what to say to job applicants when you know you can’t offer fair compensation

A reader writes:

I’m hiring for an open position and have received applications from a number of really fantastic, experienced candidates who do the work we do wonderfully. I’d love to bring one of them on to our team.

However, the budget I have been given for hiring is nowhere near what is fair for the skills and experience of these applicants. (The amount I have been told is my budget is about two-thirds what I feel they should be offered. Based on my experience, I think the best I could get these candidates is about 75 percent of what I think they deserve.) Some of them are currently unemployed and some are employed but we don’t ask current salary so I can’t be certain where that figure would fall against their current or previous salaries as we’re in an industry with widely varying salaries.

What’s the best way to handle these applicants? Do I call them and tell them what I’m able to offer and ask if it makes sense for them for us to have an interview? Just skip them altogether knowing what I can offer them isn’t reasonable? Interview them and not tell them upfront about the salary? Part of me feels it would be insulting to be called and told the offer would be so low but I also don’t want to take all choice away from qualified candidates who may want to work for us anyway because we have other non-monetary benefits to our company.

For what it’s worth, I’ve been working hard on bringing salaries up in my department since I took over about four years ago. In that time, our starting wage has gone up 50 percent, we’ve brought all current employees up to above that amount and in many cases offered a year of retroactive pay for the difference. So we’re improving but I still don’t feel it’s enough to be fair to these candidates.

As a general rule, I’d say to never decide on a candidate’s behalf that the salary won’t be enough for them. Tell them your range and let them decide if they want to move forward or not.

That’s because you never know what someone’s situation might be. Maybe they’ve already heard through the industry grapevine what your salaries are and they’re interested anyway. Maybe they’re changing fields and prepared to take a pay cut to do it. Maybe they’re fabulously wealthy and are working not for money but because of a vow they made to their rich aunt on her deathbed to always stay in touch with the little people after inheriting her millions. We can’t know!

More to the point, there are a lot of job applicants who really don’t want to be ruled out because of a hiring manager’s assumptions about what they will or won’t be happy with. They want the chance to decide for themselves.

The easiest way to make that happen is with an email, not a phone call. If you set up a phone call, they’re likely to assume it’ll be a full phone interview (or at least a screen) and will invest time in preparing for it — and you don’t want them to waste their time if the salary is a clear deal-breaker. So instead, send an email that says something like, “Thanks so much for your interest. I think you could be a great match for what we’re looking for. Before we talk, I want to let you know the salary for this role is around $X. I might have a little wiggle room but not much. If that’s in line with what you’re looking for, I’d love to set up a call to talk more.”

Beyond that … based on the efforts you’ve been making to bring up salaries on your team, I’m assuming you’ve pointed out to whoever set this range that it’s two-thirds of the market rate for the work? I’m curious about what your company’s response is to that. Do they think the lower rate will attract candidates who are good enough, even if not the best, and so they don’t care? (And is that true?) Do they disagree with you on the market rate and, if so, can you ask to see their data and compare it to your own? Is their pay data out of date? Or, is it possible that whoever set the salary is picturing a different candidate profile than you are (like you’re thinking about experienced hires and they’re envisioning someone more junior) — and if so, can you talk with them about what you need in the role, what it will take to get that, and the impact on the work if you can’t? And if they’re convinced you can hire people at this salary — which you’ll find out soon enough, either way — is it worth pointing out the downsides of that to them (like that you might be able to hire someone but they’ll leave quickly if they can find something more fairly paid, etc.)?

But meanwhile, full transparency with candidates up-front is the way to go.

{ 243 comments… read them below }

    1. Dust Bunny*


      Just do this and save them the bother of applying if they won’t be satisfied, and yourself the bother of having to broach it later.

      1. Joan Rivers*

        But also, you can include, in an email, any good benefits or perks of the job as well as your good attitude.

        1. Eden*

          You can (and I say, should) also include benefits and perks in a job app and your careers page though.

    2. The Original K.*

      First thing I thought. Let people self-select out (or not!) right out of the gate; that way you have a reasonable expectation that your applicant pool knows that the salary range will work for them.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Agreed, but she’s already past that point (she already has applications). Also, it’s sometimes hard for individual managers to get their companies to approve putting the salary in the ad (which is ridiculous, but the reality of it) but they have much more authority over what they communicate with candidates once they’re in the mix.

      1. Mouse*

        My employer’s argument to this is that while of course employees are able to share their own salaries, if they put the salary in the job ad, it makes the future employee’s private personal information public. Do you think that argument has any merit?

        1. sagc*

          It’s not like there’s some inviolable right to salary privacy, which is the only way this would make sense as an argument.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            I work for a government agency. Not only is my salary a matter of public record, but ranges are listed in all job postings. I think it’s great, & I don’t have to wonder if men are being paid more than women or white people more than BIPOCs.

            1. A Genuine Scientician*

              Same. I’m at a public university, and I really appreciate the transparency. It’s good to know that it’s my unit as a whole that is underpaid, not me relative to others; that changes how I react to it.

            2. allathian*

              Same. I’m not in the US, but I do work for the government, and salary bands are public. That said, a part of our salary (up to 45 percent) is at least in theory determined by performance, and and individual’s performance rating isn’t public information. That said, I’ve been denied raises although my performance would have merited them because there were no funds in the budget for them, so the motivational aspect of the performance rating is pretty well non-existent. I’m not saying I’m coasting along, exactly, but I admit that I’m not particularly motivated to go above and beyond, either, because I already know it’s unlikely I’ll be rewarded for it. A former manager who acknowledged that I had earned a higher rating, and probably wasn’t very happy that she didn’t have the budget to give me the raise my performance merited, nevertheless seemed to imply that I was a bad person because I was disappointed when I didn’t get the raise… I did tell her that if money were all I cared about, I’d look for a job elsewhere, but that the merit system really isn’t working as it should if there’s no budget to give raises to people who’ve earned them.

              The vast majority have a performance rating of around 17-20 percent in my org. The distribution of individual performance percentages for each band is also public information.

          2. ecnaseener*

            I suppose the thinking is that when they’re applying for their next job, they won’t have the option to avoid sharing their current salary — and many people do want to avoid that, so they can get paid based on what they’re worth rather than on what salary they accepted in the past.

            1. MK*

              When they are applying for their next job, the employer will hunt down years-old ads of their previous position?

              1. Mona Lisa*

                I actually had this happen to me when I was changing industries. I was low-balled at a job offer, and I found out from the newly hired manager (she was hired near the end of my own interview process) that they had indeed looked at my publicly available university salary and decided that I should be happy with an XX% increase even though it was low for my new field.

                I ended up turning down the offer once I learned that. What a great way to keep underpaid employees chronically underpaid!

            2. Christina*

              That would also assume they haven’t gotten any raises between their hiring and when they leave.

        2. Lance*

          That makes no sense at all. How is a salary range for a job posting related in any way to someone’s personal information?

          1. anonymouse*

            Agree. I just get that ick vibe, “we are doing what we want, but not for our benefit, it’s for the future employee.”
            Because yeah, when someone applies to ABC company, the hiring team is going to google the ad for the position they were hired into five years earlier and say, “oh, their salary band was $X to $X=10%”
            Uh huh.

          2. oranges*

            If your friend Susie posts that she got a new job at X company, and if they still had up that posting (or others like it) everyone could know what Susie is making. Same with anyone else currently employed in that role. Of course, Susie could have negotiated higher, structured differently, or any number of things, but the company is claiming to protect the salary information of their new and current.

            I’d argue that the benefits to job seekers and the time saved on the back end by everyone far exceeds the nosiness of their friends, but companies disagree.

            1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

              Companies disagree, but not because they care if Suzie’s friends are nosey.

              They disagree, because John, Jane, and Jose, who all have the same role as Suzie, might find out what the company is currently willing to pay for the work they’re already doing.

              Caring about suzie’s friends being nosey is a convenient lie that they tell the world, because the truth makes them look bad.

              1. JustaTech*

                Exactly. I just had my HR rep (who is generally a nice person) tell me that it is “unprofessional” to share salary information (after I reminded said HR person that *by law* the company can’t prevent us from comparing salaries).

                It’s not unprofessional. It’s to keep people like me (long-timers) from knowing how much less they’re getting paid compared to people with the same title who were hired more recently. It’s about keeping costs down at the expense of employees.

                1. Fran Fine*

                  Bingo. If long-term employees found out new hires were being paid on average $10k more a year to do the same job they’re currently doing (and god forbid the new hire has less experience), then they’re afraid the long-timers will start demanding salary bumps to meet the market rate, which they may not be able to accommodate (or just don’t want to depending on the number of people they’d have to bring up to that point).

                2. lazuli*

                  “Unprofessional” is often (as in this case!) a dog whistle word to mean, “This person is not acting sufficiently subservient,” which means it’s most often used against women, BIPOC folks, and other people in historically marginalized groups.

                3. Betteauroan*

                  That little rule is completely self-serving and just plain wrong. Your HR rep is not nice for telling you that. You have every right to talk about salaries with your co-workers. Of course companies don’t want their employees to find out a man is getting paid $3/hr more than his female co-workers for no clear reason. It happens all the time. The last company I worked for I accidentally opened the pay stub of one of my co-workers. She was making way more than me and her workload was nowhere near mine and she was part-time. It made me very resentful and I wished I did not know that. They paid me way less than I was worth considering I was responsible for a $3.5 million book of business by myself.

                4. Overit*

                  Discussing money is “unprofessional” only when staff is paid poorly or inequitably.

              2. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

                This is exactly why my workplace won’t show the salary. We’re hiring in my division for two extremely well-compensated positions, and I know for a fact if we include the salary we’ll get more qualified candidates. They won’t, though, because then everyone who works in all the underpaid departments will know just how underpaid they are (not that they don’t know that already!)

            2. Speaks to Dragonflies*

              Those companies claiming that are as full of crap as a Christmas goose.

          3. TardyTardis*

            They just want to hide what they’ll pay while getting all the information they can from applicants, legally or not. Trust me on this one.

        3. CatCat*

          This sounds ridiculous. And a completely made up reason to make applicants jump through hoops before showing them what they’re jumping through hoops for.

          Are there really more potential employees that will skip applying for a job because it has a pay range vs. those that will skip applying because it has no pay range?

