In the May 23, 2017 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader tries really hard to satisfy a stupid recruiter who doesn’t give a rat’s batootie about job applicants.


stupid recruiterWe’re going to skip the regular Q&A column in this edition. Instead, I’d like to highlight a problem that I think most job seekers face: Stupid recruiters (and employers) that waste your time. (For another example, see Stupid Recruiter Story #1.)

An Ask The Headhunter subscriber applied to a job posted by a major defense contractor in Silicon Valley. The job description is detailed and includes a list of qualifications. What happened next is an object lesson in how corrupt recruiting has become.

Here are the e-mails between the employer and applicant. Names have been redacted.

From the recruiter

[Dear Applicant],

Thank you for your resume submittal to Requisition Number: XXXXX – [Job Title – the job is in communications].  I have some additional questions for you in regards to this specific position.

Please take a few moments to review and respond to the questions below. For your reference, a copy of the job description is provided at the end of this message.

  • What is the primary reason you are seeking a new opportunity?
  • How does your background relate to this specific position?
  • How would you describe the role of internal/employee communications in terms of adding true business value to the company?
  • Briefly, what are some of the unique approaches or tools you have used to execute an internally focused communications plan?
  • How do you measure success?
  • What is your salary expectation (please provide a specific amount or range)?
  • Are you willing to work in United States>California>Sunnyvale?
  • What is the best way to contact you during the day? Please provide an email address or phone #.

Thanks again for your interest in this position and I look forward to hearing from you soon!

Best regards,

[Recruiter’s Name and e-mail address]
Talent Acquisition

Those are some pretty heavy-duty questions if you’re the candidate — and your answers could make or break the opportunity. If it seems these are the kinds of questions you’d get in a face-to-face interview, it’s because they are.

How much time has the recruiter invested so far? Well, how long does it take to copy/paste?

The applicant responds

Happy Friday, [Recruiter’s name]!

Please see answers to questions below. The fact that I put much thought into these answers, as you will soon see, is an understatement. :)


The applicant answers all the questions thoughtfully and in detail. He estimates he spent 45 minutes to an hour answering all the questions, plus time submitting the application.For our purposes, the answer to only one question is relevant.

  • What is your salary expectation (please provide a specific amount or range)? As in life, everything is negotiable, including salary. I’m sure there is a salary range in mind HR has budgeted for this role, and that will suit me fine. For me, waxing poetic about the job is more important right now. That said and major hint alert, Sunnyvale is in the heart of one of the most expensive places on the planet, Silicon Valley.  :)

This qualifies as, “I’ll show you mine, if you’ll show me yours first.” It’s an insulting way to entice, attract, recruit… or to start any personal interaction with another. (Here are more examples: 2 really insulting interview questions.) The applicant demurred politely.

From the applicant

Five days later, having heard nothing back, the applicant sends this e-mail:

Hi [Recruiter],

Haven’t heard from you in a while. Would love to take next steps.



From the stupid recruiter

Another day goes by. It’s clear why the recruiter has not responded already. But now she “circles back.”

Hi [Applicant],

My apologies on not circling back with you.  To your point on the expensive price tag of Silicon Valley, we really need to understand a candidate’s salary requirements prior to proceeding.  We have had a few too many cases of getting well down the road (even to offer), only to find out that our salary expectations do not line up.

If you could please circle back with me regarding where you currently are in salary and what your expectations are if you make a move, I will be able to let you know if that is within our range.

Best regards,
Sr. Talent Acquisition Business Partner

That e-mail could have taken as much as 2 minutes for the recruiter to write. In half the time, all the recruiter really needed to say was: “Salary range on the job is $X-$Y. If that suits you, let’s talk. Otherwise there’s no need for us to go farther down the road.”

But she didn’t do that. Having lured the applicant into investing a lot of time providing thoughtful answers to important interview questions, the recruiter now tries to get the applicant to compromise his negotiating position.

“Circle back?” Or, keep going in circles? “Prior to proceeding?” The applicant has proceeded pretty far already with nothing to show for it.

The recruiter says she is avoiding “getting well down the road.” But the stupid recruiter has sent the applicant well down the road already while she’s still ensconced in her personnel office, having invested nothing.

From the applicant

The applicant blind copied me on his last response to the recruiter.

Hi [Recruiter].

Happy Thursday. Hope this message finds you well. I’d like to introduce you a recruiting friend of mine, Nick. I think he has the answer you’re looking for.

Best Regards,


Nick’s Advice

For the full effect of the applicant’s answer, you have to click the link he included.

What’s corrupt about this recruiting episode is that the recruiter teased the applicant about a job opportunity by asking him to deliver detailed answers to serious questions. These are questions that would normally be asked in a face-to-face interview. But the recruiter didn’t invest in an interview. She lured the applicant into wasting his time interviewing himself.

The recruiter doesn’t give a rat’s batootie about the job applicant. That’s stupid.

Let’s interview by e-mail!

The applicant never heard back from the recruiter. (See Rude Employers: Slam-Bam-Thank-You-Ma’m.) But he says he had a similar run-in with a recruiter at another defense contractor.

When I was on the phone with the in-house recruiter, she asked me about my salary. I said “negotiable.”

The response I got was criminal:

“That’s not good enough, [Applicant]. You’re going to have to tell me your range. Let’s start with your current job. How much are you making now?”

That’s not recruiting. That’s an interrogation by a hostile attorney. That’s not an interview. That’s a waste of time. Don’t interview by e-mail.

