In the December 18, 2018 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter we take a look at the madness of the 2018 job market — 3 issues that made me crazy all year long. What do you say about these topics?

job marketNick’s Question

For my last column of 2018, I’m turning the tables and asking you for answers. Throughout the year, news about the job market set my head spinning again and again. (It’s still spinning.) I saved some of the juicier stories so we could review them now, as the year winds down.

Here are three controversial topics and my take. What do you say about them?

What do you say?

It’s become a perennial issue in the job market: the constant, wild claims by employers that there’s a talent shortage because today’s workers lack the right skills. (See News Flash! HR Causes Talent Shortage!) My take on this is that employers are full of crap, and my take gets credence from Wharton labor researcher Peter Cappelli.

Training: More skills, not more pay

Three years ago I wrote about The Training Gap: How employers lose their competitive edge. I cited Cappelli’s research, which strongly suggests that while companies complain today’s workforce lacks up-to-date skills, employers themselves contribute to the problem. Cappelli notes that training and employee development budgets were slashed long ago:

“American companies don’t seem to do training anymore…the amount of training that the average new hire gets in the first year or so could be measured in hours and counted on the fingers of one hand.”

Recently, Bloomberg Businessweek (Companies give worker training another try) reported that:

“Fifty-five percent of U.S. employers surveyed by ManpowerGroup this year said they were providing additional training to cope with talent shortages.”

Sounds great, doesn’t it? But Cappelli wasn’t — and still isn’t — wrong. Cappelli suggested that if employers really need higher skill levels, you’d think they’d also be willing to pay for them in today’s highly competitive hiring market — right?

Well, they’re not. Cappelli claims — and I agree — that the “talent shortage” employers cry crocodile tears over is at least in part due to their failure to pay competitive wages and salaries. The same Manpower survey agrees:

“Only 26 percent [of employers surveyed] said they were offering higher salaries.”

What do you say? Are you seeing employers deliver more training and education to workers? Are employers making higher job offers — and paying higher salaries — to get and keep workers who have the “necessary skills?” What responsibility do companies have to educate their employees and new hires?

Tell Us Your Salary!

You already know my rule: Never, ever disclose your salary history to an employer. But the “news” is full of advice that hurts job seekers.

If you cough up your current or past salary information, it will be used to effectively cap any job offer. You’d be helping an employer negotiate against your best interests!

In a recent advice column, The New York Times explained How to Be an Ace Salary Negotiator (Even if You Hate Conflict). There’s some good advice in that article. But career pundits always seem to sell out their readers when employers and HR managers turn up the pressure.

Columnist A.C. Shilton says employers expect you to negotiate, so you shouldn’t be afraid to, as long as you view the negotiation as a discussion rather than a confrontation. I think she’s right:

“There is no obligation — legal or otherwise — to disclose this information, so your first move should be to parry this question to see if your potential employer will throw out the first number.”

But then Shilton chokes right where most job applicants choke:

“Still, read the room: Sometimes you’ll just have to cough it up.”

Shilton then cites an expert from the American Association of University Women who recommends double-talk rather than a forthright “No dice!” when the personnel jockey “in the room” demands your salary information. Here’s the script the AAUW expert says you should recite:

“This position is not the same as my last job, I’d like to discuss what my responsibilities would be here and then determine a fair salary for that job.”

Practice giving this response until it feels like second nature, says Shilton. In other words, force yourself to talk to the hand. Cave in.

But the estimable New York Times isn’t the only advisor telling you to take the salary sucker punch in a job interview. On, ace business expert Suzy Welch leads job seekers right off the negotiating cliff.

In What to say when a job interviewer asks, “What’s your current salary?” Welch warns that withholding your salary history “is no way to start a relationship.”

Welch says:

“The best way to secure your place at a new company and advance your career is to simply tell the truth.”

Why? Because, says Welch, “the decision to share your salary is worth the risk.” #GimmeABreak.

What do you say? Is your salary history anyone’s business but your own? Should you ever disclose your salary history to an employer? What has your experience taught you? Can you negotiate the best possible deal if you cave?

Men & Women ALL Get Lower Pay

The controversy about equal pay for women met #MeToo in 2018, but the men still don’t get it. (See Don’t blame women for the gender pay gap!)