          IDK about others, but I won’t apply for jobs where I don’t see the pay range advertised.

          1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

            I will apply for them, sometimes – typically if I’m desperate to leave my current position, or expecting to lose it due to foreseeable circumstances (ie budget cuts).

            But my standards for when I will apply are very different – a job with a salary range posted is one I’ll consider needing to relocate for, because I can figure out if the salary is survivable wherever I’d be relocating to. If there is no salary range posted, the job must lie within reasonable commuting distance of my current residence.

            They also don’t get a whole lot of effort from me as far as a tailored cover letter or resume, because I’m assuming that there’s a good chance I’ll walk out after asking my first question (what is your salary range?) at the interview.

          2. Koalafied*

            Same here – as a currently-employed, not-in-danger-of-being-fired job seeker, the only times I’ll apply for a job with no advertised pay range is if they’re such a large company that there are at least 5-10 salaries for that exact position or very comparable ones (e.g. various Senior Manager of [Area] in the same department that you figure would probably be within the same general pay range) on Glassdoor, which is enough data for me to put some stock in it being at least in the neighborhood of the real salary range, OR if they have a reputation for being a high-paying employer, even if the specific job title I’m interested in isn’t well enough represented in Glassdoor salaries to rely on.

          3. Overeducated*

            Back when I was searching, I’d apply, but I’d rule them out later if the pay was too low. So it was a waste of everyone’s time. Now that listing salaries is becoming somewhat more common in my field, I self-select out earlier.

        4. Cthulhu's Librarian*

          As a person who works in an industry where all salary information is a matter of public record, that just screams evasive balloney to me. How would anyone outside of the company know who got hired for a specific role? And that salary might change based on negotiations as well (ie, someone might say they wanted work from home two days a week, and were willing to take a pay reduction if the company swore to honor it).

          Others knowing what you make is not actually a huge deal. And knowing what an employer’s salary bands are for a role is not actually private information to you as an employee anyways.

          The only benefit to not posting salary in ads is that it allows employers to hide festering pay scale disparities, and prevent current employees from realizing when they are being underpaid (due to lack of cost of living increases, and new hires being given pay rates that are in keeping with modern expectations).

        5. TWW*

          Is a person’s salary private and personal?

          I don’t usually talk about my salary because that can make for awkward conversation, but if it were possible to go to my employer’s website and see the official salary (or salary band) for my job position, I’d have no problem with that.

          1. The Dude Abides*

            For those of us in government, our salaries are public record, and published every year.

        6. Mzus*

          No – because no one knows if a negotiation occurred afterwards, if a raise after X amount of months occurred, etc.

          It would be an all around assumption.

        7. paxfelis*

          Are they subsequently publishing that So-and-So has been hired at that exact rate? Are they completely forbidding any sort of negotiation? Assuming the answer to these questions is no, then I would say that argument is baseless and lazy.

          “This is our salary range for this job” is about as private as “These are the prices on our menu.”

        8. PT*

          I worked somewhere with a similar argument. It’s because they don’t want the other, already-employed low paid people to see the full salary range for the job. They want to hire in the lower 50% of the range, ideally the lower 25% of the range. They don’t want the new employee to know the top 75% of the range exists and they don’t want the existing employees to know exactly how high the range goes because with raises most of them have probably only worked themselves up to around the midpoint after a few years.

          1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

            And, not just that – they sometimes take advantage of a volatile market – and figure that if a guy or gal is in trouble at their existing situation, they may jump, and even take a lateral or pay DROP to latch on to something more secure / less vulnerability.

            So they low-ball. And sometimes, they get away with low-balling people.

            1. Arvolin*

              Low salaries lead to low morale and high turnover. High turnover costs money because the company continually has to train people or bring them up to speed, and leads to low employee quality because it’s the good ones that can get jobs somewhere else (the “Dead Sea Effect”). There are situations in which mediocre employees are better for the company because they’re cheaper, but that should be a conscious decision. If anyone complains about the quality of people they get at a low pay rate, they’re a bad manager.

        9. Mental Lentil*

          No, because you can always negotiate something different.

          Your employer is just being ridiculous. Like anyone is going to go back and research that.

        10. JP in the heartland*

          I’ve had this argument with my sister who is in HR , according to her, it’s because other employers would see their pay range and offer just a little bit more to get the best candidates. So it’s for the employers’ benefit, not the potential employees’ privacy. I don’t agree with her.

          1. pancakes*

            Yikes. Trying to keep wages stagnant isn’t in the best interest of all employers, either. There are a lot of companies that sell clothes, food, travel, and home goods for higher-than-Walmart prices, for example, that would benefit from wage gains being more evenly distributed.

            1. TardyTardis*

              But they look at the companies who teach their employees how to apply for food stamps and sigh with envy.

          2. Stitching Away*

            She’s not wrong – hiding salary information is almost always to the benefit of the employer. But that’s why employer’s do it, because they’re not in it for the employees.

            A situation where employers would have to compete to attract the best candidates? Why, that sounds almost like capitalism!

        11. Lizy*

          No. CurrentJob listed the range in their job ad. My pay is on the higher end, but there’s no way for anyone to tell that based on the range. As a matter of fact, I may be slightly outside of the range they listed… I can’t remember. But regardless – I always take the salary listing as “around” $x and not necessarily indicative of what I make/will make.

        12. Underemployed Erin*

          Colorado just passed a law on this. Job postings have to post salary range.

          It was interesting for me to see, “Oh, I just got promoted and am at the lower end of this range. I guess that makes sense” as we interviewed new candidates for my position.

          1. Fred*

            And now companies that typically hire remote workers are specifically stating that Colorado residents are not eligible for these positions because they are so determined NOT to comply and provide the required salary range. Pathetic.

        13. fish*

          My favorite is an old employer of mine, that told us they couldn’t provide an analysis of whether men were earning more than women, because it wasn’t for them to say who was a man and who was a woman.

          (Spoiler: pretty sure the men were paid more.)

          1. Elenna*

            Gotta love the people who pretend to be woke as a tactic to avoid doing stuff that would actually help prevent inequality! :P
            Let me guess, they can’t just ask people their gender, because people shouldn’t be pressured to reveal personal information at work (ignoring the possibility of making the question optional)? And it’s not like people generally know what pronouns their coworkers are currently using at work, or anything like that…

        14. Starbuck*

          LOL, no. We seriously need to let go of this idea that salary is “private personal information.” Money is not a secret shameful thing, and the idea that it is benefits employers and rich people, not employees or people who aren’t being paid enough.

        15. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          There is no private personal information. Salary is not a protected or private topic. I work for a government agency and a newspaper in my state gets the salary information for all state employees through a freedom of information act request every year and publishes it. My name, my position, and my salary as of the time of the FOIA request is published every year. Fine with me. Time to make these things transparent. Employers who say this aren’t worried about employee privacy but about transparency, since it is unlikely they are paying women and minorities an equal amount to white male employees for the same work.

      2. Empress Ki*

        It’s strange for me when salaries aren’t in the ad.
        I don’t know if this is a cultural difference (I live in the UK) or because I have always worked for the public/charity sector, but I nearly never come across a job ad without a salary. I don’t even bother to apply in this case to avoid wasting my time.

        1. Apples*

          It’s industry specific. As a software dev in the UK I would say most jobs I see don’t give a salary, and those that do are the ones which pay low. Jobs which pay low and don’t have wiggle room don’t have much to lose by putting the salary up. Jobs which potentially pay high, have wide salary bands, and have any kind of brand name recognition obviously benefit from hiding their salary information and getting you to lowball yourself by mistake; they don’t gain much from publicising the salary since people will apply there regardless.

        2. BubbleTea*

          Yes, I’ve only worked in the UK public and charity sectors, and not only have ads always had the salary in them, there’s very little scope for negotiation. Yes you could argue for being started at a slightly higher point on the pay scale based on past experience, but essentially all posts are pegged to a specific level on a publicly-available pay scale and you move up a step each year. My colleagues could figure out exactly how much I’m paid by thinking back to when I officially moved from a training role to a fully-trained role, and counting up the steps on that level of the pay scale. I mean, why would they bother, but they could.

        3. Starbuck*

          Yeah, it’s almost always an indicator that this position is below industry standard, or that it’s just low in general. Especially when they say something like “competitive pay” or “depends on experience.” If it was really competitive, they’d post it to better attract highly qualified people. If it depends on the experience, post the pay band or starting number.

        4. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          I think it is definitely a cultural difference. Our employment laws in the US are not employee friendly, and even those that are … employers get around them very easily. Hiding salaries and making them a matter of “negotiation” allow them to continue paying white male employees more than female or minority employees for the same work, even though it is illegal (note, I do not think it is because they want to favor white male employees so much as they don’t want to have to pay more … if a disparity is discovered, they would not be expected to lower his salary, but to raise the others. So they want to hide it. But the result is a lack of equity.).

      3. Foreign Octopus*

        My ex-employer used to say that by putting the salaries in the ad we’d lose a lot of great candidates and if that doesn’t sum up how badly the salaries were out of whack with the market then I don’t know what does.

        Also, I worked for an external recruiter who generally advised companies on how to advertise their jobs, which is just *sigh*.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          My ex-employer used to say that by putting the salaries in the ad we’d lose a lot of great candidates

          Well, there’s someone who is THIS.CLOSE to getting it.

          1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

            LOL, trust me, this employer is not going to make that last half inch over the finish line …

        2. Elenna*

          Ah yes, because going through the entire job search process, picking someone, sending out an offer, and then having them turn it down is definitely better than losing people immediately, right? NOPE. WRONG. sigh

      4. mreasy*

        Yep, our HR won’t allow it and there is a policy against it, despite my many arguments.

      5. Momma Bear*

        I think the advice given is the best way to go forward. Allow them to mull it over and decide if they want to continue or not. It is not uncommon for people to take a pay cut to get into federal service (anticipating regular increases and job stability/good benefits). An email puts it in their court.

    4. boppity*

      As someone who has to hire a lot of folks at below-market rates – HR won’t let me do this. I wish I could!

