how can I get recruiters to just tell me the job’s salary from the start?

A reader writes:

I am not currently job hunting but am interested in keeping my ear to the ground on salaries across my industry. I frequently receive LinkedIn messages from recruiters with possible job opportunities and an invitation to have a phone call to discuss. Every time, I respond with, “To make sure we’re in the same ballpark and not waste anyone’s time, can you tell me the salary range for the role please?”

The response is either (a) silence or (b) refusal to give a straightforward answer.

This week, a recruiter’s response to this was: “Let me throw this back to you and ask what salary you would find acceptable.” I read that as, “Tell me the figure you’d accept and, if it’s thousands and thousands below what we would have offered, we can low-ball you.” I told them I was not interested if a simple answer on salary was not possible. They responded by saying conversations about salary were difficult when there were various company benefits to consider on top. Trust me, my mortgage lender would not take that as an answer.

Is there a better script to solicit an up-front number on salary, or are recruiters always going to be this slippery?

They’re going to stay this slippery until a critical mass of states pass the same sort of pay transparency legislation that California, Colorado, Rhode Island, Washington state and others (most recently New York City) have passed.

Or at least a lot of them will. Good recruiters have realized that they’re increasingly pissing off candidates and wasting everyone’s time, including their own, by not being up-front about pay. Unfortunately, there are still lots of bad recruiters out there who don’t see it that way.

Your “to make sure we’re in the same ballpark” language is fine. It’ll work with people who aren’t playing games. With people who are, there’s not really language that will get through.

However, sometimes continuing to hold firm after you get their non-answer will push them to budge. So when they turn the question around on you and ask what range you’re looking for, you can ignore that question just as they ignored yours and simply say, “I would need to know the salary range in order to move forward.”

Hell, if you want you can say, “I’m sure you know companies are moving toward salary transparency in order to combat salary inequities among women and people of color. I’d need to know the salary range in order to move forward.”

Sometimes that will work. Sometimes it doesn’t. But it’s a reasonable thing to say, and a useful thing for them to hear.

{ 204 comments… read them below }

    1. TrainerGirl*

      I did this with a recruiter before I got my current position. I knew the company had just increased their pay bands, but didn’t know what the range was for that type of position. I asked the recruiter for the range, and when she threw it back to me, I said “You first.” And I shut up. I let it get awkward. I made her ask if I was still on the line. I am a PoC and so was she. I said that I know that PoC and women can get shafted so she needed to tell me the range if we were going to move forward. It worked.

      1. tamarack and fireweed*

        That’s awesome. It’ll depend on details of the situation, and you played that one very well.

  1. Hills to Die on*

    It is really a dream working with recruiters in Colorado for this exact reason. The out-of-state ones always try to push back at first but they nearly always give you the range.
    I find that when I say i am looking for $X (go high) they will say oh, this only pays $y – will that work for you.
    So maybe go high?
    or, look at remote jobs in those states? They still have to disclose the salary even if you are not living in that state.

    1. nm*

      We gotta start default replying to these recruiters, “My ballpark is 200k+; does that work for you? :)”

      1. Just Another Techie*

        My last job search, I was still only half-heartedly applying, and while I had a rough guess at the market because a half dozen of my former coworkers had recently jumped ship and shared their new starting salaries, I hadn’t really put thought into what range I was looking for or reviewed salary data from glassdoor and and other sources yet. And I had one interview that moved very quickly to offer and salary negotiation, much faster than I had expected, and I was caught on the back foot when the other person asked what range I was looking for. I just blurted out “I want a pony, obviously” with a little laugh, and he came back with a number many thousands higher than I would have ever imagined opening a negotiation with, even as a “Go wildly higher than you expect” strategy.

      1. TeapotNinja*

        I think, if approached by a recruiter about a position I’m not all that excited about, I’m going to use a salary range of $1 – $500K just to see what the response will be.

    2. Mitch*

      When a recruiter refuses to disclose pay range for an open role and asks you what you’d accept:

      “$1Million dollars, but I’m willing to negotiate substantially if you share the budgeted range with me ;)”

  2. nm*

    When I’m interviewing at public universities, I go on the state employee salary lookup and search the same role. Too bad I can’t just do that everywhere :(

    1. Sara without an H*

      This. I spent most of my career working for state agencies, where all salaries were a matter of public record. I have trouble getting my brain to process why private enterprises are so freaking reticent about it.

      Somehow, I can’t imagine that they do it for any honest reason.

      1. PlainJane*

        Me, too. I’ve been a public employee since I graduated from college. (The number of youth librarian jobs in non-public settings is limited ;p) Not only is the salary for the job visible to the applicant, it’s visible to any random person who wants to check. What on Earth is the *point* of hiding salary information?

        1. MigraineMonth*

          As long as discussing salaries is taboo, job seekers will continue to accept low salaries because they don’t know the salaries are low. This is particularly true for women and people of color, because companies will lowball them.

      2. A. Tiskit & A. Taskit LLC*

        They DON’T do it for any very honest reason – or any very good one! Either they – as the LW surmised – want to trick applicants into naming a salary range in the hopes that it’ll be lower than the company had intended to pay, or they’re dinosaurs in disguise and think that any discussion of something as crass as money is crude and distasteful – especially when the person discussing it is female.

      3. Storm in a teapot*

        Same. I spent so long working in a govt role where pay scales are published it was very transparent.
        Moved to a corporate role a few years ago. I still have zero idea where I sit in the payband and even what the range is for my band. I mentioned this to my manager recently and he was shocked I didn’t know and shared the info with me. Not in writing of course cos it’s not published. So crazy to me

    2. TX_Trucker*

      I used to work for a local government and we always published a salary range. But the range had about a $30,000 spread and we typically hired at the minimum +5% Maybe +10% if the candidate was ideal, but never above that. I always thought we should publish the full salary range, AND a likely hiring range … and I told candidates that upfront when I called to for an interview. HR had a fit and I wasn’t allowed to schedule interviews anymore. Not sure why, it wasted everyone’s time when someone tried to negotiate near the mid point.

  3. KHB*

    My employer fancies itself a Modern, Forward-Thinking organization (and in some ways, it is) but it remains one of the stubbornly slippery ones on this – and I’ve been hearing through the grapevine lately that we’ve been losing good applicants because of it. Our salaries are respectable enough, so I don’t know why they insist on being so cagey about them. I wish I knew what it would take for them to get with the program and just freaking tell people what the job pays.

    1. Todaloo*

      My company is this way too! They posted technician jobs in a field specific forum and thankfully gave a range (that forum has a few good eggs that will rip companies posting to shreds for not including salary and I love those posters dearly). But I’m not sure why they even bothered with that amount of BSing because internally we all know that technicians make $20/hr. Even when I was hired as a tech part time with my M.S., I still started at $20/hr.

  4. Caramel and Cheddar*

    I’m also not currently looking but get contacted by recruiters, which I think is the ideal position from which to make it clear that their usual tactics aren’t going to work since I’m not desperate to go anywhere.

