In the July 15, 2014 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader complains about wasting vacation time interviewing for the wrong jobs:

I applied for a position in another state and got a call right away to set up an interview. I scheduled vacation time for this meeting and it went very well. I liked what I was hearing and my would-be future boss obviously liked what he was hearing so much that he scheduled another interview with the “powers that be” right away. So again I scheduled more vacation time for this interview. This also went very well.

At the end, when it came down to talking salary, all involved were very disappointed. My low end of expected salary was much higher than the high end of what they could offer. It was a good enough fit that the hiring manager e-mailed me a couple of weeks later wondering if there was any way I could come down in my salary expectations. After I turned him down again, he e-mailed me a few days later telling me how much he was disappointed that we couldn’t work things out. I asked him to keep me in mind for other opportunities.

It would save me countless hours of wasted vacation time and interviews if employers were not so secretive about their salary ranges. If I had known the salary range ahead of time, or at least at the end of the first interview, we could have saved each other so much time and disappointment. How do you suggest handling this?

Nick’s Reply

hidden-moneyIf I didn’t know better, I’d think that, as the economy improves, employers are trying to take advantage of job seekers by hiding the money. Perish the thought!

The other explanation is that it’s become a cultural problem. “Oh, we never talk about money… it’s so declasse…” Yah, and it’s also ridiculous.

Would you visit a Tesla salesroom for a $75,000 car if all you can afford is $25,000? Of course not (unless you’re just out for entertainment). Imagine if there were no way to find out the ballpark price of cars in advance. Would you visit a dealership twice, hoping the price might turn out to be right on the third visit? Of course not.

In one of the Fearless Job Hunting books I discuss how to respond to your boss when he offers you a promotion but fails to mention a raise in salary. Is there one? How much? The same method works perfectly before you agree to interview for a new job.

This excerpt is from the section titled, “The Pool-Man Strategy: How to ask for more money,” pp. 13-15, in Fearless Job Hunting, Book 7, Win The Salary Games:

“You should have asked about money first. Some might consider that presumptuous, but I don’t. It’s business. Setting expectations early is usually the best way to accomplish your goals. The psychology of this situation can be more complex than you might realize. If you embark on this meeting… without setting an expectation about money up front, you will wind up like a puppy waiting for a treat after you’ve jumped the stick 20 times.

“How to Say It: Keep it short and sweet: ‘What’s the pay like?’

“Those are the only words I’d respond with. It’s not a demand, or even an expectation. It’s a top-of-the-head, disarmingly honest, enthusiastic question that must be answered before any further discussion. Note that you’re not even asking for a specific number… I think the best way to ensure that compensation will be a part of negotiations is to put it on the table from the start.”

This is business. Get an answer before the interview, or move on to the next employer. The only reason employers don’t like to disclose a salary range — like the manager who kept challenging you to lower your salary expectation — is that they want to hook you early in the hopes that you’ll compromise. And, once you’ve gone to multiple interviews, you’ll be more likely to compromise your negotiating position to justify all the time you’ve already invested. It’s an old sales trick.

The manager you interviewed with is just astonishing. He asked you to lower your salary requirement — twice! Why don’t you send him an e-mail now, and explain that you’ve thought about it and you’d love to work on his team. Is there any way he could come up to your required salary?

See what I mean? It sounds kind of awkward and presumptuous for you to do that — right? Yet he did it with no problem. Maybe it’s worth trying. Maybe he’ll realize he can’t find who he needs for the money he wants to spend. (You might want to be ready to explain, How do I prove I deserve a higher job offer?)

This is the salary double-standard. The manager wasted your vacation time twice and keeps asking you to to give up even more… for what?

I’m not asking these questions rhetorically. Employers like this need to do a reality check, because they’re a bit nuts and more than a bit unreasonable.

Next time, when an employer hides the salary for a job, ask. Save yourself some grief. (There’s another side to this double standard: Why do companies hide the benefits?)

Have you interviewed for jobs where you didn’t know the salary? Were you surprised later? What do you think would happen if you insisted on knowing the salary range in advance?

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  1. Employers have grown used to paying chickenfeed over the past 5.5 years. They think that employees are so beaten down that they will continue to accept bread and water compensation forever. They don’t have to talk about money because for over half a decade the greater majority of wage slaves have had to content themselves with just being damn happy they had a steady job.