    5. Here we go again*

      Please include other benefit information too and how you’ll be paid. And be upfront about health insurance premiums, 401K match etc. This can make a job look better or turn people away. For the same BCBS coverage from one employer to another was a $5000/ year difference in premiums, Add a better PTO policy, 401K and 10 less hours a week $10-15k a year less isn’t a terrible pay cut.

      1. Momma Bear*

        Right – if I cut my commute or maybe had more flexible hours and good PTO I might not balk much at a lower salary. Depends on what each person is looking for. Put it all out there.

        1. MissBaudelaire*

          This is what I thought. I might take a pay cut for flexibility or the option for remote hours, or simply because my commute time was sliced down significantly. Or maybe even just because the company had a better culture than where I came from.

        2. Here we go again*

          Once I figured out the insurance premiums and the more expenses I had with child care because I was working more, I was actually making a lot less and working more and hated the job.

      2. Amtelope*

        My current employer isn’t competitive on salary, but we offer generous PTO, flexible working hours, a 35-hour work week, an employee stock ownership plan, quality health insurance, and paid parental leave. If I were telling someone about the salary range, I’d also want to let them know the elements of the job that may make it more attractive.

        1. TheLayeredOne*

          Yes, this is so important! Benefits are part of the compensation package (401k, health insurance premiums, etc.), so that’s important to factor in. And some candidates will place high value on perks like more vacation time or schedule flexibility. Give them all the information so they can weigh it for themselves – salary may not be as much of a sticking point as LW is anticipating.

      3. Linley*

        This would be awesome. I’ve been on the other side of it in that the salary (which the recruiter did tell me on our first call) was fine but the benefits sucked. So much so that although my salary would go up a bit from what I currently earning, I would end up losing a substantial amount of money due to insurance cost, lost 401(k) match, etc.

    6. RC*


      Why did putting salary ranges in job ads stop being a thing? Why? Why? Why?

      1. Not a cat*

        Since McKinsey “influenced” the market regarding who their customer is. It used to be the actual consumer of the product or service. Now the customer is the shareholder. Hence the inflation of CEO pay, never money for Jay Loperson’s market increases, complete lack of transparency in hiring, etc.

        1. TardyTardis*

          Although the shareholders of AT&T slapped down the latest management compensation package, yay for them.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            The shareholders did that because they want more dividends not because they’re aiming for fair pay.

    7. Clisby*

      And shouldn’t major benefits/perks be in the ad, too. Like (highly unlikely in the US) you offer 6 weeks of vacation and 100% health insurance premium for the whole family paid by the employer?

      1. Esmeralda*

        I get just under five weeks vacation/annual leave, 12 days sick leave annually. It all rolls over too. Up until a few years ago, employee premiums were fully covered, and adding dependents was about $120/month. My individual premium is $60/month. My spouse has our child on his policy: $200/month for the two of them. When we retire, we get free health insurance. State employees.

        Our pay is pretty sucky. But can’t beat the benefits.

    8. Koalafied*

      yes x 1,000!

      One of the neat things about the sudden surge in companies willing to accept remote workers, and Colorado’s recently-effective law that states jobs advertised in Colorado must include a salary range, I’ve started to notice a few national companies who are open to remote candidates, either in the US in general, or anyone who lives close to any of their offices and they have an office in Colorado, will have to post the salary range! There’s usually some disclaimer about how that’s only the salary range for Colorado-based employees and other regions may pay differently, but it’s 1,000% more useful to have that as a reference point than to be completely in the dark.

      I really hope this is like legal marijuana, where within 10 years of Colorado doing it most of the rest of the country will, too.

      1. Cooper*

        It’s not based on where the company is– if your job could be advertised to someone who lives in Colorado, it has to list the salary range. (Which, if it’s a national company taking COL into account, probably *is* higher than a lot of regions; Colorado is expensive!)
        In response, quite a few companies have listings for remote jobs that specify that Colorado residents and ineligible to apply.

        1. Koalafied*

          Wow, how incredibly crappy. I thought it was bad enough that some of the ones I found that would just give absurdly broad ranges like $50,000-150,000 which pretty much screamed “we’re only giving this range because they MADE us and we still intend to lowball anyone we make an offer to and/or engage in illegal pay discrimination, this is just the absolute minimum lowball offer we’ll be allowed to make and the absolute maximum salary we’ll give to well-connected white men.” Not even taking applicants from Colorado is instead screaming “we only want to hire people we can lowball, so much so that we would rather exclude good candidates than let them enter a negotiation unless we can maintain the upper hand through information asymmetry.”

          Let’s hope California, New York, and DC pass similar laws, so those employers have nowhere to run.

    9. T. J. Juckson*

      Absolutely, just give the range!

      To all the companies worrying that they won’t get competitive candidates or the like, well, yeah, you don’t pay a competitive rate! Why should you get better candidates? And if you can’t put in the ad, then disclose with the first interview. I’ll still be irritated that I wasted my time on your application, but less so than at the end.

      Years ago, I received an offer that was flat-out offensive. I am in a field that wants very high qualifications with very low salaries overall (museums), but even so. Benefits were terrible as well– less than half the paid time off that is typical, poor health insurance, etc. I declined. And they lost the line and have never hired for the position. If the range had been disclosed up front, I would never have applied, they wouldn’t have wasted the time and money for the in-visit interviews for me, etc., and maybe they would have had someone in that role this whole time.

    10. C.*

      Honestly, though. I applaud this manager’s intentions and I know that it’s too late at this point, so this is more of a general gripe… but OMG, companies will save so much of everyone’s time—including theirs!—if they just state the salary range outright.

      I’m almost at the point now where, if they don’t list that information, I move on because it usually means that the salary is lower than I would expect/need for the position.

    11. OP*

      I would love to do that but I’m not the decision maker on that. I’ve asked but not gotten anywhere. I know that would solve a lot of my problems with this but it’s not under my control so I have to figure out how to deal with things as they are right now.

    12. Synonym Roll*

      I agree 100% with this, but I also had a recent experience that changed my approach to postings without salary ranges listed.

      I went through an interview process with an organization that I was really interested in, but that didn’t list salary range on the posting. Usually that would be a no-go, but I really wanted to get out of where I was working before and so I took a chance. The interview process ended up happening a little out of order from what I expected, so I wasn’t comfortable ask what the salary range was because I didn’t have a chance to chat 1-on-1 with a recruiter or someone in HR until the offer was extended.

      The initial offer ended up being around $20k less than I was currently making, but I tried to negotiate and was honest about what I was looking for, which was about $10k more than my current salary. I fully expected that they wouldn’t be able to make it work, but based on my experience and the strength of my application/interviews, they ended up bumping the title and therefore the salary into a different range. They couldn’t quite make what I asked for, so they also threw in a sign-on bonus. Their benefits were much better than where I was currently, so all said and done it actually turned into a pretty attractive offer!

      If they’d listed the salary range on the posting, I never would have applied. But I did, and it ended up being well worth it. I’m sure this is very much the exception, but it did make me re-think my strategy of skipping any postings that don’t include a salary range!

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        But surely if they listed the salary you could still have said to yourself, “hmm wonder if I could negotiate that up, let’s apply and see”.

        1. Synonym Roll*

          Not with a $20k difference, because that’s a pretty substantial jump for a pay band as evidenced by them bumping the position into a higher title. I’ve definitely skipped applying to jobs that list around $15k less than my current salary because if I’m looking for around $10k more than where I am currently that’s a really big gap to make up!

    13. Aron*

      I agree and would very much like to see this happen across the board. BUT. I suspect the issue becomes internal employees seeing salary ranges and flipping out, like I did when I was on a hiring committee and inadvertently found out that the salary range for the position (think: Teapot Advisor), which was well below mine, required far less experience, and did not require licensure of any kind, was $12K ABOVE my salary…as a Director of Teapot Education and Coordinator of Teapot Placements. When I asked my grandboss about this disparity, the response was, “Well, we have to be competitive, and we can’t really discuss salary for another person with you.” I’m not there anymore, and that was one of the bigger reasons why.

      1. singlemaltgirl*

        my response to this is salaries ought to be competitive across the board. and if they’re not or you walk into a place where it’s not, leaders should move in that direction. no one should be looking at their company’s postings and be disgruntled about what they’re making. i mean, some people are as a matter of course no matter what the market may say their position should be making.

        but i find there are plenty of employers who don’t elevate their existing employees with current competitive rates of pay – they just do that for new hires. bull shit. everyone in your organization should be compensated as well as you can afford AND based on industry standards and market benchmarking for salaries. when you know you can’t, you make that clear and try to ensure there are great benefits, flexibility, etc. are known to help attract good candidates.

        but the secretiveness with many orgs treat salaries sends up a red flag to me. are you not paying all your employees as fairly as you could be? why won’t you post? are you aware that not posting means that you might get people (mostly women or BIPoC) for cheaper and that’s why you do it? you want to pay the least you can get away with? ugh. no thanks. i neither want to work for an org that does that nor do i want to lead an org that thinks that way.

        1. Aron*

          I wholeheartedly agree. The issue is that finding that unicorn employer is really, really hard and most CVs/resumes can’t take the hit of employer shopping to find that unicorn. I regularly look at job postings in my industry and NONE have a salary range, while scuttlebutt is that pay for same or similar positions is wildly discrepant between orgs and within-orgs. Salary discussions typically happen only during the negotiation stage, so everyone has wasted time. And, raises happen in 1%-2% increases, period. It’s overall pretty horrendous…but not rare. The entire system needs an overhaul.

          (I didn’t even ask for a raise. I asked why a junior level non-certified position that was interviewing recent Bachelor’s-level graduates was paying so much more than my upper-level, Master’s+, X Years of Indstury Experience Required certified position and was treated as though I was trying to have an unethical conversation. I adopted the “we’re trying to be competitive” answer and went to a competitor.)

    14. Artemesia*

      Absolutely agree but many organizations won’t allow that. I had to hire people for years for positions that required both business leadership experience and a PhD but paid crap (good benefits though). I could not write a totally accurate job description for political reasons too ridiculous to recount and could not post the salary.

      I particularly targeted recruitment at late career professionals looking for a post early retirement gig or military retiring and seeking a second career and a lot of our best hires came from those categories.