    In the past I’ve framed it along the lines of “I’m not actively looking to leave, but I’m currently only talking with recruiters who can give me details about salary and benefits upfront so that we don’t waste each other’s time,” etc. Don’t limit it to just a salary discussion if you feel you can push them on benefits too!

    The other thing I’ve been doing is making it clear that if they’re offering a hybrid work environment, I’m only looking for 100% remote. That may or may not be true by the time I actually get around to looking for a new job, but I know a ton of people who are really disappointed to be going back into the office, and I want recruiters to know that the desire for fully remote work still exists in the candidate pool.

    1. Sal*

      I love this “repping for demand when I can” approach in your last paragraph. (I recently applied for public service loan forgiveness–I’m not sure how much it will help, if I even get it, but I want the powers that be to know that people want this and can use it and not to scrap it–to make it better and broader.)

      1. Caramel and Cheddar*

        Yes! That’s a great way of phrasing it. Even though I may not need it right now, I might later, and there are definitely people now who *do* need it and I want it to be there for them too.

    2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      “I’m currently only talking with recruiters who can give me details about salary and benefits upfront so that we don’t waste each other’s time”

      ooh but I love this phrasing. I’m in similar territory and I tend to go for the “let’s see if we’re in the ballpark” style, but this is assertive!

      1. Caroline+Bowman*

        I like this wording too.

        The job I have just started with a very reputable company listed exact salary range on the JD, and it was laid out early in the process what the benefits are, the likely training period, everything that anyone could want to know, and all of the finer points are clearly written down and available for all. My kind of company!

        In any future endeavour, I will be using this phrasing, or ”it’s listed as competitive, but I’m confused, because if that were so, surely they’d be proud to say out loud what the number actually is?”

    3. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

      Agreed–I was contacted by a recruiter right after I started my new job, and I thought it best to warn them that even if I were still looking, it’d take a lot more than what they were offering to get me commuting to midtown every morning.

    4. Curmudgeon in California*

      I hate it when people try to con me into hybrid by advertising “remote” then saying “Oh, if you’re local to an office you have to go in three days a week.” LOL, no.

      I applied for one job, remote, whose office was only a 20 minute commute. Then they gave me the local hybrid line. Sure, I could have done it, but A) Covid isn’t over, and I have an immune compromised roomie plus am high risk myself, B) I hate open plan offices, why would I want to drive in just to sit in a fishbowl, and C) I hate commuting, and not having to do so gives me at least 10 hours a week back.

  5. Glenn*

    Unfortunately, with the salary transparency law that just went into effect in NYC, there’s not enough of an enforcement mechanism.

    You need to already be an employee of the company in order to bring a lawsuit & then the employer is given 30 days to fix the problem.

    1. Ally McBeal*

      Sure, but you can at least push back on the recruiter and say “not disclosing the salary band means you are out of compliance with NYC law.” That’ll end the conversation right-quick, one way or the other.

    2. D*

      I think there can still be bad actors for sure, but I’ve found in California now they almost all give you a prompt answer when asked for a range. So even without enforcement and perfect follow through at least out here I think it has really changed the dynamic.

    3. A Simple Narwhal*

      I’ve also seen some slimy companies attempting to get around the rule by listing outrageous ranges.

      1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

        There’s some language in the legislation to try to catch that nonsense, but it’s an evolving situation to be sure.

          1. lysine*

            In a way it is though. If I see this pay range I would only apply if the lowest offered salary is acceptable to me. (Because I assume that’s what they want to pay, not the high end of the salary band.)

        1. Science KK*

          I think it was Barron’s in NYC who had a listing that was $10-$2 million. The lower amount may have been $1, I’m not sure. But they legit published that and were shocked when people thought they were sleeze bags.

            1. Snowy*

              I had a boss who worked for $1 a year. It was a nonprofit, and he basically did it for the prestige as his “retirement job”. I assume the dollar was to put him officially on the payroll for tax/nonprofit regulations purposes?

          1. Adam*

            The ones I heard about were just bugs, where nobody had filled out the range for that job so it just published the widest possible range. Not a good look, but basically all of them got fixed the first day once people noticed.

    4. doreen*

      Although only employees can file a lawsuit, anyone can make a complaint to the Commission on Human Rights. The commission won’t assess a civil penalty on the first violation if the employer has fixed the problem , but that only applies to the first violation.

  6. calvin blick*

    Having worked in sales, this is a pretty common instruction for sales managers to give their team. The main reason is that these recruiters are often inexperienced and don’t have much knowledge about their industries. The idea is to get the prospect on the phone to go through the sales script with them and try to sell them on the benefits of working with that recruiter. The idea is that the recruiter is very familiar with the company they are hiring for and can give the client a valuable step up.

    The main problem is that there is generally very little in the way of benefits to working with a specific recruiter since all these recruiting companies are basically the same and don’t offer much value to their clients.

    1. ecnaseener*

      The other main problem, of course, is that salesy techniques in a recruiter are off-putting. I’m trying to make a major life decision, you’re trying to get your client a new hire who will thrive in the position and be happy with the pay, neither of us benefit from you trying to hook me on the line at all costs.

      (talking to the general “you,” not you calvin!)

    2. The OTHER other*

      “The main reason is that these recruiters are often inexperienced and don’t have much knowledge about their industries…. The idea is that the recruiter is very familiar with the company they are hiring for and can give the client a valuable step up.”

      I realize you are just reporting on the mindset, not advocating it, but it’s pretty remarkable that more recruiters/recruiting agencies don’t see the immense contradiction between these two sentences.

      IMO it is quickly apparent when recruiters have no understanding of the industry, the job details, or my background. I’m not interested in spending time with someone only to find out the job they are looking to fill is multiple levels below what I am already doing, with an enormous drop in salary.

      A recruiter once tried the “but you need to take the benefits into consideration!” line with me, as with the LW. They were again significantly worse than what I already had, and worse than the industry average. Don’t tout a 401k with no match, a health insurance plan with enormous deductibles, and 2 weeks of vacation as “great benefits”.

      Maybe these benefits seem great to the recruiters because they are better than what THEY currently have?

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I remember interviewing at a job that was really excited to offer parking near the office for only $10 a month. They mentioned it multiple times. I had never had to pay for parking at work before, so it wasn’t the enticement they seemed to think it was.

      2. Storm in a teapot*

        It also backfires on them. Offer me a role that’s 3-4 levels below where I currently am and then wonder why I’m offended and don’t want to work with you again?!
        I think a basic understanding of the industry is key for recruiters to be good at what they do.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Yeah, I regularly get emails for junior Java developers, help desk, data entry, or clerk jobs, in person, on the opposite coast from where I live. It’s like they didn’t even skim my resume, or didn’t understand what they are reading. It’s insulting. I have come to believe that this is actually a poorly trained AI “lead generating” software making crappy matches based on some ancient resume database. Needless to say, if I reply it’s pretty scathing.

  7. Candy Apples*

    So I’m a recruiter with a large MFG company based in TX. I’m not allowed to share ranges unless I’m willing to let them fire me. I disagree with it and would LOVE to share ranges with people but most of the time we can’t because our companies won’t allow us to unless we are speaking with someone from a state or city that requires it.

