballpark where I thought they might be offering and decided to apply based on that. When I got a call for an interview, I asked “Before we set up a time to meet, I want to be sure that we match in salary expectations. Do you have a set range you’re looking at for this position?” From there, I discovered it was part time $15/hour. So, yeah…. early on is definitely a good time to ask that question.

    1. Anon for this*

      I find companies 990’s to be very valuable. Most of the companies in my field are non-profits, and there is a huge variation of what they pay. Typically, I can get a good idea if the organization is even worth applying based on what they pay their CEO (and other key employees if listed). There is no point in applying to a position when the CEO of the organization makes less than I make as a mid-level manager.

      But, I also think some employers know that their salary ranges are very low, and hope that they can find a great candidate who is willing to take below market rate for their skills based on other things.

      1. Over Development*

        I see this a lot with non-profits in my city. They think that if you “really love the cause” you should be fine working for peanuts.

        I also had someone tell me that married women can take lower salaries because their husbands are the real breadwinners and they are only working because they believe in the mission.

        1. TL -*

          Ugh. Data shows that women are equally likely to be breadwinners in the family now (either contributing equally or more) – if you ever run into that person again.

    2. overeducated*

      Better than me. I took a half day off work, commuting a hour home and then driving 1.5 hours to an interview, only to learn the position was only 20 hours a week. The job had a senior-sounding title that generally means full time, so that’s something it would have been useful to see in the ad….

  25. Jen*

    I do a ton of hiring and we do post the salary range in our job postings and I even highlight the info, but I am shocked at how many candidates don’t take note of it. Anyway, what I wanted to contribute is that, for me, it isn’t about when you ask about salary, it is how you ask about it. When I am doing an initial phone call with a candidate, I do bring up salary just to make sure that they were comfortable with the range that we had posted. However, if someone brings it up first, I don’t mind as long as they do it in a professional manner. I am not going to lie, it is a bit annoying when we have posted the salary range and then I schedule a call with a candidate and before I can even finish introducing myself I get the “I’ll stop you right there, I am going to need to know what this pays before we keep going”. I really hate that. I think that AAM’s suggestions on how to phrase the question are excellent and most employers are totally going to understand that it is a very important question.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I am not going to lie, it is a bit annoying when we have posted the salary range and then I schedule a call with a candidate and before I can even finish introducing myself I get the “I’ll stop you right there, I am going to need to know what this pays before we keep going”.

      It would be hard not to respond with “Oh, don’t worry. We pay within the range that we advertised.” ;-)

  26. AliceS*

    In my industry it is not normal to post salary requirements as there may be employees at the firm in the same job who make less than we might have to pay to get a new hire in this position. We wouldn’t want current employees resenting the new hire knowing that the new hire is making more money to do the same job. Obviously for existing employees who are stellar performers, they may be making what we are offering the new hire, but not all employees are paid the same salary. I think we normally provide the salary range during the interviewing process.

    1. F.*

      We have the same problem. I hate to tell management, but the employees talk about their wages all the time. They all know what the others make, and there is a great deal of resentment from the ones who are better performers who are underpaid compared to newbies with little experience and few certifications. I keep pushing for pay equity across our production positions, but I often feel like I’m beating a dead horse.

  27. Lia*

    I had this happen recently. I was contacted out the blue by a recruiter on LinkedIn about a job opening they hoped I’d interview for. I responded by asking for more information, including the salary range. The recruiter gave me the typical line about salary depending on experience and then turned it on around on me and asked how much I was looking for. I’m not even job seeking right now! Giving me the run-around on salary, after they approached me, is aggravating. I’m sure they have a range in mind. Why not just tell me what it is so we each know if we’d be wasting our time or not?

  28. Regular Reader*

    I tried to add salary info to the last job I posted but our CFO nixed it because he didn’t want other people at our company to know what other people were making. Ugh. Doing my best to make things upfront but other people won’t allow it even when I give great reasons.

  29. SG*

    I have a friend who did a full day interview, then another interview and is going back for a third in person interview and they still haven’t disclosed the salary.

    1. College Career Counselor*

      Sounds like higher ed in private institutions (public institutions have to publish the salaries).

      1. saminrva*

        I’ll add another annoying anecdote about private institutions in higher ed — I’ve been on search committees many many times and it was standard for none of us, including the search committee chair, to know anything about the position’s salary. I don’t recall a candidate ever asking, but if they had, we would’ve had zero information to share — not even a ballpark range since none of us knew each other’s salaries either. After the committee decided who to hire, the offer and negotiation stages were all done by HR, in secret collaboration with the higher-ups. I had this experience as a candidate several times too. Unfortunately these jobs are few and far between to the point where a lot of candidates (especially entry-level) don’t feel like they can walk away regardless of the salary and this system definitely takes advantage of that.

  30. Aly*

    Another infuriating trend that I’ve noticed is when HR pretends to not know the salary of the position you’re interviewing for. In my industry it’s common to have a day-long on-site inteview, featuring multiple 1:1 meetings with various people in the company. HR is always one of those meetings. Multiple times now, I’ve gone into those interviews only to have HR tell me “Oh, I don’t know the salary range for this position off the top of my head.” You knew you’d be meeting with a candidate for X job, why didn’t you look it up before the meeting?

    Why must we continue this ridiculous charade of not disclosing salary until a job offer is made? Grr.

  31. Rusty Shackelford*

    One thing I love about my boss is that, even though our openings list the salary range, she brings it up at the beginning of the interview. Benefits too.

