why do employers play coy games about salary?

Of all the weird and nonsensical practices that companies use in hiring, probably none are as bizarre as our conventions around negotiating salary. Given that paying employees money in exchange for their labor is what hiring is all about, you’d think that the salary would be discussed early, clearly, and directly in any hiring process. But for some reason that approach is more the exception than the rule.

I wrote a piece for Slate about the coy games employers play around salary, like hiding what they plan to pay and even taking offense when candidates bring up money — and what you can do about it.. You can read it here.

{ 246 comments… read them below }

  1. Cordoba

    I submit that people in general are not good at negotiating prices, to include the price of their own labor. Try buying and selling a few higher-dollar items on Craigslist if you need confirmation of this.

    It’s not something that people do very often in day to day life so most folks don’t have good expectations around how negotiating works and what a negotiation even looks like; much less the higher-level strategies and approaches to optimize your own outcome.

    In many cases the answer to “Why is the employer doing this thing that I find to be confusing and inconvenient?” is “Because that is typical behavior in negotiating.” For example, it would be highly atypical for either a buyer of a seller to lead off with their actual “best offer” because doing so is a recipe for either paying too much or getting paid too little compared to the actual market value of the item/labor under consideration.

    I found that reading up on and practicing negotiating prices as a general concept made me much better at negotiating for my own salary specifically. Better to get over the learning curve in a few non-critical transactions than have to figure it out in real time in a high stakes salary conversation.

    A candidate does not have to like the way salary is negotiated, but it is to their advantage to accept that this *is* the way compensation is typically established and to improve their skills at this sort of interaction.

    1. the gold digger

      But I don’t think this issue is even about negotiating price once the first number has been thrown out. It’s that employers don’t even want to give a number at all until the candidate has committed hours and hours of time to preparation and interviewing.

      I can negotiate once I have a number. But I need to have a number first to find out if I even want to negotiate or if I am going to walk away.

      1. esra

        Exactly. I agree people in general aren’t used to negotiating, but employers do have ranges. I wish getting them wasn’t pulling teeth.

      2. Anonymous Educator

        Yeah, it’d be like listing an item on Craigslist but not attaching a price to it, and then insisting the buyer name a price first she’d be willing to pay. Even eBay has a starting bid price before people start bidding!

        1. Red Reader

          Yes! I was trying recently to hire a landscaper to do a small, but labor intensive, project in my yard. The first agency I called got really snotty that I didn’t tell her how much I was going to pay. Lady, I called you to find out how to get a quote to get this work done. I have no idea what’s a reasonable price, the way this works is you tell me what you’re going to charge me and then I decide if I want it done badly enough.

          1. Lily Rowan

            That sounds like the apartment broker who wouldn’t show me apartments because I hadn’t seen any yet. I get not wanting to be your first source of information, but someone’s got to be!

        2. Cordoba

          In the case of a salary negotiation the candidate is analogous to the seller and the employer is analogous to the seller. The employee is selling their time/effort/talent to the employer in exchange for money.

          It is very normal for the seller to give the first dollar figure. As you note, this is how it works on Craigslist, eBay, retail, and most other transactions. The candidate (seller) giving their salary expectation first is consistent with how things are typically bought and sold.

          1. Cordoba

            Correction: the first sentence should read “In the case of a salary negotiation the candidate is analogous to the seller and the employer is analogous to the buyer.”

            1. Anonymous Educator

              Do you genuinely believe candidates should name their number first? Or are you just pointing out where the analogy breaks down?

              1. Cordoba

                I genuinely believe that employers who expect candidates to name their number first are very common and unlikely to disappear in the immediate-term, so it would behoove anybody who is on the job market to increase their comfort and ability wrt negotiation so as to obtain the best possible outcome for themselves.

                When I’m negotiating salary (or anything else) for myself I don’t care who gives a number first and I’m equally happy doing it either way.

                In general I am strongly in favor of pay transparency laws and other efforts to correct the information and power asymmetry that exists between applicants and employers. I also don’t rely on them as my primary means of getting a favorable result when talking with a new potential employer.

                I also genuinely believe that negotiating 5/6-figure transactions is entirely normal, appropriate, and unlikely to ever go away completely; and that expecting zero negotiation when taking a new job is unrealistic, just like it would be in the context of buying a house or a car. Therefore, it makes sense to get reasonably good at it.

                1. Danger: Gumption Ahead

                  I only apply to jobs that post the salary because my time is valuable enough to me that I don’t want to waste it writing a cover letter and tailoring my resume for jobs that are paying so little that I wouldn’t take them. I can see negotiating within a salary band, but I don’t want to go through the whole process only to find that the pay is too low to accept. Who has time for that?

                2. PlainJane

                  I’m with Gumption. I’m much less likely to apply for a position that doesn’t list a salary range. Why should I invest a bunch of time and effort when I have no idea if we’re even in the same ballpark? And I also tend to wonder what they have to hide. If they were proud of their range, why wouldn’t they advertise it?

                3. Anonymous Educator

                  Just because it makes sense to get reasonably good at something you’re likely to encounter doesn’t mean we should all just throw our hands up and say “Oh, well. It’s the status quo. It will never change.” Applicants today are hiring managers tomorrow (or even today). If many of us decide this is ridiculous, we can shift the culture.

                4. Lance

                  Agreed very much so with Anonymous Educator especially: change doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Change occurs because something happens to push that change. And I, similarly, am not terribly willing to be the first person to throw out a number, especially being newer to the job market and not having much clue what numbers are reasonable.

                5. Jasnah

                  I think this breaks down when you factor in the power imbalance that exists in hiring. Most of the time, the employee needs a job more than the employer needs that particular worker. If both sides are entertaining other offers, and the candidate can walk away without a job at all (which can only happen if they have a good job in the first place. Or live in a world with universal basic income and insurance is decoupled from their employment status) then yes, the seller/employee can name a figure first.

                  As it is, though, employers have a huge negotiating advantage in terms of being able to walk away from the deal (they can hire someone else or close the position with fewer repercussions than the employee losing income/insurance), and their budget is much more rigid than the employee’s. We know this because tons of people are working for less than a living wage because it’s either that or nothing, and there’s nothing they can do about it except lobby the government to increase minimum wage (which employers can also do). In the US employers can also set the terms of employment and make health insurance decisions. So under these circumstances, it really doesn’t make sense for the employee to throw out a number when the employer holds all the cards.

            2. Rocinante

              I look at the analogy as more which party is looking to get the largest number of reasonable offers from this particular transaction.

              In terms of craigslist, the seller wants a lot of potential buyers to give reasonable offers. In that case, it makes sense for the seller to display a sale price, since that discourages offers that aren’t reasonable (price is too low).

              In terms of employment, the employer wants a lot of potential employees who would be reasonably good at the job and who would accept a reasonable salary. Logically then, the employer should display a salary and job requirements to discourage job applications that aren’t reasonable (applicants that demand too high of a salary or aren’t qualified). Most employers are really good at displaying job requirements, but a lot of them are bad at displaying salary. By not displaying salary, the employers end of getting a lot more job applications that aren’t reasonable and spend too much time interviewing people who wouldn’t accept the job.

          2. Anonymous Educator

            If a candidate took out an ad saying “Hi, I’m available for hiring,” you could definitely make a case that the candidate should say “My rate is…”

            But it’s the employers typically posting up an ad saying “We need this service,” and so they should be disclosing how much they are willing to pay for that service.

            1. Kat in VA

              Agreed. Worse when you’re in an area where the salary can range widely – as in $35k a year to $120k a year, dependent upon company and location.

              During my job search, I actually had one or two recruiters get angry with me for having the gall to name a number much higher than they were willing to pay when they forced me to toss out a range.

              WELL, WE’RE ONLY PAYING X DOLLARS.

              Yes, but you asked me first? And if you’d put your salary range in the listing, I wouldn’t have wasted your time OR mine by applying?

              But no, there’s this stupid song and dance you have to go through where everyone on their side is pretending that salary is somehow a distasteful, tacky subject to bring up.

              /eyeroll

              1. TL -

                I had a recruiter argue with me about my expected salary, too!

                She called me, I listened to her pitch; salary was $40K. I said “Oh, I’m not going to take an industry job for less than $60K, sorry.” ($40K is academia salary in my field but you get paid a lot more in industry).
                She got really frustrated and started telling me $40K was normal for industry, as evidenced by her one other job in Boston having a similar range. I politely declined.
                She was clearly trying not to be frustrated but I think, for some weird reason, she was having a really hard time finding candidates for that position.

          3. Scott

            I believe you are right. Most of the time, I think you should give your prospective employer the salary range you’d consider in your cover letter. That way they won’t waste their time and yours if their pay scale is way off from your requirements.

    2. Liet-Kinda

      “In many cases the answer to “Why is the employer doing this thing that I find to be confusing and inconvenient?” is “Because that is typical behavior in negotiating.”

      I mean, you’re not wrong. But the second part of the answer is “because the norms and manners around discussions of salary between employers and employees and between employees are heavily informed by the classist, capitalist nature of our employment market and tend to benefit the side of the negotiation we’re not on,” so representing this as a pure negotiation between equally empowered and knowledgeable economic actors is a bit optimistic.

      1. Liet-Kinda

        And, as a corollary, if an employer plays games, you are – really and truly! – allowed to walk! Just like if they’re allowed to terminate your employment at will, you don’t need to bother yourself with notions of personal loyalty to them.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        As someone who oversees negotiations, I disagree, in this context, that the employer is engaging in behavior that is typical of a negotiation.

        It is not normal to begin a negotiation with zero information about the price and value of services being exchanged or at least the party’s opening position. And as you noted, there’s a massive power asymmetry, here, that is not contemplated in traditional negotiations (although I’d argue power asymmetries are often present in that context, too).

        1. Liet-Kinda

          Sure, but in most -or at least, many – conventional market negotiations, the parties have a general idea how much the good or service is worth, and if one plays a little coy as a tactic, the other one can call bullshit or walk. Not so when discussion of salary between workers is frowned on or actively discouraged and the employer won’t divulge their budget.

        2. PlainJane

          This. The employer is advertising a position. Generally when you advertise a thing for sale, you advertise a price. Pretty basic.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      One of my mentors gave me Women Don’t Ask, which was exceptionally helpful in changing my approach to negotiating salaries.