    1. Caramel and Cheddar*

      Out of curiosity, do people who ask about salary drop out of the running if you can’t tell them, or do they stick it out?

    2. ferrina*

      “Hmm, my company’s policy is to only share that as legally required, for example, if you were currently in Colorado or Washington or….oh, you just so happen to be vacationing in Colorado? Well, let me tell you the salary range!”

      I know that would probably get you fired too, but one can dream.

    3. Emily*

      I don’t blame recruiters for this, but if enough applicants aren’t willing to talk to recruiters, at some point the company changes this. And the recruiter is contacting me — if they won’t tell me, and we don’t have a conversation, that’s fine with me.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Exactly. There’s going to be a tipping point where the companies realize that their stupid rules are cutting into their bottom line, and that’s when they will change their rules.

    4. A Simple Narwhal*

      They would fire you for sharing the salary range to potential candidates?? That seems insane to me. At what point are you allowed to share, just the offer stage?

      1. Antilles*

        My cynical guess is that the company wants you to never give the range. They provide it to the recruiter to avoid wasting company time by someone who’s way outside the range…but it’s never to be shared with the candidate.
        Instead, the candidate has to name their range, then the recruiter can answer with a vague “oh, that’s a little higher than we can afford, not sure this will work out” or “that’s right in our range” but NOT the actual $X to $Y numbers.

      2. Echo*

        I’d be so tempted to call their bluff. Really, you’ll fire a (competent) HR professional? In 2022? Have fun trying to fill your new vacancy!

        1. Candy Apples*

          It’s beyond frustrating. Personally I’m all for transparency. I hope eventually all states require we share. It makes my job much easier! No wasting time on either side.

    5. Insert Clever Name Here*

      I get that. Can you say “I wish I could share the range, but it’s against company policy”? That at least is a true answer, instead of the non-answers OP is getting.

      And if that then allows you to begin collecting metrics on how many candidates withdraw when a salary range isn’t shared that may, juuuuust may, eventually be information your company is interested in hearing.

    6. PlainJane*

      Can you tell me what the point of it is? I’m genuinely curious. To me, it suggests that they’re trying to hide the salary because it’s below industry norms, which means that not telling it is a statement in itself, and means “Well, I’m not applying there.” But I feel like they must *think* it conveys something else, because I can’t imagine why they’d want to put such a negative foot forward to potential recruits.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        It’s also been used successfully for generations to underpay marginalized people. If a company gives a different salary range to Laurence than to Latisha (particularly in writing), it’s pretty easy to nail the company for discrimination. If the company gives the accurate salary range to both, Latisha is going to realize her offer is at the very low end of the range and walk away.

        By keeping the actual range secret, the company can lowball Latisha and hire her Latisha at lower pay, and she doesn’t have the knowledge to file an EEOC complaint.

      2. doreen*

        It doesn’t actually have to convey anything other than they want to pay as little as possible. They’re trying to hide it for the same reason that buyers don’t tell sellers the highest price they are willing to pay for a house – if you know I will pay $300K ,you won’t accept $275K even if you started out willing to take $250K. Which doesn’t mean I’m against transparency laws- I am not.

        1. AcademiaNut*

          That, and I suspect that a lot of companies that pay poorly think that if they get you to the interview/offer stage they will either wow you with how amazing the company is, so you’ll take a lower salary, or you’ll fall victim to the sunk cost fallacy.

          It’s like people on dating sites who fail to mention that they’ve got kids, or are still legally married, or are in a relationship and looking for something on the side, figuring that after someone’s gone on a couple dates with them, they’ll be more willing to overlook major dealbreakers.

    7. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      So, if you’re talking to a candidate in (for example) California, you are obligated to disclose because of the laws in their state? I’ve been wondering which state rules prevail — where the company is located or where the candidate is located. I’m in California, and when I was being courted by a company in Illinois they refused to tell me the salary range and I wasn’t sure if I could insist. The rule at that time in California was they didn’t have to publish the range but they did have to disclose when asked. (IME California employers/recruiters have been very good about that in recent years. They didn’t open with it but readily answer the question when it’s turned back on it. But I look forward to newest law.)

      1. Candy Apples*

        I’m exactly sure, but I spoke with my old boss who agreed with me that it would be better to provide it. I haven’t mentioned it to my new manager because…. He’ll probably tell me to stop, and I don’t want to lol.

      2. W&H Lady*

        Generally, time worked is based on where the employee is completing the work (there can be exceptions dependent on industry or job type, esp. jobs that cross state lines). As always, an employment attorney will be able to give you the best info, but generally if you the employee are working in a state that requires disclosure/notice, the employer is required to provide it regardless of where the business is based.

      3. fhqwhgads*

        It’s based on where the candidate is, like other labor laws. If I work in California for a company in IL, CA labor laws apply to me. If I were applying from CA to a job that will actually be done in IL, I could see them being squirrely about it, but if I cited the CA law while discussing and they still refused to answer – on the basis of “but this job will be done in IL” – I’d probably say something like the line the official answer uses about pay disparity, and then bow out of the process.
        So basically, you can insist, and if they continue to refuse, there’s not much enforcement likely, but hey, they’ve shown you who they are.

    8. fhqwhgads*

      Either way, the applicant’s going to hold it against the company, not you personally (most likely) so might as well tell them that policy explicitly unless doing so would also get you fired. Basically, if I know the company is intentionally not transparent, to the point of being willing to fire you over it, not only do I not want to work there because they won’t let you tell me the range, I REALLY don’t want to work there if they’d fire you for telling me.

  8. Daisy*

    Think about how much more HR could get done if they didn’t have to spend hours/days reviewing paperwork and interviewing folks that would certainly turn down due to wage issues. Even just posting a “Starting wage $xx and may rise with experience” would be helpful.

    Yeah, yeah, everyone wants a superstar who will work for peanuts and stay forever. Unlikely to happen and in the meantime, you are spending time=money on interviewing. Penny wise and pound foolish on the employer side. Interesting sidenote – family members with very high-paying jobs say they always know the potential salary before interviewing, the “secret pay” thing seems to be more common in low and medium-wage jobs.

  9. JBI*

    I just cut off the discussion if they don’t share immediately.
    I explain it isn’t worth my time to discuss if they don’t have that information

  10. TX_Trucker*

    I’m well known in a niche industry and get recruited heavily. It would have to be a fabulous $ for me to switch jobs, so I’m honest and give them a figure up front. If I was actively looking for another job, I would handle it differently. If you only want research into current salary trends, is there any other way to get that information? Is there an industry trade group that publishes salary data?

    1. Momma Bear*

      This. Anytime I’m contacted I look up salaries for my role and experience and area and ballpark it from there. Either they meet my requirements or they don’t. I know what it will take for me to move even if they won’t give a salary. Would be better if they were upfront about their range, but if they won’t be, know your worth.