On September 14 this year, Jeff Stein reported in the Washington Post:

“The gender pay gap has begun narrowing over the last four decades — and women’s earnings are now closer to men’s. But that is not only because women are doing better. The trend is also in part because men are earning less. Earnings for men have fallen in the decade since the recession, and are even below levels for much of the 1970s and 1980s.”

From ‘Not doing better than their fathers’: Men’s earnings have fallen since 1970s, Census Bureau says.

Yes, guys, that means #YouToo. Everyone’s getting screwed. I refer you back to Wharton’s Peter Cappelli, whose analysis of decades of data suggests employers own the “talent shortage” for three reasons.

  • First, they rely on silly HR technology that hinders effective recruiting.
  • Second, employers expect “just in time skills” — they refuse to train anyone.
  • And third, employers refuse to pay market rates to attract and hire the best talent.

All year long I’ve been running into data that fully support Cappelli’s contention that companies’ labor woes are due in large part to low pay — also known as greed.

A column I wrote last summer, B.S. on the jobs numbers euphoria, included a graph produced by Bloomberg based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. BLS reported that spending on compensation between 2009-2018 for everybody is still way down from what companies were spending on compensation before the 2008 bust.

That red line — “Biggest gain of the expansion” — may be the biggest misnomer of the job year. “Pay still hasn’t recovered” would be the more honest tag for the failed compensation recovery.

Stein reported:

“From 1973 to 2017, men’s earnings fell by about $3,200, or about 5 percent, in numbers adjusted for inflation.”

The Census shows that while women’s earnings have “crept upwards,” men’s earnings have actually dropped. The same data set, of course, puts women’s earnings significantly below men’s.

What do you say? Did you know that real pay is actually lower for men, and unfairly low for women? Is it time for #UsToo? Have you ever calculated what’s happened to your “real earnings” since you started working? Why is this happening in a booming economy?

I hope you’ll chime in with your answers and opinions about these three topics that combine to create job market madness!

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This is the last Ask The Headhunter column for 2018. I’m taking a couple of weeks off for the holidays! See you next on January 8, 2019! Here’s wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year — and all the best for whatever holidays you observe this time of year!

If you’re new to Ask The Headhunter, or just want a refresher on the main ideas we discuss here every week, please check Ask The Headhunter In A Nutshell: The Short Course and The Basics!


  1. Short answers:
    Nobody is training. no budget for it, they do window dressing. Zip, zilch none. It is marketing the position.

    There is absolutely no talent shortage absolutely. I seen situations where a person with critical skills leaves after their 2 week notice and 3 days later it is filled.

    There is no negotiation, the position is a take it or leave it offer, but you can talk about it if that
    makes you feel better we will not hold your banter against you.

    Never divulge your sex, even if it is patently obvious, so they can’t ask your salary which would put them in violation of equal pay for equal work laws, and if they do (through the online job application ask for a damage settlement).

  2. Hi Nick – I enjoy blog not only because I totally agree HR is in the way a hiring (last company dictated 8 hours of aptitude testing before the first interview ????) but also because they are increasingly behaving like lawyers and policing how you’re allowed to have a discussion – with squat for qualifications.

    To your question in on training – after both trying to have employees train beneath an overly diva-like veteran and being unable to hire on the outside – we’re sending a colleague for training in programming for robots. He’ll immediately double his salary (from about $30k to 60k) and then has substantial upside beyond that if he’s actually good at it. We’re paying for a 3rd party training that will last 6 months and he has to make a 2 year commitment or pay for the training. Everybody wins….except for all the work not done and not getting done because the company wouldn’t accept this solution until their back was truly against a wall. Would make a lot more sense to have such a training option posted on the internal job / talent board. We’d be further along and have more options to grow. HR and business management both don’t like this idea – they claim costs too much until there aren’t any other options. It’s exhausting to watch.

    • @Jeff: Employee education is a business philosophy, not a last-ditch way to fix a problem, as you have pointed out. Unfortunately, this issue is one that employers have learned to pretend is not an issue.