What qualifies this as a Stupid Recruiter Story is, of course, the recruiter’s abject stupidity. She chose this applicant from all submissions because he made the cut. He’s desirable. There’s nothing smart about insulting a job applicant you think might want to hire.

If you’re the job applicant, what can you do? Let’s talk about that.

Is you is, or is you ain’t?

After you’ve submitted an application or resume to an employer, either they’re interested in you, or they’re not. When employers respond after you apply, that means you made some kind of “cut.” You passed a test. You stood out enough. Expect an interview, or cut them off. When they try to take several bites of the apple by e-mail, they’re wasting your time.

When the recruiter replies to your application with more requests for more information, try one or more of these responses — which tests whether they’re really interested:

  • “Thanks for your interest. I’m glad you have more questions for me. I have questions not answered by your job description, too. When would you like to interview face to face?”
  • “As my application indicates, I’m interested in interviewing. If you are, too, let’s talk in person.”
  • “I applied, and you responded, so there’s mutual interest in discussing working together. When would you like to meet?”
  • “I applied for the job and you responded with interest. The next step is to meet. Sorry, but I don’t conduct interviews by e-mail or even on the phone. Since we’re both interested enough to contact one another, the next prudent step is an interview. If I don’t receive a date and time from you, I’ll expect you’re not really serious.”

If they is, good — have a meeting. If they ain’t, that’s good, too — it frees you to move on. Don’t let anyone waste your time.

So, why do job seekers do it?

Are we all crazy? You know as well as I do that this is how most “job opportunities” play out. So, why do job seekers do it? Why do they consent to wasting their time, when the employer invests no time? What could job seekers do to change all this?

: :


  1. I am honestly not sure why communicating a desired salary should be an issue.

    Specifically, if you see that the conversation is going nowhere, wouldn’t it be easier to just quote a desired salary of “900 K to 1.2 M, whatever is most appropriate for this kind of a role, subject to a thorough discussion”. It only takes 5 seconds to state, and if it wasn’t meant to be, that’s too bad.

    I believe there is no point overthinking the issue, as most new grads would tend to. If you know that you won’t be working with this recruiter again, why strike a pose? why lecture him/her on how to behave? why appear insistent or, worse, rude? just quote something way out of range, smile, shake hands, and go your own ways; everything else seems a waste of breath, doesn’t it?

    • I’m in agreement with you when it comes to recruiters: I have no problem divulging my hourly requirements to a recruiter, and I always make the number much higher than what I need to live on. In my experience, recruiters won’t rescind an offer just because your range was high, but will then let you know the max of the role, which I will then get. My main problem with the example above is that this was all conducted via email – if I’m going to declare a number I’d prefer it be during a conversation, even on the phone.

      On the other hand, I abhor online job applications that force you to input a salary, as Nick has bemoaned before.

    • @Albert: It’s more reasonable for the employer to state a range for the job since the employer is doing the soliciting. If the employer can’t state its terms up front, then the applicant is wasting their time. In this case, the employer wasted the applicant’s time. The applicant in good faith invested a lot more time than the employer did to set a good groundwork for proceeding. The employer contributed nothing at all except demands for information.

      “just quote something way out of range”

      That’s just irresponsible.

    • “…why strike a pose? why lecture him/her on how to behave? why appear insistent or, worse, rude?”


      Good grief. Being politically correct in order to avoid conflict caters to the employer. So, in your mind not divulging all one’s info without even ONE interview is being “insistent”??

      You must be kidding!

  2. Had a phone screening with NBC Universal in Orlando a few weeks ago. After a disastrous first twenty minutes (the details of which I won’t go into here), the recruiter demanded to know my salary requirements. I refused to give her a figure, saying that I know what I’ve made here in the northeast is not what I could expect to earn in Florida, so I really have no “requirements,” just tell me the salary range and I’ll check if it’s something I can live on. She said they still don’t know what the salary range for this job is (really?!? NBC puts out jobs without a salary range budgeted?) as that’s part of the next step after they evaluate a candidate, so do I have any idea of what I want. I held firm, refusing to give her a figure. She got downright nasty with me, condescendingly lecturing me about how “you mean to tell me you’re applying for jobs here but haven’t researched what salaries are first?” I tried to explain that I’ve seen salaries all over the place, from $60k/yr to $11/hr. After more of this back/forth she finally said we’re just wasting time here (translation: I’m wasting her time), maybe I should go do some research on salaries and come back to her in a few days with a figure…and I said, “No, I think I’m just going to withdraw as a candidate.” She certainly wasn’t expecting that response. And, she continued to lecture me about how “people should know what they want to ask for in a job,” to which I said “so far every company has given me the salary range, and I tell them either ‘yes I can afford that’ or ‘no I can’t.'” Again she pointed out they don’t have a salary range yet — which I don’t believe for one second. Clearly this job was fake like most advertised jobs out there (I’d wager the one your letter writer applied to was fake as well) and they’re just “tire kicking” to see what it would cost them if they did decide to hire someone.

    • @Sigh: In any other domain, it’s called intimidation.

    • “Clearly this job was fake like most advertised jobs out there (I’d wager the one your letter writer applied to was fake as well) and they’re just ‘tire kicking'”

      Exactly, just like many advertised “jobs.” Gone fishing anyone? LOL.