    2. Tabby Baltimore*

      You can try looking at 2019 AAM posting that might help you with that:

      You can consult the AAM 2021 salary survey site:

      You can also try looking at these sites to see if your industry is represented: (opinion about this site’s accuracy is mixed: good for some industries, and not for others)

  11. duinath*

    you come to *me*. on this, the day of the great resignation. the eve of the quiet quitting. and you don’t even have the respect to tell me the salary range for the position.

  12. Madison*

    If this LW was actively job searching, I would agree.

    But they are not. This LW wants salary information for their own edification. And because of that, I don’t think they get to feel this salty about the run around.

    1. duinath*

      i’m sorry, you think it’s cool for recruiters to ask people to apply and refuse to answer questions that will allow the potential candidate to decide if they want to apply?

      1. Madison*

        I think if somebody was recruiting me for a job and I didn’t want a new job, I would say “no thank you, I’m not looking for a job right now.”

          1. Madison*

            Sure it does!

            I think recruiters can contact people and say anything they want under the sun. It is my job to listen to them and decide if I want to work with them or not.

            If it’s cool or not is irrelevant. This is what is happening so you deal with it.

            1. duinath*

              wow. okay, we are clearly coming at this from very different places and will not be meeting in the middle. hope you have a good rest of the week, bye.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It’s the presumption — “I’m going to contact you and ask you to do something, but no, I’m not going to give you highly relevant info you asked for (the most relevant info, really) and yet I still expect you to find my invitation a reasonable one.” It makes sense to feel salty about that.

          1. Madison*

            I think that is really useful information for recruiters to have. And if a recruiter wrote in and asked you how to generate a better client interaction, this is excellent advice.

            The LW can’t control the recruiter, though. All they can control is how and when they interact with recruiters.

            My advice to this LW is to not respond to recruiters at all because it’s proven to be an inconsistent and frustrating way to get what the LW actually wants, which is information about salary ranges in their industry.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Except that plenty of recruiters do provide salary info.

              The OP isn’t suffering major angst over this. But she’s annoyed and it’s reasonable to be annoyed.

              1. Madison*

                If plenty of recruiters do offer salary information, why be annoyed at the few who do not?

                If plenty of recruiters offer this information, doesn’t the LW have their answer?

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Because it’s presumptuous, because it perpetuates gender and race inequities, and because it’s an attempt to put workers at a disadvantage.

                  If those things don’t bother you, so be it. But it’s not weird for the LW to be salty about it.

                2. Madison*

                  I feel like you put in race and gender here to make it sound like anybody who pushes back against the LW is racist or sexist.

                3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I put race and gender there because that is the reality of the situation, supported by extensive data.

                  I don’t think you’re racist or sexist for thinking she shouldn’t be salty. I would think you were unconcerned about racism and sexism if you don’t get a better understanding of why this behavior from recruiters is so problematic once that connection is pointed out.

                4. nonnie*

                  “I feel like you’re talking about racism and sexism to make me feel bad!”

                  …..or maybe racism and sexism are, um, among the biggest reasons why people care about pay transparency?

                5. Lascia*

                  “I feel like you put in race and gender here to make it sound like anybody who pushes back against the LW is racist or sexist.”

                  Wow, this is grade A level gaslighting. It’s really interesting to see someone do this in the wild! lol, I can’t tell if Madison is a really bad troll or a really bad recruiter.

    2. Starbuck*

      Countering this, I absolutely give permission to the letter writer to feel rightfully salty about being barraged with shitty recruiting practices.

      1. Madison*


        Being barraged by recruiters is a different question, I feel.

        This LW isn’t complaining that they are getting too many recruitment offers. They are complaining that the recruitment offers are not giving them information they want generally, not for this specific job.

        These are two different complaints with two different answers

        1. ABCYaBYE*

          I think they’re very similar complaints. Barraged is in the eye of the beholder. For some it might be once a day that equals being barraged. Some might feel barraged if it happened twice a month. If someone is reaching out and is not giving information that is necessary to proceed and not waste everyone’s time, that’s a problem.

    3. Ann Ominous*

      I see it differently. It’s still a crappy practice even if they aren’t immediately being impacted on their job search (though they did say they’d be willing to leave for the right price). I’d be pretty salty at examples of racism or sexism even if they weren’t directed at me (and if they were directed at me I’d be salty AND other things) – I’m not clear on how is this different?

      1. Madison*

        The LW is talking to these recruiters for information about their industry generally. This is proving to be ineffective, so find a different way to get the information they want.

        That’s the answer.

        1. KN*

          I think this is an overly literal interpretation of what the LW said about “keeping my ear to the ground on salaries.” The LW is not writing a research paper on salaries in their industry. They’re keeping an eye out for other jobs that might be willing to pay them more than what they’re making now–i.e., they are open to being recruited for the right job and the right price.

          The LW is not complaining that they can’t use the recruiters’ outreach for something unrelated to why the recruiter is contacting them. They’re complaining that recruiters are wasting their time by contacting them and then refusing to give them information that would allow them to actually consider the job the recruiter is contacting them about.

        2. Robin*

          Recruiter: look at this shiny job!

          LW: Neat! What is the salary?

          Recruiter: evasive answer

          Refusing to answer a direct question is just bad practice in any conversation and makes the evader look shifty. Extra shifty if the evader was the person to initiate and is the one trying to sell something! In this case, the recruiter is trying to sell a job and refuses to give all the relevant info; LW gets to be salty about this. LW is asking a reasonable question that the recruiter should expect and the recruiter is basically acting in bad faith by being squirrelly.

          Sure, LW should look into other avenues of gathering salary data, fine. In fact, maybe they already use those other avenues and this is supplemental! They are allowed to be annoyed about this pattern.

          1. Splendid Colors*

            Exactly, evasive sales people look shifty.

            I manufacture products whose prices vary for custom work depending on different factors. But I’m happy to give my retail price so sales prospects can get a ballpark figure to see if it’s even worth discussing custom work. If they’re looking for the kind of swag you hand out at a trade show like candy for under $1, that’s not my target market.

    4. oranges*

      I would agree with this. There are professional organizations out there that may be able to give you that info.

    5. Antilles*

      First off, if nobody calls people out about bad practices, those bad practices don’t change.

      Secondly, I wouldn’t read too much into OP’s “not currently job searching”. That may be entirely true, but also: Plenty of people are fine with their current company and would tell a recruiter that they aren’t looking to move…but would at least listen if the recruiter named a salary range that impressed them.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes, and recruiters love recruiting candidates who aren’t actively searching — they’re hoping to convince them to throw their hat in the ring anyway. That’s why they’re calling people, not just responding to active job searchers who are applying.

      2. Madison*

        Instead of “calling out” you could also just not respond and when recruiters never get a response, they will have to ch

        1. Antilles*

          Not really.
          1.) Enough people don’t respond to recruiters that they’re unlikely to think too hard about it. Having candidates randomly ghost you is built into the job description and that’s even more true when you’re reaching out to someone like OP whose profile isn’t specifically flagged as “Looking for Work”.

          2.) As I-should-pick correctly says, the recruiter won’t know why you ghosted them.