      But I agree with goldie that this isn’t as much about negotiating price as it is about forcing the party with less access to information to do a bunch of research and hope that market-level research helps them evaluate a negotiation when they’re walking in blind. Most negotiations don’t start with no information or numbers, and they don’t require you to invest a bunch of time before you walk away.

      All I can hope for is more states adopting salary transparency laws.

      1. Anonymous Educator

        Even market research can’t help you fully, though. As in the example Alison posted up in the article, market research put the position at over $50K, but the position ended up being budgeted at $40K, and the applicant would have been fine at $40K, except she didn’t know they had budgeted it at $40K, because they never disclosed their budgeted amount to her.

        1. Le'veon Bell is Seizing the Means of Production

          Yes! And market value is so variable anyway. It changes a lot based on the firm and the individual in question, and the data that a candidate has access to is only a tiny sliver of what’s out there, and it’s all self-reported data. Which means that it could be lowballing, because there’s some evidence that people are more likely to post on Glassdoor, etc when they’re dissatisfied with their employer. So, market data could well be causing people to lowball themselves. There’s so much silly pointless information candidates are expected to bring in and sift thru, when ultimately the organization has already done all this legwork and have a range in mind that they could just post.

          1. Anonymous Educator

            Anecdotally, I one-time applied for two different jobs in the same metro area (relatively high cost of living). One job was going to pay $35K and the other $65K. Same type of work. Same cost of living. Similar sized companies.

            1. SusanIvanova

              Ah, but was the $35K company aware of the COL? When I moved to Silicon Valley in 1992, the VP of engineering (who was also the hiring manager; it was a small company) based his idea of COL on the fact that he’d bought his house in the 70s. So when four of us, all from cheaper parts of the country, all on our first or second professional jobs, said our salary requirements were in a range that would be great where we came from but barely cover rent out here (not like we could just google rent prices!), he believed us.

              Fortunately the CEO discovered it after a couple of years and fixed it.

        2. Ozma the Grouch

          About a year ago I applied for a position that I came across that really appealed to me. I currently make around $100k. I actually really like my current job and employer, but change could be good. They didn’t ask me how much I currently make, but did ask how much I wanted for the job which was a Director level position. I did the research and came up with the range of $105-115k. I thought I was low-balling myself. They instantly rejected me for being outside their budget which turned out to be $75-80k. This is for the Seattle area where you need to earn $61k a year to afford a 1-bedroom apartment.

    4. Yet another Kat

      Except “the way salary is negotiated” is a big part of what leads to pay disparity. I think it’s valid to challenge employers to look at the actual value of playing these types of games.

      They are putting a $$ value on a candidate being good at, and comfortable, negotiating, often for roles where that’s not a skill that is necessary or valuable to the actual job. What’s the point of that? Yes, it’s possible they might save a few bucks on a qualified employee in the short term, but it’s just as likely that they’ll drive away or lose out on great candidates, or lose trained employees who find out that they’re being underpaid compared to their peers either in house or in the industry.

      1. Anonymous Educator

        They are putting a $$ value on a candidate being good at, and comfortable, negotiating, often for roles where that’s not a skill that is necessary or valuable to the actual job. What’s the point of that?

        Yes, I’m very good at my job, and nothing about what I do day-to-day involves driving hard bargains or aggressively negotiating money. Rewarding people for negotiating salary instead of rewarding people for bringing skills and experience is entirely the wrong way to have a fair pay structure.

      2. Artemesia

        The wrinkle in the ‘women don’t negotiate’ meme is that when they do, they are still not treated like white men i.e. negotiated with in good faith. There is a fair amount of research showing that women get punished for negotiating and I know of cases where women successfully got signing bonuses or higher entry salaries but were treated as ‘difficult’ by their managers as a result.

        The research on car negotiations has shown that women and minorities simply don’t get the deals offered white men who negotiate even when they do negotiate. Companies literally walk away from the sale rather than let women ‘win’.

        There is a lot of blame the victim, but evidence of genuine discrimination is pretty strong. It is not the behavior only — it is also just being a woman.

    5. ArtK

      The problem is that the employers believe that as soon as they give a range, they’ve lost the negotiation, because they want the cheapest labor they can find. So they put the burden on the candidate

    6. Dan

      You say “people in general” are not good at negotiating… it’s worth clarifying that *Americans* in general are not good at negotiating prices. I travel to all kinds of crazy parts of the world, and in many places, you haggle for *everything*.

      The USA is a non-haggle society, except for houses, cars and jobs. You know… the three most important things that influence our lives. And yet, we grow up never getting the practice haggling on smaller things.

      Yes, I get funny stares from westerners because I haggle with 6 year old kids over the cost of a bottle of water, or over amounts that are insignificant to us.

      All that is to say I’m curious how different it is for people to negotiate salaries in countries where haggling is much more accepted as a general way of life.

      1. AdAgencyChick

        This is a great question!

        I remember being shocked when my mom and I traveled to her country of birth, we went to an outdoor market, and I attempted to buy an item for the price it was being offered to me. My mom slapped the item out of my hand and scolded me for not haggling. She also told me there was no way I could buy that item from this seller EVER, now that he knew I was willing to pay his first price.

        To this day, I hate haggling (and my salary negotiations have always been for me to walk if I don’t get what I ask for, rather than doing any kind of back-and-forth to a deal), and I wonder whether I’d find salary talks easier if I had that experience.

        1. the gold digger

          I lived in South America for two years and got very good at saying, “I’m foreign, not stupid. Give me the local price.”

          But – I am still very bad at buying rugs in Morocco and at negotiating salary.

          1. Liet-Kinda

            From what I’ve been told, buying ANYTHING in north Africa is like dealing with the New England Patriots of negotiating, and Americans are like a fat guy who likes to chuck around a ball with his kid in the back yard. You’re gonna get mowed even if you CAN throw a tight spiral.

            1. Danger: Gumption Ahead

              I didn’t find Morocco too tough. Egypt was definitely a harder, because they have been fleecing tourists since before the Ptolemys so it is a fine art, but it wasn’t too terrible. China, on the other hand, was next level. Those market ladies would get the best of any bazaari I ever met. It was intense!

        2. Liet-Kinda

          When I lived in India, I went to see the Taj Mahal – because of course – and ended up sucked into a “come to see the rug store of my cousin” thing. And I got served some very good chai and they started bringing out the rugs. And I just shook my head and kept drinking chai, as various sub-cousins and hangers-on went to get ever-grander rugs for ever-cheaper prices. At some point, I got the idea that I had inadvertantly negotiated for some very nice rugs at very (eventually) reasonable prices, and eventually got my brain engaged with the process. To this day, half my house is decorated with pretty rugs and Kashmiri tapestries and hangings and so on.

          The really amusing part is, that’s not the first time I’ve inadvertantly started negotiating for suff, and the second time I ended up buying an assault rifle. Clearly I need to watch this tendency of mine.

      2. Cordoba

        I agree, and I should have been more specific that Americans are unfamiliar with and bad at negotiating. Other cultures do it much more frequently and are consequently better at it.

        This is one of the reasons I am not a fan of the “why do we have to do all this negotiation as part of the hiring process?” mindset. Negotiation is the norm for most human societies, the current Western fixed-price mentality is the aberration.

        1. neverjaunty

          I’m not sure you really want to go down the “majority vote” route, particular when it’s rootrd in simplistic stereotypes about The West vs. Everyone Else.

        2. Scarlet

          The problem is not having to negotiate, it’s having to negotiate *blind*. Especially when the party that has less information is also the one that has less power. Anyway, it’s just ridiculous. Companies have a budget for a position, they don’t just make it up as they go.

          And like many other commenters have said before, this kind of process leads to a lot of pay disparities. Fair pay requires transparency, not mind games.

        3. beanie beans

          The question isn’t “why do we have to do all this negotiation as part of the hiring process?” It’s “Why do I have to guess at a number/range in order to even get close to the negotiation process.”

          The negotiation process typically happens at the end of the hiring process. The process everyone here is discussing is mostly at the beginning of the process to determine if the two parties are even interested in moving forward.

          If, like Alison’s first example, a candidate researches a job, names a range of $50K-$60K, and the company says sorry, you’re out of the running because the job pays $40 – that’s not negotiation.

          The question here is why can’t the company just tell the candidate the range is $40-$45K, like others are describing here, and let the candidate decide if it fits their range. And the answer is, because the company doesn’t want to pay more if they can get away with it. And that sucks.

        4. Ann O.

          Haggling in the market is not comparable to job negotiation of a salary. In a market exchange, the information is not hidden and the power is not asymmetrical. There are also generally understood rules for how and when to do it.

          I lived in Morocco. I can haggle fine (although it’s not my favorite thing to do). My haggle experience doesn’t help me at all with salary negotiations.

      3. Quoth the Raven

        I’m from Mexico. I never really haggles (which is sometimes done), but I have negotiated salaries.

        That said, in my experience salary is, most of the time, disclosed outright — sometimes in the ad itself (so you know, before you even apply, if it’s a good fit), or during the initial interview. You can still negotiate, especially once you know the entirety of the benefits and obligations the job entails (so, for example, you can ask for more if you’re not getting healthcare through work) and though I have been asked to provide salary ranges, too, it’s not as common, and many times when I already know theirs.

        I am a freelance translator/interpreter and one of the first things I’ll disclose is my own rate (per hour, per X amount of words, etc.) with the understanding it’s all mutually negotiable — I can charge more if it’s urgent work, for example, but I am also willing to go lower in certain conditions. No sense in wasting anyone’s time, right?

        1. Random Commenter

          Same in Argentina. Salary will be stated in the job posting, or they will ask you your expected salary on your first contact. It can then be negotiated some, but this way at least the potential employer and employee know if they are even in the same ballpark. I have never negotiated but I have been offered more than the initial salary that I gave.

      4. TL -

        Americans do negotiate, it’s just that a lot of people don’t know we do.
        I almost never pay asking price at a crafts fair* or if I’m buying something from a person instead of a store. And even if you’re buying retail, there’s a lot of circumstances where you can ask for a discount or see if they’ll knock a little off, especially if you’re making an unusual or large order.

        However, it’s usually not a “I’ll give you $25” “no $30” “How about $27?” process, more of a friendly social exchange where the buyer expresses admiration but clearly indicates they’re worried about the impact on their budget.
        Example: I got a 25% discount because I bit my lip and looked concerned after the seller mentioned the price of a quilt I had been admiring (out loud to my friend, who still doesn’t understand how I got the discount.)