      The very moment a “recruiter” continued to interrogate for salary info would be the very second I’d say “Seems like you can’t afford me” – and hang up.

  3. Great advice from Nick as always. The problem as I see it is stupid recruiters like this, get quite a few not very bright/desperate/bad negotiator applicants that cough up a dollar amount almost immediately. So the recruiters of the world think those of us that wouldn’t disclose that info are hiding something, or worse.

    I’ve talked to a fair number of friends that are in pretty high level jobs at their respective companies, and when they talk about changing jobs are shocked when I suggest that they keep their current salary private – even though many companies specifically state that in their employee manual that salary information is confidential!

    Until it becomes the “norm”, I’m afraid recruiters are going to think not just divulging all of our money issues are difficult people, not smart negotiators worthy of a job offer.

  4. Sometimes it’s not appropriate to meet “face to face”, as in the case of computer programmers, or other remote workers. It’s still not appropriate to expect a 45 minute time-suck answering interview questions in an email. That’s what video chat is for.

    I recently received an email from a ‘spray and pray’ recruiter (if they’d actually looked at my resume, they wouldn’t have sent the email) where one of the required questions was my passport number. What’s next? My bank log in?

    • Spray and pray. Never heard that one before. I like that :-). But I’ve never heard of requests for passport numbers. Some recruiters do indeed think job seekers are stupid. Sheesh.

      • Probably an Indian recruiter targeting H1B applicants…

        • The following came from an agency local (20 miles away) to me. I’m not sure what the angle is, but if my resume crossed your desk, it’s obvious that I am a US native.

          (AH! Found the email:)
          “Resume updated with the education details (Course/ University or Institution/ Year of completion for Bachelor’s and Master’s if applicable)
          Visa Copy*
          Photo ID* (DL/ State ID Copy) or
          Passport Number or Passport Copy*

          (We do not have anything to do with these docs, we are requested by the client to share it with them just to make sure that we are submitting the genuine resumes to get the interview call within a couple of days upon submittal)”

          So, apparently, the employer needs all this info to validate a resume. Right? :P

          • @Lisa M: Passport Number. That’s an even better identity theft request than SSN! That calls for the ultimate response that not even an SSN request is worthy of. GFY, Recruiter!

    • I have seen online job applications ask for SSN and detailed employment history for the last 15 years – and they want starting and ending salary for each one. Identity theft anyone?

      In one instance someone from a companies HR pointed me to the application. When I told him I found the application tedious and that my previous salaries were irrelevant to the job at hand (they were – career change and a different city) I was told that this was industry standard. I have filled out less for large DoD contractors to get an interview.

    • “video chat ”
      …yet another issue all in itself.

      Another poster stated:
      “I’d be curious what folks think about the new video screening software that’s out there these days.”

      Robo-interviews…gee, how fun.

      Nick had at least one blog on that. Hope you’re all prepared for your digital “interview” to be posted for all to see on the internet one day. Sorry, I wouldn’t believe anyone that promises it’s for “internal use only”, encrypted, or will be deleted.

      How do you think “privately” filmed casting calls from 70s (and thereafter) get on the internet? You’re digial interview is certainly no more important to an employer than any big name actor’s recorded casting call. Oh, and are you really going to trust any “confidentiality” or other legalese claims that your robo interview will be not be shared or otherwise “lost?”

      Promises, promises.

      Nonetheless, too many people submit to endless employer demands that now these employers call it “standard practice.” What a joke.

      • How do you propose to interview as a remote employee?

        • Back in the day, if the company was interested in you, they flew you in for an interview.

          The only reason for video is for TV air talent to provide a broadcast air check.

          I have immediately lost interest in any company not wanting to bring me in for an in-person interview with the hiring manager, either across town or across the country.

          • Why would the company spend the money? If you’re going to remain in your home office, not interface with the public, then why spend the money?

  5. BTW, anyone else find the last bullet point to be silly, “Please provide an email address…?” Since they emailed this to him, they obviously have his email, which makes me think this was an auto-generated email sent by the algorithm…

    • It is possible that the visible email was a work email, and the candidate would much rather use a personal email for this operation, so the request is not all that stupid.

      • The request may not have been stupid if the stupid recruiter was an algorithm.

  6. The interview via email “technique” appears to be gaining steam. I saw that several times during my last job search. In one situation, I decided to play along, and my answers were apparently good enough that I earned a phone screen with the hiring manager… who asked me the exact same questions.

    I’d be curious what folks think about the new video screening software that’s out there these days. Someone in my network was asked to screen for a role and, when she agreed, she was sent a link to a video software program that worked like Skype, except there wasn’t a human on the other end. The program asked her questions, and she had a certain number of minutes to record her response to the question. Insanity!

    • No – those things are the dumbest things I’ve heard about unless you’re in the TV/Film industry.

    • Not a human on the other end? With what/who exactly are you interfacing?

      • …my guess is “Skynet” – the employers version. haha

        Computers collecting data, sorting, and making instant decisions of your “qualifications.” Seems like 1984’s “sci-fi” has arrived.

        • Good grief. I’m pretty accustomed to interviewing via Skype et. al. because I’ve worked remotely, and that’s standard protocol … except that there is a human on the other end with whom I’m interacting.

        • “…my guess is “Skynet” – the employers version. haha”

          Puts new meaning to “you are terminated” I suppose.

      • You’re talking to your webcam. All you see is yourself being recorded while you verbally answer the question posed by the software. Some software has time limits in place, and if you aren’t finished after X minutes, oh well! The company will get a partial answer.