  32. JB*

    Soo…I have a question related to this topic, if anyone cares to chime in. I just had a phone interview with a company my friend works at. There was no salary range listed in the job posting, but I had an idea based on what my friend accepted for the same position in another department (we also have very similar work experience). The number I was expecting for the role (based on her experience) would be less than I make now, but could be worth it for the company culture and benefits.

    Anyway, the company recruiter opened the call by saying she thought I would be perfect but she was worried about salary expectations, so she wanted to tell me outright what the top of their range was. The number she gave is $5,000 less then where my friend started, which is not what I was expecting to hear, and particularly not that it is the TOP of the range. I didn’t tell her what I was expecting, but just that that was less than I make now – that was probably a mistake, but I was totally caught off guard by it being the first thing we talked about. I told her it wasn’t a dealbreaker at this point and I wanted to continue the process. I now have an interview with the department head scheduled for next week.

    My dilemma is that if I did not know what salary my friend started at (and a side note – she has now been promoted after less than a year with a $10,000 raise) I would probably self-select out at this point. However – because I know she was able to work them up the extra $5,000 initially (I don’t know if that was past the top of the stated range at the time or not) I think maybe I’m expecting to be able to do the same. Is this wrong? Should I be stepping out of this process? I also think it’s a little out of the norm that my friend was able to negotiate a title bump and $10,000 raise within a year of being hired…so I think that’s contributing to my skepticism about whether what I’m told is the top, really is… But on the other hand, the recruiter did give me a number upfront, and I don’t want to waste anyone’s time.

  33. Champagne_Dreams*

    This only works if you’re pretty certain your asking salary is at the top of your range….

    During phone screen: “I’m looking to make X to X, is that anywhere near your budget?”

    This has been wildly successful for me, prevented pointless time off work for pointless interviews, and the job I ended up with said it would be stretch but not impossible, and I confirmed once I was on board that they’d gotten additional funding to secure me.

  34. MBA*

    Ugh – several years ago I had a recruiter approach me out of the blue for a position. I had no idea what the pay would be and as previous experience had taught me, a lot of similar jobs payed much lower than what I was making at the time.

    After a couple phone interviews (which I scheduled over my lunch hour) I finally got annoyed enough with missing my lunch that I worked up the nerve to ask what the salary range was. The recruiter responded in a very snotty tone that it was, “too soon to discuss that.” I was floored considering I had a stable job and wasn’t the one who approached the company.

    After that conversation, their interest in me seemed to significantly decrease and I wasn’t given an offer. Honestly, I’m kind of glad I wasn’t!

  35. Pineapple Incident*

    For the record, this: “But there are still plenty of employers who are horrified to discover that you are working for money, you filthy mercenary.”

    …is my FAVORITE thing ever.

  36. ChemTech*

    One thing I didn’t see mentioned which could be useful in assessing salaries is H1B and green card salary info. This information is publically available for all US companies and specifies year, prevailing wage, offered wage, and position title. (I personally use this site: http://data.jobsintech.io/.) I have found it incredibly useful in conjunction with other websites to get a realistic salary range. (This method assumes that visa rates are similar to non-visa rates, but I think they should be more realistic than voluntary salary surveys, such as glassdoor.)

    1. Stevie Wonders*

      Very interesting idea. But I’ve heard H1-Bs are often underpaid. Did your research confirm that?

      1. ChemTech*

        Generally, yes. But it gave a good starting point for salary negotiation and helped me apply for the right company/position where data was available. ( I work in an industry where “associate” can be a $30k or a $80k job. So, I wanted my experience and the job needs to align.)

  37. Just me*

    My favorite thing ever is when they say “competitive salary” and when you find out what it is it’s ridiculously low. Soooo competitive with what? Volunteering?

    1. Rachel*

      It’s the recruiting equivalent of when countries describe themselves as “Democratic” in their formal title.

  38. ceiswyn*

    Aaaargh, the ‘we won’t tell you the salary range’ thing drives me crazy.

    I earn well above market rate for my profession (think 30% over), because, without false modesty, I’m really good at what I do. But it makes applying for new jobs one huge minefield, because if I make my salary expectations clear early in the process I get to talk to a dial tone; but if I wait until after the interview I normally discover everyone’s been wasting their time.

    At my current gig, the hiring manager went to bat to the CEO so that he could make me an over-budget offer; but I only applied in the first place because they gave an actual salary range in their job ad, and it was enough over the standard that it suggested they knew the value of a decent teapot-finisher and would recognise a really good one.

  39. Rachel*

    I don’t apply for roles that don’t list a salary range. For the same reason as no employer would ever interview a candidate with no skills described on their CV, and just a list of things the candidate was looking for instead.

  40. Gavin*

    If I do not know the company, and it is not freelance work, then I avoid all job postings that will not disclose the salary and would advise the same. There is no good reason for them to hide the salary unless they are embarrassed to post it or want to be able to negotiate hard without showing their hand.

    The hope is that you will get hooked into the process, enough that they can offer you a sub market rate. Of course for time served professionals this is ridiculous, you can save a lot of hassle up front, as I am not going to take a role that drops 20k from my current income. Waste of everyone’s time.

    The exception to this might be if you are just starting out, and dont have a current salary, in that case opting for high profile employers could be more important than salary, initially.

    If they dont disclose the salary then they are not looking for the best of the best. As much as we hear, “we want people more interested in the job than the salary”, at the top end that total rubbish, as these guys already have jobs, and are not looking to worsen their position for the opportunity to work in a shop with a “great culture”.

    Avoid jobs that dont disclose at least a salary range, imagine what else they keep hidden!

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