      The other thing I did was to discuss the salary with people interesting enough to us to merit phone interviews and subsequent fly in — finalist interviews. As a result I only had one person turn down an offer over salary (and that was a local). I would let them know ‘about’ what the top of the range was and that I MIGHT be able to get another 5K but could not promise it. So people horrified at the salary withdrew at that point. I lobbied to get more money but we didn’t have the leverage to make it happen.

    15. singlemaltgirl*

      +1. i do that with all my postings, period. i want to be as transparent as possible with candidates and i already know many fear/are anxious about salary negotiations. and i think women and BIPoC (more often than not) don’t always know their worth and get shafted the most in initial salary negotiations. i know what i’ve got budgeted for positions and i pay the best i can and let people know what that is along with any benefits or flexibility we offer.

      if we’re not compatible, we’re not compatible. but i like to know that before spending more time on a candidate. and as part of recruitment, i think the onus is on me to give the key info in the ad for a candidate to make a decision about whether they want to apply or not.

    16. Selena*

      Save yourself the hassle of applicants who bow out when they hear the salary.

      And on top of that you’ll make a good impression as a company that knows how things are done nowadays.

  1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    I had a recent positive experience with a prospective employer where I said “for this position, given A and B and my experience with C, I would be expecting a salary in the region of $n” and they said “we were hoping to pay 80% of that, let me go and talk to the decision makers”. Although ultimately they decided they’d rather employ someone on the 80% for now, we’ve left the conversation open and at some point they may want that extra that I can offer, and be prepared to pay for it.

    It would have been hugely frustrating on both sides to go through a proper interview cycle before realising we weren’t quite on the same page.

  2. TWW*

    Another good reason why including salary in job postings should be the norm (if not the law).

    1. Iamthelola*

      I agree…. not only would it help us understand true salary ranges as applicants, it would let companies know when they weren’t living up to appropriate salary ranges as well. Or prove that they dont pay enough, if they want to argue it :)

    2. another worker bee*

      it is the law in Colorado, and employers for nationwide remote jobs are excluding candidates from CO to avoid posting the salary ranges

      1. PersephoneUnderground*

        Which is why more states should do it- then it will stop being practical to just exclude CO.

      2. Mid*

        I’ve seen the news stories about that, but I’m also still seeing plenty of job listings for remote work that don’t exclude CO. I think it’s over-hyped and used to make it seem like salary transparency laws are a bad thing.

        And, employers have been excluding certain states from remote work for ages. Plenty won’t hire in CA, or exclude Hawaii and Alaska, and I’ve seen Florida specifically excluded a few times as well. (Not sure why FL was specifically excluded, but CA is usually because of their stricter OT and pay laws, and AK and HI is usually because traveling to a site from there is a significant cost or the time difference.)

        But yeah, if it was a federal rule to include salary range, this would solve that issue completely.

  3. glitter writer*

    The last time I was job-hunting, I applied for a role that I thought would be an excellent fit and received an e-mail response exactly like that. They said, approximately: “Hi, you seem like a strong candidate for the role, but before we continue I want to let you know the salary range is [$20K less than I had most recently been making] and I don’t want to continue if that doesn’t make sense for you.”

    It absolutely didn’t make sense for me to continue with that large a salary difference, so I thanked them for their time and their honesty. I think it was absolutely the best way for them to handle that situation, and I’m assuming they found someone more junior than I was at the time to take the role.

    1. mommy shark*

      Yep, exact same situation here with a $15K-ish pay cut. No thanks, but I very much appreciated the heads-up via email and we left everything on good terms.

    2. LadyByTheLake*

      I had a similar experience a while ago. A major bank was advertising for legal role and specified 10+ years of experience. But for Reasons (the role was not in the Legal Department), the role was paying a good 35-50% less than would be expected for someone with that experience. The bank reached out to me (called me because the contact knew me), explained the problem and asked if I wanted to proceed. I did not. It helped that they were very apologetic and understood that the salary was ridiculous. They ended up hiring someone far more junior — I very much appreciated that they gave me an early heads up so that we didn’t waste anyone’s time. However, if I had been in more straitened circumstances, I might have taken it anyway.

    3. Audrey Puffins*

      I had the same thing happen last time I was jobhunting. I thanked them sincerely and politely for letting me know, and we went our separate ways. I appreciated them being upfront FAR more than I would have appreciated getting further into the process before finding out the limitations, for sure.

    4. Prairie*

      Yes, I’ve had this experience too and was grateful they respected my time enough to tell me before the phone screen. This method could also help the letter writer as they push for higher salaries. They may be able to say something like “Of the top five initial applicants, three bowed out after I shared the salary.”

    5. HRBee*

      I’ve always preceded this way when I haven’t been allowed to post to the range on the post itself. It saves me so much time (and would save me even more if I could put it on the post).

      From my own candidate experience earlier this year, I had gone through a few phone/video interviews with a company and was invited in for a final team interview. They were a public organization so I was pulling the department budget and history from their website. The HR team was 4 people, but the budget only had $120K for the year. I figured additional budget was allocated to a different account (it was), but I wanted to make sure so I asked for the range before I came in. It was $45 -$50k base with no bonus! YALL. I have 8 solid years of experience and am currently a manager. I cannot for the life of me understand how they thought someone with my background would accept that! It would literally be a $30K+ cut altogether. I wish they would have just shot over an email so I didn’t waste hours of my life.

  4. Over It*

    It sounds like your org doesn’t post salary ranges on job postings—do you have any standing to push for that going forward? Having a posted salary range allows people to self-select out before applying. You will lose good candidates over it. But better to opt out from the get-go, than wasting their time applying and your time conducting interviews if there’s no chance of being able to meet their salary requirements. P.S. thanks for using the standing you do have to push for better compensation!

  5. I'm just here for the cats*

    Kudos to this letter writer for getting their employees pay range up. I’m hoping that they will be able to talk to whoever is budgeting and explain that they really should come up some more on salary in order to get and maintain good, happy employees who do their job well. After all, if you pay crud you get crud.

    1. Hei Hei, the Chicken from Moana*

      Agreed. I’d love to hear more about how to go about doing this at your own org.

      1. OP*

        It was not an easy fight and I used up a lot of my political capital to make it happen. It involved several dozen spreadsheets, more than twenty meetings and a fair amount of discussion with our legal team. Sadly, the biggest hurdle was “if we do this for your team, everyone will want this.” Umm, yeah, but I’m pretty sure they all already want a living wage without any kind of “I hear Sheila makes enough to eat food that isn’t ramen” happening. I’m proud of my company for doing what’s right but it was sad to have to push so hard for it.

        1. Elenna*

          “if we do this for your team, everyone will want this.”

          Oh no! The horror! They might have to *gasp* pay people fairly! Whatever will they do?!? /sarcasm

    2. Corporate Drone Liz*

      I was most impressed that the company did a year of retroactive pay to make up for it. That would go a LONG way for me; it’s great that they raised everyone’s salaries but adding a year of the pay difference is taking it the extra mile. Kudos to the LW!

  6. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I’ve never understood why employers don’t just post the salary range in the ad. (I mean I get why they do, but it’s still annoying.)

    If you post the range for me, I can decide whether or not I want to apply. Eyes wide open and all that. When I do apply, both parties know what the deal is.

    But nothing is more frustrating than seeing a job I’m qualified for, going through the process, and then finding out the salary isn’t what I thought it would be or what it should be. I make in the low six figures now, and this information is easily found because I’m a government employee. I’m not going to take less for the same amount of work in a new position.

    In the meantime, if you don’t have to budget to pay these candidates what they’re worth, I guess you can continue forward, but I’m more inclined to say your employer is trying to get something for nothing. If you don’t have the budget for the top quality employees, then you don’t get to hire the top quality employees. Before I hear cries of a labor shortage, I’ll point to the $10 leather couch analogy: just because you can’t buy a leather couch for $10 doesn’t mean there’s a leather couch shortage.

    If hiring a good employee is an organizational priority, then your employer will make sure that’s reflected in the budget and the offer. If not, then they don’t care as much as they say they do. Desires and aspirations don’t pay my bills.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I’ve never understood why employers don’t just post the salary range in the ad.

      I don’t 100% agree. It makes sense and saves time from the candidates point of view, but the company does give up precious data points on where the market is for the position and who might be right outside their range.

      Say you have a Widget Analyst X position open. The true market range is $75M-$100M ($75k-$100k for the Greeks), but the budget caps out at $80M ($80k). Scenario #1 – Company posts an ad at $80M ($80k) and gets 25 applicants, all more underpaid and compromises on skill set. Scenario #2 – Company posts an ad and discloses the $80M ($80k) salary cap during the first interview during negotiations. Company gets the same 25 applicants at < $80M ($80k) along with 50 more experienced applicants at $80M-$95M ($80k-95k) and 3 "rock stars" that are legit Widget Analyst XI's at $125+M ($125+k).

      In Scenario #1, $80M ($80k) does get the job done. But in Scenario #2, the hiring manager has an opportunity to fight with HR/Grandboss/Finance/etc for another $10M for a well-experienced Analyst X.

      Just be sure to disclose it during the first correspondence/conversation. The range would be a nasty surprise at the end and waste a lot of time, but I do get holding it back to ensure the widest net is cast to pick candidates from.

      1. TWW*

        Or Scenario #4, post the job stating a salary range of $80M-$90M, because that is in fact the range of possible salaries that may be offered

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          You have the same problem in #4 as #1; you don’t actually know what difference in experience, skills, etc is available for a few dollars more than your budget. It’s an easier, more reliable case to make with that market data.

          The $10M might not be there to go to $90M. But if you post at $80M in Scenario #1 or $90M in Scenario #2 and don’t get your candidate, how do you know how much more you’ll need to offer to get that candidate? Is it as good a case to make to ask for another $10M so you might find a better candidate, or another $10M to get the perfect fit who’s interested in the open position?

          1. Selena*

            Not knowing which candidates will show up is only a reasonable argument for a small company doing specialized labor and thus expecting less than 5 applicants.

            A big company already knows what skills will complement their team and what those skills are worth. They have already decided wether they want a junior or a medior or a senior.

      2. Charlotte Lucas*

        Then just include the wider range. Where I work, there are two lists of qualifications for a candidate: the required & the additional. If you don’t have the required, you aren’t interviewed. If you do have the required but not the additional, you might be hired, but you won’t get the top rate.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          If companies can keep asking how much I make, then don’t I have a right to know how much they pay?