        The “someone in my network” who experienced this video interview software happened to be a recruiter, and she was interviewing for a recruiting role. Meta.

  7. Yes we are all crazy. Between the thrashed economy, age discrimination against anyone over 35, and the mind-numbing ATM-driven recruitment process, some of us would rather avoid the whole ATM, resume, phone interview by HR process and would rather take 29 lashes with a cat-o’ nine-tails if it lead to a permanent position.

    On the other hand, I heard a financial radio show this past weekend talking about good reasons to retire early. I can think of one more: No stress from the job hunting process!

    • I hear more of those in the post baby boomer generations expressing interest in early retirement. Funny how much earlier they are becoming jaded compared to the boomers.

      Somewhere I read a terrific comment (perhaps in a job hunting book) that getting the job is harder than doing the job. I loved that.

  8. Looking forward to all comments as to why many tolerate this, assuming the need for food and shelter isn’t the only reason.

    • When food and shelter are at risk, and you have little choice, yeah. It still doesn’t make it right. I actually overheard this from a biz owner in 2010: “You can pay these losers anything, they’ll just be glad to get the job”. True story. Wish I’d recorded it.

  9. If the recruiter had sprung the salary question after the candidate filled out the big form, I’d be more offended. But it came with the big form so it should hardly be a surprise. The big form might also be a writing test – not a bad idea. It does give a candidate time to think over the answers, which might make them better than if given during an interview situation.
    As for the time – it takes less time than establishing the contacts Nick recommends, so for serious job it shouldn’t be a big deal.
    As for salary ranges – a candidate giving a range should expect to get an offer at the bottom. An employer giving a range should expect that the candidate will demand something near the top. When you negotiate for a car, you don’t give ranges, right, you just give a price. Why not give a reasonably high request, while saying you are willing to negotiate. That anchors the salary at your level, and assuming the request isn’t absurd makes you seem reasonable.
    Finally, in Silicon Valley in general and Sunnyvale in particular housing prices are crazy, and people getting jobs that pay at a rate where they need to get housemates or commute long distances is a big problem.
    When I was 10 I lived in Africa and learned how to bargain. Maybe you should watch Pawn Stars or something similar to see how it is done.

  10. Why is this so difficult?

    List job title.
    List description in ten bullets or less. (More than ten bullets, you’re either focusing on minutiae, or expecting one person to do two or three jobs.)
    List *actual* salary range.

    Saves *everyone* time.

    • …well, it’s kinda like the tax code and “free” health care.

      Once the demands (regulations, policies, etc) have been set good luck with any claw back attempt. The common sense aspect of your request is too much for employers to bear.

      Oh, and who could forget the fact that without excessive job “requirements” and “duties” employers set they couldn’t cry “talent shortage” which enables their continuous purple squirrel search for the perfect candidate.

      Even more diabolical is the reality that overloaded job “descriptions/duties” set you up for failure and enables quick dismissal – for ANY reason.

  11. @Lisa M.

    All things are negotiable. If a company thinks I am “The One™”, then I can easily consider a Skype interview with a hiring manager. If it is just “we ask all our candidates to do a canned video interview”, then no.

    At least in Depression-Era Louisiana, they payed you good money to sing into a can.

    • I hear ya, L.T. I really have not heard of this before! It sounds insane. I would think nothing of “Can you do a Skype interview”, but if I connect, and face what you described, that interview over after the 15 minutes I would wait for the human to show up.

      • Maybe job seekers should prepare their own e-mail interviews and send them in prior to completing an application. Just mail it to the VP of HR. Only apply for jobs if the VP fills it out. “Does your company qualify?”

        Or, maybe video interviews revolutionize the old gag phone call. Fill out the form — Ben Dover here, applying for the job. In a pig mask. Answering all your questions, Captain! Oink. Heh heh. “What’s the salary, Edward?” (With apologies to Dan Rather.)

    • and +1 for the correct use of “pay”, that I thought was obsolete! :D

  12. Dear Nick,

    When posting a job, it is not possible to get the right people without providing a salary range and a city location. If candidates who are not local will be considered, commenting on relocation assistance is also a good idea.

    DOE – depending on experience – means absolutely nothing. It is not totally relevant what people have been earning. What is relevant is what kind of money they are looking for.

    As I have been heard to say: Money talks, and you know the rest of that one. ?

    Regards, Matt

    Matthew R. Bud
    The Financial Executives Networking Group
    32 Gray’s Farm Road
    Weston, CT 06883
    (203) 227-8965 Office Phone
    (203) 820-4667 Cell
    (203) 227-8984 Fax

    The Power of Networking. The Power of Friendships.

  13. @Matt Bud

    “DOE – depending on experience – means absolutely nothing. … What is relevant is what kind of money they are looking for.”

    This should be carved onto a plaque and hung in every HR / Hiring Manager’s office.

  14. When I have a salary conversation with an employer, I’ve read the job description carefully and I already know what the job should pay. If they ask me what my salary expectations are, I tell them the range that the job is worth. A professional who knows their industry should be able to provide a range and it demonstrates Competence, Calm and an Ability to Negotiate. I find that avoiding the question or simply not answering leads to negative outcomes.

    That said, one thing I’ve noticed in recent years is that 15 years ago companies used to hire People, not Skills. Remember when good companies had the mindset to find good people and train them? They encouraged employees to move around within the company after a few years. They had retention strategies and they cared about being an “Employer of Choice”.