    Assuming for the moment that the economy gets much better before I’m too old to work, employers may have to give up a lot of shareholder value to obtain and maintain high quality employees in order to just get in the game, much less compete.

    I’m waiting …

  2. Isn’t “Employer is Hiding the Salary Range” [] the other side of “Keep Your Salary under Wraps” []?

    When employers want to know your salary, they are really just trying to ensure that both you and they do not end up in the situation described above. Before either side wastes time, energy and political capital, they both want to know that their expectations are both in the same ball park.

    A more appropriate way for employers to address this issue is ask for the job seeker for their salary expectations.

    But the challenge is that, like any negotiations, typically the person who throws out a number first is in a weaker negotiating position. This is why most folks, on either side of the table, usually don’t like to talk numbers up front.

    My experience has been that this is one of real values of having a recruiter working you that you can trust. As a third party, she can pre-screen both candidates and employers who aren’t in the same ball park with each other.

    If the two parties are reasonably close, but not quite overlapping, the recruiter has two options.

    She can approach the employer with “I have a candidate that is a bit outside of your current salary range, but here is why you may wish to consider them, even if they might cost a bit more.”

    She can also approach the job seeker with “The salary for this position at company A is not quite what you were hoping to find, but given what we discussed about where you are going with your career, here are some reasons to consider it.”

    I believe that, as a professional, you should realistically survey your employment options every two to three years. By doing so, you are negotiating from a position of strength. You are considering employment prospects without the economic pressure of worrying about how you are going to make the next month’s mortgage payment.

    There have been times when I have done this, and then decided that the little things that were frustrating me with my current employer were not so bad. I was able to remain with where I was at, but with a renewed appreciation and commitment.

    When doing this type of employment survey, sharing your current compensation has the effect of quickly eliminating employers who are looking for candidates who are considerably below what you would consider. You also haven’t really weakened your negotiation position excessively, because the new employer still has to make the compensation work for both of you, in order for you to consider leaving your current position.

    Like all career choices, the right answer is contextual. If you are changing careers, or you are on the low end of the salary range, sharing your salary weakens your negotiating position.

    If you are in a good situation, your compensation is good to very good, and you are not changing careers, sharing your salary increases your leverage during negotiations.

  3. It is interesting to see this side of the argument. So many blogs are the applicant not bringing up money so they can hook the company on their skills and convince them to pay more than they planned.

    The bottom line is both ways are creating an adversarial relationship from the start. I am not naive enough to think long term employment is the norm, but if you cannot work with each other from the start, it will never be a working relationship

  4. I have been going through the same thing–not coming straight out with it (I have walked out of interviews), or asking for my “salary history” as part of the application process. I look at it THIS way:

    A. They don’t want to pay for the degree that took me 9 years to obtain

    B. They will know that being in college for the past 9 years, I have made minimum wage nearly the entire time and can wave $15 an hour in front of my face like some golden carrot

  5. I’ve read that you actually want to be the first person to throw out a number in a negotiation – that sets the negotiation starting point. There was a pretty interesting ‘how to negotiate’ series on Slate a few years ago.

    I have asked for a salary range during an interview. It seems to make interviewers very uncomfortable. I only ask if I start to get the feeling that the job is going to pay less than I expect.

    I have also occasionally asked via email using an email account in another name. That works more often than you’d think!

    During my last interview, I asked the CEO for a salary range. I just couldn’t tell what the job paid and had a bad feeling (which was spot on). Later on, a different person offered me the job for 10,000 less… so it can really be worthwhile to ask.

  6. Since 2008, job interviews have been like poker games where the prospective employer has a huge stack of chips and the interviewee has almost none. When I apply for jobs, I’m routinely asked to report my “salary expectations.” I routinely refuse. This is an unfair, even disingenuous, question. The employer knows how much the job pays. If they have $100k budgeted for the position and you say your salary expectation is $85K, they’ll offer you $80K. When they get 300 applications for a job opening, they can get away with this.

  7. Nick is totally right. If salary is an important part of the equation for you, you need to ask about it. If they refuse to tell you, when asked, before you travel to another state to interview with them, that’s a red flag. But it doesn’t sound like you asked?

    Moonmaedyn, you are of course free to accept or decline any job offer you see fit, but I have to admit that one of my hiring pet peeves is when people expect to get paid for their degrees. Absolutely, if the degree is required for the work, that will reflect on the market rate. But I’ve seen so many people who are convinced that higher degrees should make them a higher salary across the board, which just isn’t the case.