      5. SusanIvanova

        Mom decided to buy a Trans Am once the kids were out of the house. She asked co-workers what price she should accept, and one of them thought he’d prank her by telling her some ridiculously low percentage over dealer cost.

        So that’s what she asked for. And stuck with it, despite all the “I couldn’t possibly” from the salesguy, which she just assumed was a normal negotiating process. And got it. Her co-worker was *shocked*.

    7. klwetatr

      Yes, how do you negotiate with someone who refuses to to throw out an starting number? You have no choice but to throw out a number or a range. As Allison mentioned, this can result in an employer deciding nope, your range doesn’t overlap with our secret range, so goodbye. But also, suppose you’ve been grossly underpaid & your range is well below the secret range? What’s to stop a company from deciding to hire you & save some money in the process? There are a ton of reasons a good company shouldn’t or wouldn’t do this, but really, what’s to stop them if they wanted to do this? I could imagine a company thinking, worst case, you discover you’re being paid less than your peers & we’ll throw a little extra money at you when/if you complain.

      1. many bells down

        Ugh that’s what happened with my last offer. They asked what I expected for pay, and I came back with “what’s your range for this position?” They said “we don’t really have one.”

        So I threw out a number and they said “oh yeah that’s about what we were thinking.” Some bullshit there.

        1. Kristobel

          “We don’t really have one.” Oh really??? You don’t have a budget for your organization? You just spend money willy-nilly and everything magically works out? Please.

          1. TL -

            I’d be so tempted to say, “That indicates a level of disorganization that I am truly not comfortable with in my professional life, so, unfortunately, I don’t think you’ll be a good match for me as an employer.”

        2. Marie the Chef

          I had the *exact* same conversation recently. And then found out, after I didn’t get the job, that they ended up low-balling the person they did offer the job to.

          I also had an experience recently where I was contacted for an interview, they told me in that call what the salary was, and I said “honestly, that’s lower than what I”m looking for right now” (which I was pretty proud of myself for saying. They still asked me to interview. I didn’t get the job, but it was worth the interview practice!

      2. Old Cynic

        Yeah, that happened to me. I was looking to change jobs because I was grossly underpaid. I think I was making $28k at the time. I interviewed for a company where the recruiter told me the range was $35-45k. The manager interviewing me asked my salary goal and I mentioned $36-3
        8k which I would have been fine with and the manager responded well to. The offer came in at $32k, capped by the manager’s VP. No movement on that because the VP thought a raise from 28 to 32 was way more than enough. I lasted 14 months in that job. After 12, I put the work out to recruiters.

    8. Rocinante

      One thing about job offers as a negotiation is that it’s not a one-time negotiation. When a job applicant accepts a job offer, that now employee’s salary is continually “negotiated” against any other job the employee applies to or thinks of applying to. If the employer “wins” the salary negotiation by underpaying the employee, the employer will inevitably lose to another employer’s job offer down the line. Looking from that perspective, the employer has a huge incentive to get to a reasonable salary that competes against the market as a whole.

      1. all the candycorn

        Except they don’t a lot of the time. I’ve worked places where this is going on, and instead of raising pay, they just a) complain that they can’t get any good workers and b) overload the employees they already have until they get fed up and leave, at which point they c) complaint hat it’s just SO unfair everyone is disloyal and selfish and keeps leaving!

        1. klwetatr

          Yep, I’ve worked at a few companies that view all employees as cogs. So Bob is quitting or burnt out? No problem, we’ll just go hire another Bob.

      2. Marthooh

        That’s assuming the employers are well-informed as well as perfectly rational, which is a big assumption.

  2. Annie on a Mouse

    When I did an internship (at the company I now work for), one of the managers took me out to lunch and said, “Now I’m going to explain what you’re too polite to ask about” and then proceeded to tell me all about the salary and promotion schedule, stock options, 401(k) contribution plan, etc.

    He’s long since retired but I always appreciated that lunch. It’s silly to expect people to make life changing decisions without knowing whether they can afford to do so.

    1. Damn it, Hardison!

      That was very nice of him! I once interviewed for a position where the person who would be my manager told me in the interview to negotiate whatever salary I was offered by the organization. I followed her advice and got a few thousand added to the salary. She was savvy and shared her career advice generously.

    2. Lavender Menace

      I actually make a point of telling informational interviewees my salary, even though they never ask (since they’ve been told not to. Also, if appropriate for the context, I also mention my salary AND the range of salaries in my field when I sit on panels. It was the piece of information I didn’t have when I was going into the industry, and it’s very difficult to find good salary information because my field is kind of niche. I would’ve badly lowballed myself when I first started interviewing – luckily, I had a couple interviewers who set out their range early on – and so I try to arm people with that information and destigmatize people knowing how much money you make at the same time.

    3. KR

      I love this. When I interviewed to be brought on full time at my company (temp to hire) my manager gave me a very frank run down of the benefits the company offers. I really appreciated it.

  3. Kathleen_A

    I would just like to post a tribute here to my best former boss (now, alas, deceased). When interviewing with him for a job that I eventually got, I had intended to ask about salary, but I was going to work up to it gradually, so what I asked was “What can you tell me about the benefit package?

    “Let’s start with the most important benefit of all,” he said, and then told me the salary range.

    He was a good boss and a great guy. I wish they’d all been like him.

      1. Kathleen_A

        I know, right? I’ve had other bosses who were sort of up front, but only sort of. He’s the only one so far to just say it plainly, concisely and simply.

    1. GlitsyGus

      That is really awesome.

      I will also say that that is how I usually broach the topic as well. Start off asking about the health plan, work up to the number on the paycheck.

  4. CatCat

    Great article. I once had an interview that involved a skills test, interview with the hiring manager, and interview with the company owner (small company). When they made an offer, it was so bad that I didn’t even bother negotiating and turned them down flat. We were nowhere near the same page. I would never have applied had I known the really low pay and lack of benefits upfront. What a waste of everyone’s time it was.

  5. Anon For Always

    We publicize salary ranges for each position that we advertise. We just started advertising salary ranges about 18 months ago, and now we have managers who complain that the quality of the candidate pool has decreased. I would argue that is because we aren’t paying enough, not because we are advertising a salary range.

    I thought this was a key point from Allison’s piece “…good employers are able to explain how their salary scale works and where the candidate fits into it.” I think that part is generally lacking. And, where I work it’s definitely lacking. We have a very large salary range (think 50K-70K), and of course most people want towards the top of the range, but we have no rationale as to how we determine who gets towards the top of the range and who gets towards the bottom. I know education level and years of experience plays a factor, but it’s highly dependent from candidate-to-candidate.

    1. Anon From Here

      “We can’t get enough qualified workers, wah, wah, wah!”

      There’s an invisible hand for that.

      1. Snarkus Aurelius

        I can’t buy a leather couch for $10, therefore there is a leather couch shortage.

        (Wish I could take credit for that one. Can’t remember where I saw it.)

      2. Anon For Always

        I don’t disagree.

        But, HR says their market research indicates whey are offering a fair market wage (despite the fact that we’ve lost multiple candidates to positions that pay more), and if they increase the range, then they have to increase everyone’s salary.

        1. Anon From Here

          “They are offering a fair market wage” and “we’ve lost multiple candidates to positions that pay more” are two phrases that just don’t square, I’m afraid. I mean, I’m a lawyer, not an economist, but still.

          1. Anon For Always

            You are correct. Although, I did make a typo, we are losing employees to positions that pay more (and not just a little bit more, these are 20%+ increases).

            I have tried to convince the people who make these decisions that if the pool of candidates is subpar and we are losing existing employees to job that pay more, that we aren’t paying market rate.

        1. Thornus67

          “Why, there are no children here at the 4H club, either! Am I so out of touch? No, it’s the children who are wrong.”

    2. Katelyn

      Oof, it’s really hard not to have clear written guidelines in place! Be careful about this because this is where unconscious bias could play a big part in the outcome, and lead to unintentional hiring/pay discrimination…

    3. The New Wanderer

      And it’s funny because the managers do have a point. I would bet the total candidate pool quality has gone down because better candidates self-select out as soon as they see the lower-than-average salary. But I would also bet without posting that info, those same better candidates might apply/interview but aren’t taking up the offers anyway, so the end result is the same. But the bottom line is what you said: pay more if you want better candidates to accept the offer, and post that higher range in order to get better candidates to apply in the first place!

      1. MrsCHX

        Agreed. This way wastes fewer people’s time; the candidate and everyone at the hiring company involved in the interview process.

      2. Anon For Always

        Exactly.

        I do think though that some managers believe that they can wow a candidate with the rest of the job. I think for some of them the thought process is if they just see how awesome we all are, then they’ll be willing to work for less. My argument would be that you might get someone temporarily that way, if they are desperate enough, but you won’t find a good person long-term. However, I also think my employer, like many employers, still seem to think that the job market is what it was from 2009 to 2012.

        1. As Close As Breakfast

          The last comment is spot on for so many employers right now, I think. I know my bosses seem to think the market is the same as it was back then. It definitely doesn’t help that my company was only started around 2008… so that kind of market was really all they knew. It does make me wonder exactly how old the ‘market research’ they are basing all of this on is. Even if it seems sort of recent, the salary info etc. they used could be older yet, making it all very out of line with the current market.

        2. Gaia

          I know at least one local employer here who is stuck firmly in 2009.

          Phone interview yesterday for a role with a market rate (for my experience level and background) of around $X a year. I asked about their salary range and they came out of the gate with half (HALF!!!). I was dead silent for a solid few seconds. There is a major shortage of qualified workers in this area for this particular type of job. And you’re coming at me with half of the market rate?

          I withdrew from the process and the recruiter is now blowing up my email asking me to reconsider (the position has been open for 7 months). Pass.

      3. Kes

        Exactly, you’re just screening out candidates at an earlier stage by allowing them to self-select out rather than wasting everyone’s time before they realize you’re not on the same page

        1. Anon For Always

          In general, I think it’s better for us over the long-term. Because there is objective evidence (via the candidate pool) that demonstrates that we aren’t paying enough. Right now my employer is fighting the idea that the salary range is too low, but eventually they’ll get it.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          Totally, and the money/time wasted in going through a full process for someone who’s going to self-select out has to be higher than having a candidate select out sooner.

    4. Rusty Shackelford

      Hmmm. When people don’t know what we pay, we get good applicants. When people do know what we pay, we only get subpar applicants. IT’S A MYSTERY.