          3.) If the recruiter is being prevented from saying anything by the company (e.g., the thread further up by “Candy Apples”), having a specific example of “I’ve previously had great candidates withdraw specifically because I wasn’t allowed to share the salary” helps provide ammunition to push companies to let the recruiter share the salary.

    6. ABCYaBYE*

      I disagree. They’re being recruited. Maybe the right position, right company, right salary would make them active in the job search. It is hard to know if it is something you’re interested in if you don’t have the information that you need to inform your decision. If a recruiter couldn’t tell you pertinent information that you’d need, you have every right to be a little (or a lot, if it happens a bunch) salty about having your time wasted.

      1. Madison*

        The LW is wasting the recruiters time by just using them to get salary range information.

        The recruiter is wasting the LW’s time by not giving the salary.

        They are wasting each other’s time.

        1. ABCYaBYE*

          The LW is getting salary information. Yes. The LW also could be willing to make a move if the situation warranted. If asking for salary information (or any other pertinent information for that matter) is wasting a recruiter’s time, that’s on the recruiter and their employer for not being up front with the right info. It is well within the right of the recruited to ask for the details that are important to them.

          If a recruiter reached out and said they were looking for people with similar job titles to mine for a company and the salary range was 5 times what I make, I’d want to know more about the company before throwing my hat in the ring. Is it somewhere I’d want to be. If they couldn’t disclose the company, I wouldn’t necessarily proceed because I want to make sure I’m comfortable with the fit. That’s the same as what’s happening here.

          1. Splendid Colors*

            The LW could also help the recruiter if the job sounded like a good fit for a colleague who IS looking to move. But they’re a lot more likely to recommend the recruiter to their colleagues if they can provide all the pertinent information such as salary.

          1. Teacher not on summerbreak*

            I was wonder when someone was going to write this!!! Madison is all up in this in a way that feels too much for a general, “I’m not involved in this situation” commenter.

            1. TrainerGirl*

              And awfully defensive, especially in implying that Allison mentioned gender and race in the reasons for transparency in salaries.

          2. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

            I’d bet money Madison is a recruiter.

            A recruiter who needs to embrace the opportunity they’re being given here to better understand the concerns of the people they want to recruit instead of trying to dictate what they get to feel salty about!

          3. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

            Yeah, the constant, increasingly defensive deflecting, taking things that don’t involve her too personally, (more deflecting) accusations (“how dare you bring race and sex into a matter that is all too commonly based in gender and race discrimination!”), and the steady moving of goalposts when someone points out the flaws in Madison’s comments…Madison screams “salty recruiter,” and probably not a very effective one, if this is how she operates. Hmm…funny how Madison is the one calling people “salty” here….

        2. KN*

          Why do you think the LW wants salary range information? They didn’t say they would never consider leaving their job, just that they’re not actively job-hunting. Sharing information about a job with people who are not actively looking is a huge part of what recruiting is–the LW is not trying to sneakily get something from the recruiter by asking; they’re just asking them to do their job more effectively.

        3. Joey*

          But that salary information is crucial for them to know if they might decide to look into consideirng that job. They are not be actively looking, but if the right job comes along, they might be willing. And there’s no way to know if you’re willing if you don’t have salary info, which is the most basic piece of info.

        4. Aimless and Abstract*

          Yes, and since the recruiter *initiated* the contact, the onus is on them to make it not a waste of time. Stop blaming the person who got interrupted and pitched by a recruiter for not playing the recruiter’s games.

        5. Storm in a teapot*

          If this Poster (Madison) was actively making a salient point, I would agree .

          But they are not. This Commenter wants to blame the LW for perfectly reasonable feelings for their own edification. And because of that, I don’t think they get to feel this salty about The run around

    7. JustKnope*

      You’re being really weird about the OP in all of these comments (and kind of hostile for reasons I can’t figure out). The “edification” they’re getting out of asking for salary information is knowing whether it makes sense to pursue the conversation or learning better paying jobs are out there. This is a very normal thing for them to be doing when messaging with recruiters.

    8. Qwerty*

      Zoom out a bit. This type of runaround leads to situations like the recent letter when the OP didn’t know they were underpaid by 40-60k. I’m guessing you certainly weren’t ok with that!

      Salary range tells me whether its even worth looking at the position. No point getting excited for job posting and making me question leaving my current job if it can’t pay what I’m looking for. It also is what catches my interest!

      Recruiters who included salary in their opening emails are the main reason I’m making what I’m worth in a male dominated and sexist field. I was getting emails from recruiters naming salaries that were double mine. Starting asking coworkers/friends in the industry about salaries and discovered I was making way less than I should be.

    9. Aimless and Abstract*

      People who cold call are not being used by their marks for “their own edification”
      If a recruiter interrupts my day to pitch a job, they damn well better be willing to answer my questions about the job and play games with me.
      It’s mind boggling to me that you feel like the cold calling recruiter is being wronged. You’re pitching the job to someone who isn’t even looking, you better be prepared to actually PITCH THE JOB. And since people work in exchange for money, that’s a big part of the pitch to be dodgy about.

    10. MigraineMonth*

      The majority of people who are not actively job searching would take a new position for a much better wage/salary. It’s the primary reason people change jobs.

      The LW’s curiosity about the salary range isn’t some abstract thirst for knowledge; it’s the first thing they need to know in order to evaluate if they’re interested in the new position. It’s a waste of their time if the recruiter won’t say.

      Finally, everyone is allowed to feel their own feelings. It’s weird to say people don’t get to feel the way they actually feel.

    11. Troublemaker*

      You seem to think that recruiting is a respectable action, made in good faith; but it is not. It is an intrusive interruption made on behalf of an exploitative employer in order to acquire cheap labor from uninterested skilled folk. *Any* such intrusion must justify itself, or it is no better than spam.

      Additionally, it sounds like you’re engaging in emotional control, one of the four factors in the BITE model. By telling people which emotions are not acceptable, you are attempting to control people. I recommend disregarding emotions and instead focusing on facts and observables.

    12. Nina*

      The LW is contributing to the training of recruiting professionals to give salary upfront, which helps everyone in the long run. Go LW.

      And wanting salary information for your own edification at any time is worthwhile – if I’ve been a Scientist II at Company X for six years, making $Y, and I can reasonably easily obtain the information that Company Q and Company P are paying $Y+50%, that’s information I need to have.

  13. BugnBoo*

    I’m a recruiter who will tell you the salary range, though I dislike it. Candidates almost always assume they will be at the very top of the range (and it’s a broad range).

    Also, when someone tells me their salary expectation is lower than the range, I let them know we will pay more. I don’t lowball candidates who are underpaid. It’s bad for business.

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      Are there times when the employer provides enough info to say “this is the range for folks w/ X experience, and this is the range for folks with even more experience etc.”?

      1. BugnBoo*

        If I am telling the range, it is the range for their experience. But their skill level is assessed in the technical interview. That’s where the exact salary is determined.

        1. LlamaDuck*

          I wonder if there’s a way to be clearer about this up front as well. If someone knows their placement in the salary band has to do with their score on a skills test (or, possibly certifications they have, etc) it removes the ambiguity.