    I presume that you’re looking in a field where your education is parallel with the expectations for the role, but if not… Its not your prospective employer’s fault you spent 9 years getting a degree they don’t want!

  8. I’ve found small companies, when asked, to be upfront with what they can pay. i think that is because smaller companies are usually not overstaffed and can’t afford to waste their time interviewing candidates who expect more than they can offer. Good luck getting numbers from mid to large companies; the managers hide behind HR on that one. Still, I would never travel out of state for an interview unless I had a ballpark figure on salary and an understanding of benefits included in the package.

  9. @John B and L.T.

    The bad behavior will only stop when people stop refusing to play along. I know it’s hard because of unemployment/underemployment but I have turned down interviews/offers where I felt the other party wasn’t being completely ethical and honest.

  10. @A.R. Anderson: There’s a big difference between disclosing your salary history and explaining what your desired salary is. The former is a fact that will be used to anchor any job offer. The latter is a negotiating point that gets the ball rolling – or stops the proceedings entirely. I like your approach to surveying opportunities, and judging a current job. And you’re right: A good headhunter can help smooth the way because he or she is privy to the interests of both parties.

  11. As a formerly full time employee turned contractor, it has taken me a LONG time to rid myself of shyness when it comes to finding out about money.

    In the contracting world, you don’t talk very far before you TELL the recruiter that you need the pay range, hours per week etc. If they get coy you get direct. You don’t play games. It’s refreshingly direct, and since contract/temp positions are increasingly footballed to multiple contractors, it’s easy to check (and play one off the other).

    On other positions (FTC, FTE) I still let them bring it up first but judge how far I let the talks go. If I’m asked about salary expectations, I say ‘Market. What does the position pay? (and I’ll now use Nick’s ‘What’s the pay like?”. And if then they get coy, I’ll ask for a range.

    The worst are the recruiters (external and internal) who ask for your previous salary/rate. I now just say that I have confidentiality/non-disclosure agreements and I can’t be specific but they could certainly ask my employer/contract company. Then they try to ‘terrorize’ you by saying ‘well, we would ask for your W-2, it’s public’ and I say ‘you can’ and let it go no further. One, it’s not public but two, at that point I want to rip their eyes out. If they continue to push, I ask ‘what bearing does my prior comp have on what this position offers?’ And we go from there.

  12. @Moonmaedyn: Why should anyone pay for your 9 years of education? That’s not what employers buy. They buy your ability to use that education to do something profitable for the company. There are lots of highly educated folks who expect to get a return on their investment. But for the investment to have value, it must pay off for the employer. Education by itself isn’t what employers buy. Not all educated people can do the work so it will pay off to the employer. This is a big part of what Ask The Headhunter is about: How to demonstrate your value, not just your education.

  13. @EH: Research in behavioral economics shows very clearly that negotiations are quickly anchored by an initial number, even if the number is irrelevant. (Check Bill Poundstone’s excellent survey of the research, “Priceless.”) In other words, if you put a high number on the table, it will likely pull the job offer up. If there’s no number, and the employer later puts a low number on the table, that will likely pull the offer down. It’s a bit more complicated, but that’s the idea. So the conventional wisdom spouted by “negotiating experts” that “whoever states a number first, loses,” is bunk. What they really mean is, whatever number is put out there first will anchor the negotiations. That’s why the best salesmen tell you up front how pricey their product is – then proceed to justify it in terms that will attract you. The high price then pulls what you’re willing to pay up. I’ve watched this happen to me, even while I know it’s going on. Last winter I bought a pair of audio speakers and paid twice what I had planned. All through the demonstrations, I was talking myself into the higher priced units. I kept shaking my head and smiling, because I knew exactly what was happening.

  14. @Nick

    “This is a big part of what Ask The Headhunter is about: How to demonstrate your value, not just your education.”

    One (should) quickly learn this.

    I know people who have all the right degrees from the right schools but couldn’t code their way out of a wet paper bag.

    I also know of companies that can’t judge the value, either. This one is more scary.

  15. @John B.:

    “Since 2008, job interviews have been like poker games where the prospective employer has a huge stack of chips and the interviewee has almost none.”

    I disagree. You just think that. :-) The employer seems to have all the chips because the job seeker really wants that one job. The employer has many applicants to choose from. That’s where the power comes from.

    The strong candidate knows how to influence the employer so the employer will really, really want that one candidate. Then the negotiations change entirely.