      1. Zombeyonce

        And none of those good applicants ever accept our job offers! Oh, woe is the company that just wants good people for little money!

    5. Anonmur

      I think it’s great when there is a salary range displayed, because it really is a time saver 99% of the time. Now, the other 1% is when the ranges are just nuts. There is a large company in my city that hires all the time, but the ranges they post are absurd, such as $60K-130K.

      I would hope they have some sort of ranking system that takes a bunch of factors into account and spits out a number (wishful thinking), but as an actively searching candidate…I’d almost prefer to range at all in this case. $60K and $130K are completely different lifestlyes, experience levels, etc., and quite franking listing a range like that is just a cop out.

    6. Liet-Kinda

      I’d bet money that behind every executive whining that “we just can’t hire qualified workers” is this kind of cheapjack reasoning. Unemployment is 3.5%, guys, so it’s not supply. It’s demand.

  6. JM in England

    If you want to attract the best candidates for the post, post your salary range up front in the ad…..simples!

    Even today I tend to move on from job ads that don’t give the salary; phrases such as “Competitve” & “According to experience” are such cliches….

    1. pcake

      They really are.

      A few years ago, my husband applied for a job that offered a “competitive” wage range, and it turned out to be a full $30k lower than many of the other jobs (these were all the same position) he applied for and $40k less than the job he ended up with.

      1. Zombeyonce

        “You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.”

        I also hate seeing “competitive” everywhere. For some reason it really never means “market rate”.

      2. Lavender Menace

        Everyone says their pay is competitive. I just ignore that at this point, since it’s basically no information.

        My favorite is when they list it out like “Salary: Competitive” (or “Salary: Commensurate with experience”), as if that was providing any groundbreaking information.

    2. Anonymous Educator

      There are, in fact, in-demand candidates who will simply refuse to apply to positions that don’t post a salary range.

    3. CupcakeCounter

      Yup. I got a posting recently from the recruitment firm I used to find my current job with that exact wording. I wasn’t interested but I know a former coworker who is looking to reduce her commute and the posting looked like a good fit. I shot my contact an email and her response was “don’t bother – they pay crap and are turning down every candidate we show them because they don’t have enough experience/education/etc…and apparently think it is still 2008 and all people are desperate for jobs”. She told me her recruitment company plans to not renew or accept any more contracts from that company.

    4. PeanutbutterJellyTime

      I always assume if they refuse to post a salary range it’s because it’s so low no one would otherwise apply.
      Now that my state has mandatory sick leave requirements I see that being listed as a company benefit, usually along with other ‘benefits’ like a flexible schedule that only flexes to benefit the employer, and ‘access’ to health insurance, etc.
      Hard pass.

      1. GlitsyGus

        I’ve seen that too and I give it so much side eye.

        Basically they are saying Benefits: The bare minimum required by law and you damn well better be grateful! Being grateful means not using all of them!

      2. Gaia

        The benefits listings are the worst. OMG! You offer a 401k plan? NO WAY!? Do you also offer to deduct my federal tax for me? And am I allowed to breath the air?

      1. Kes

        Yeah, “competitive salary” is one of those phrases that in theory should mean something, but in practice rarely does. Pretty much every company says it, whether it’s true or not.

      2. Zombeyonce

        When we say “competitive”, what we really mean is “competitive with the salaries of people with such limited job skills we would never actually hire them”.

    5. aebhel

      IME, ‘Competitive’ & ‘According to Experience’ almost always translates into ‘Minimum wage or slightly over.’

      The nice thing about being in civil service is that the salary ranges are public information.

      1. So long and thanks for all the fish

        My public university does this, for professor positions. It baffles me.

        1. Amy

          Are those wages public knowledge? I knew how much my grad school advisor made because it was published on a website. This was a state school.

    6. Not Today Satan

      “Commensurate with experience” drives me nuts. So you’re saying the budget is theoretically unlimited, and if the Michael Jordan of accounts payable applied you’d pay half a mil? It’s more annoying that saying nothing about salary at all.

    7. Old Cynic

      Years ago, when these were meaningful numbers, we were looking for an IT Manager. The incumbent was earning $42k as she had been promoted into the manager position. (She was being replaced for cause and transferred into a customer service manager slot.) We did not tell candidates the range we had in mind, $50-60k. The person we hired was brought in at $72k. Within 6 months he was changed to IT Director, which was his former title, and given a $12k raise.

    8. Sacred Ground

      It’s instructive to look at job postings where the industry is actually experiencing a shortage of qualified workers: trucking. Pretty much EVERY trucking job post states the pay scale, including benefits and signing bonuses, right up front in the ad. Even the crappier employers in the trucking industry know full well that they are competing with each other for drivers and act accordingly.

    9. Gaia

      I always laugh at those phrases. After all, what is the alternative? Not at all competitive? I want to see a company list that. I would applaud their honesty. That, along with “we ignore your experience level and just randomly select a salary.”

  7. Leslie Hell Knope

    I was once doing PR for a company, and we had more than 20 openings for paid internships. We were at a meeting discussing the language for the post, and I had included the exact amount of the stipend. One of the managers (and many others agreed) said: “we shouldn’t put that in, it’s on the lower end and a lot of people will be discouraged from applying”. I asked him: “given the fact that we can’t do anything about it, even for a stellar candidate, isn’t it actually better that they do self-select out before any time is wasted on both sides?”. Everyone was quiet for a moment, saw the light, and we moved forward.

    1. Leslie Hell Knope

      By the way, of course the top candidates did self-select out; we were still able to get a good pool of commited, hard-working students, they were just on the younger/more inexperienced side – instead of seniors, we got mainly sophomores.

      1. Triplestep

        And as you pointed out, they were likely the same bunch you would have ended up with anyway – you just got them without all the wasted time!

        Glad your colleagues saw it you way.

        1. No imagination

          Nesting fail. I meant that for Leslie Hell Knope. I mean, triplestep is a nice name and all, but it’s no pun on a character I love.

  8. Anon From Here

    What drives me batty is that the employer knows the range they have in their budget. No matter what I can live with, their range won’t change. So let me know what the range is, or just give me something. I’m not going to be able to magically guess correctly, so if I put a number on the online application that is “too high,” but if I could be convinced to take a little less, well, now we’ll never know, because I didn’t magically figure out what was going on in your books, and you’ve rejected me outright.

    I know, #NotAllOnlineApplications, but I know for a fact that I’ve been pre-screened out of jobs where I would have been happy to negotiate something mutually agreeable, except that I botched (“botched”) the name-your-desired-salary game.

    1. Anonymous Educator

      What drives me batty is that the employer knows the range they have in their budget. No matter what I can live with, their range won’t change.

      So much this! One time I asked even what the ballpark would be, plus or minus $20K (!), and the hiring manager refused to share anything with me. This was at a school I knew had a tight budget, so I wasn’t expecting a lot, but I wanted to know if it was even worth it (how low a salary would I have to live with to work there).

    2. BRR

      I’m pretty sure that I’ve been pre-screened out as well. I’d almost be happy just knowing the minimum.

      1. WoolAnon

        That’s the biggest piece of information I want. When I look at a range, I look at the minimum. It’d be great if they paid more, but if I can’t afford to live off the minimum, I move on from jobs.

        1. Carlie

          Ah but that’s the thing – the employer doesn’t want there to be a minimum. “We’ve never paid less than $40k for this position before, but if we can get someone to take it for $36k, so much the better for us.” I’m convinced that’s usually why they refuse to publish ranges – not because everyone wants the max end of the range, but so they have the chance to dip below the min if they get a desperate or ill-informed candidate.

    3. NotAnotherManager!

      I suppose we’re the anomaly, but we don’t always know the budget. The positions are billing, and we can bill more (both number of hours and dollars) for someone with specialized or more experience than we can for someone brand new. The calculus is not that NAM! was allocated $70K for a Spout Sculptor, it’s that if someone with 10 years of experience sculpting spouts with a side of lid experience would be utilized at 80% with a rate of $Y/hour, we can pay them $X amount total. In a tight market where no one with Spout Sculptor experience, much less lids, is available, we’ll move to someone less experienced but seemingly with potential, but they’re more likely to be paid a lower rate because their utilization and billing would be less and we have to invest in training them.

      In short, my budget line item is supposed to be a net positive, not an allocation of $A-$B for cost.

    4. PizzaSquared

      It is not at all universally true that the employer’s range won’t change. I have more than once hired people above our original range when we have found an extraordinary candidate who was worth going above and beyond for. The thing is, we can’t do that for EVERYONE, or we do run out of budget. What usually ends up happening is that I discuss it with my boss and HR people, and we make some tough decisions. Sometimes it’s a small enough difference that we don’t have to worry about it. But other times, it means that we have to bump down the anticipated level of another opening in order to move it to a lower range. Every once in a while, it means we cancel or postpone hiring on another role in order to free up budget to hire someone well above the range.

      At the end of the day, it is a zero sum game, but for any individual position, the ranges aren’t that fixed. This is also what makes it really hard for us to publicly post ranges. I quite literally have a position open right now for which I could hire someone at any of five levels (if I hired one the more junior end, I’d make up for it with a senior person elsewhere, or vice versa). This means that the true salary range, from the bottom of the lowest level to the top of the highest, would be something like $60K-200K (also with variable bonus and equity at different levels). That’s not helpful for anyone, especially since most candidates aren’t going to have an accurate read on where they fall within our leveling. And I can’t necessarily tell someone where I would level them based just on looking at their resume and an introductory phone call. We take our job levels seriously here. We don’t give out senior titles for vanity. So I need to do some serious vetting to know what level someone fits in at, and that level is what’s going to determine the compensation range.

      I realize that many companies both have narrower ranges, and are more constrained about what level they’re hiring for. But the situation I describe here has been the case at multiple companies I’ve worked at. It is not as rigid as candidates seem to think it is, and it’s not as straightforward as it may seem to just tell people the range.

  9. AdAgencyChick

    “any reasonable hiring manager and HR department would have known that what they were offering was unlikely to be commensurate with specialized experience”

    Whoever this OP was, I want to get a drink with you. This happened to me a few months ago, when a recruiter called me about a position that would be a promotion from my current job title. I kept trying to make him disclose a range and he would not do it. Kept throwing it back to me, no matter how many times I said, “You called me, you know what your budget is, why don’t you tell me?”