        2. Hillary*

          The challenge is it isn’t black and white once it’s past entry level. We’re all human and we’re going to see a range and believe we deserve to be in the top quarter, but companies want to start people in the bottom half so they have room for raises, especially for IC roles that don’t have a path to promotion besides leadership.

          I believe the range for my current grade is over $100k, and although almost no one starts in the upper 50% it’s possible for the right combination of skills and experience. Plus it’s not impossible that a role changes grades after we see the candidate pool – we over- or under-estimated the skills we were going to get and we need to adjust. I had one screener where I was pretty sure HR was going through the process because the hiring manager wouldn’t accept his budget was too low for the qualifications he wanted, and I appreciated that they discussed salary in the first call.

          1. Snarkus Aurelius*

            This, this, this.

            A couple of months ago, I went through a similar hiring scenario. I was hiring for a position that I didn’t know could come with a highly specific, hard to get certification. During the screening process, I figured it out. Then, I changed my mind and made this certification a requirement and upped the pay by about 15-20%, which required going back to my superiors.

            I know commenters here mean well, but I’m getting the sentiment of, “If you post the salary or the range, everyone will go for the most they can get rather than provide the skillset you want.” Of course candidates will do that. They CAN do whatever they want, but it doesn’t mean they’ll GET it.

            I address all of those concerns by looking for the highest quality candidate in the pool and then I pay that person for what I expect. I tell everyone else, “I hired this person because they had X, Y, and Z.”

            I’m literally getting what I pay for here. If you don’t have it, then I’m not hiring you.

      3. Snarkus Aurelius*

        Then just post the range that matches the skillset required and desired.

        $75-80k for X, Y, and Z
        $80-90k for A, B, and C

        My employer does this all the time.

        Plus if I have a great candidate with extra bells and whistles, then I will go to the mat for extra pay because that’s my job. It’s not a “fight” if the salary offer matches the skillset and the responsibilities. (I’m literally doing it right now.)

      4. BRR*

        I do get what you’re saying that often times companies can often find another few grand for a candidate with more skills. But in scenario 2, do you tell the candidates the range after they apply and then they withdraw because the salary is too low? Do you tell them you’ll try for a higher salary but it’s not guaranteed so they withdraw because why continue if it’s not for sure? Do you try to continue the interview process without approval for a higher salary and it’s denied come offer time?

        Also for the company side, a lot of the best candidates don’t apply to jobs without knowing the salary because they have options and title alone doesn’t give you a clue. Not saying I’m even a top candidate but I just saw a job posting that I would have never applied to because by title and description alone I would have assumed it paid high 50s-low 60s at most. But they posted the range which starts at 78. By posting the range, they’re attracting better candidates than they would have otherwise.

        1. Snarkus Aurelius*

          I have 20+ years of experience in my field. I don’t have every bell and whistle, but I have more than most of my peers.

          I make enough money now, I have enough organizational authority, and I manage my own budget and staff such that I will only apply to jobs if the employer posts a range that’s more than I make now. I don’t need to stab in the dark anymore and hope for the best on salary. I’m not in my 20s and 30s.

      5. fhqwhgads*

        My current employer requires all posted positions to include a range, not just when they’re posted to our site, but posted anywhere. They started this policy due to research into DEI stuff. They’re keeping themselves accountable to not fall into traps caused by unconscious bias. At least that’s the stated reasoning.
        My point being: the biggest reason to post the range is stuff the people doing the hiring won’t realize they’re doing.

        1. OP*

          That is a very good point. I’m going to bring that up to our HR people as I continue to push for salary transparency in our job postings.

      6. Tired of Covid-and People*

        If the high salary is non-negotiable, this is still a massive waste of time. Candidates should have some idea of what the salary is going in.

  7. Sandy*

    Oh man, I work for a company that does this!

    Every year, they do a survey of the companies they see as comparable for the geographic area the office is located in, and offer 80% of the salaries and benefits of the average of those comparators.

    The justification they use is that they explicitly DON’T want to become the employer of choice in the geographic area and distort the local market. I think that explanation is BS and they are just being cheap to see what they can get away with.

    Is there any way that you can just put the salary directly in the job ad the next time? I know I am an applicant who, nine times out of ten, doesn’t bother applying for a job without a salary range, because “salary commensurate with experience” means nothing and usually results in an application being a waste of my time.

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      “The justification they use is that they explicitly DON’T want to become the employer of choice in the geographic area”

      I love the idea of purposely sabotaging your ability to attract the best candidates. What the hell?

      1. Dust Bunny*

        . . . what?

        I’m going with “just being cheap” because that first one makes less than no sense.

      2. Cordoba*

        Realistically there are very often cases where you don’t need the *best* candidate so it doesn’t make sense to pay for them.

        Is the guy who cuts my lawn the very most bestest lawn guy in town? Probably not.

        But he does a pretty good job, shows up on schedule, and charges a rate I can afford; that’s good enough for me.

        1. ecnaseener*

          But you probably wouldn’t say you explicitly DON’T want a better lawn guy. Not that you can’t afford a better lawn guy, but that you actively want the better ones to steer clear of you.

          1. ecnaseener*

            (I guess part of this could be the ambiguity with “don’t want” — maybe you’re correct and they just mean “don’t especially want,” whereas the rest of us are interpreting it as “un-want,” “dis-want,” “prefer to avoid,” what have you. Gosh, we need a word for that.)

          2. Cordoba*

            In this case:
            1) Sure, I would like an even better lawn guy if all other things were equal
            2) I could probably afford to pay more for a better service, inasmuch as increasing my monthly lawn cutting expenses wouldn’t break my overall budget
            3) I’m not willing to pay more for a better service, even though I probably could

            I’m paying an average rate for average results, and that’s fine.

            It would be great if the best lawn guy was interested in working for average wages, but that’s generally not how markets works.

        2. Your Local Password Resetter*

          Except you’re paying people below-average rates, so even getting competent and reliable people is going to be a challenge.

      3. Left Turn at Albuquerque*

        I work for a municipal agency that does this same thing, and the argument is – and I quote – “fiscal prudence.”

        Dig deeper, though, and you find a deep loathing for our state’s public pension program (which is, truthfully, a clusterf***) which manifests in a preference to hire part-timers when possible and to keep fulltime salaries as low as they can get away with to minimize our agency’s mandated contributions to the pension plan.

        The cherry on top of it all is that this is the wealthiest municipality in the entire state.

        1. pancakes*

          Who exactly has deep loathing for the public pension program in this scenario? If I understand correctly it’s people who get pensions through it.

          1. Left Turn at Albuquerque*

            No, it’s people (elected officials, that is) whose taxes contribute to the agency’s matching contributions to the program.

            1. pancakes*

              And these officials are elected because self-sabotage appeals to state employees? Surely there are more state employees than there are elected officials.

              1. Left Turn at Albuquerque*

                Not state employees, municipal employees. And none of us live in this municipality so we don’t get to vote for or against them.

                Their position is hurting them, but not enough (yet) that they’ll back down. I’m on my way out, for one, and taking great pleasure in the fact that they’re having a difficult time finding a replacement in part because of their penny-pinching.

    2. The New Wanderer*

      That’s … wow. Not only are they saying they basically just want to low-ball the candidates who don’t have a better option at the time, but they have to expect people will keep looking and move on the moment they get a better offer.

      Lower salary with best-in-class benefits? Okay, that could work for many people. But matching market rates is not distorting the local market – they’re doing that now by dragging down salaries/benefits.

      1. Exhausted Trope*

        You know what? This is my employers exact philosophy! They low ball those who don’t have better options. And it’s spectacularly backfiring on them. People who have been with the company 1 year or even less are leaving in droves for positions paying market rates. We do hours of training and then they jump ship. I’ve pointed this out but that seems to not matter to the powers that be. SMH.

      2. A Genuine Scientician*

        “Lower salary with best-in-class benefits?”

        This rings very true for academia. My actual salary is … not good for my qualifications, experience, and hours. As in, with a STEM PhD and ~5 years experience, I’m making approximately what the average recent graduate from my undergrad makes. But the employer pays ~95% of my health insurance premiums, 2-for-1 retirement match, high flexibility in specific hours (outside of, obviously, the class meeting times), actual contracts, etc. make it a more reasonable tradeoff.

  8. Amy Farrah Fowler*

    Additionally, OP, I think it’s important for you to reinforce that when you talk to them on a phone interview or in a later interview. My company posts pay ranges in the job ad, includes starting hourly rates in invitations for phone interviews, and we still get people who then want to negotiate (and I’m not talking about a couple bucks an hour, but as an example – we have offered $25/hr and they have come back saying they wanted $40-50/hr). People see what they want to see, so definitely be transparent, but also be sure to cover it in multiple ways, so they are truly clear on what the salary range would be.

    1. ecnaseener*

      +1. Do your best not to get to the offer stage and hear “I know you said you didn’t have wiggle room, but I didn’t realize you really meant it!”

  9. Anon123*

    I’ve always heard that people should apply for jobs they are even remotely qualified for (like don’t meet ALL the requirements, but most). But at the same time, I’ve also heard bad things about applying for jobs you may be “over qualified” for because the managers may skip right over your application knowing they can’t pay you what you “deserve” and I honestly think it’s a disservice to everyone involved. If I have a masters degree and am willing and able to work at entry level pay, why would a company hold that against me? I’m sure some people try to manipulate situations later on in life, but with so many people a) hiring and b) looking for jobs it’s just silly to assume anything these days.

    1. irene adler*

      Management doesn’t like hiring on the overqualified because they fear they will quit the position in the short-term, out of boredom or finding something more on a par with their skills/experience. Which leaves them having to repeat the hiring process again in short order.

      1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

        This is still a sign of bad management – they’re being avoidant about the fact that they might have to hire again.

        Lots of hires don’t work out, for lots of reasons. Anytime you hire someone new, you should be prepared for it to potentially not work out, and be ready to cut your losses if it is clear that it isn’t working out. Being worried about having to repeat the hiring process is why employers get stuck with subpar employees – managers think it’s too much of a headache to replace the people they should, and so they don’t.