          The ambiguity leaves open the possibility that some kind of bias crept in during the interview, in a way that unfairly diminished the candidate’s perceived value to the company. Whereas, connecting a salary to performance on a test at least seems more objective.

          I know I would feel better about it, at least. It would also make it clearer, once I was in the role, how I might have to advance my skills to get a pay bump.

          1. BugnBoo*

            Skills tests sound lovely, but they are really for fairly basic or entry-level jobs. I’m hiring highly compensated, complex and nuanced scientific roles. The best way to assess is behavioral interviewing.

            So there’s always a level of ambiguity there, which is why people can feel they were lowballed if not at the top of the salary range.

            Interestingly, it’s usually the candidates at the lower skills end that feel cheated. They don’t know what they don’t know. Candidates who are superstars are often offered more than they were expecting.

            There are times when I can assess that someone is going to be at the lower end of the range, and I’ll tell them that. But there are times I feel a candidate is fantastic, and the interview feedback will be that they need some mentoring. They end up at the lower end of the range. Or they don’t get an offer at all.

            I’d love to have a crystal ball, but recruiters can’t always predict how candidates will do in a technical interview.

            1. LlamaDuck*

              I mean, it seems obvious that the people on the low end would feel cheated. And if there is ambiguity, as opposed to a standard of some kind, then it’s entirely possible bias *is* creeping in. If they’re not doing anything to mitigate the risk of racism or sexism coloring their judgements, it’s entirely fair for low-end candidates to figure it’s not worth it.

              I don’t really know how scientific roles work; most higher level jobs I’ve gotten, or had some say in hiring, hinged a lot on portfolio reviews that can be done anonymously. This isn’t to say interviews aren’t given any weight at all, but they’re mostly to screen for aggression or erratic behavior.

              This isn’t my field, but making auditions “blind” dramatically increased the percentage of women in premier orchestras. This forced the conductors to judge applicants almost entirely by their work quality — the actual music they played– rather than their appearance or anything else:

              Doing similar things with portfolio reviews had similar results in my field. And giving people a scored rubric afterward lets them know where they’re succeeding, and where they need to improve, regardless of whether they get the job or not.

              It’s funny, I always thought science skills would be easier to standardize, measure and quantify than artistic skills. But I guess not?

              1. BugnBoo*

                Maybe some scientific roles, but not these. They are working with many internal customers, clients, problem-solving, using a lot of independent judgement to make major decisions. They are not in a lab.

                Fraud is rampant in these roles. If we did blind interviews, we would have “professional” interviewer hired and a different person show up for the job. You’d probably be gobsmacked at some of the stories I could tell you.

                But I work for a progressive org that values diversity. We don’t lowball offers to someone who was underpaid. We have excellent diversity metrics and internal equity.

                1. Rach*

                  I’m sure myself, a woman with a disability in STEM who interviews terribly because of my disability would be negatively affected by your company deciding in an interview what to pay me rather than basing that on my education and experience. Deciding grade level and pay based on arbitrary interview skills and not a test + education + experience will 100% lead to POC, women, and those with disabilities being negatively affected.

    2. I should really pick a name*

      They might assume they’re at the top of the range, but is that actually a problem?
      Sure, they’ll be disappointed if they’re not offered the top, but if you’re still paying a fair wage, I don’t think that’s a significant deterrent.

      1. BugnBoo*

        Yes, it’s actually a problem. They often won’t accept, and if they do accept, they feel we lowballed them.

        1. duinath*

          would it help at all to give a range and then indicate roughly what part of the range you think they would land at? or is that something you don’t have enough info to determine at that point/potentially might offend the candidate?

        2. Grammar Penguin*

          So the question I have, since giving a range still sometimes results in people turning down offers (a waste of your time), do you think you will get better results (fewer people turning down offers and less of your time wasted) if you withhold the pay information until the offer stage?

          Or will you get more people turning down offers or just a lot fewer applicants?

          My point is that while disclosure doesn’t lead to perfect hiring outcomes every. single. time. it is still much more efficient and effective than non-disclosure.

          Also, while you say that your org has zero, zip, nada, problems with pay equity or low wages, how does the applicant know this? They’re supposed to just take your word for it, apparently. Never mind that EVERY employer claims the same thing.

    3. EJC*

      However, there are some companies with internal recruiters who are incentivized to get the candidate to agree to the lowest salary possible. The recruiter gets the difference between what the company was willing to pay and what the candidate accepted as a bonus.

  14. Cait*

    “We offer a competitive salary!”
    “What is it?”
    “Don’t worry it’s competitive.”
    “Okay. Well, I have amazing data processing skills.”
    “Oh! Tell us more about that.”
    “Don’t worry, they’re amazing.”

  15. Sotired*

    The Wall Street Journal had an article (sorry, paywall) about some employers are not giving numbers in good faith. PriceWaterhouseCoopers had one listing where the salary ranged from $145,000 to over $430,000. There is no way that they could hire any one for under 300K for this job. I am certain they are playing games to avoid the intent of the law

    1. ArtK*

      During my recent job search I asked and the recruiter replied “there is no range.” He then choked when I told him my current salary requirements. It turns out there *was* a range, but they were just trying to sneak past the California law.

  16. Anataya*

    I always wonder how recruiters are trained on this strategy – they’ve gotta know how slimy it is and what problems it presents (I’m sure some are ignorant, but generally these people are out in the world as much as the rest of us are so they’ve gotta be hearing these conversations too).

    So why does this persist? Are they literally trained at their jobs by old school bosses to be cagey? Or is it straight up, “the company wants to try and save money on every hire, so don’t tell them the range up front so we can hopefully save a few bucks then the candidate low balls themself” and recruiters are just cool with low-key scamming people? I know companies see employees as an expense (payroll is usually the largest expense at any business) and the natural reaction to something that costs a lot is to try and get a discount or lower price – but these are human people with lives depending on this “cost” to the business, not toilet paper or desk chairs or pencils. How are individual people who work as recruiters okay with treating other people like this?

    1. I should really pick a name*

      It’s very much the status quo. I suspect a lot of people do this, because that’s how they were treated when they were looking for work and they haven’t actually stopped to think about whether it’s actually a good idea or not.

    2. BugnBoo*

      Recruiter here. There’s not any one answer.

      If you’re going the agency route, and it’s a perm role, they’ll try to get you the most money because it means more commission.

      If you’re a contractor going through an agency, the agency may lowball you to increase their markup. That’s why I always have a standard markup baked into our contracts.

      For corporate, it’s a crapshoot. Some will lowball. Others (like me) are transparent about salary. But I’d say most are opaque. It’s often the company policy to not give salary ranges, so their hands are usually tied.

    3. S*

      I doubt they see it as scamming. I expect they think it’s the candidate’s job to ask for what they need, and they don’t think much about the larger issues of why pay disparities exist. Great companies probably don’t charge them with finding people for the least amount of money, they tell them to find them the best people within their budget but to hire with a long term eye, but I bet a lot of companies don’t think that way. The recruiters loyalty is to the client, not the candidate.