    NYC doesn’t allow companies to ask for a salary history any longer, but finally I got fed up and said, “I’m not job hunting. I currently make $X. I would need a pretty substantial increase to think about going anywhere.” He got really quiet and then told me the top of the range was…a number somewhat less than $X. I was like “good luck in your search then,” but thought to myself exactly as this OP did. There is NO WAY that recruiter didn’t know that that number was low for the position he was trying to hire for, so why waste my fricking time doing a verbal dance? (Some steps in this verbal dance: “Some people are motivated by other things than money, so before we move forward I’d need to know how much money you’re looking for.” I should have immediately recognized that this meant “We have no intention of paying you very much money.”)

    1. The New Wanderer

      Interesting how the conversation ends with a dollar amount, but doesn’t ever seem to provide an opportunity for the recruiter to say “it’s a lower than market salary BUT has 8 weeks paid vacation and fully covered benefits, if you’re interested in that tradeoff.” Because that is pretty much never the case – you might be motivated by things other than money, but companies who want to capitalize on that want you to be motivated by “passion,” which is free to them, and not a total compensation package.

      1. AdAgencyChick

        YEP. Pretty sure he wanted to offer industry-standard benefits but substandard pay. No thanks.

      2. Scarlet

        Because why would anyone by motivated by something as vulgar as money? It’s not like companies are there to make money or anything.

        /s

        1. Le'veon Bell is Seizing the Means of Production

          Ugh it’s even worse in nonprofits, because they can always just fall back on the idea that you’re literally snatching money from the mouths of starving children if you want to make a middle-class wage.

    2. irene adler

      I had a conversation with an independent recruiter who is hired by many different companies to find specific skill sets. She will push back on stated salary ranges with comments regarding the salary being too low to attract the skill set they desire, or hires won’t stay for long when they discover they can get hired over at Company X that pays $10K more than you do. Do you really want a lot of turnover for this job?

      Sometimes they ask her to adjust the range to attract what they need. But some, they hold firm. Usually this is because the central office, located in another place, has no clue as to the local market. She hates this because it then takes her a very long time to fill the position. So those “commensurate with experience” comments should be taken very seriously.

    3. Decima Dewey

      Yes, some people may be motivated by things other than money. But I’ve still got to pay my landlord, the electric company, the gas company, the telephone company…

      1. Amy

        “I’m motivated by many things other than money. Unfortunately that’s not true of my mortgage company, insurance company, grocery store, or doctor’s office.”

        I would love to be in a strong enough position to say this to an HR rep or recruiter some day!

  10. Anon Interviewee

    I interviewed for a new position last week, and have been so thrilled with the whole process. I feel like shouting it from the rooftops to show employers how powerful the applicant experience can be — the process itself has made me substantially more interested in the position, because they’ve taken such care with it.

    One element that I’ve appreciated is that the salary is totally transparent, and they do not negotiate. Yay for equity!

  11. Anonymous Educator

    I fully agree with Alison that employers shouldn’t avoid publishing a range for fear of all applicants feeling they should be at the high end of the range. As a teacher, I never told my students “Well, you’ll get a grade of some kind. I can’t even tell you what the range of grades is, because then everyone will expect the highest grade.” It’s ridiculous. Yes, of course, I had students who were upset about not getting an A (or whatever grade they thought they should get on an assignment), but every teacher should feel comfortable explaining how assessment works and have a rubric that shows how each assignment is evaluated.

    Likewise, every employer should have a clear explanation of what candidate qualifications or experience would warrant the top, the middle, and the bottom of the range. Being able to articulate clearly what qualifies for each part of the range also makes it less likely you’ll discriminate against candidates who are less aggressive in negotiations (and still equally as qualified) than other candidates.

    1. PlainJane

      Well said. I especially like the points in your last paragraph. Let’s make the process of setting salary as transparent and objective as possible.

  12. LibraryDrone

    I had a phone interview for a job last year that went like this:

    Supervisor: Sorry, this is a really annoying question but HR makes me ask- what are you salary expectations?
    Me: I’d actually researched this! According to the listing this is an exempt position, and with the new laws in this state I’d expect to make at least $47,000.
    Supervisor: Hahaha! I don’t even make that much! Wait…are you saying that’s the law?
    Me: Yes. I think as of last January?
    Supervisor: Interesting…

    I ended up turning down the job for a lot of reasons, but here’s hoping my interviewer got a raise!

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Hmmm, since you named $47,000, I think you are thinking of the federal overtime law that was supposed to go into effect but didn’t actually happen — although maybe you’re thinking of something state-specific instead.

      1. LibraryDrone

        Yup, state specific. Exempt employees are supposed to get at least 1.5 times minimum wage (which would be 22.50, but I rounded up to 23). Plus Glassdoor said the average salary for a “Library Services Coordinator” (what I was interviewing for) is $61,119, so this poor head librarian interviewing me was definitely underpaid!

  13. sheworkshardforthemoney

    Salary is so vital that a range at the very least should be mentioned at the start of any interview. I went for a job interview and they disclosed the pay within 10 minutes and that it was set in stone for at least 2 years. It was so low that I immediately withdrew to save them and myself a lot of time. If employers post salary ranges then they give potential employees a chance to self-select. At my current job the salary was disclosed at my interview, it was very transparent. I was also given paperwork showing when raises, bonuses etc. were given. It made deciding whether or not to accept the job much easier.

  14. PBH

    Ugh I will never understand the secrecy behind salary. It is such a waste of time. I waste time applying to jobs that I won’t take due to low salary. They waste time going through my resume, possibly interviewing me….. It is so ridiculous. I am not working because I think you have the best company ever and just really really want to give you free labor. I can love my job but if I don’t need the money I am going lying on a beach drinking out of a coconut, not working 50 hours a week.

  15. Workfromhome

    I would imagine almost everyone has some horror story about this. The worst thing about this all is that its really hurting the employer most of all. The only benefit they get from this practice is occasionally saving few $ short term when they are able to pay a poorly prepared or desperate candidate below market. These savings are almost always short term as either A. The candidate eventually figures out they are underpaid and leaves/stops giving effort which negates the savings B. They don’t get the best candidates which gives them lower productivity which once again offsets any small $ they get.
    So many companies want to hire someone who’s already employed elsewhere and with their experience can seamlessly come onboard and either not miss a beat or even improve their productivity. These high performers often are not actively looking. Nothing turns off a high performer more than saying “yes we really want to get you to switch jobs because you a great but we have 0 regard for your time so wont tell you if the salary range should interest you”
    I had a recruiter call me and try to get me to apply to a company even though I was reasonably happy where I was for 10 years. when I asked about the salary because I was happy and wouldn’t even bother if the salary was less than X they said “well its very unusual to talk about salary at this early stage before they even interview you”. I said Ok were done then thanks. She was taken aback talking about what a great position it was and they wont consider me if they don’t follow their rules. “I said hey you called me…you need to co0nvince me I need to leave my job not the other way around”. She eventually did come back to me and the job paid less than what I made with more undesirable travel. When I declined to go to an interview she was quite snotty about she wasted her time. Had she just had that information up front she would have wasted no more than 2 minutes as I would have immediately said no thanks.

    Point being not all potential hires are desperate job seekers that will take any job for any $. If your concern is that the good candidates will self select based on the salary range it says more about the range being too low than anything about the candidates.

    1. Kes

      Yeah, the companies are trying to save money but eventually those with options will realize they’re underpaid and leave, and then they’ll have to spend more time hiring someone else.

  16. ArtsNerd

    I once had a phone interview for a position that had an inflated title in exchange for a low salary, which I knew going in. But I didn’t know how low the salary was until the end of the phone screen, when the hiring manager was straightforward and clear about it, and their budget limitations around it. It was far too low for me to accept, but I still have much respect for the organization, and that hiring manager in particular, because of their transparency.

    I now make a point of publishing and requesting transparent salary ranges. For any organizations that want to claim progressive credentials in particular, it’s a really important tool in reducing the pay gaps for women, POC and other marginalized groups as AAM touches on in the article:

    >And while you might think, sure, that’s just business, data shows these practices disproportionately harm women and people of color, who are less likely to negotiate and likely to ask for less when they do.

    An important note that shouldn’t be overlooked: in addition to being less likely to negotiate and asking for less, these groups are also disproportionately likely to be *punished* for negotiating, instead of rewarded. The onus is entirely on the employers to fight this pay disparity, and salary transparency is an incredibly straightforward way to accomplish this.

  17. shergak

    I’m glad the public service has to be extremely transparent about salary, because then any position advertised tells you exactly how much you’ll get paid. Along with our benefits package being part of a collective agreement, you know exactly what you get in terms of health insurance, vacation, sick days, personal days, etc.

    It’d be nice if the private industry would adopt this, they already work way faster than us at doing change management. :)

    1. aebhel

      Yeah, that’s one of the really appealing things about a civil service job. And it seems like it would be to everyone’s benefit if the private industry would adopt the practice.

    2. J.

      Every time a post like this comes up, I’m so grateful for my union job with a written salary scale and raise timetable. It makes it so much easier to not have to deal with the salary negotiations dance.

      1. Dwight

        The downside is there’s little to no room for merit raises, thus reducing initiative and enthusiasm.

        1. Sharknonymous

          Disagree. I got bonuses (about $5k at the end of each year based on performance evals, when my salary was about $50k, so a pretty good percentage) and raises much more readily when I was a federal employee. Now in the private sector I have never had a bonus (other than the occasional $100 “thanks for putting in some unpaid overtime” giftcard) and I got one 3% raise. I don’t think this is because my performance and initiative is worse now, I think it is because the company is stingier with compensation than my agency was.

          1. nonymous

            I think that the current administration is applying pressure to reduce bonuses. Of course, it all ends up being about the political clout a particular agency wields and what hills they choose to die on. Upper management in my agency seems to have embraced a race to the bottom regarding budgets.

        2. Remote Worker and Dog Lover

          I had that experience when I worked at a public agency several years ago. Once you reached their salary limit, that was it. Still, the salary was competitive and I really appreciated the transparency.

        3. shergak

          I think that depends really. We tend to work on a classification scale, and there’s always an opportunity to get promoted to the next level with more salary. Also, our executive suite gets merit bonuses, and they are directly tied to employee performance so that helps maintain a certain level of initiative.

        4. Adereterial

          Most departments in the UK have either an annual raise, or an annual merit bonus, or both. I’m in a department that gives fairly generous annual raises as long as you’re meeting expectations. For those that excel there is the opportunity for promotion or temporary allowances for higher level work.