    Is it that consultants have convinced HR departments that they don’t need to train people anymore because the perfect Skill Set is just a few clicks away?

    • @Ron: Labor researchers at Wharton have shown clearly that employers killed training and development budgets years ago. They want just-in-time candidates, disposable when the work changes. Hire another one. They’re waiting in line. Scrub ’em up, and get ’em ready.

  15. I did a Video Interview recently. The recruiter told me to be myself and relaxed… as if we humans speak into a webcam in response to questions and solve high pressure situations that would NEVER come up in the real world under a 60 second time constraint. A friend on the inside warned me not to go over because every candidate that was cut off on the recording was automatically excluded. Also, the recruiter told me I’d have more time to prepare and record each answer than what really happened… I believe this was yet another way to trip up candidates.
    Additionally, I’ve been told the Director and person I’d be reporting to had not been hired yet and I’d have to wait until that person was on board (and he/she would review the videos) before even knowing if I’d made the cut.
    I’d like to point out that I was recruited for the position from someone on the inside… which makes this all the more frustrating.

    Will the pendulum swing the other way? Doubtful…

    • I have to ask…do you really want to work for people that are so wrong-headed? It doesn’t tend to improve once you’re in the door…just the opposite most times.

  16. I will never do a recorded video interview again for any employer. There was no one at the other end of the interview. I did this 2 years ago through a well known larger recruiter. I happen to be a sales performer so I did well and continued to a face to face interview.

    The company was hiding their financial troubles from me. I figured it out 1/2 way into the interview when I would have barely any resources to do my sales job and they wanted a one man band at a lowball salary.

    • Sad to say I’m starting to think that for things like recorded video interviews, third party background checks, overly broad IP and non-competes, some sort of legislation will be required to restrict or eliminate such usage. Think about how pre-employment drug testing started out small, then became so prevalent it can no longer be avoided. Despite being insulting, preposterous and useless. So simply refusing may eventually no longer be a viable option if these godawful practices spread enough.

  17. You can learn a lot from well constructed questions…ideas applicable to the business ranging from marketing to technical. The larger # of people who respond, the more likely you’ll pick up some good ideas. Such fishing expeditions work just as well if there’s no intent to hire. This sounds like something like this is going on.

    When that’s going on, it’s not coming from the recuiter, who’s only the messenger.

    For example, once as a recruiter I ran across a manager who requested power point presentations (emailed) from potential candidates. I didn’t play. Some were invited in to present in person. This guy was picking up all kinds of free consultation. He the invitation sound as if you were under consideration.

    I learned about the details from, a friend who went that route and learned the extent to which this was going on. No one was ever hired.

    • Well stated Don.

      “…free consultation…fishing expeditions…power point presentation…no intent to hire”

      All above are true yet candidates seem to brush aside the obvious whilst dumping time and energy into appeasing the supposed “employers” demands then whine and complain about life being “unfair.”

      Common Sense 101:
      Most desperate people simply want to believe there is a real job behind the curtain, thus they instantly give into a plethora of demands from fishing “employers.”

      In honor of Don’s refreshingly blunt and honest posting, here is a tip for the clueless and desperate:

      “Quid pro quo Clarice!”

      If one blindly plays by the employers “rule book” expect to be running around in circles. Good luck with that.

  18. Dear ,

    Thank you for your interest in employment with Valeant Pharmaceuticals. We had received your application to the DISTRICT MANAGER-NEW ENGLAND in ,. This position has been since been cancelled. Your resume will remain on file and be matched against other opportunities in the system, additionally, you are welcome to continue to applying to additional positions on your own.

    Thank you!

    Valeant Human Resources

    I find it both odd and scary that ‘this position has been CANCELED’. Additionally, I never applied for this position. I live in Texas and would not apply to a position in New England.

    I applied to a position at this company several months ago… I am assuming that this rejection is based off information from outdated resume.

    So I was rejected for a position that was cancelled (meaning it was never real to begin with) on the basis of outdated qualifications.

    • @Ambo: Double-whammy. “We’re all bozos on this bus.” Cf., The Firesign Theatre.

    • It’s sad how HR depts don’t even try to write a decent rejection letter anymore.

      A few weeks ago I received a rejection email from Blackberry for a job I applied for two years ago:

      “Thank you for your recent application in regards to the Creative Services Designer position. Your application has been reviewed by our Recruitment team, and although your talent is valued, it has been decided not to proceed with your application for this role at the current time. We hope that you will remain interested in working at BlackBerry and consider other suitable opportunities that arise in the future.”

      Here are some snippets from the nice little letter I sent off to the “executive team” (no response received yet, and I’m not holding my breath):

      “Thank you for your recent application in regards to the Creative Services Designer position.”

      I find your definition of “recent” to be bizarre. I applied for this position in July 2015. I do not consider two years ago as recent.

      “Your application has been reviewed by our Recruitment team, and although your talent is valued…”

      The comma belongs after “and,” as in, “Your application has been reviewed by our Recruitment team and, although your talent is valued…”

      “…although your talent is valued…”

      This is a strange choice of words, especially considering that you saw nothing of “value” in my professional background.

      “…it has been decided not to proceed with your application.”

      The second half of this phrase is missing the subject of the infinitive + verb “to proceed.” The correct wording would be, “…it has been decided that we will not be proceeding with your application.” A better choice would be to completely eliminate the past participle and simply state, “…we have decided not to proceed with your application.”