        And then they end up with everyone performing to the lowest set of expectations, or having to replace their high performers, who don’t want to work with the problems that were left ignored.

        1. Starbuck*

          I think being realistic about the position you’re offering isn’t bad management. I’ve had this happen a couple times – instead of hiring the person who met all or most of our relatively minimal desired qualifications and experience (we’re pretty much entry-level) we hired someone who already had experience doing higher level work in the field. Each time, they left pretty quickly for other positions – one, it was so soon that it was clear that she’d applied to the other place at the same time during her job hunt, and they’d just taken a little longer to get back to her but it was a higher-level position more in the scope of what you’d expect for her career trajectory. Another was similar, but just more delayed – likely she’d just kept looking after starting with us.

          And I totally understood each time – they absolutely made the right move for themselves, and as a candidate I’d do the exact same. But it’s the reason why I now only hire people at actual entry-level for our entry level positions. I know I’ll still have to re-hire often, as that’s the nature of entry level of course, but I’d like to keep it to every couple years if I can, rather than every 6 months. People can still leave early for other reasons, but if I can minimize the chances even in a small way, I will.

    2. FrivYeti*

      My understanding is that managers don’t usually skip overqualified people because they can’t pay them, they skip overqualified people because they don’t think they will stick around. If a job is below your theoretical level, the fear is that you’re only applying because you’re temporarily in a bad place, and as soon as you find a job that’s not entry-level you’ll leave and they’ll have to start looking again.

      (I explicitly lost a job once for that reason; it was unusual only in that the manager told me straight-out that they expected I would be seeking a promotion within two years and they wanted someone content to stay in the position for at least five.)

      1. Starbuck*

        As someone who’s done entry-level hiring, this has been my experience. It’s been a tough market, so we get people with advanced qualifications and higher-level experience applying for our positions. Yes, they’re great, but they absolutely don’t stick around because they’re looking for something at the level they were at previously. Plus, it just seems wrong? We want our entry level positions to be available for people who are just starting out (or changing careers) and would benefit most from the experience. As someone who was starting out once (not very long ago!) I remember how hard it was to get the first job in my field.

  10. irene adler*

    Would the management be open to increasing the benefits pertaining to the position as a way to offset part of the salary disparity?

  11. twocents*

    It’s not clear to me if the issue is that they under pay or if the issue is, despite it being a more junior position, you have gotten a lot of experienced applicants that you would prefer to bring on.

    It’s understandable that you’d want to pay more for skills and experience, but if seasoned people are applying for a junior position, you would expect that they would know that they’re applying for a junior position. And they may very well be doing that on purpose; I know people who have had a lot of responsibilities but have chosen to step down so they can focus on other priorities in their life.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      Ditto. This: budget I have been given for hiring is nowhere near what is fair for the skills and experience of these applicants is not the same as the company is undervaluing or planning to lowball although I think the LW does say that’s happening. Maybe the applicants are unusually experienced because of pandemic and layoffs.

      That said Alison has the best advice. Don’t try to read their minds. Give the applicants the facts and let them make their own decision.

      1. OP*

        Yes, that’s pretty much the situation. We’re a relatively niche job in a geographic area with almost no competitors so it’s rare that I get applicants with any experience at all. I pretty much always just screen for the software skills needed and the soft skills that make training easier and then have to start them at square one and train. Because of the pandemic and some recent industry shake-ups, I’m actually getting people with experience but I’m not being given the hiring budget that matches the change in applicants.

        1. Oof*

          Oh this is good info – why not stick to your less experienced applicants then? If the roles have been working fine with folks from square one, is it truly necessary to bring on those with experience? It is pretty great to have positions that fit candidates without much experience.

  12. Bookworm*

    “But meanwhile, full transparency with candidates up-front is the way to go.”

    This, pretty much. I’m really glad you’re working to raise the pay at your org. I hate it when orgs don’t reveal the salary range and/or that they won’t negotiate and/or they won’t advance if you, the applicant don’t name a range.

    I’ve gone into job interviews and even jobs to find that duties not described or even hinted at anywhere (job post, interview) were suddenly part of the job. So I really prefer not to name a salary/salary range immediately until I get a better sense of the org and the job.

    Please be honest with the applicants but don’t discount that maybe they will be open to the job anyway for whatever reason.

  13. Sandlapper*

    We are currently going through a similar process. We are not allowed to put a hiring salary range in the posting. So after selecting an interview group from all the applicants, we sent them an email with the salary range and other aspects of the job that we wanted the emphasis (working outside in all weather conditions, travel, etc.). Applicants were asked to respond by a certain date if they wanted to continue.

  14. Badasslady*

    I feel very frustrated about this issue, from both sides. I have applied for jobs I have highly qualified for (over-qualified) and am fairly certain I did not get an interview because the hiring manager assumed I will look for more compensation than what they can offer (which may or may not be true, I don’t know).

    And I also have seen many jobs posted without a salary range, and I also feel very conflicted about whether or not I should apply because of not being sure it’s worth my time.

    Also, can we talk about nonprofit’s tendency to offer really low compensation for jobs that require a lot of experience?

    1. Filosofickle*

      Last year I applied for a position with a company/team I knew very well and didn’t receive an interview. My colleague on the inside asked why, and the answer given was that their pay was low and they assumed that I was too expensive. I certainly wish they’d given me the opportunity to make my own decision.

  15. SunnyGirl*

    Years ago, I was temp and had the chance to interview for a permanent position. I was not chosen, for a variety of reasons and to this day, one reason I suspect was that they didn’t want to pay the $X salary. I know they hired someone for 5K less.

    Had they asked me, I would likely have accepted the 5K less salary to get the benefits that came with the permanent position, because as a temp, I had none at all. They assumed I would not take the pay cut.

    So, be upfront, and tell them and ask them. You may be surprised.

    (In the end, it was better that I wasn’t hired. A few months after I left, they laid off 50% of staff. Ouch.)

  16. Mr. Cajun2core*

    I think it can be done in a phone call. Just do it in the initial call when you call to set up the interview. You can say pretty much what Alison said to say in the email. Most of my interviews have been set up by a phone call, not something I invested time in.

    However you do it (phone or email or carrier pigeon) just make sure it is done in the first contact with the candidates.

    1. Nanani*

      Setting up interviews should also be done by email though? Phone tag to find a mutually available time is pretty ridiculous, and like Alison said, they will be expecting it to be a more involved step if you call.

      1. Mr. Cajun2core*

        Mine have been all set up by phone and involved very little phone tag if any. The person called, I answered (or I called back) and either in the voice mail or in person they said, “I would like to set up an interview with you. We have these available dates/times when can you make it.” As I said, very little phone tag. Now, I will admit that if they interviewer does leave a voice mail, it may be best that in the voice mail to say the salary rage and to call back in interested. I have had some set up via email and that did work.

        Setting up via phone for me is preferred because it is usually completed and scheduled quicker. While I check my VMs as I get them, I don’t check my personal emails as I get them. I only check personal emails once or twice a day. For that reason, for me, phone calls are better.

  17. Emmie*

    Others have great ideas to address the salary disparity. Are there other benefits you can offer that make the salary manageable? Do you offer a flex workweek? Could you offer “summer Fridays” throughout the year? I hope the company considers working from home post-pandemic a viable option. Does your company have a product that it could discount for employees?

  18. Stormy Weather*

    While in the ad is strongly preferred IMO (none of my opinions are humble), I really appreciate that this is being addressed up front. It saves time and effort on everyone’s part.

    Since applications are already in the house, add my voice to those saying let people opt in

    1. ecnaseener*

      Wait, is IMHO supposed to be “in my humble opinion?” I always read it as “in my honest opinion.”

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        I’ve even heard “In My Hairy Opinion.” I can’t claim to understand it.

      2. A Person*

        Given that we also have IMNSHO (…not so humble…) I think you can go with “humble”. Also, I’m so old I was online before there was a World Wide Web, and it was known then to be “humble”, because a few people actually typed it out.

  19. Lucious*

    I agree-best thing to do is raise the subject at the beginning of any interviews or correspondence with the applicants.

    As for why orgs do this, here’s some insight. One manager I worked on a consultant gig told me he deliberately lowballed the market value salary to game his payroll budget. Instead of paying market value wages and keeping tenured staff, he’d wait for the under compensated employee to raise the topic- at which point they’d be told to deal with it or take a hike. Either way he won, because his department wasn’t charged for turnover costs and staff who got promoted had their raises tied to the lowball wage. While his average employee turnover was 35% for analyst jobs, he saved thousands in payroll. Which was the metric his VP boss cared about.

    1. Anonymous Koala*

      Wow, this system seems short sighted and terrible. I’m sorry you had to deal with that.

  20. AndersonDarling*

    “…never decide on a candidate’s behalf that the salary won’t be enough for them.”
    I had an interview for an exciting role and they asked me first what salary I was expecting, and then they told me that what I was asking was higher than they were expecting. They never told me how much the difference was, but the tone of the interview changed and they proceeded like they were apologizing for taking up my time. I was very interested in the work they were doing and I would have taken a lower salary, but they didn’t even entertain to possibility that I could negotiate. It was an org that I could have grown in and had loads of opportunities, so I absolutely would have been willing to compromise.

  21. Bernice Clifton*

    Another reason to contact applicants by email instead of phone is that you won’t be putting them on the spot. There’s nothing wrong with politely saying, “Thank you for your interest but that salary won’t work for me”, but when someone is a little caught off guard, they may feel like they have to avoid offending you or they are coming off as greedy or something.

    1. HailRobonia*

      This. And also you have a paper trail with concrete information. You might say “there may be a tiny amount of wiggle room, at most 10%” and they might hear “10% is the start of the wiggle room.”

  22. BRR*

    I just went through this experience on the applicant side and the hiring manager basically did what Alison suggested. The HM called me out of the blue and stated the range and asked if I was still interested. I appreciated that they gave me the range and didn’t ask me my expectation. I really wish they would have emailed me instead of calling (i’ll still take it though) but i’m happy they gave me the range before an interview so I didn’t have to schedule time for the interview or spend time preparing for it.

    You could also add the benefits or any other perks into your email. Many candidates will trade money for flexibility, PTO, etc.