  18. Ann E Mouse

    This is one thing that I’ve been spoiled by after working as an hourly contractor for the past 5 years. Pay is discussed upfront with a recruiter before I ever get to a phone screening with the company themselves. And in this scenario, the recruiter is out to get you in at the highest rate they can so their company makes more as well. It’s led to me being very direct when discussing it now, and anytime I encounter a company that doesn’t have the same attitude I write them off as not a place I’d want to work for anyway.

    I did have one contract-to-hire position that turned me down based on salary requirements. We’d had a great phone and in-person interview (I talked to high-ups but the guy I’d actually work for came in and said “Let’s go get coffee!”) and I was very excited about it. I thought everything was fine because I’d talked salary with the recruiter up-front, but then she called back and said the company was concerned I’d turn down a future full-time conversion offer based on salary. The highest budget for full-time? $45k less than the hourly rate. Their benefits package was only worth about $8k, so I told her she was correct in that assumption. I couldn’t have even afforded my rent on that salary! If they’d just been up front about the final salary not being anywhere close to the contract rate none of us would have wasted 2 weeks.

  19. Triplestep

    I recently went through an interview process having no idea what the salary range was – I was not asked, and they did not tell. The offer came and it would have been a 30% decrease in salary. I shared this with them and said I didn’t need to make what I was making now (the job offered a reduced commute and remote work options that were very appealing to me) but I could not take a 30% cut, so could they come up a bit? They rescinded the offer. Oh and did I mention they were not going to send me the benefits info until I’d accepted the offer?

    I’m sure they offered it to a few other people who also turned it down due to salary, and then I started to see that third party recruiters and contracting firms were advertising it. (I’m still job-hunting, so I see the posts constantly.) Those who post a salary are advertising a number that is 20% lower than what I’d been offered. On one hand that makes sense – the company’s budget for the role is the same, and the 3rd party firm needs their cut. But what makes them think they’re going to get someone to take this job for even less than they were offering in the first round? They could have had someone who was arguably a bit overqualified (me) by just reconsidering their budget, and now the best they’ll do is someone without any related experience.

    1. The New Wanderer

      I didn’t get to the interview stage, but was part of a similar situation. A contract job came up and my recruiter talked it over with me. The job description was pretty substantial and they wanted advanced degree holders, but the hourly rate they were offering was for someone with minimal experience. It was also a short term contract to support a project with a hard end of year deadline, so they needed someone with very specific advanced experience to drop in, support for a few months, and wrap up (anyone needing training would be a drag on the work). Given the nature of the work, the pool of candidates with the right knowledge, availability, and interest in a short term contract is likely to be extremely small.

      I’m not sure what happened because they didn’t take up my proposed rate of X+$10 (which was closer to but still lower than market for that situation). It’s possible they got what they were looking for, but I wouldn’t be surprised at this point if they either scrapped the project or paid $$$ to specialist consultants to get it done – either way it will be far more costly than the alternative of paying a few more bucks to get what they actually needed for the job description.

  20. No imagination

    This so drives me crazy. I’m trying to do my part.

    I recently hired for a position where I could hire at either of two levels, and there are strict guidelines on where in the range folks are hired at. So lets say level 1 would be hired at $50-60K and level 2 at $60-70K. Our HR won’t put any salary info in the posting, but after making my first cut, I emailed them all stating:

    “I can fill this position at either level one or level two. The starting salary range for this position is $50-70K. A new BS grad would be hired at the minimum of the range, a candidate with at least four years of relevant experience would be placed somewhere in the top half of the range. Some other relevant details about the role not included in the posting. Please let me know if you’d like to move forward in the process.”

    This gave enough info for folks to estimate pretty accurately where they’d fall in the range and decide accordingly what to do. It’s not that hard. Assuming your starting salary correlates with actual qualifications, of course. (eye roll)

  21. Greg NY

    There’s a very simple reason that employers do it. It’s because they believe they have all the power. The exact same reason why those same employers are often the ones stingy on other benefits as well. They think that candidates can’t effectively determine their worth and will accept whatever they offer. They also think that even in an employee’s job market, such as the current one, they hold the salary cards. Yes, they might, at times, be able to get a candidate for the salary they’re offering, but it won’t be a great candidate. Other times, they might find the position very difficult to fill. Candidates have more power than they think they have but often aren’t that good at negotiating, and there are some that share the common employer viewpoint that the employer always holds all the cards, no matter the state of the job market.

    1. Anonymous Educator

      There’s a very simple reason that employers do it. It’s because they believe they have all the power.

      It’s extremely short-term thinking, though. You gain some money in the budget or profit at the end of the year, but you might end up sowing a lot of discord within your organization, and some of your best (and most productive) employees may leave, because they find out they’re undercompensated.

  22. Dan

    For the employers who say that posting a range is misleading because candidates are going to expect the top of the range… well, if you ask me *my* range, how irritated are you going to get if I quote $50k-$70k and then later I tell you that no, for you, $65k is as low as I will go? Why did you feel entitled to the bottom of that range?

    As a practical matter, when I’m on the market, I’m often doing a national search. Especially for the first resume I send out, I may not have correctly calibrated my market demand and value. You better bet if you can me for an interview two months later and I’ve had lots of action, I’m less interested in entertaining the bottom end of my range. It was a range, not a promise.

    1. Anonymous Educator

      For the employers who say that posting a range is misleading because candidates are going to expect the top of the range… well, if you ask me *my* range, how irritated are you going to get if I quote $50k-$70k and then later I tell you that no, for you, $65k is as low as I will go? Why did you feel entitled to the bottom of that range?

      It’s a ridiculous double standard.

    2. Ophelia

      Also, my salary range would be a range that I consider in the context of the benefits and work-life the position is offering. So when I’m actually considering a position, I’m considering the entire package – if the salary is on the low end of my range, but benefits and commute are top-notch? That’s possible, but if everything’s low, that’s not interesting.

      1. Dan

        That slipped my mind… also, my current employer really doesn’t expect more than 40 hour work weeks out of us, and pays me enough where I’m not a slave to every last dollar. (That is, $10k isn’t enough to get me to leave.) When I look at leaving the company, in order for me to accurately assess my “compensation requirements”, I need an accurate assessment of what the work life balance is. If the norm at the new place is 55 hour work weeks, it’s either *lots* of extra cash, or a no-go.

        I had one interview where the interviewer said, “I tend to work 60 hour work weeks. I’m not saying that will be the case for you, but how do you feel about that?” To myself, I said “well, my salary requirements just went up 50%.” What I said out loud was something like, “I regularly worked 60 hour weeks at my last job. They paid us by the hour, so I was more than happy to go the extra mile.” (That was an unusual arrangement, but hey, it was mutually beneficial.) I kinda liked that as an answer, because it’s really difficult for an interviewer to keep pushing on that without coming across as being an antagonistic.

        I don’t mind “botching” interviews, because it’s a two way street. Getting an under-market offer from a company that wants 60 hour work weeks out of you is *not* the high bar to strive for.

  23. Mimi Me

    I once interviewed for and accepted a job where the compensation quoted did not reflect in my paycheck. When I asked about it, I was told that they included the costs of all the perks (health insurance, dental, PTO, etc) into the amount quoted. They were shocked when a whole bunch of new hires (myself included) went to the State and complained that this was misleading and very likely illegal. The offer letter was written in such a way that it looked like this figure was salary alone. I didn’t get the full raise…but I did get a substantial bump in pay about 4 weeks after my training class started. Apparently the state listens when 34 new hires to a company all make the same complaint. I still thank the woman in that training class who refused to let all of us give up and made us complain about this. She was amazing!!!

    1. the gold digger

      This happened to me with an internal job. They told me $85K but once I had accepted the move in principle, they gave me the offer letter and it was for only $75K.

      I asked the hiring manager about it and he said well you know that $85K number was total compensation and included benefits.

      I told him that was BS and nobody talks like that – nobody says, “The job pays X” and doesn’t mean salary.

      I started looking for a new job almost immediately. I was furious.

    2. Kat in VA

      THIS – EXACTLY THIS – happened during my job search. Seven mortal weeks with multiple phone and Skype interviews, a mammoth in-person, 7 interview office visit…

      And from the very very first phone call, I was asked minimum/medium/maximum salary range.

      “Totally in line”…

      They pulled the “total compensation” bull at the end coming in at 10% below the absolute minimum SALARY I said I would accept. I was so angry (but stayed professional) and they were SO shocked that I would turn them down.

      The place that jerked you around…wouldn’t have been on the East Coast and have something to do with event planning, would it? ;)

  24. Phoenix Programmer

    My favorite salary exchange ever:

    HR lady: hi I see you are scheduled to fly out for all day interview in 2 days.

    Me: yes I am really excited.

    HR: Our salary range is lower than the low end of the salary you mentioned. Are you still interested in coming out?

    Me: how much lower are we talking? It depends on the difference and your other benefits.

    HR lady, sternly and put off tone: I am not calling to negotiate salary and am not authorized to disclose the range to you. Do you want to go forward with flight or not?

    Me: Well it’s hard to say if you are not willing to discuss the range where I would land. I’d be ok with $50 depending on benefits but not $45 for example.

    HR: I am not authorized to disclose Salary! We don’t want to waste anyone’s time if you won’t accept the offer at our rate. Are you still wanting to fly?

    Me: Listen you keep saying you don’t want to waste anyone’s time but for all I know you are $1 off my range or you could be $30K lower. That’s not enough information for me to say one way or the other. So I’ll see you at the interview.

    Hr: Well to confirm you are saying our salary is not an issue?

    Me: No I am saying that since you will not tell me the range I plan to I twrview and see how it goes anyway since I have other business in the region anyway it’s fine for me to fly down.

    What’s weird is that the offered salary was not that low anyway! It was a little lower than my listed range but was in range for the local market!

    1. Anonymous Educator

      Sounds as if they have some bizarre internal policy preventing her from saying what the range is. That is Monty Python levels of surreal conversational exchange…

    2. The New Wanderer

      *Why* would they set you up with a on-site interview requiring travel first and then get into well you have to take our lower-than-your-range offer if you come or else don’t come? I wonder if she was snippy because someone dropped the ball and that conversation should have happened before the last interview was set up.

      Still, her tone. I’ve never understood the outrage from the employer side of things when it comes to finding out salary ranges or negotiating. I haven’t experienced it myself but it’s a common theme in the letters, sometimes even culminating in the offer being withdrawn. It’s not like it’s HR’s or the HM’s personal money, unless they get a bonus for keeping costs low?