      “We hope that you will remain interested in working at BlackBerry and consider other suitable opportunities that arise in the future.”

      It is quite presumptuous of you to assume I would still be interested in your corporation after two years.

  19. WAmbo. I assume they think they have some kind of intelligent BOT matching resumes to job descriptions.

    Somewhere back in time when I was a job hunter I applied to a company for something I obviously thought a fit. nothing. This has to be back in about 2003.

    Over the years every now & then I get an email alerting me to some job. Once or twice, on the mark per my background, but in most cases, some things so far removed to be comical.

    I don’t think a human other than a candidate gets involved in the dispatch.

    This is the only company I’ve run across that does this. It’s counter impressive.

  20. @Don Harkness:

    I came in for a preliminary interview with a tech recruiting firm. The person who had been talking to me thought I would be a perfect fit, and per fro my transitioning plan, etc.

    Less than 30 seconds with this person’s boss, and it was obvious I was too old, in her fresh-outta-college eyes, for the position.

    So now I’m on the mailing list for every tangentially appropriate position they have. I should write back and ask “If i was too old for the perfect fit, then why do you think I’m not too old for all these other positions?” Maybe I should cc the CEO on that one.

  21. In my limited experience, it seems the more hung up the company is on salary history/desired salary at the beginning of the process, the less positive the interaction you have, even if you comply without question.

    In the cases in my younger years where I complied with the salary history request at least, I was either low balled or unfairly judged on that number, especially by layman/women.

    In cases where salary wasn’t even brought up, or was okay with a simple “right now I want to make $X but I would have to talk with you more to finalize things,” I felt better with the interview even if I completely bombed it as I felt I was being judged more on what I could/couldn’t do rather than an arbitrary number.

  22. Anytime I am asked/required to provide my current salary and salary history, I counter with “What is the salary range you have budgeted for this position?”

    Since my past salary and even my current salary isn’t relevant to what a different employer, sometimes in a different field, different location, and different job level pays, the SOLE reason they “require” my salary history is to is how cheaply they can get me (or to weed me out entirely).

    Let’s say that after I got out of college I worked for five years as a kindergarten teacher. Then I decided to go back to school and got an engineering degree, and am applying for jobs as a sound engineer. Kindergarten teachers make about $25,000 per year; sound engineers make six figures. So why do you as a sound engineering firm need to know what I made as a kindergarten teacher? Does this mean that you don’t know how to assess the value and cost of jobs in your firm, let alone your field, and you’re going to rely on what some other random employer, ten years ago, in a different field, paid me? My value to you should be what I bring to you as a sound engineer, not what I made as a kindergarten teacher!

    I don’t understand why employers won’t state the salary range for job vacancies; it would save a lot of time, and surely they have a budget for them in mind. If the range is too low, people won’t apply if they can’t afford to work there.

    • @Marybeth: Employers withhold salary for a job and demand your salary because it gives them a powerful negotiating edge if they decide to make an offer. That’s all there is to it. They will lie, cheat, intimidate and bluster to get the information from you. Just say no.

  23. I agree with Nick above, when they play that game, it’s usually because the employer wants to play some sort of game with candidates. I’ve actually seen people defend this position straight faced and then told to “suck it up butter cup.”

    What I have found is that the defenders of this sort of thing get some obscene amount of job applications/resumes and want some sort of criteria to judge people on, i.e. a software engineer who makes $45K in Silicon Valley. I can understand why that might turn some heads, but it isn’t usually that cut and dry. For example, I took a job for less of a up front cash raise, because the benefits were better – telecommuting, expense account, better vacation policy, better health coverage and so on. The second part of this is I was very calculated in the types of jobs I was willing to accept throughout my career. I didn’t just jump at simple 4% raises or whatever to move – the company had to sell me on working for them. This generally worked out for the better as some of those firms are no longer in business or are a shell of themselves. Getting a measly 2% raise or even no raise at your current is better than having no job.

    These same people will claim they want the best people but then play games with them, like not being open about compensation, but then want all your cards. I currently am looking for work, and was in an interview within the last 2 weeks where the owner himself insisted on my salary history. I told him it was apples to oranges, because I was doing a bit of a career change and I was out of work anyways, so whatever I told him was meaningless other than “yes, I substantially increased my salary over the years.” He was not forthcoming on compensation. I also told him that I had 5 other job interviews for 5 different jobs over the next 2 weeks (that’s not a lie) and not getting my salary history was no issue and my expectations were within their budgets. In other words, I have options so this particular business may loose out on my services because they wanted to play hardball.

  24. You must understand why a recruiter laying out the salary range upfront may be an issue. If your at 85k and I tell you they can pay upto 115k what will you ask for? 115k. It would be great if candidates were realistic and identified that the 115k is for an exceptional candidate but they don’t. And a recruiter can make a rough estimate of your salary based on your exp. but we work in exacts. Someone is worth what someone is willing to pay them, not what they value themselves at. If you tell me you expect the max and then I get you an offer at 105k you’ll be disappointed and feel undervalued because it’s not the max. Even though it’s a 20k increase in salary. We manage expectations. I think people are too concerned that a recruiter will try and screw them. But in perm recruiting the more you make the more we make. But it’s important all parties are realistic in salary expectations. That’s why it’s important to state salary.