    This is not easy, but it’s how sales works. You must take the power by knowing how to influence the employer. Few applicants take this into account. They’re too busy answering silly questions and worrying whether they gave the right answers. Answering questions isn’t the point of an interview — influencing the employer with a carefully orchestrated demonstration of value is. Then you’re in control.

  16. @Dee: You can recognize a good recruiter very quickly. It’s the one who, when you express the salary or rate you want, is elated. Now he or she knows exactly what you want money-wise, and will work hard to get it for you. They will choose jobs that actually pay what you want. They know they will close a deal faster because they won’t have to come back to you, to convince you to take $X. They already know what $X is.

    There’s a huge lesson in this for job seekers. Know what you want. It makes everything so much easier.

  17. @Dave:

    “I also know of companies that can’t judge the value, either. This one is more scary.”

    Yep! The board of directors should be terrified! That’s the single biggest reason employers demand salary history — they want/need another employer’s judgment of your value, because they can’t figure it out themselves. And that’s the first tip-off that you should RUN from a company. It has no edge over its competition.

  18. @ Nick, why do recruiters (third-party and internal, whatever that is nowadays ;-) even want prior salary and then use the W-2 club? (Can we clear up something? Does anyone other than your accountant and the IRS have a right to your W-2?)

    I’ve had a job where I went very far that hit a stage where if I did not disclose, I’d be out of consideration. I know my publishing work, which is hardly compensated but I do part time, became a ‘rule out’ with HR because they wanted to rule me out on something. I now have enough nerve to call their bluff through reading your columns and the experiences of others…but it’s tough.

    Why is it so important in the first place? Particularly in times like these when many good people have had ups and downs revenue-wise…it’s intimidating and hard to get past. Is it BECAUSE THEY CAN? I think we can, with enough courage, individually stop the games.

  19. BTW of course there is the bait-and-switch–the recruiter puts out a high number, you say it’s well in range, you proceed, get the offer and it’s 20% lower. (That’s the offer that was negotiated, I signed off on the EA because I wanted the job, and one hour later they reneged.) An experience which taught me to run, do not walk if that happens.

  20. Well it doesn’t appear to be illegal per se, but asking for your SSI…employers do it because they can. Also beware of IncomeChek as part of employment verification–you may be signing off on this too.

    “The Work Number, a subsidiary of Equifax that provides income- and employment-verification services, sells a service called IncomeChek that lets employers quickly retrieve a job applicant’s tax data including 1040, 1099 and W-2 forms. The applicant must agree to the disclosure by signing Form 4506-T.”

  21. @Dee,

    I don’t think it’s illegal, but it opens up a can of worms. There’s quite a bit of personal info on them.

    I read an article here:

    From the article, three most important paragraphs:

    ‘Although it is not illegal under federal law to ask a job applicant for a tax return or W-2, it is “unlawful for a person to disclose, use or compel the disclosure of the Social Security number of any person,” Waltemath says. “It is also unlawful for a person to willfully disclose Social Security numbers obtained from tax returns or return information or to offer an item of material value in exchange for a tax return or return information.”‘

    “These forms also include information – such as nontaxable sick pay, dependent care credits and adoption benefits – that suggest an applicant might be in a class protected by federal or state antidiscrimination laws, Waltemath says.”

    “Tax data, or lack thereof, can also reveal whether a person is unemployed. In several states (New Jersey, Oregon and the District of Columbia) it is unlawful for an employer to refuse to consider an applicant who is currently unemployed, she adds.”

  22. @Dee

    “BTW of course there is the bait-and-switch–the recruiter puts out a high number, you say it’s well in range, you proceed, get the offer and it’s 20% lower.”

    This happened to me recently (not as drastic as yours, but enough to have a double take) and prompted my response to Nick about companies unable to assess value. Of course, maybe I did not sell myself well enough, not out of the realm of possibility.

  23. @Dee: About why employers want that salary history info, pls see my comment to Dave above.

    Also: A law or regulation might prohibit an employer from “requiring” X, or it might protect you from having to hand over X in order to get hired, but if you sign a waiver and grant certain information to the employer, that’s on you. Now you’ve willingly made an agreement. E.g., they can’t force you to hand over a pay stub before being hired. But if you sign an agreement to do X, Y, Z after you are hired, and Z=turning over that pay stub at your employee orientation, then you’re stuck. It can be reason for dismissal, because you violated an agreement you signed.