      1. Anonmur

        Agreed, I’ve never understood why they get so offended…they are people at the end of the day, who in their lives also need to job hunt…I just don’t get it! My spouse is a recruiter and we discuss this topic all the time…I guess like any other job, there are people who are good at it and bad at it.

  25. The Other Dawn

    I’ll be looking for a job soon and I very much dread the salary negotiation dance. In my first long-term job, I was very much underpaid, though I didn’t really know it at the time, and I was there for almost 20 years. In the next job, I didn’t have a clue about reasonable salaries for the jobs I was looking at, but was thrilled that the job I accepted gave me $10k more than I was making before. Then onto the next job, I had a little better of an idea and gave them a range–they gave me the top of my range! I was so excited until I got there and saw that I was at the bottom of the range for my position. But after only a few years I was in the middle of the range, which is about $15k more than what I started at. And now it’s time to look for work again. Although I have a better idea of what salary I should be asking for for the type of position I’m in now, it’s complicated by the fact that I may want to focus on a different area within the same industry.

  26. Liza

    I’m curious, is this primarily a US thing? I’m in the UK and I’ve rarely seen job postings that don’t include hourly rate/salary or a salary range. This might be due to the industry and level I’ve been applying to, but I’m not sure. Have any other Brits ever encountered jobs that don’t disclose salary in their vacancies? Is this something I can ‘look forward to’ if I move up the ladder in later years?

    1. GreyNerdShark

      Dunno about the UK, but it is annoyingly common in Oz tech jobs to not show salary. And also annoyingly common to ask for experience both wide and deep and not be willing to pay for it.

      I have learned to take the requirements as a kid’s Christmas list not as real requirements. I even had to talk my manager out of asking for heaps of things in an entry level job he was advertising. No… no one who will do rolling 6 month contract (all we could offer) at that price (also all we could offer) will have all that. Yes we do all those, yes it would be nice if we didn’t have to teach them those things, but realistically what we will get is hopefuls with a bit of exposure so let’s just look for a bright one who learns fast. (Which we got and he’s still with us as a fulltimer, we got lucky.)

    2. Anonymous Educator

      I have noticed that all of the UK jobs posted up for my industry tend to have salaries attached to the job descriptions. Unfortunately, the salary ranges are inexplicably low (most Mac-related IT jobs in London are in the low £30K… sometimes even under £30K).

    3. londonedit

      I’m in the UK and in my industry it’s pretty common not to have salary details listed in job adverts. I feel like it’s getting slightly more common, but in the majority of cases you’ll just get the annoying ‘Competitive salary’ stuff.

    4. PX

      The add didnt include a salary range when I applied in the UK which was a bit of a bummer. I definitely lowballed myself when I was asked for a range, luckily they came in towards the upper end and they are very good about keeping up with market rates and giving raises accordingly.

  27. Fabulous

    Best thing I ever did when I got a call to interview for a job I applied for years ago was ask, “Before we set up a time, could I confirm that we’re on the same page with salary?” Turned out they were looking for part-time, which was not stated in their job ad at all. Had to pass on that one… very glad I asked before taking PTO for an interview!

  28. Not Today Satan

    It’s especially frustrating in the nonprofit world, where salaries can very greatly depending on the organization. You can literally see the same job title for $35K or$65K. I’ve spent time adjusting my resume and writing a cover letter only to find out later in the process that the pay is $10,000 below my minimum. And who knows how many jobs I didn’t bother applying to because the risk of the pay being crap was too high?

    1. Who the eff is Hank?

      I work at a nonprofit and the only reason I applied for my current job is because they listed the range online. Had it not been listed, I would have assumed they’d pay much lower and would never have applied.

    2. Anon Interviewee

      So true!

      I’m in the nonprofit sector and am in the midst of an interview process for another job. The salary is transparent, but before I saw it listed I told my husband that I could imagine it being anywhere from, like, 80% of my salary to 200% of my salary. (Turns out it was around 110% of my salary.)

    3. Anonymous Educator

      Not just the non-profit world. I recently did a salary survey amongst primarily IT folks at for-profit companies, and there seemed to be absolutely no logic or reasoning to the salaries, even when adjusted for level of experience and geographic area.

    4. Fabulous

      Agreed! I attempted to get into the nonprofit world a few years ago (even got my M.A for it…) but too often found that they paid way too low later in the game. Some of them were kind enough to put the ranges in so I could opt out of those listings.

    5. TCO

      Agreed. I’ve seen job very similar to mine pay anywhere from $40-90k, with plenty of jobs at either end of that spectrum and plenty of highly-qualified people working at the lower end of the range. As someone seeking closer to the upper end of the range (and currently getting paid at that level) it makes it really tough to decide where it’s worth my time to apply.

  29. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

    The same coyness extends to benefits — perhaps even more so. In my experience, getting any details about benefits is like pulling teeth — hard to get, even once an explicit salary offer has been made.

    Things like: what are the premiums for the health coverage, and what are the coverage deductibles/copays/limits/etc.? What is your retirement match? etc.

    1. GlitsyGus

      Yes! I had a recruiter talk to me about leaving my position a year or so ago. They told me the salary, which was OK, not fabulous, but doable if other things fell into place. I asked them for the details of the health plan, who the provider was, how much the employee pays, HMO vs PPO, the bare basics. Based on their reaction you would think I had asked them to provide the company’s last tax returns. It was bizarre, at least to me. I mean, these are part of the pay and would have been the deciding factor for me given the pay was kinda meh.

  30. Let's Bagel

    This is very synonymous to our culture (in the US) of not talking about money, period. It’s still considered so taboo to talk about how much you earn, how much you save, and anything surrounding money, period. It’s extremely frustrating, but not surprising to me that employers have the same mentality around it.

    1. Anonymous Educator

      I agree with have a “We can’t talk about money” cultural problem in the U.S, but that doesn’t explain employees insisting you talk about your money (“What are your salary requirements?”) while refusing to disclose theirs (“This is the range we can pay for the position”).

    2. Artemesia

      And yet policies of our government assume that rich people are only motivated by money and the whole system would collapse if they pay taxes or cannot scoop up all the money from increased productivity. Only the minions are not motivated by money.

    3. dumblewald

      I disagree – one is a business conversation and what you’re referring to are personal conversations. It’s intrusive to ask people what they earn, but when you are applying for jobs, you are looking to enter a transactional relationship that involves exchanging labor for money. This is why it’s weird that one end of this conversation involves them withholding information important to the terms of this relationship.

      1. Let's Bagel

        I think they are two different situations of course, but borne of the same “cultural baggage,” as someone above put it. Meaning, employers are still human beings, and because we have this super weird “don’t talk about money” social rule, I think it can often spill over into (less skilled) employers’ hiring discussions. Still makes it totally weird and unacceptable, but I think that’s just something that contributes to it is all.

        Before I read a lot of AAM, I as the employee used to be super uncomfortable talking about money at work. I’ve had to really force myself to become more comfortable with it and to remind myself, this is why I work! It should not be weird to talk about money here!

        As an aside, of course I do think it is rude to go around saying, “What do you make? I make $X.” But I also think we take this too far–discussing money in ANY context is seen as taboo. When I got my current job and got a 50% raise, I was SO proud of that, not because of the number that I was making but because it reflected my ability for the first time to negotiate well and get paid what I felt I deserved after years of being taken advantage of/not speaking up for myself. But of course I couldn’t share that excitement with anyone besides my husband because it would be seen as rude. And my husband, who is very into personal finance investing, always laments that there’s no one he can talk stocks/investments with (because Lord knows that would put me to sleep in 2 seconds) because again, it’s culturally seen as rude to discuss money with friends/family.

        Right or wrong (and I think there are components to both), I just think that at the end of the day employers are people who are also subject to all of these cultural norms and thus they may have a hard time shifting their behavior in the workplace.

        1. dumblewald

          That’s interesting. I think it should always depend on context. I’m definitely not in favor of talking about salaries as small talk at cocktail parties, but obviously, it’s important to discuss finances with spouses and family members as they are relevant. I recently shared with some close coworkers of mine that I was denied a raise this review cycle despite being one of the most tenured people at my company. They were shocked because they viewed me as very competent and instrumental in training new hires. I am the only team member who did not get a raise this cycle which is pretty interesting.

  31. Wednesday of this week

    This article left out my favorite AAM letter on salary secrecy! Remember the LW who was accepting a job, and her new employer said, “you will find out the pay rate when you receive your first paycheck”? Bahahaha! It’s like refusing to interview and saying “you will meet me on my first day of work.”

  32. Leprechaun

    This is my current frustration. I accepted my current position and salary without negotiating beucase it was a %50 jump from previous job. Realized it was a mistake as soon as i walked away, but whatever.

    Now 18 months and two small raises later, ive taken on more responsibility and am putting out work that exceeds my current pay, ive heard this from my manager.

    He wanted to bump me up a tier, but i dont make enough to move up, also may get a raise by the end of the year that still wont be enough to bump me up. Also found out that its apparently my fault because i agreed to a salary almost 2 years ago when i had no idea how the salary tiers worked here cause they dont tell anyone. So now im in a position where i like my job, but instead of staying here and working my way up, i have to work somewhere else to get paid more, which im in the process of doing. Ill never understand the logic behind companies not making sure people dont leave. I mean i aint asking for much but its apparently not worth it according to them. Theyd rather me move on and hire someone new and cheaper yet

  33. Brett

    Another tactic that is pretty common in local government:

    List a salary range, but do not actually offer pay at anything other than the bottom of the range.

    My former employer used to list the range as the starting pay up through either the top of the scale or the highest paid employee. (Employees hired before 1986, when the last cost of living adjustment was made, could top out at higher than the top of their scale.)
    The problem was that the scale covered up to 30 years of experience on top of the base experience. (So if the position required 7 years, you needed at least 37 years to reach the top of the scale at hiring.) And hiring people at anything above base experience required a vote of the legislative body. So even though a really big range was listed, everyone received the bottom of the range.

    Then they did a market salary study, which excited everyone who thought we would come up to market rates. Turned out that market rates were a bit too high, so no one got raises. But, they did change the advertised rates so that the top of the range was now the average market rate.

    Unfortunately, they still brought everyone in at the bottom of the range.