  3. Regarding training, you are spot on. My employment agreement with my current company says I’m supposed to have a $5K training budget every year to keep up with certifications (which helped my company get the contract to which I’m assigned). I have yet to be approved to spend more than $500 in a given year, and would have to burn vacation time or work makeup hours to actually attend a class or conference. Even getting them to pay the certification renewals takes a special form, review by the HR head, and issuing a manual check from accounting. And yes, my company constantly complains about the lack of people with specific training and expertise, especially those who will agree to work for less than market rate. And even though it takes them *months* from interview to offer, they wonder why the candidates aren’t waiting by the phone.

    Regarding salary disclosure, I haven’t had to job search in 8 years, so I don’t have current experience with this. In the future, I hope to have the option to walk away if some new employer won’t take “MYOB” for an answer to the question on previous salary.

    Regarding salaries in general, I’m definitely aware that low- to mid-average wages have not kept up with inflation. They absolutely haven’t kept up with executive wage hyper-inflation. Just look at poor Sears — the employees don’t even get severance because of the bankruptcy, but the C-suite and senior execs get to split $25 million in “performance target” bonuses, giving them an average of $500K out the door. I wasn’t aware that males were losing pay at a faster rate than females. I’d like to see those stats broken down by race, because I bet people of color are doing even worse.

    • @Carol: One wonders what makes execs worth $25 million when they don’t know how to pay their people.

    • We obviously need a big reform in the bankruptcy system. This same crap you’ve described with Sears execs getting the golden parachute while employees got the shaft also happened with Toys R Us. So that makes me wonder how many other times it’s happened.

    • I could drive Sears into the ground for a lot less than $25 Million.

  4. Training, or lack thereof, is a serious problem. Everybody wants plug ins. I always felt you could teach your employees what you need them to know, you can give them the experience you need them to have. You need to be willing to do it. And yes, sometimes you’ll train someone and then lose them. Cost of doing business.
    You’ve been preaching not disclosing your salary for years, and you are right. It’s primarily a chance for the employer to low ball you.

  5. Ill be happy to reveal my previous salary, on receipt from your Legal Department the following: a memo indemnifying me from violating the Confidentiality Agreement I signed with my previous employer, copied to me and my previous employer.

    I happen to have a draft here to save you time in preparation.

    In the meantime, lets talk about what I can do to make your business more profitable.

    • @VP Sales: Yuk yuk yuk ha ha ha! You could create a template memo and we could sell it :-)

  6. James – on your note

    “You need to be willing to do it. And yes, sometimes you’ll train someone and then lose them. ”

    CFO “What if we train people, and they leave?”

    CEO ” What if we don’t train them, and they stay?”

    • I’m going to create a new feature and launch it with your aphorisms. I may actually do it. Maybe seed it with a column and start collecting the best!

  7. Within our staffing company, employers are starting to increase wages to attract job seekers. This has just begun within the past month or two and I’m hoping it’s a trend that remains.

  8. Online Salary Negotiation Tool

    • @Jennifer: What do you think of the tools AAUW offers?

  9. Hi Nick,

    Enjoyed this article as I do all of them. I am a career coach working with about 30 candidates a week. I instruct all of them to not disclose their previous salary. Different company, job, responsibilities, etc.

    If the HR person is really pushing for an answer, I coach them to give them a salary range of what that position typically pays in their area based upon their research. Then I tell them to immediately ask the employer if this is in the range of compensation for this position. Make them answer the question. If employers are going to do something stupid like ask about salary in a job interview, then they should expect to be asked the same question.

    By the way, based upon the feedback from my clients, this is usually the second or third question asked in a first interview. Makes you wonder if they are really looking for the best talent or just the cheapest.

    • Tom N:

      I would like to use a career coach to help me decide if I want to become a career coach, maong other things.

      Please send me a PM


    • @Tom: I suggest something similar, but I like your idea. I want the employer to tell the candidate the salary of the last person in the job, and the salaries of the other people in the department. Just for reference, and to make sure it’s a good “high value” department.

  10. As always I find your articles interesting. There was one phrase that jumped out at me from this article. “Second, employers expect “just in time skills” — they refuse to train anyone.” The just in time skills is what jumps out. In all the companies I have worked for in the last 30 years there seems to be the idea that you can hire someone with exactly the skills you need for the task at hand. Along with not understanding the task at hand this leads to poor implementation and poor products. Yes I think companies are paying poorly, I think companies are not training and I think upper management has the idea that their concepts can jump fully formed out of the newly hired “expert” with no domain knowledge. Investors want constantly improving earnings. Everyone has forgotten how to play the long game and forgotten that often slow and steady wins the race. Not every company can grow like Facebook.