    HR can be very sneaky. See the link Dave provided.

    CYA (well, CMA since it’s mine, not yours): I’m not a lawyer and this is not legal advice or opinions.

  24. “Why should anyone pay for your 9 years of education? That’s not what employers buy.” More and more job postings are listing a bachelor’s degree or higher as a requirement. While I acknowledge that you can, with the right connections, get around that requirement in many cases, I also submit to you that if the degree is listed as a requirement, then the company had for sure better be planning to adjust compensation to account for your 9 years of education. If the degree is not a listed requirement, then you are correct that it isn’t what they’re buying.

  25. When I was job hunting, I always asked early on about pay. My phrasing was this: “I don’t want to waste your time or mine, so can you give me a general ballpark estimate of the salary range?” I always got a straight answer.

  26. @Rich: Don’t misinterpret this as a dis of education or higher degrees. It’s not. But I think job seekers who expect employers to pay for their degrees are as silly as employers that “require” degrees. Employers like to say they “think out of the box.” But when they blindly rely on a degree as proof of knowledge or skills, they’re making a mistake.

    Again, don’t misinterpret what I’m saying. A degree might be sufficient proof of certain expertise. But it’s not always necessary. The chasm between sufficient and necessary may not be wide, but I’ve seen employers fall so far down that crevice that it costs them enormously. The big issue here is employers’ failure to assess a candidate directly – too often they rely on indirect assessments, such as another employer’s salary judgment, a school’s judgment, or a written test. Employers too often have incredible difficulty finding “the beef.”

  27. In India, from what I understand, certain employers will only hire ‘freshers’–just out of school, because they are hungry, work cheap, malleable and disposable–and discriminate AGAINST older MBA holders because they want a ‘fresher’ (horrible term) right out of a program because their knowledge is ‘fresher’.

    If you want to see the dysfunctional future of business, you need look no further than the dog-eat-dog society which is India, a crony capitalist society ridden with corruption that barely functions. We have been importing their bad business practices since outsourcing began 20 years ago.

  28. WRT this education debate: If your employer advertizes that 90+% of their research scientists are PhDs, how is it unreasonable for the PhD job candidate to expect to be compensated for having that PhD? In the physical sciences (chemistry, physics), a PhD is often a listed minimum requirement, along with a certain number of years of experience. How would one with only a HS diploma really acquire the highly specialized skills to compete for those jobs? Sure, the PhD still must work in such a way as to be profitable to the employer, but the candidate who doesn’t meet the requirements, doesn’t get the chance, especially in a federal government job (such as DOE) where the hiring requirements are more formulaic and set in stone.

  29. @Dave I had a friend who worked at Sears Corporate who had completed her MBA at a rigorous accredited state school. She had to train an MBA from Harvard how to do data modeling. On top of that, everyone knew that Ivy League grads with the same degree came in at 20 – 25K higher in salary. She eventually left and got a job paying her what Ivy league grads made by demonstrating sophisticated analytical techniques in an interview to help reduce costs. You’re spot on when you say it’s even scarier when employers do not know how to assess true value.

  30. @EEDR: Of course the PhD should expect to be compensated for the level of knowledge, skills and expertise that a PhD implies. Like a PE certification for an engineer, the PhD confers a lot on the candidate. But it guarantees nothing. It’s still up to the employer to confirm the applicant has the necessary knowledge and skills.

    But what happens when a PhD applies for a job that doesn’t require a PhD? I’ve met PhDs who think they should be paid for the degree. Make sense? The same thing happens with MBAs.

    The problem is not the degree. The problem is that after a person makes the investment in the degree, they believe they are now “enhanced” in value, no matter what job they take, and that the employer should “pay” for the degree. Make sense?

  31. There are several problems with a seasoned worker going back to college to get that MBA (or especially that BA).

    Most online schools do not have the cachet of a brick and mortar school. Especially one with old ivy growing up the walls. Most four year brick and mortar schools (and fellow students) cannot or actively will not provide the same level of educational and social opportunities to their returning students as they do to those fresh out of high school. It is just too easy to leave the “old geezer” out of the informal study sessions, after hours in the library, spring break at Cancun or the weekend camping trip to the Adirondacks.

    When the degree is completed, the worker will still bring to the table their experiences as non-degreed person in the room. Much as employers and interview coaches (and their enablers) whine on about how the prospective interviewee should “keep that out of the equation”, if you’ve been the field hand that got whipped every day, you’ve been the field hand who got whipped every day.