    Now in this story the recruiter is an idiot. She/ he should have responded immediately with that request. But for me if a candidate insists on keeping salary a secret I will either not submit them. Or I will try throwing out a number well below cap just to feel them out on where there at.

    We are a resource for you. Give us all the Info we need to get the job done. If we say you want max and the hiring manager says this guys notnworth max they will move on. Meanwhile you may have been very flexible.

    • > You must understand why a recruiter laying out the salary range upfront may be an issue. If your at 85k and I tell you they can pay upto 115k what will you ask for? 115k.

      Of course candidates are going to ask for your max. That’s how negotiations work and it’s pretty naive to think otherwise.

      Think about it – I go to the car lot and they ask me what my budget is. I say $30K. The sales person will show me cars around $30K. You can either talk them down or buy a car that is cheaper than $30K.

      > If you tell me you expect the max and then I get you an offer at 105k you’ll be disappointed and feel undervalued because it’s not the max.

      Not necessarily. It’s up to the candidate to formulate why they deserve the max, and it is up to the employer to think about why a potential employee is not worth that amount. Most reasonable people, that you want working for you anyways, will come to an agreement and there will be no hard feelings.

      > But in perm recruiting the more you make the more we make.

      There was a Freakonomics video or something about this, but it was about real estate agents. The premise was that this is not 100% true.

      Say you have an agreement to place someone and get a 25% fee. Employer wants to pay $100K and candidate wants $110K. When you’re already talking about a $25K fee for yourself, most people are going to advise the candidate to take the $100K because (a) the deal might not get done and you loose out on the fee and (b) anything you might make extra above the $25K is going to be peanuts and not worth the time/effort to you – you could be off making your next placement instead.

      • Everything you said is absolutely true and correct. But that doesn’t negate my points. What I said is also absolutely true and correct.

        Most candidates will not look at an offer 10k below max and say “well that’s what I’m worth.” Too many deals have fallen through because they got their eyes set on a number and when that falls short, they feel undervalued or assume there is negotiating room. Which often there isn’t any. We have already gotten them the most we can. So when we ask for salary it’s so we can manage expectations. take attention away from compensation and put it on the positive attributes of the job.

        The freakenomics analogy is definitely applicable however that doesn’t change that candidates shoot themselves in the foot getting hung up on salary. Your car sales analogy isn’t really applicable. When it comes to salaries most candidates will go for the max and not be happy with anything less, they aren’t starting high to negotiate down. People want to feel valued by their employer, so how do you think they feel when a new potential employer tells them “we budgeted this much, but we don’t think your worth that so we’ll give you this but expect the same results as someone more expensive.”

        I guess my point is, the salary range for the job is not necessarily public information. It’s more important that the candidate evaluate the job, and decide for themselves what they think it’s worth.

    • @Greg: Thanks a lot for posting a headhunter’s perspective. This opens up a very important discussion about managing salary expectations.

      I agree that candidates tend to expect the top of a range if the range has been disclosed. That can cost them a job they really want. But as you point out, the challenge is all about managing those expectations from the start, and that’s the headhunter’s job.

      The bone of contention is always whether the candidate and employer are wasting their time if everyone’s not in the same salary-range ballpark. No one needs to ask the candidate for their current salary to establish this. And, while a candidate should ask an employer for a job’s salary range from the start, when a headhunter is involved that may not be necessary. While the hh works for the employer, the hh can still serve as a good, fair mediator.

      As the hh, we can disclose a salary range to the candidate early on, and have the candidate confirm it’s in the range of what they are prepared to accept. Sometimes you have to have this discussion with them several times to pound the point home. “Let’s not waste our time if you’re not going to consider an offer WITHIN that range — not just at the top.”

      Also point out that to get the high end, the candidate must clearly justify it by demonstrating his or her value. We can also point out that the top of the range is very unlikely and not to expect it. Then ask, at the appropriate time — after interviews have established that the client wants to make an offer — “If I can get you $X (where X is less than the max), can I tell the client you’ll accept it?”

      The candidate is forced to make a choice, and discussion ensues with the headhunter. At that point, the negotiation is insulated. It’s between the candidate and the hh, and there’s no chance the employer might be offended. The hh can be the go-between and run interference for both parties. A good headhunter can do this very deftly, helping both sides be reasonable and also helping both to save face.

      The job offer is not a do-or-die event. It should be a thoughtful process where the hh keeps the client and candidate apart while discussing and working out an agreement with both — before the actual offer is tendered.

      Candidates of course want the max. But a good hh has plenty of time to set expectations and to help the candidate flesh out the deal and understand it. In the end, if a candidate is ready to walk away over a few bucks, that’s up to the candidate. But the hh should know where that line is long before an offer is tendered. The hh’s job is to help both parties navigate the offer to optimize the chance of a deal.

      I know what my client will and will not offer to a particular candidate. My job is to help the candidate say yes. If the candidate declines to accept “$X if I can get it for you,” then I can still give the candidate a last chance to think even harder and to walk back the NO. I’ll tell the candidate that, “If you don’t think you can accept an offer like that, then my client’s probably not going to make an offer at all, and the process will end. Please think about that and get back to me by tomorrow. I’d be glad to talk through this with you in the meantime.” (I do the exact same thing with my client.)

      I’m not manipulating anyone. Because at that point I know what each side is really willing to do, I’m giving both sides a chance to cool off, reconsider, and avoid losing a deal. I give them a last chance. But sometimes a deal just doesn’t come together. That’s part of headhunting.