      1. BugnBoo*

        In my opinion (I’m on the corporate side), good recruiters know HR. Pay disparities exist, and we see it all the time in candidates. You have to consider what the job is worth, how well the candidate stacks up, and equity within your organization.

        I’m fortunate to work for a progressive company. I’ve made many candidates offers far higher than what they were asking. But there are many companies that see someone who is underpaid and simply think they got a bargain. They don’t care.

        Ultimately, I feel pay transparency (and the country is moving that way) will be a good thing.

  17. A Frayed Knot*

    I’m sure you know companies are moving toward salary transparency in order to combat salary inequities among women and people of color. I will only work for a company that is willing to make that commitment. Feel free to call me when you represent such a company.

  18. Gnome*

    I had a recruiter contact me and when I held firm I got a number… But when we spoke it was more about putting me in their database for a variety of positions so the hiring managers could reach out if I met a profile they needed. So, it wasn’t for a real position anyway. I’m guessing that is at least part of the problem – they aren’t recruiting for A position, but for any that you remotely qualify for.

    1. Aimless and Abstract*

      And THAT is something that IMO is completely unethical. Don’t lie to get someone in your database. If you really have a job you’re looking to fill, spill the details. If you don’t, be honest about why you’re calling.

      1. Gnome*

        They don’t think it’s a lie. They HAVE a job (multiple!)…

        It’s really annoying, but if I squint really hard, I can see where they are coming from.

        I think I wouldn’t mind it if it were, say, “We’re hiring two Llama groomers and one is also going to have some responsibilities for our billing, so the range depends on which one” or “we are hiring all levels of teapot makers, so compensation would depend on experience and what level you would come in at, but the position range for a mid-level teapot maker is…”

        But, this particular recruiter was for multiple geographic locations, multiple positions, multiple teams… you get the idea

  19. Somehow_I_Manage*

    Maybe a recruiter can chime in, but aren’t recruiters most commonly paid commission as a percentage of the placed employee’s salary? By which I mean, wouldn’t they rather get 20% on $100k than 20% on $80k? Ultimately, they get $0 if they can’t fill the position, so I recognize that they will always pressure you to take an offer if it’s on the table…but I’m not sure I understand why they would really care about sharing their bracket.

    1. TX_Trucker*

      I think it depends on the position and company. We pay our executive recruiter a flat rate, but we do pay a commission on mid level managers.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      They ultimately work for the hiring company, though, not the candidate. So making the company happy is their priority. If the company feels you’re constantly hiring candidates only at the top of their budget (or over their budget), they may not want to work with you any more.

  20. aglaia761*

    I’m in marketing and recruiters have been pretty good over the last 2 years about answering my questions regarding salary.

    I’d say that 80% will respond with the salary, the rest will ghost you.

  21. Volunteer Enforcer*

    It’s absolutely infuriating, we only go to work to pay the bills. How much money am I going to be budgeting?

  22. Wilton Businessman*

    For me, it is very simple.

    I am looking for $X.

    I know the market, I know the ranges, and I know I would be happy with $X.

    My state does not have a law that requires you to disclose a range, but we usually do. I don’t want to waste my time any more than you to.

  23. Cat*

    How do these conversations go if you do live in a state where salary disclosure is required, but the recruiter might be in a different state? Asking because I live in Washington and work from home, although I’m not in the market for a new job currently.

  24. MicroManagered*

    This post motivated me to respond to a recruiter email that I just got by saying:

    Please pass along this feedback to your client:

    I do not even consider positions that do not include salary data. Additionally, as the work force becomes increasingly remote, it’s vital to include whether the position will be 100% on-site, remote, or hybrid. I am also not at a career level or field where drug tests are typical – it’s invasive and ineffective anyway.

    (The email specifically asked if I would be willing to submit to a drug test, that’s why I included it.)

    1. allathian*

      Yup, but this will only work until a critical mass of states have passed similar legislation. Then they’ll either comply, or restrict themselves to the hopefully decreasing number of states that don’t have this legal requirement in force. At some point, the recruiters will start to lose clients because their source of potential employees becomes too limited. This assuming that this sort of legislation becomes more common, of course.

    2. fhqwhgads*

      Yup, but they’ll stop doing that if enough states have the same or similar policies and going to excluding those states would mean listing half the country,which they’d otherwise want to hire from.

  25. learnedthehardway*

    Keep in mind that recruiters aren’t just trying to low-ball you. I mean, they might be, but there are other reasons why they ask for compensation.

    They don’t want to waste your or their time if their client can’t afford you.

    They don’t want their client to fall in love with a candidate that is unaffordable, and then have to spend their next several weeks proving that no, they can’t find the equivalent candidate for $20K less.

    They may also be trying to find out if their clients/hiring managers are being realistic about the compensation their companies are offering. Best way to get the comp range increased is to show that well qualified candidates in the talent pool are way out of sight on salary.

    1. Parenthesis Dude*

      “They may also be trying to find out if their clients/hiring managers are being realistic about the compensation their companies are offering. Best way to get the comp range increased is to show that well qualified candidates in the talent pool are way out of sight on salary.”

      I remember there was one place that provided a range that was extremely low for what they were asking. I just burst out into laughter. That was a cue to the recruiter that their range wasn’t reasonable.

      In general, if places are willing to share their range with me, I’m willing to share with them. I’ll tell a friendly recruiter if I think the range is too low, or if I’m just a bad fit for the position. But I’m less likely to talk with a recruiter that won’t tell me a range at all. And then they get no information.

    2. Avery*

      Aren’t those all just more reasons for a recruiter to share their salary range rather than not do so?
      Wasting time if the client can’t afford you? Well, share your salary range and you’ll both know right off the bat!
      They don’t want the client to fall in love with an unaffordable candidate? Share your salary range and unaffordable candidates will self-select out before the client can fall in love with them!
      They want to find out if they’re being realistic in salary? Seeing candidates bolt after finding out the salary range should give you some idea, especially if they explicitly spell out the issue before noping out.

      1. HalJordan*

        I’d also argue that if they’re looking to convince the hiring client to be more realistic, having them fall in love with unaffordable candidates is the way to do it.

    3. allathian*

      Recruiters refusing to share their range are trying to lowball their candidates every time. There’s literally no other reason to do this. And as has been said before, it’s much more likely to affect minority groups who traditionally have much less negotiating power than white cishet men do.

  26. Parenthesis Dude*

    I’ve found that most reputable places will give you a salary range when requested. I’ve rarely had an issue. When I have, it’s been a place that’s been known for having issues.

  27. Wilbur*

    How about, “You’re right, company benefits can make a huge difference in terms on health insurance premiums and 401k matching, etc. Why don’t you send me a copy of the benefits as well?”

    They’ll never do it, but between 401k matching and health insurance premiums you could easily be talking 10-15k. Otherwise, just give them a nice big range.