    • @Andrew: The underlying idea is that workers are fungible. One worker with the skills you need today is as good as the next, and they are all instantly replaceable.

    • I’m a project manager in healthcare IT and have a stellar track record and resume. In my current, long, frustrating slog through job-seeking I find “plug in” skills to be the roadblock. Employers require a very narrow set of vertical skills and are willing to forgo critical initiatives if they can’t find a candidate with those vertical skills. They want “zero risk” hiring, which isn’t possible. There’s no thought of training or even the idea that a smart, experienced person can ramp-up to doing the work.

      • @Archetype: Think about why this happens. What manager would tolerate his or her HR dept posting a job with very narrow “just in time” skill requirements?

        A: A manager who doesn’t know what they’re doing, doesn’t understand skills or work requirements or work-flow management, or how people learn.

        We blame HR, and we should — but it’s managers that tolerate this nonsense. They’re doubly stupid because this comes back to bite them when they can’t deliver their projects.

        So the goal is, find a very smart manager. Start there. Take any decent job with that manager and you will quickly move up to a job you really want. The rest are inept.

        • Agreed, but in so many (most?) organizations the hiring manager is purposefully kept out of the process. I’ve had an “insider” view of several job opportunities where the hiring manager’s requirements were ignored and that person isolated from the process. This, in favor of upper management’s and HR’s requirements.

          The trick is to get to the hiring manager. I can sometimes manage that, but it’s truly a trick.

  11. Regarding training: I would argue that this fits in with the overall trend of outsourcing everything that isn’t a “core competency” even if it costs more. We see this with a variety of things: IT, Payroll, Rent vs. own office space, temporary workers, etc.

    Regarding divulging salary: Every time I’ve had a company/recruiter insist on knowing my current/previous salary, it generally hasn’t ended well.

    • @David: If every function is outsourceable, why would I pay your company for anything I can get elsewhere?

  12. Training…don’t get me started. The boss at my survival job is making noises about me taking an autocad class next semester (even though I picked up a book and taught myself 90% of what I need to know for here). The problem is whether due to ignorance, greed, or naivete, he expects me to take the class off the clock. He would pay for the cost of the class itself, but it doesn’t seem to occur to him that there is an opportunity cost as well, which I think he should compensate for. I don’t conduct personal affairs on the clock, so why should he expect me to do work-related stuff off the clock?

    • @Askeladd: Uh, because you take the class at his cost and on your time, then find a company that needs that skill and will pay you more. He gets the value of your “learning” while you’re still working for him while you also take the class, and you get the value of your time invested in taking the course — working for another employer!

      Do I win?? ;-)

  13. Nick, you might be interested in an article in the Times a few days ago, about a factory in the middle of nowhere which was complaining about the lack of people. I guess they expect skilled workers to pull up roots and move there, and then pull up roots again if the economy crashes and they get laid off. There are plenty of people in town looking for work, but training these people seems to be out of the question.
    In the old days big companies had training centers, and they even invited internal experts in to help train new employees. There were even training goals. No more. The education center was converted to a customer visitor center, and I found that if I wanted training on something I’d have to go to London – nice if allowed.
    Training existing employees is a lot cheaper than paying top salaries for new ones with much wanted skills. And much, much cheaper than not having the skills in your organization at all.
    For pay, I’d say “if I thought I was being paid appropriately in my current job, I wouldn’t even be here. I think I’m worth this much – can you meet that?” And give employer-oriented reasons why I am worth that much.

  14. Let us not forget that employers discriminate rather ferociously, too: they practice the Benetton kind of diversity where everybody has the same background (that infamous “cultural fit”) but wears differently colored sweaters. Heaven forbid you should be really different as in, e.g., handicapped or old. They could significantly expand the labour pool that way but they take a perverse pride in fishing from a very small pond.

    • This exactly describes one of my previous employers. It didn’t end well for that gang of managers.