      Bottom line, I don’t think the hh or employer needs to know the candidate’s current salary. Our job is to confirm both parties are prepared to do a deal within a certain range, and I think we’re in the best position to determine that. If we do it well, everyone wins.

      Thanks again for your thoughtful posts!

  25. I personally don’t care who gives the salary information first, but it does behoove employers to make the first move since they (like Nick pointed out) are the ones doing the soliciting. They are throwing their hooks into the lake; logically, they should also be the ones to put the bait on them too and see which fish bite. Yet too many seem to think that applicants owe them not just the worm, but also the lure, line and even the whole rod in some cases. At that point, you’re basically a volunteer JESTER for their amusement if you agree to that kind of abuse.

    With that being said though, I disagree that giving out your salary expectations first puts you at a disadvantage. Compromising photos, criminal history, poor past performance; these examples give you disadvantage for obvious reasons. But laying out your expectations on the table, especially when you already proved you are a great employee? That’s being an adult.

    Still, I have to side with Nick on the first point, especially when it comes to the issue of bait+switch jobs. For at least the sake of saving you time as an applicant, you must never give your salary expectations first when it is the employer, not you, who advertised that position. When a car-dealer announces a “Sale” on a brand new pickup, do you ask him what he’s selling it for (or better yet, ask him to SHOW you the pickup he claims to have?)…or do you tell him everything he wants to know first? Simple logic, folks.

  26. as a hiring manager, as a job hunter, agency recruiter, and in house recruiter the salary question has always been present…and mostly a time waster as both sides jockey for position.

    When I started work as an inhouse recruiter and was able to influence the process…we cut to the chase and posted the STARTING salary ranges on the website with the job, as part of the job description. With Starting as the optimum word. This was not negotiable. With it so stated, I expected to be talking to people who understood their options. Where in the range you’d start was between you and the supervisor.

    It was a small company, and the starting salaries/pay rates wouldn’t take your breathe away so we wanted to save everyone time and get that up front.

    It was not as negative as it sounded because being small the company was flexible. There were no probationary periods, and best of all a supervisor or the person was not shackled by large corporate formulas that dictated salary review frequency, or amount.

    So the real negotiation came after you were on board, a known contributor to the company, and the company & it’s possibilities known to you. The gist of it is, if you thought you’re worth more, you make the pitch to your boss, and he/she in turn makes it to the President of the company. If you’re on a roll, you can do that several times a year.

    Nick’s point about headhunters serving a mediator role and calibrating expectations on both ends is a real plus as a time and face saver. Yet, more than like he, like other recruiters still have spent time with people, sometimes a lot of it, who claim they do..and when they get an offer, even at the top end…in one of my cases would reply “oh I can’t possibly work for that”.

    Having worked with an open salary kimono for several years, I find it makes good business sense. You save everyone a lot of time and can focus on job content and career potential from the get go.

    But it does require the company to be well disciplined in house. that is, if your screwing employees who unbeknownst to them are being paid less than your stated (even secret) ranges, it won’t fly

  27. Towards the end of an interview I was advised that the subsequent steps included a psychological test. For a lowly office assistant job?
    We aren’t talking about a law enforcement officer position where it might be important to know that the officer is psychologically stable as he would be carrying a gun.

    • @Borne: What this tells you is:

      (1) The company’s HR and hiring managers are incapable of judging job applicants
      (2) The company wants legal cover for hiring decisions more than it wants to hire good people

      Toss them a bone and tell them to gnaw on it, while you go to work for one of their competitors.


  28. I found detailed questions like this becoming more common not just in pre-interview emails but applicant tracking systems. So I set up a cheat sheet to serve as a reference of questions and answers. Which is also handy during any interview or resume tweaking.

    But some of the questions listed seem very premature and overly elaborate for a supposedly preliminary introduction.

  29. Just had an experience I feel like sharing. The recruiter asked for a phone screening and asked for my schedule. I told her I’m open the rest of the week except on Wednesday due to client and corporate meetings. We confirm a 10 am phone screening on Thursday. Mid meeting Wednesday morning my phone is vibrating. I silence my phone and check my messages afterwards. The recruiter called asking why I’m not available to talk. Will not be calling back. The representative of the company failed to follow simple instructions.

  30. WOW! I read this article a few months ago and today I received an an email from a major defense contractor in Silicon Valley. Furthermore, this was a pre-screen email with an almost exact word for word match as listed in this article. Only 3 questions were not asked, which were “How would you describe the role of internal/employee communications in terms of adding true business value to the company?
    Briefly, what are some of the unique approaches or tools you have used to execute an internally focused communications plan? How do you measure success?” Yes, the email still asked for my phone and email despite me filling it out in their online application system and having my resume. I would expect these types of questions from random recruiters finding my information off job boards, but not from big company. This is disappointing that recruiting can get this bad!

  31. So many recruiter’s are stupid and dodgy time waster’s.This was a perfect example,that sadly I have experienced too.

    The recruiter NOT mentioning a salary range is all about the employer low balling,in a race to the bottom,to pay the absolute lowest wage possible.

    If a recruiter/company is like this in the job seeking process: Run,they would treat you like crap to work for too.

    HR/recruiter a fake job invented to waste people’s time,and their fake job’s whole purpose is to appear busy,so their clueless boss think’s they are busy.Of course if it’s the boss behaving like this,run too…