    1. Camelid coordinator*

      This is similar to what we did in our recent search, except not out of the blue. We told our short list that if we were proceeding with a candidate the next step would be a chat with HR. Our HR person set up a call to discuss the salary range, answer questions about benefits, and ask any questions they had about the candidates (including some I had passed along). Candidates got to decide if they wanted to continue, which they all did.

  23. Guacamole Bob*

    My agency refuses to post ranges in ads, but we can ask the HR person to ask questions when they call to schedule an interview. We often ask them to make sure the salary range is acceptable, and that’s been a workable compromise.

    We also often ask them to check work eligibility up front, after getting all the way through to the offer stage before realizing that there was some incompatibility on visa questions. That’s another instance where it’s better to just address it up front.

    1. Guacamole Bob*

      Come to think of it, we’ve also asked the HR recruiter to address things like relocation if candidates aren’t local, start date (we hire for junior positions and sometimes get applicants who appear to be full-time students not scheduled to graduate for several months), and other major logistical issues. It seems to work well.

  24. Anonya*

    I was the applicant in this situation, and I think the exec director handled it well. She called me to offer an interview and was very upfront about the salary situation. I decided to take the interview and see what happened. It ended up not being the right fit for me and I dropped out later in the process, but not because of the salary.

  25. nnn*

    LW, if you currently aren’t allowed to put salary range in the job ad and you want to build a case for it going forward, you could send candidates the email Alison suggests (“I want to let you know the salary for this role is around $X.”) and then keep track of how many candidates opt out at that point. Then you could go to management with “X% of candidates declined when they learned the salary range” and, if the time you put in is significant, “Each candidate who declines represents Y hours of work, so we could save a total of Z hours of work by posting the salary range in the ad”

  26. NervousHoolelya*

    I just accepted a job that pays about 70% of what I was making at my last position. I knew when I applied that it would be a pay cut (and actually I was expecting it to be even MORE of a pay cut, but apparently HR at the new job did a market analysis and insisted that they find funds to bring the salary more in line with regional averages). I’m returning to a previous field after substantial time in an adjacent field, and making a very deliberate decision to take a step back on people management and other higher-level responsibilities, both because I hated that work and because I want better work-life balance after years in a toxic workplace.

    I knew there was a huge risk that the search committee would think that I was just applying to any job that I was remotely qualified for. I tried to address that head-on in my cover letter. (Many thanks to Alison for all the great advice on that front!) I also had the advantage of knowing the hiring manager through a professional organization, so I was able to drop her a line separately and emphasize that I was being very selective and was excited about this specific position.

    I wanted to share that as a potential glimpse into the applicants’ side of the LW’s situation. I think it’s worth sending the email Alison suggests and letting the applicants self-select out if the salary doesn’t line up with what they are looking for. But it’s very possible that, like me, at least some of those applicants would be willing to trade a current higher salary for other positive workplace conditions or benefits.

  27. Nanani*

    For dog’s sake don’t pass over people on your assumption that they won’t take the salary!
    They might, they might not!
    Maybe they have a suspicion that your pay is lower than they made before and want the job anyway for Reasons. It’s not on you to decide. Just ASK.

    1. I'm just here for the cats*

      Yes. There could be several reasons why the lower job will work for them. Commute time, benefits, hors, etc.
      For example My previous job I made more per hour than my current job by almost $2. But my current job has amazing benefits compared to the old one. Just the insurance alone costs are cut in half, meaning I make about the same now as I did with the higher paid job. I would hate if a manager decided I wasn’t a good fit based on their perception. LW, email candidates salary info and let them decide. If you can, try to give insurance costs too.

  28. anonymouse*

    OP, I think you are asking if you can/should omit people based on your own assumption of their salary requirements because you don’t want to get all the way to the offer stage and have someone turn down the job because of salary.
    Unless you have a crystal ball, you can’t prevent it.
    So, yes, full disclosure, but be prepared to lose candidates farther along in the process.

  29. LQ*

    Can some, or much of your work be made more entry level? Can you promote people from jobs they wouldn’t normally get a chance at your kind of work? I work in government and we don’t pay as well as other places. But we take folks who do actually entry level work (like high school equivilant only) and then promote them into roles they are in no way qualified for yet and train them up on the skills needed to do specialized work. We know that folks will sometimes leave (less than I would have thought honestly) but we sometimes keep really excellent folks who don’t have the degree or the education but do have experience. We do training in house and on the job. This way we find people who can eventually do the work, but maybe not out of the gate. The most senior folks make more, but still not as much as they would elsewhere, but I was promoted from field staff or call center to other area does make some people loyal (and I suspect that by the time most people get to be more senior they’ve all got all the vacation hours helps too). In the specialized skills areas have low turnover and in the last 2 years my unit has only had retirements (and all but 1 of them came back part time).

    That’s obviously a much longer term thing, short term. Tell them your candidates in your phone screen. Tell them in the initial call to set up the phone screen if you can “Hey, a couple things about the job and then if you’re still interested we’d like to schedule a phone call…”. Don’t wait and make them show up in person or prep or wear fancy shoes.

  30. Khatul Madame*

    If LW is the hiring manager, they should delegate initial applicant calls to the recruiter with a specific objective of screening for comp fit. This way she won’t have to apologize for low budget to every qualified applicant, just to those who choose to remain in the process.

    1. Guacamole Bob*

      This is basically how we handle it, as I described above. It seems to work pretty well. And you can toss in any other make-or-break screener questions you have, plus things like asking whether the applicant needs any accommodations for the interview.

      Generally only works in companies large enough to have recruiter-type roles in HR, I think.

  31. SheIsTired*

    *laughs in higher education*

    Seriously, though. I was embarrassed to tell my preferred-hire our starting salary. It’s not a living wage and I work at a prestigious R1 institution. They won’t put salaries in job ads, either. We have people who submit applications asking for double or triple what we can offer. Sorry, it’ll take you working here for 40 years before you get that. I’m going to start telling people our starting hourly wage from the get-go.

  32. Caroline Bowman*

    I just want to say, however the OP approaches this, be it via an email, a pre-screen call with a recruiter, whatever, major kudos for actually realistically understanding the situation and wanting to be clear and candid with the candidates, recognising their potential worth and wanting to do the right thing and not waste anyone’s time. It’s far better and of course there may easily be many who’d be thrilled with the job for a range of reasons we cannot guess at.

    But this coy ”what is the salary range… no YOU tell us what YOUR range is and then we’ll hint that maybe-maybe we can possibly stretch or we can let you know by non-verbal signals that it’s a bit too high…” secret squirrel thing so many companies have is crazy. Just be truthful, save everyone’s time and you will get the right person far sooner.

  33. HR Exec Popping In*

    OP, as others have said you should NOT screen out candidates because you think the salary is too low for them. Just be up front with the range you can offer and let them opt in if they are still interested.

    I know this is a hot topic because many, many people believe they are under paid. I just want to point out that not every company can afford to pay “market average”. And average means some pay more and some pay less. I am fortunate to currently work for a company that is dedicated to paying well above market average, but I have worked for companies that did not. And it really isn’t a case of not wanting to pay people more. It is a case of they often can’t. If you look at your workforce and it would take about 10% to bring your salaries into alignment with the “market average” you can be talking about millions of dollars that are all incremental and ongoing costs. Not all companies can do that without offsetting those costs in some way – most likely reducing headcount. That means you end up paying fewer people more but everyone was to work harder. Neither is a great solution.

    For the record, I personally fully support pay transparency but most organizations don’t need to do it as the organizations they care competing for talent with aren’t doing it either. We are seeing changes but until this is required by law, I don’t see the norm changing.

    1. Cordoba*

      My standard response to companies claiming they can’t afford to pay the worker bees at least average wages is “Are your executives also paid below market rate?”

      If not, it seems likely that they have a culture problem rather than a money problem.

      1. HR Exec Popping In*

        In my experience, yes they are making less than they would at some other companies.

    2. D3*

      If they CANNOT pay market average salaries, they cannot afford to be in business. They need to find ways to stay in business that does not harm people. (And yes, I said “people” not “human capital” or some other depersonalizing euphemism that allow executives to pretend that employees are not living, breathing human beings just like them.)

      1. HR Exec Popping In*

        You do understand that if everyone paid at minimum the average, then that wouldn’t average any longer it would now be the minimum?

        1. pancakes*

          Do you understand that wage stagnation in the US has been a trend for the past forty years? Not for people at the very top, but for everyone else. If the federal minimum wage kept pace with productivity it would presently be $22/hour. Please have a look at the Economic Policy Institute’s reports on wage stagnation (EPI dot org).

          1. HR Exec Popping In*

            I agree with you if you are talking about minimum wage jobs. I personally don’t work for companies that pay at the minimum wage level. But I have worked for non-profits and for profit organizations that where not able to pay highly competitive wages at any level but we always made a point to pay above minimum wage.

            1. T. J. Juckson*

              I have seen so many jobs (in the arts) recently requiring a MA or several years experience that pay $15/hour, which is minimum wage in my location. It is maddening.

              The only decent thing I can say about those employers is that I’m glad they disclosed that.

            2. pancakes*

              Intense wage stagnation and income inequality isn’t only happening at the minimum wage level. EPI has lots and lots of data on, their phrasing, “the cost of inequality to middle-class households.” I hope you’ll consider at least looking at it if you’re going to continue defending the widening of the gap between the top 5% and everyone else.

              1. Done*

                Absolutely true IME.

                My job requires a master’s degree and 10+ years of experience. It pays the same as starting wages at Target. It also offers no benefits. It pays LESS than my last retail management position, which also included benefits.

                I will be gone very soon.

  34. Chc34*

    Definitely let the candidates decide! I was once rejected for a job because the salary was much lower than what I was currently making – but I was in a contract role with no guarantee of a renewal past a certain date and really needed stability and would definitely have taken the lower salary.

  35. ArtsyGirl*

    Along with not posting salary ranges, I hate when companies ask what pay you want. Its a mine field and is akin to “guess what I am thinking of” questions. Ask too little and you might end up underpaid, guess too high you might be discounted from the job.