  28. Good+Enough+For+Government+Work*

    This doesn’t seem to be a thing in the UK, from what I’ve seen, but…

    “I’m sorry, I’m not prepared to work for an organisation that cannot be honest about my salary.”

    End conversation. Hold the line.

  29. Pibble*

    I’d be sorely tempted to respond to the ‘salary is hard to talk about because benefits’ person with something along the lines of ‘so you’re saying the salary isn’t competitive, then. Thanks, but I’m not interested’…

  30. Middle_management_morose*

    Quick question – was this all through LinkedIn messaging? My experience with recruiters is that they are pretty open to sharing salary info on the phone but not in writing. Would this recruiter be open to sharing on the phone? Typically it’s info that I’ve always gotten within the first 10 min of the call.

  31. Fikly*

    Dear recruiter: If you cannot handle difficult conversations about hiring, I will need to work with someone who can.

  32. double spicy*

    I work in healthcare and have been contacted by more recruiters during the pandemic than at any other point during my career. Usually I just ignore them (the overwhelming majority of these contacts are about positions I would never consider under any circumstances). This post inspired me to send a polite and friendly response thanking a recruiter for including salary information as part of his initial message (even though I’m not looking to change jobs, I want to remind recruiters that candidates care about this).

  33. Make the logo bigger*

    I haven’t had a ton of interviews during my recent job-hunt, but I’ve had success replying “What’s your budget?” to the salary expectation questions from small businesses to big companies with tens of thousands of employees.

  34. CRF*

    I had this happen recently– recruiter contacted me, I asked salary range, they came back asking my salary requirements. I told the recruiter that it gave me an unfavorable impression of the company and I hoped they would consider changing their process for recruiting in the future! I ended up sharing my salary because I am not looking to leave and the job was below my experience level — so I knew it would be a nonsequitor, but I suspect they don’t share salary because they know they’re not competitive, and maybe sharing my salary will get them to raise their band for someone else’s benefit.

  35. I Love Legal Recruiting*

    Legal recruiter here. A few thoughts, although I’m late to the conversation.

    First, I’m an agency recruiter. Agency recruiters (who do not work for the employer) are paid a percentage of your first year’s salary. I am incentivized to get you the best offer I can–while still making sure it’s a good fit for you and the employer. Both parties should walk away feeling good about the deal. If the salary is too high, the employer might get buyer’s remorse. Too low and the employee is disgruntled. If they fire you or you leave within a certain amount of time I have to pay back some of the money. So I’m invested in making sure it’s a good deal for everyone–you, me, and the employer.

    Second, I will tell you the salary range. But odds are I have (know of) a lot of roles that might be a good fit for you. I may have called you about Role A (which pays $200k) but once we start talking I realize you would be a better fit for Role B (which pays $175k). I don’t want this to feel like a bait and switch, but like I said above I want you to be successful. So I do try to tease out your fit for a role before digging into salary. Because it’s a lot easier to present you with the best jobs rather than backtracking to explain why Role A won’t work.

    Third, I do ask for your “Target Salary.” It’s not a “gotchya” moment. I do not share this with my clients (the employers). This is so I can screen opportunities out. I’m not going to call you about a job that doesn’t meet your minimums. My work is candidate-driven. Once I’m talking with an attorney I work “for them” to identify additional opportunities beyond the one we connected about initially. Because until we speak, I don’t know what your personal/professional goals are. Your LinkedIn/resume don’t speak to your need for fewer hours, remote opportunities, a desire to relocate, more sophisticated work, whatever.

    I know recruiters get a bad rap, but you should definitely try to meet some that you like/trust. I’m really close to some of the lawyers I’ve placed. I care about them, I know their kids, we stay in touch.

    Rant over : )

  36. Leela*

    Former recruiter here: a very common reason for this is that recruiting managers made us. We knew it was awful, we pushed back, but just like other professions you often have to wind up doing what your bosses say.

    A lot of my recruiting managers were people who were very successful with this strategy in the 90s dot com bubble and refuse to believe that things have changed. It even got to the point where they brought in various contacts from the industry for meetings with us for us to ask questions of (like we hired a lot of Javascript devs so they’d bring in a Javascript developer) and I *always* asked “what kind of cold contact gets you interested? What kind of cold contact loses you?” and they’d always say “Don’t tell us about a job without even telling us the salary” and the manager would get angry with me for asking, and tell us later to ignore the answer.

    Another potential reason: they might be hiring for a big company who is hiring for similar roles but at multiple different levels, and the salary literally might be something like 60K-250K until they know more about your experience, but why on earth they don’t just tell you that I don’t know. If someone decides they would earn the high end when they don’t, it’s going to be a problem either way and they won’t magically get more experience after finding out the ranges.

    Another potential reason but still confusing as to why they wouldn’t just tell you: they might be hiring for a similar role across 5 different companies with extremely different wages/benefits, and until they talk to you more they really have no idea. Again though, I don’t know why they wouldn’t just tell you.

    A lot of recruiters are trained to manage the customer experience by sounding like they are a perfect fit for *this one role only* and you *must act now or it will get filled* <—likely true, and to them that means controlling the entire conversation by avoiding things like "Why did I only get 60K when the role could have gone up to 80K?" But if they can't have conversations like that they shouldn't be recruiters IMO.

    Truly though, the most common reason: their managers make them.

  37. Brandon*

    I am making a few assumptions here but if they are contacting you, it’s likely because you have work experience that they are looking for. If that’s the case, then your current role SHOULD be paying something close to what they are offering (side note, that is not always the case, but some investigating on Glassdoor or can tell you fairly quickly if you are being paid fairly). That said, if you are happy with your current role, then you can give them a number that would make you stop and consider the move. I’ve left my range fairly wide open in those instances, say $100k to $150k, because I would “need to know more about the role before I can properly understand the compensation”. You’ll also find that some recruiters will give a range, but it isn’t always something that is divulged.

    Ultimately, if you are not actively looking and are happy in your current role, you hold more power than you think. But once they have reached out, I can do some research to find out what the role SHOULD be paying, and I use that number to determine what I am willing to accept.

  38. LizzieB*

    In the UK we tend to get asked ‘what’s your current salary?’, to which I always reply ‘I don’t answer that as it’s something that systemically keeps women and people of colour underpaid, but I can tell you what salary minimum would make me interested in finding out more about the position’.

    This often leaves the recruiter flustered but I feel very strongly about this, enough to forego certain roles. But I think I’m generally mean to recruiters by accident – the other week one contacted me about working for a Head of Strategy and I told him that I was already a Head of Strategy so I’d want that role, not to work for them!

    1. Brandon*

      You bring up a good point. I am unemployed for the second time in five years now but my experience has been different this time. I get less “what is your current salary” and more “what are you looking for”. I don’t think there is anything wrong with deflecting and answering a slightly different question. The worst that can happen is they ask again. But providing your current salary is a way to determine if they can get you to do the same job cheaper than expected.

      Personally, when someone asks me “what is your current salary” I usually answer with “My current salary doesn’t really matter in regards to this job but if it helps I am looking for something in the range of $x to $y.” That answer is usually enough to appease the recruiter.

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