    No wonder employers want a “fresher” (fresh off four years of spring break?) they can get on the cheap.

    Looking across the vast array of people who irregularly comment on Nick’s blog, I feel that if only we could be under the same company banner, we could run rings around any other organization. Not because we have something to prove. Not really because we can. But rather, it is because that is what we do, and we do it on a daily basis. It is part of our DNA.

    @Dave: Unemployment and underemployment numbers are window dressing on a good day, and fiction the rest of the the time. The real number to watch is the Labor Force Participation Rate, found here:

    In June, that figure was 62.8%. A little 1960’s grade school math, and you come to the realization that 37.2% who may want to participate in full time employment are not. If you wonder why the economy still seems a ‘little’ sluggish, there is your answer. Maybe the answer to demands for salary history, not paying for required education, bread-and-water compensation packages and so forth.

  32. Glassdoor ( has saved me a lot of time investigating my area of sales but the site is for any company & any position. Not all companies will be found especially smaller companies but there will certainly be a lot of inside info on larger companies. Being in sales, the pay is often such a ridiculous crapshoot.

    Glassdoor also provides interview information, CEO rating, culture & a wealth of other inside info. You do have to be savvy to spot if the company had a lot of employees post propaganda or if you have a sour grapes posting. Common sense will tell you if it is.

  33. I agree that a degree (or any other type of certification process) is only an indicator of minimal competence. Doesn’t mean the person will do well or has the soft skills to succeed.

    Degrees are generally used as a crutch, if two equally qualified candidates (on paper) the benefit of the doubt will be given to the degreed person.

    We hear about Ivy League degrees being over valued and I have seen real world experience under valued at times.

    @LT… Yes, the numbers are doctored. Don’t get me started. :-)

    @Philip Tiemann… Glassdoor is a good resource. It has helped me greatly in doing research. But like anything, online reviews are somewhat suspect – who knows if it’s marketing or sour grapes. I do look for common themes though. For example, one place I was considering, had mentions of long work days in both good and bad reviews. I also look at the reviews as a corroboration of my own experience. I recently had a bad experience with a company during the offer stage. From several good and bad reviews, I could also see that the company was expanding (possibly too fast) and going through the associated growing pains. Based on my experiences, and the reviews, I felt that disorganization may be a reality at the company.

  34. Sounds like, besides wasting your vacation time and personal energy, this tire-kicker probably didn’t offer to compensate for the travel expense. Right? I had an experience w/USBank in Mpls. who was looking for an experienced lender/credit review employee right around the time of the crash. Wouldn’t pay for flight from Oregon to Mpls. after quality phone interview. I cancelled their “invitation” for personal interview and was later informed they decided against hiring anyone. Yet another irresponsible waste of time by inept & arrogant employers (the norm for bankers).

  35. The letter does’t specify if the employer offered a salary below market rates, or the candidate’s expectations were too high. It could’ve been either way. The interview was in a different state and salaries vary. It would be a good idea to research market rates in this particular location before interviewing, and it’s sufficient to ask if the pay is competitive. If a company can’t pay market rates, they would say so at this point.

  36. @Dee,

    I’ve read the article, and this looks like some HR department’s “I got a hammer”. We do it because we got hooked up to services sold to us.If you’re a manager or a business owner, you want to estimate how well this person suits your needs and pay accordingly. Not your neighbor’s needs. But instead, you’re relying on their past employer’s situation, people you’ve never met and don’t plan to. And some “magic” of data collection. This is silly.

  37. RE: Glassdoor

    I’m curious what people think about the fact that posts on Glassdoor are anonymous.

  38. @Nick

    There is a bit of fear of retribution that you don’t get when you review widgets that you bought off of Amazon. But I can see the point of putting your name to something, and standing behind what you say.

    I could envision some unscrupulous employer blacklisting someone because they said “I felt uncomfortable taking an offer because of X, Y and Z. I would have gladly accepted if we could have worked things out.” Of course, I wouldn’t probably want to work there anyways, but you never know when management/processes change.

  39. @ Julia, it may be silly, but it’s being used as a club to intimidate candidates. It also makes them feel better…”them’ being both employers and recruiters.