  36. Calvin*

    I was in a similar position a couple of jobs back. In our case – which of course may have *nothing* to do with yours – the issue was that the HR folks responsible for the market research made some questionable choices. They insisted that we had to only look at what ‘similarly sized companies’ paid, which made sense on the surface except that our competition for these candidates was almost exclusively much larger companies! (It’s a skillset too specialized to be relevant to most smaller companies; we were a consulting company so of course our clients wanted specialists). Almost all our candidates were at much larger orgs; almost all of the people who left our company left for much larger ones too. In addition, the researcher refused to look at any titles that weren’t *exactly* the title we used internally – even though my team was advocating a change in that title to better match industry standards, they wouldn’t even look at those titles for compensation. (For the level of mismatch, think “account manager” vs “project manager” or “webmaster” vs “Full stack software engineer.”)

    Obviously there’s a limit to what the company can afford, but there was no ability to actually escalate the problem and talk about how to manage it from a strategic level – it was our problem that we couldn’t recruit, not HR’s problem for limiting our salary levels or sales’ problem selling work that required those skills without rates that would let us hire the people who possessed those skills.

    In the end, it scuttled the entire position as originally conceived – we couldn’t get traction with any candidates even remotely qualified to take on the work we needed them to. We ended up restructuring the whole role and department, with the much-less-experienced people we could afford having far less responsibility than any of the existing team; we then filled in the gaps with a lot more hands-on oversight from managers, plus asking other disciplines to expand to pick up the slack in their teams. It did a lot of damage to our reputation with other departments who resented being asked to take on all the additional work.

    …and then all of the qualified folks left, myself included, because this whole exercise showed us in very black-and-white terms just how underpaid we all were!

  37. HailRobonia*

    My organization only publishes the salary grade of a job, and our salary grade ranges are incredibly broad and overlap. The high end can be almost double the bottom end. (don’t even get me started on the fact that it’s an open secret that they never hire people at even the midpoint of that range)

    1. Chilipepper Attitude*

      Our city only hires ppl at the bottom of any salary band (also a wide band). You can work your way up once hired but they don’t think of it as a band related to skills or experience when hiring.

  38. HR Disney Princess*

    I just had this happen to me today! I had an interview with a company that told me that they could only offer 25,000 less than my previous role. I actually was okay with it because of the benefits like being completely remote, better hours, and I used to work with a woman in the HR department and we got along so well. While salary is a huge factor, for me it wasn’t the only determining one and for a better work life balance I can due without my current salary.

    1. Kiki*

      Yeah, I am immediately suspicious when companies say, “We underpay compared to market, but our benefits and flexible schedule, and culture make it worthwhile!”. Sometimes it does actually turn out to be true and it’s up to the employee to make that call. But soooooo many companies use this as a copout for having to raise their salaries to be comparable to market and often the benefits being touting are no longer exceptional.

  39. Gretchen Wiener*

    In general work and life, I never take away the choice of someone because I think they can’t do something or will turn it down. Lots of people do this! Just had a friend who wasn’t going to invite another friend to a gathering because she thought she might not want to bring her baby around. Ask her! Turns out my friend was fine with it. But also how hurtful to not be invited. In a work sense, people are always writing in to say they had higher former positions or the pay is low but they still want/need the job. Leave it up to the person and they will tell you if it’s a no.

  40. GrayLady*

    I had this issue at work hiring for a unionized position (in an office job). Our collective agreements were years out of date as negotiations dragged on and on… and we had no way to hire above the last agreed-upon band. Very frustrating for everyone.

  41. Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii*

    This is a well reasoned answer. I would have had trouble being as thorough as Alison was on her reply.

  42. Cat Tree*

    I’ve been on the other side of this. In the great recession of 2011, I was laid off and job searching. I had been working as a research scientist and I had a friend who worked in HR at a disaster site cleanup company. I was tangentially qualified because I certainly understood hazardous chemicals, PPE, etc. I had managed our own lab chemical inventory and we in charge of lab safety. So my friend passed along my resume to a hiring manager.

    He looked at my resume and said they couldn’t pay me enough to be interested. I was disappointed because I was making zero dollars, so if they could beat that I would be very interested! I mean, I get it. He was worried I would leave as soon as the economy picked up. And honestly I probably would have. But they could have gotten a very qualified employee for a steep discount for the couple of years that it lasted. But because of the economy I’m sure they had tons of candidates who were a better fit, so I don’t begrudge the decision. It would have been nice for him to ask me instead of assuming though.

  43. AVP*

    I actually did have a university professor who had inherited a ton of money but it came with the stipulation that he had to have a job or career. So he became an expert in a very niche subject and taught slightly-less-arcane undergrad classes adjacent to his research. You never know!

  44. TiredMama*

    I have applied for jobs that offered less than I was making at the time. But it made sense for my family situation.

  45. spek*

    Just keep in mind that COVID still has many industries in turmoil. If you lowball someone, and they take the job out of necessity, you may lose them as the market improves. I’m in that sort of situation where I took a job I’m way overqualified for, with a 30% pay cut, because I needed a job, and they were hard to find. Fast forward to now, when the job market is rebounding. I am holding on until August, when I will have a year in, out of professional courtesy, but then I’m gone.

  46. The Other Katie*

    Of course, the most easiest way to deal with this is to publish the salary range in the recruitment ads. That way, there is full transparency from the get-go, and people can decide if the position is right for them before putting in the effort to apply. It also normalises publishing salary information, which is useful to candidates – especially women and POC, who often end up with mysteriously low salaries.

  47. Shelly574*

    There’s another side of this as well, which is that even if you list salary and all the benefits info is widely available (which at my institution it all is), the cost of living where I hire is so high that our salary is well below market range for a job I am currently hiring for. I tell all the candidates that our town has a high cost of living, but I have noticed they don’t seem to take it to heart and often leave after the first year or two. I wish I had a better way to communicate this reality to them, but I suppose that’s all you can do. I am working to get our salary adjusted, but have not been successful… yet.

    1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      If it’s been “years”, it ain’t ever gonna happen, Shelly.

      Not to be Donnie Downer here, but – if you can’t pay your local market rates for people, you’re either NOT going to get the cream of the crop, and/or economic Darwinism is going to take your company out.

  48. Uh huh*

    I don’t usually bother to apply for jobs that don’t list a salary range, because in my field most of the jobs are public and they usually will list it automatically anyway. When they don’t, usually it’s the employer being shady and trying to cover up a ridiculously low salary. It’s a lot of work to customize a resume and a cover letter for a job so if their salary isn’t listed I assume it’s low and I don’t bother as I have quite a bit of experience in my field now. I have been lucky so far to have already had a job when searching. I don’t like when people/employers play games and not listing the salary range is nonsense, especially in my field.

  49. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    The last time I had a salary conflict was many years ago, where there was a job that I was PERFECTLY qualified for – I mean – PERFECTLY, EXACTLY – and there weren’t very many people in the Boston area who knew the products and the exact specialty I was skilled in.

    They told me the range – ah, and I asked for the 75th percentile in the range. WHY? I could walk in and be productive on day 1. Etc. etc. On offer day – they came in at the 33d percentile – which was what I was earning in my current position, but benefits, commuting expenses, lack of bonuses = it was a big pay cut.

    The HR rep went into a song-and-dance about how great they are , how great the company is, we’re the “cat’s (rear end)” type of stuff.

    I advised = “let’s cut the crap, I’m not coming over there for THAT. That represents a pay cut. A BIG pay cut. And if you weren’t willing to pay what I asked, which is reasonable, along the numbers we discussed, then you should have terminated the interview process. You would have saved us all a lot of grief and time.”

    From the HR rep = “ba-dee-ea-daa-dee-da (a la Porky Pic)”

    “If we were to offer you what you proposed, would you reconsider?”

    “PERHAPS”. I advised, “Sharpen your pencil – I’ll give you one more shot, but get serious or don’t waste my time.”

    They got serious. But it also set up a yellow caution light because it meant when it came time for the next step, promotion, etc., I was going to have to use “the gun” – (find another position and await a counter offer). As long as you know, this is what they do, how they do things . you’ll be fine as long as you’re one step ahead of them (and know this = YOU’RE SMARTER THAN THE MANAGEMENT THERE.)

  50. AnonPi*

    Another voice to say ask the candidates if they’re still interested after explaining the salary situation, as I went through something similar. The recruiter was nice enough to call me to tell me I was very well qualified, but the salary the manager has set for the position would probably mean I’d take a $3-5K paycut even if they got me at the top end of the manager’s range. I told the recruiter I was fine with that and I was. I needed to get out of a toxic contract job, and this offered the stability I needed and better work life balance. The recruiter went to bat for me and got the position reclassified a step higher due to my qualifications and I ended up with a little more than I had been making. Even if he hadn’t I’d still have took the job though.

  51. Pug Mom*

    Please, OP, do not just skip skilled, experienced applicants all together. I took a huge pay cut when I left a situation that had become truly toxic. Because of reasons I was able to afford a cut in pay. I adore the job that I took a pay cut to get. It was a relief and a breath of fresh air. Please allow candidates to make the decision for themselves if the salary is not for them. I would have been so heartbroken if I had not received a job offer because the hiring manager was afraid that the salary would be too low or insulting or whatever. I really needed to get out of that toxic workplace. The “insulting” job was a Godsend.

  52. MissDisplaced*

    Call your first choices and tell them what you’re able to offer and ask if it makes sense for them to continue to an interview based on knowing your salary range.

    I always appreciate that honesty on a phone screen before coming in for a longer interview. You never know! Salary might not be the priority for everyone.

  53. ResuMAYDAY*

    I coach a lot of older workers who are looking for a career ‘downshift’. They don’t want the 80-hour work weeks, leading every project and team. But they still have a ton to contribute, and salary isn’t their primary concern. Candidates like that would be a great match.

    1. Alexis Rosay*

      We just hired someone like that and she is SO fabulous. We are a small nonprofit where unfortunately salaries are low, so we get a lot of very young and inexperienced people just starting out. An older worker with so much stuff experience was a breathy of fresh air.

  54. cncx*

    i wholeheartedly cosign the advice about making it an email and not a phone call

    i had a whole phone interview with someone who told me at the end they could only offer 53% of my current salary.

    i have wiggle room but not half my current salary wiggle room and would have honestly thought gone ahead with a phone call if they sent an email first with 70-80% but wasting an hour of my time and then telling me about their significantly below market rate salary…no…

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