  15. The salary question: I had an interview last week – when I was contacted by their retained recruiter she kept asking, “What is your salary requirement?” Finally I asked her, “What are people being offered?” The number was somewhat higher than what I would have asked for. I said, “I can work with that.” Now I will see if an offer is tendered. It was a good interview even if I don’t get an offer. I like my current job.

    • I like that a lot. Nick, here is a saying for a future column…Knowledge is cheaper than ignorance.

      My company had their first round of salary increases in 2 years. Global employees decided to leave when the CEO was paid $10+ million, but nothing extra for the employees. The employer momentarily understood the value of retention over replacement.

    • I always ask what they expect to pay and I get an answer maybe 2/3 or 3/4 of the time. Sometimes it is higher than I expect. Of course, sometimes it’s lower, but that either gives you necessary information more quickly or a basis for negotiation. I am a big proponent of this approach.

  16. Ok I am going to attempt a gross oversimplification using one of my favorite techniques which is derivative of the 5 why’s- which is – who’s fault is that?

    Why do companies not train people? Short term goals and CEO compensation being tied to relatively short term profitability so who’s fault is that? Negotiators who get CEO’s ridiculous contracts. Who’s Fault is that? Boards who inept about what the company really needs or in on the game. Who’s fault is that? Oversight of corporate boards? Who’s fault is that? I would argue our wonderful government. Unfettered capitalism does not work in the global economy. I am not a socialist but the Adam Smirhs invisible hand has not been self regulating as evident in the vast income inequality we see today. Its going to get worse before it gets better folks.

    Thanks to Nick for one of the best sites on the planet for helping folks deal with this mess we are in today.

  17. @ All: Wishing you a fun holiday season! See everyone next year.

  18. I suspect Mr. Smith would say the current state of affairs is the result of crony capitalism/corporatism rather than true capitalism.

  19. @Bob Johnson: We haven’t had anything remotely resembling true, laissez-fair capitalism since the turn of the century. Instead, what we have is what economist Ludwig von Mises called a “hampered market economy” where government regulations interfere with the workings of the economy (and the degree to which the government interferes with human actions and to which the market is hampered has increased like a hockey-stick graph.

    I’d put most of the ills of the job market on the government and those they have empowered. After all, it is they who basically created HR as we know it (via EEOC and other laws and court rulings), and HR is what is what has destroyed the hiring processes and standards, poisoned corporate cultures, and dumbed down American business in general.

  20. My top three:
    1.) Lack of training/expecting new hire to do the job perfectly from day one with no ramp up time
    2.) No raises for employees while the top muckety-mucks get big raises, perqs, stock buy back options, and more
    3.) Employers still waiting for the perfect candidate who meets all 497 specs and who is willing to work for peanuts.

    I’m not even going to start on the problems those of us who are older face despite the suppposedly low unemployment and employers claiming they can’t find workers because that is a whole other topic.

    @Bill Freeto: I respectfully disagree with your last comment to a point. I agree that the government has screwed this up for people who have to work for a living, but not for the reasons you provide. Currently businesses get a tax break when they move operations overseas, so not only is labor cheaper in Mexico and China (which provides enough of an incentive for businesses to move overseas) but the politicians they bought have added further incentives by giving them tax breaks to do it. The government’s laissez-faire approach of refusing to get involved/letting the market take care of everything until banks and other big businesses fail and promise to crash the economy (what happened in 2008). If they had better regulations or enforced the ones we did have maybe the crash of 2008 would not have been as bad as it was.

    I think the private sector doesn’t need the government’s help in creating stupid policies, making stupid decisions, etc. They’ve managed to do that quite well all on their own.

  21. As a contract engineer (read “disposable engineer”) I do a lot more interviewing as a job seeker than I’d like. I have two responses to the salary questions:

    1) Most of my contracts include a confidentiality agreement that defines just about everything about my relationship with my employer to be a business secret. Sometimes they explicitly include remuneration, sometimes it’s only included in the broad terms. Either way, I answer the previous salary question saying that it’s covered by the confidentiality agreement and I can’t divulge it. If they press, I ask ‘Knowing that it’s covered by the confidentiality agreement, if I told you anyway, would you ever trust me to honor your confidentiality agreement?”