    A strategic sourcing exec I know, who negotiates for a living like he used to jump out of airplanes for a living (82nd Airborne), told me that you have to not be afraid of walking away from a deal when you know you basically have it but they are trying to beat you into the ground. You also have to be rational about it (I’ve pulled him back from the proverbial ledge when a recruiter, after a tough LOA negotiation and general jerking around, took delays on his reference check and the lab lost his drug test, so he could not start on the intended day. He is actually there now (on contract) because he figured out that these were third parties, not the people he’d be working with.)

  40. Thanks for an excellent, timely post Nick. I don’t understand this either, particularly as it would save both the employer and prospective job candidates and HR a great deal of time if the salary and benefits were publicly posted along with the job description. This way, job hunters could decide whether they could afford to apply to for job or not, and no one would waste time interviewing candidates who can’t afford to work for peanuts.

    I don’t understand all of the secrecy either. At my last job at a large state university, I was on hiring committees, and long before we even posted the job vacancies, we decided on salary ranges for them. Salaries and benefits are part of the budget, and this is one of the first things a hiring committee decides, after the decision that we really do need a person in the job (can’t continue to fob off various duties to the remaining employees). At that job, there was always a salary range, e.g., $41,200-$47,200, posted, along with the duties, educational, computer, and experience requirements, etc. The hiring committee decided what the absolute lowest salary the dept. would pay as well as the absolute highest salary a candidate who met all of their requirements and then some could possibly negotiate. Candidates who tried to go over the high end were reminded what the limit was and asked if they were still interested (assuming that the dept. chair and dean approved of hiring them at the high end–sometimes the hiring committee wanted to, but got over-ridden by the dean if budget cuts were coming).

    Posting a salary range would save a lot of time. I’ve contacted the hiring manager, and gotten the run-around. Even worse is to be asked how much I made at previous jobs, as if what I bring to the table now, with more experience, in a different field, doesn’t factor at all.

  41. @marybeth

    It’s probably because people think “whoever names a number first is screwed in negotiations” or “if we name a range, all candidates will want the high number.” Or they just want to low ball candidates (we’ll pay someone up to $50K but if we can get someone to agree to $25K, we will do that)

    I don’t think any of these things are a good thing to think/do.

    If you’re concerned that candidates will want your max number, of course they would. Whenever you go shop for a car, usually the salesperson directs you to cars at the top of your budget and you generally want to get a lower price.

    The candidate and company are always free to walk away from the deal.

  42. @Dave:
    “The candidate and company are always free to walk away from the deal.”

    They’re also free to be big boys and girls and negotiate by making their cases and proving what a job is worth. That’s a hard thing for people to contemplate. Everything is a game, and we’ve forgotten how to make our case. Pretty sad.

  43. @Martin: I think there is a BIG difference between job hunters who do not want to disclose their current and previous salaries and employers who do not want to discuss salaries for job vacancies.

    With the former, those salaries were based (presumably) on what my employer and I agreed to as well as my experience, skills, education, etc. Location and cost of living are also drivers of salaries.

    With the latter, my sense is that employers who require me to disclose my current and previous salaries or who ask for this intel are doing so for all of the wrong reasons, but Dave summed it up nicely: they do not know how to assess value, and, apparently, they have not given the business’ nor the dept.’s budget a single thought.

    My point is that when I apply for a job and the employer requires that I provide my current and previous salary histories, they really are clueless. You mean to tell me that they have no budget, not even a salary range, for the job, so they are going to rely on what other employers in different lines of work, perhaps in a different state (where the salaries reflected either a higher or lower cost of living), and 25 years ago (to add insult to injury) paid me? That tells me that they are not looking at my skills, experience, education, etc. It makes no sense for an prospective employer to base a salary offer on what I made at a job I held 20 years ago in a different industry and with fewer skills and expertise than I have now.

    Posting a salary range would be helpful for everyone. I would know whether I could afford to work there, and I would hope this might cut down on the number of applicants. When I look at jobs that do have salary ranges posted, that is the fastest way to determine whether I want to spend time applying for them. If the posted salary ranges are too low, I do not apply because I will not be able to support myself. It really is as simply as that.