    1. BRR

      My former employer, a private university, did this. They had public pay grades with salary ranges, but they were astronomically large ranges. I later found out the policy was to try and not hire above the 25th percentile. When I applied I just assumed it would be towards the bottom end, which would have been a good salary. I usually imagine the offer will be at the bottom of a listed range.

  34. tink

    Other than the benefits (affordable insurance, vacation and sick time in separate buckets, etc), the thing I absolutely like most about working for local government is that the salary band for a given position is listed on the application, and they’re very up front about “you start at the low end of this advertised range and max out at the top of it.” It’s literally a matter of public record. There’s no guesswork, no beating around the bush.

    There are downsides too, but I wish the upsides were more readily found in the private sector as well.

  35. Purple Jello

    After seeing this ad for over 3 months with a low level title but specialized duty requirements, I applied.
    Them: Are you firm on your minimum salary?
    Me: Yes, with caveat – if your benefits package is good, we could talk
    Them: you’re out of our range
    Me: what is your range
    Them: It’s confidential
    Me: (to myself) seriously?! I spent a couple hours with your online application software and prettying up my resume, and you can’t tell me your range? You seem to want a unicorn at an entry level salary
    Me: (back to them) You might want to consider changing your policy so candidates don’t waste their time.
    Them: ** crickets **

    Note to self: don’t bother applying there ever again

  36. Samantha

    I had a job interview last week. I found the job on a board, where it clearly stated salary was $x. However I also found the job description on their website which stated the salary was $x but something along the lines of them willing to *increase* the salary based on the candidates experience etc. When I went in for the interview, HR was there, solely to explain the salary + benefits. Of course when she asked if the salary was reasonable – what I *wanted* to get across was that I was aware of the salary posted, but also that they have some flexibility, and that while my current salary was higher than their initial figure, I was still willing to discuss the salary if an offer was presented. I wasn’t expecting them to match or increase what I make right now – but I also was looking for slightly more than what was posted. I fumbled that conversation though and basically told them I was overpaid? I half pulled myself out of that hole, she indicated she understood… but now if I get an offer I’m nervous about how to handle the salary conversation, having screwed that up in the interview and also since I’ve never negotiated salary before.

    1. Marthooh

      That first conversation about salary isn’t binding, unless you signed something in blood, so don’t worry too much about it. If someone brings it up later, like “I thought you said…?”, you just apologize for expressing yourself poorly, and make sure you’re clear about your requirements this time.

    2. TL -

      “Now that I’ve had more time to consider salary plus benefits along with a better understanding of the position, I’d really like to get $Y” would be fine – but after their initial offer; wait to see what they say first.

      Also, “Is there anyway you can come up to $Y? I’m excited about the job and the commute/opportunities/benefits balance out the pay cut, but unfortunately, I can’t go lower than $Y.”

      Negotiations take practice! It’s okay if this one doesn’t go perfectly but they’re not as complicated as people think! Most of mine have been “I was really looking for closer to $X” or “I’m afraid I can’t take lower than $Y.”

  37. Remote Worker and Dog Lover

    For my first job out of college, they asked me what I wanted to be paid, and regretfully told them what I made at my last job, which was above minimum wage but still not enough to get by. When I got “promoted” to full time (I was a misclassified independent contractor), I once again had to give them a number that was thankfully a bit larger than before but again, the hourly rate wasn’t a living wage. They were not transparent at all about pay and I was so grateful at my next jobs that they either posted the salary range in the job application or told me straightforwardly during the interview process.

  38. Sophia Brooks

    My job is really weird, because the hiring managers don’t even know what the salary range is. My boss (a professor) only knows my salary because I told her. We are hiring now, and we can’t even begin to tell people the salary- we pick someone, and then HR and Central Administration make an offer, but if someone asks us in an interview, we really can’t say- I can make a guess based on my pay grade and years of service, but I truly have no idea.

  39. dumblewald

    I’m currently job hunting and this drives me crazy. The salary range should be listed right there in the job description. I have one of those jobs were “Associate” could either mean you need a PhD or you get hired straight out of college – I want to know which I’m applying for! I’m overpriced for one and underpriced for another.

    1. dumblewald

      I will say though – I always include my salary range in my cover letters. This way, hopefully, employers screen themselves out.

  40. anonymous architecture nerd

    When I got my second job after college, The hiring manager called me a couple days after the interview to offer me the job and asked when I could start. We had never discussed salary at all. So I timidly (I was young and inexperienced) asked what the compensation would be. His response: “Why? Does that matter to you?”
    It turned out to be a very good salary and I accepted the job after taking a day to consider it, but this guy was shocked that I wanted to know what they would pay me and seemed irritated that I wanted one single day to consider the offer.

    1. Scarlet

      What the hell is wrong with that guy? It’s not a hobby or a volunteer position, it’s a job… Doesn’t he have bills to pay as well? Doesn’t he care at all about his own salary? I can’t even…

  41. Dramaholic

    Okay, I admit I do this sometimes. If we have a specific salary with no room to move, I advertise it. But at times we are genuinely open to applications from both ends of the experience spectrum. Usually for a new role where the personal characteristics and organisational ‘fit’ are far more important than technical skills/experience. We’d be open to training someone with less experience; or allowing a much more senior person to come on board and be creative based on their expertise.

    Another time we really weren’t sure what the market rate was (that information was not easily accessible because the job was unique). So we wanted to get salary feedback from applicants to get a better idea of what would be a good pay range.

    I do understand the frustration…but at times it’s not just because the company is being deliberately coy.

  42. lamuella

    There’s an inherent power imbalance in salary negotiations. On one side you have (potentially) a massive company, and on the other side there’s you. You don’t know what they’ve budgeted, you don’t know what they’re paying other people, and you’re basically being asked to guess the upper end of what they’re willing to pay.

    Which is why I’m glad I work for the National Health Service in the UK. Here your pay is based on the duties you’re performing, not guessing at the market rate. There’s a nationally published, union-negotiated set of pay bands called Agenda For Change that ensures that a newly qualified nurse in one place gets paid the same as a newly qualified nurse somewhere else. It reduces exploitation, increases the ability to collectively bargain, and makes it easier to match appropriate tasks with remuneration through a knowledge and skills framework.

  43. Really deep anon

    I know people who have jobs with posted public pay scales can’t do anything about that loss of privacy, and I understand why when government funds are involved (or charity or foundation funds). But I would not be thrilled if my company posted a range for my position. There are very few people I would trust to know what I make, because I know to them it would be shockingly high. It would probably make me more vulnerable than I already am to requests/demands for assistance. The job title is such that the range in the real world is across all employers is quite significant, so I feel somewhat shielded.

    1. Rusty Shackelford

      While I understand your concern, I think the need for people to know the salary range of a job so they can decide whether to apply for it and to burn valuable resources interviewing is more compelling than the need to hide your income level from greedy friends and relatives who you have a difficult time saying “no” to.

    2. HRGoneAwry

      You’d hate our Canadian City then. If you make above 100K your salary is posted for the world to see. It’s called The Sunshine List.

    3. florence and no machines

      The thing is, the pay bands are public. Who is in each pay band is not public. I work for the government. For a while, I knew my coworkers GS levels because I was handling budget. I’m not handling budget anymore and so I don’t know them.

      Sure, I can look up what a GS 9 is making. But I don’t know *who* is a GS 9.

  44. Maika

    A little off the main topic, but still relevant to the discussion – if anyone is looking to brush up on their negotiation skills, check out the 2-part interview with Alex Kouts on the Jordan Harbinger Show podcast.

  45. Adereterial

    It’s reading things like this that make me very glad this isn’t a ‘thing’ in the UK and that it’s typical to see a salary range on a job advert. Not all of them, but it’s commonly on many, until you get to very senior roles. I’ve never, ever had to negotiate over pay, working conditions, healthcare or anything else really.

    Also glad that UK government departments (my sector) are required to publish their pay scales online and there’s none of this nonsense.

  46. Chicken Situation

    I was once at a large company meeting in which an executive with a very high salary told all of us (who were underpaid and unhappy about it) that we shouldn’t be in it for the money. Um… that’s literally the ONLY reason any of us were there. It’s not like this was a nonprofit where we also cared about the mission. It was a regular company owned by a multinational corporation where people went to work for salary and benefits, nothing more. Oy.

  47. HRGoneAwry

    I recently had a job interview for a supervisory position at a major package shipping company. I told them my range was between 75-80k in the initial interviews. They sent me an offer for 70k, and they wouldn’t send any of the benefits information in full and were snippy. Finally I told them I’m making close to 97k and was OK with going down but could we meet somewhere closer to 75-80k. They rescinded the offer and said, “all the best in your future endeavors.” I was at dinner with a friend when they did that and had a good laugh. Since that time friends in the industry have asked about the job because it’s re-posted and it’s turned them off from applying.

  48. she was a fast machine

    This stuff frustrates me to no end about salary and benefits and the sheer power that hiring managers have.

    The last job I took in education, I was told my salary would be as an 11-month employee and I was really happy because that meant a good pay rate plus I had more days off which I was really looking forward to thanks to a health condition. The day I started I was told, oh, no, I was actually a 12-month employee and I didn’t actually have those extra fifteen days off I was expecting. It was hugely disappointing and I wish I’d had the guts to say something about it then.

  49. Lynne879

    Personally, I feel that if an employer becomes snippy when discussing salary & benefits, it’s a sign that you shouldn’t be working for them anyway.

    Any employer that thinks you should be grateful to have a salary in the first place isn’t a good employer IMO.

  50. Belle8bete

    I’m so over this. I’m a dance teacher and teach ma t places. I’m so over this nonsense pay game. If I can’t get all the details I just won’t go to the interview or spend my gas money or even bother with a phone interview. If they insist on being coy I will at some point just mention a base rate for myself and see if they get scared off by it… Usually it turns out they were willing to hire me but only for dirt cheap

    I am also tired of people asking for me to sub teach for them but it’s like pulling teeth to find out the compensation, or they imply that I’m somehow awful (for wanting to know how much I would make before spending my free time substituting for them). People are insane.

  51. CW06

    I work for a Fortune 500 high-end grocer that competes with Whole Foods. Amazon’s decision to raise it’s base minimum to $15/hr (which includes Whole Foods) has flipped their apple cart over, because now even our assistant managers are making less than a WF associate. Others in the industry are raising to match, and our management’s only response is to rip their hair out over the exodous of employees.

    The reality is that companies are going to have to crack their wallet open. People are done coming hat in hand to multi-billion dollar megacorps, it’s time to shell out.

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