    2) Many prospective employers are getting wise to this and instead ask for my “salary requirements”. Fortunately, this question usually comes up very, very early in the interview process, well before the job requirements have been thoroughly defined. There is inevitably something that drives what I’d consider a reasonable offer that hasn’t yet been discussed. I reply that “That depends on a lot of factors, some of which we’ve covered, but it also depends on X, Y, Z, etc. How much is budgeted for this position?” This pivot almost always gets a useful reply (no way to judge whether it’s an *honest* reply, though).

    Nick, I’ve been reading your newsletters for many years and I credit you with putting starch in my spine as I face recruiters desperate to hammer a square peg into a round hole as well as HR gatekeepers looking to prove their screening skills. I get along with both recruiters and clients better because of you. Thank you.

    • I have the opposite problem, I work for a community college so I work for a state agency. As such, my earnings, benefits, benefits are all online and can be found with 5 minutes of Googling and using basic deductive logic based on what you find.

      I’ve been toying with the idea of telling people that ask for my salary to “Google it” if it is so important to them especially for those who call me first. I’m assuming this answer would go over like a lead balloon as no less than 99.5% of the recruiters that contact me are just trolling online databases and calling random people to meet some arbitrary quota. None of these people actually do homework on people other than a cursory glance at their Resume/LinkedIN

  22. Marybeth and Bill Freeto – the rise of the political class and imoral corruption associated with it are also root causes of the mess. While heavy handed over regulation is wrong and will kill innovation which our best and only way to stay at the top of the planetary heap, some appropriate regulation is needed to keep the interest of the greater good in the forefront. It’s a balance and it needs to be balanced based on the right criteria for the greater good, not how much money it puts in someone’s pocket. Neither is working now as we see from insane income inequality and rising nationalism. Who speaks for the people? Where is intelligent discourse I hope our younger generation can figure it out better than we have.

  23. @Nick @Tom

    Buffer actually uses this approach. See all of their salaries right here.

    • @Craig,

      I’m generally impressed. I wasn’t familiar with Buffer, but find the product intriguing as a Software Developer myself.

      I’m particularly intrigued by Buffer’s notion of a transparent salary system. Trying to put together a salary system like this walks a fine line. It’s easy to just make it a case of “what’s your pay grade, plug it into the formula” and poof, there’s your compensation without regard to the actual value you bring to the table. Buffer appears to be trying to account for value without sacrificing transparency and fairness.

      Kudos for the attempt. It may not be perfect, but it appears to be honest and I can’t imagine asking for more than that.

  24. Hmmm,
    “The United States is currently experiencing one of the tightest labor markets in history and many say that the country is currently facing a skills gap. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. currently has over 7 million unfilled jobs.”

  25. Latecomer to the discussion, but I’ll my two cents FWIW. Cappelli was not only right, but his take on training is even more relevant now. As someone who was downsized in 2009 and has had to scramble for jobs pretty much ever since, I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen postings for vacancies that stretched out over months because companies simply didn’t want to train someone. (Somehow, the fact that they could hire someone willing, train him/her, and have them productive within a few weeks makes less sense than waiting six months to find the right “fit” instead…)

    Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard this phrase: “We need someone WHO CAN HIT THE GROUND RUNNING.”


    1. We don’t want to train you; that costs money.
    2. We want you to do the same job as the person who was in the position previously (and who was trained).
    3. We want you to do not only his/her job, but also these other unrelated tasks that we’ve folded into this job so we don’t have to hire more than one person.
    4. We want you to meet the needs of every stakeholder in the office with differing opinions on what your priorities and responsibilities should be.
    5. We want you to do all of this for less than we paid the last person.

    And that’s when we hear (wait for it…) the refrain:

    “It’s just so difficult to find good people these days…”

    • @John: The real gem in Cappelli’s revelations is that modern accounting tools do not track the cost of leaving a job vacant. In fact, they make it look like it’s profitable to leave a job empty. Bean counters love that, while managers complain, HR offers the excuse that no one has the right skills, the job boards laff their A’s off while cashing HR’s checks, and the Dept of Labor says record numbers of new jobs have been created!

      • Exactly! Companies become RELUCTANT to fill positions because that adds cost, so more tasks remain uncompleted or get piled onto the shoulders of the few unlucky souls who are still in the trenches. When the workload becomes too much? They bail, and their responsibilities get folded into the NEXT “hybrid” position.