    @moommaedyn: Just because you have a college degree does not mean you are automatically entitled to a higher salary, not if you cannot prove your value to the employer. I know that college degree=higher salary has gotten fused somehow, but even people with college degrees have to start at the bottom/entry level, pay their dues, and work their way up, learning and adding value to their employer along the way. In fairness to you, employers share some blame in your attitude too, because too many of them use a college degree as a screening tool to weed out applicants regardless of whether the jobs themselves require degrees or not. Some jobs do require degrees: medicine, law, pharmacy, engineering, nursing, most teaching jobs, etc. Additionally, many of these jobs will also require licensure and/certification on top of the degrees (doctors have to pass the USMLE as well as be board-certified in their areas of expertise, plus have completed residencies on top of their medical degrees; attorneys have to pass their state bar exams on top of their law degrees; nurses and pharmacists are required to pass exams as well as have their degrees before they will be considered for jobs; most teaching jobs (public school K-12) require teachers to be certified to teach in addition to their degrees; teaching at the college level is different–no certification but advanced degrees are required). Nick et al. are right–no employer is going to pay you a higher salary simply because you were able to check the “college degree” box; you still have to be able to do the job, and as Dave noted, having a degree does not guarantee that you can do the job. On the other hand, too many employers require a college degree for a receptionist job (answering phones, etc.) or a mailroom job (sorting and delivering the mail), which is stupid. Those kinds of jobs are unskilled, and could be done by high school dropouts and high school graduates. When I see that, I think that is the employer being lazy.

    @Dee: It is not only in India where the practice is to hire newly minted graduates because they are cheap and disposable, but here in the US too. Years ago, when I worked in insurance, one of my colleagues commented the company was getting cheap. They were letting their older (more experienced) workforce go in favor of kids because the employees who had been there for 10, 15, 20 years and more earned high salaries for all of their expertise. The kids were cheaper in terms of salaries (an employee who had been with the company for 20 years and held a high position earned over close to if not six figures plus benefits vs the kid they started at $25,000 per year and fewer benefits) but those decisions were coming back to bit them on the ass later as the “kids” often made foolish and very costly mistakes, often to the tune of millions of dollars. The company still kept letting the older workers go and hiring the kids because they could write off the kids’ million dollar mistakes as “trading losses”.

    All of those jobs were first sent to the Albany area, then outsourced to India, where labor costs are even cheaper.

  44. @Dave: Of course candidates will always ask for the higher number in the salary range, just as the employer will always pitch the lowest number in the range. That is the nature of the beast. The way I see it is that when a range is posted, I have an idea of how the employer values this particular job, and if the employer opts to low-ball the offer, then it is up to me to prove to him why I deserve a higher salary. That is why showing him how I would do the job, solve a problem, demonstrate that I have done this or even something similar in past jobs and did not screw it up (show how I either saved the employer money or was more efficient, which saved the employer money, or because I provided a necessary service to the employer’s clients, students, patients, patrons, customers). But I think we still have to have a place to begin, and if you the employer will not share with me a salary range, I have no way of knowing if you can match my needs for what I need to live. Sure, I could just accept the job, but then have to take a second, a third, get five roommates, etc. just to make ends meet. That means I am unable to give my all to this job, and that I will be looking for another, better paying job ASAP, and you the employer will once again be looking to fill this position. High turnover is not good either.

  45. One site you can use to get an idea of salary is It may not have the exact position but it at least provides an idea of the company’s salary and the culture. Of course these are user based but I still prefer it over nothing.

  46. Extra credit: hunt down a few former employees on LinkedIn and ask them about the salary. In fact, ask them a few other things about the company while you’re at it.

  47. Hey! I just wanted to ask if you ever have any trouble with hackers?
    My last blog (wordpress) was hacked and
    I ended up losing a few months of hard work due to no back up.
    Do you have any solutions to stop hackers?

  48. Such has happened to me more than a few times over my 30+ year career, so not in any way a recent phenomenon (although worse recently). I’ve been told what I earned on a previous job was too much, never mind the current one. So not due to unrealistic expectations on my part. Employer lowballing has been going on a long time, but becoming more common.

    I’ve generally dropped my reluctance to name salary expectations to avoid chasing jobs that don’t come within shouting distance of my (unstated) rock bottom figure, since I typically encounter resistance to salary range requests, and this was blowing out too many interviews in progress. Assuming competitive pay no longer applies even in the high tech industry.

  49. Just happened again. Did lengthy preliminary questionnaire for a supposedly senior software development position with a long list of requirements and experience, turned out the pay didn’t even match my next to last job 5 years ago! Since I stated my salary requirements up front, hiring manager saw the gap and provided salary range, which saved us both a lot of trouble. Too bad, because it otherwise sounded pretty interesting. But shocked how low the pay was for a highly skilled job at a Fortune 500 company. They can definitely afford to pay better.