        As the saying goes, you can’t make this stuff up…

  26. Recent article: “The ‘skills gap’ was a lie!”
    “In other words, the skills gap was the consequence of high unemployment rather than its cause. With workers plentiful, employers got choosier. Rather than investing in training workers, they demanded lots of experience and educational credentials.”

  27. Last week I plowed through a tedious online application for a county job. The previous employer fields had a place for salary, which I ignored and surprisingly the online form allowed me to move on to the next page. Often times those crappy online templates will not let you move forward until you fill everything out. Got to the last page and there is a ‘supplemental questions’ page. The first ‘question’ is something along the lines of ‘I understand that it is required for me to fill out full employment information including phone numbers and salary information. Failure to do so will result in my application being considered incomplete and it will not be considered’. Yes or No where the options to that ‘question’. It wasn’t even a question it was a statement. A mealy mouthed last minute addition to extract information they are not entitled to. What I made 10 years ago is not relevant to the job I am applying to today. Employers like that are not interested in getting the best candidate for the job. They are just looking for some blob that is compliant. I hate those online applications and have pretty much stopped applying for jobs that require one. They are such a convenient way for employers to engage in thinly veiled age discrimination (“what year did you graduate?”) or pull stunts like asking for salary. Why do I have to waste my time front loading in useless info like a phone number or a street address of an employer I had 10 years ago at this stage of the game? If I get an interview or an offer, then sure, by all means, start requiring all the crapola but don’t require a bunch of extrenous information that takes a couple of hours to type in that is just a bunch of useless nonsense because the company bought some application software off the shelf and never modified it.

  28. “…What do you say?”

    I love your stuff Nick, and I’ve been thinking about an answer. I designed it to work whether the question is about past salary or salary expectations, and I’m I’m curious to hear a professional’s opinion…

    “(chuckle) I bet most applicants don’t understand what a good question that is. (lean in and smile) How many people have failed your test by answering it and revealing that they can’t negotiate? it’s such a basic skill in every job, internally and externally; it usually identifies the most productive people, too. Very clever screening question.

    [name], I know you’re busy, and it isn’t my style to waste anyone’s time. What do you expect to pay for this job? if it isn’t in the ballpark, I’ll tell you immediately and you free up some of your time today. If it’s a useful starting point, we can move right into how I can deliver more value than that to your company. So, what were you expecting to pay?”

    (If it really isn’t adequate, fulfillment the promise and thank them. If the answer is even close…)

    “I think we can move on to the value I bring, and once that’s clear it will be much easier to see the fit and discuss specifics. Now… (segue on into demonstrating the job)”

    • @Joe: I like that. I think most interviewers won’t even get it. They will repeat their question and tell you they need the info to continue the interview.

      But it’s a very nice way to separate the good employers from the naive ones. You’re not being pushy or antagonistic — you’re introducing basic work values and skills in the discussion. If they blow it, I would see nothing wrong in responding:

      “Thanks for your time, but I’m looking to work on a team where negotiation skills are valued and emphasized. I want to wish you all the best in your search for a candidate that fits your team.”

      The interviewer won’t get that, either.

      Then flip the interviewer a quarter and tell them to call their mother, because they need a ride home. :-)

      Doesn’t matter that they have a cell phone. It’s the thought that counts :-).

      • “Then flip the interviewer a quarter and tell them to call their mother, because they need a ride home. :-)”

        You’re right. They’ll all look at their cell phones… and not get that either. But as you say, it’s the thought that counts. And 3 for 3 gives it all a certain beautiful symmetry. But I’d give them 1 more length of rope.

        “They will repeat their question and tell you they need the info to continue the interview.”

        – “Thanks, but good negotiators never respond to ultimatums directly [sidestep]. And this isn’t the kind information that a good negotiator will disclose, EVER. You’d be in a termination meeting with any employee did that sort of thing with your customers, and right now you’re mine [hard wall, but set within positive relationship]. But given the work and effort you’ve already invested to get here [incentive to flip], and the value that good negotiators bring to the people who hire them [incentive to flip], how can we find a way to get past this without wasting your time or mine? [script fully flipped, they must produce the answer or it ends]”

        And then if they can’t deal, walk away.