Quick Question

say-noWhat would you do if you were interested in a position that clearly states:

All applications must include a cover letter stating salary expectation. Any applications submitted without this information will not be considered.

Would you apply? Would you apply but wouldn’t include salary expectations? Thanks! Keep up the great work!

Nick’s Quick Advice

I’d skip the application altogether, track down someone who works in the company, and find out who the manager is who needs to fill the job.

Then call that manager — on the phone, no e-mail — and ask a question no one ever asks them:

“When you pick someone to hire to fill this job – what’s the one most important thing you want them to fix, improve, accomplish, do to make your business more successful? Because I never apply for a job unless I know what the manager really needs a new hire to do first and foremost. And if I can’t put together a plan showing how I’d do that, I won’t apply.”

A smart manager will answer that question immediately – and you’ve set yourself apart as the best candidate already. Explain that you’d be glad to come in to talk, but you’ll send a resume only directly to the manager:

“Sorry. I don’t deal with personnel departments. They don’t really understand the work I do, so they can’t judge me. I talk only to managers, and I arrive ready to talk shop. We’ll talk salary only if I can convince you I’d be a profitable hire. If I can’t do that, then you shouldn’t hire me.”

Let the HR folks go diddle those cover letters while you’re interviewing for the job. And if the manager doesn’t understand what you’re talking about, run to the next opportunity, because that company isn’t looking for people who demonstrate initiative. In other words, the company is in trouble. (How can you know what your salary expectation is if you don’t know what the manager needs you to accomplish?)

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  1. I have applied to positions previously where I did not give them all the information. I figured that if they thought I was fabulous that they would ask for the information. If not, at least I got my name out!

    • Why wouldn’t I include my salary expectations? No need to waste my time or thiers if they can’t meet my salary requirements.

      At this point in my career I will only start an interview process if I know the salary they are prepared to offer up front. That means either working with recruiters that I trust who I can tell my salary requirements or asking that as part of an initial phone screen.

      I definitely will not do an in person interview without knowing the salary range.

      • I advise people to withhold their salary history information so they won’t lose their negotiating edge. However, I think it’s incumbent on every job seeker to be ready to provide a desired salary range. But this is contingent on the employer telling you the salary range for the job – which most won’t do. Like it’s a secret.

        You’re right: It’s not worth interviewing unless you’re both on the same page. But consider what happens during the traditional application process: You have no control. Not unless you start by talking to the hiring manager first.

        • Honest question. I’m a software developer so things might be different, but how many professionals actually blindly send in a resume and fill out an application?

          Maybe I’m just repeating your advice on another way, but I would always use an outside recruiter that could tell me the lay of the land before interviewing – including the salary range.

  2. For over twenty years I have been coaching people -and showing them how to avoid secretaries, administrative assistants and executive admin’s- to pick up the phone and call the HA directly.

    It has only been the last five years or so ‘HR guru’ types have been finally suggesting the same thing.

    Most of them skip explaining how to ‘go around’ or be able to ‘go around’ that HA’s admin and in leaving this out, they make it sound as though reaching a HA by telephone is a snap.

    The common break down for most people is either finding out who the HA is and/or getting past that person’s admin.

    The persistence required is immense and there is also the negative force of those who assert that calling -instead of ‘following directions’- is seen as a negative and too many people believe that and go back to sending their application down the ATS black hole.

    Especially when HA’s chip in, explaining that they don’t have time to ‘take all those calls’ from job seekers.

    Calling directly is best but this takes the will power to stay the course in avoiding gate keepers….


    • Paul: I’ve been advising the same thing since 1979. It’s no wonder that you’re a headhunter. “HR experts,” career writers, most coaches, resume writers, and so on have no real insight on the hiring process because they get paid whether a person gets hired or not. They simply have no skin in the game.

      My favorite: The HR manager who writes a book about how to get a job, and says on the flyleaf, “I was responsible for hiring 10,000 people, so I know what I’m talking about!”

      No HR manager ever hired 10,000 people. Or 1,000. Perhaps a few other HR people.

      Headhunters’s advice and methods have to work – or we don’t eat. We get paid only when the candidate gets hired. It’s no wonder our advice is different.

  3. On a slightly related topic…

    Illegal in Massachusetts: Job Interviewers Asking Your Salary

  4. I had to fight the powers-that-be where I work to be able to interview candidates without HR vetting them first. I made the case and won – several times. The deal I made with them was to let HR vet them as a secondary process; I would ask them questions in email or phone interview and then pass them on to HR. It worked beautifully.
    The people I hired turned out to be amazing and I’d hire them again wherever I work next, given the chance.

    • Jean: I think few managers realize they have that kind of power. Good for you. That’s where real change will come from: the managers who have the most vested interest in hiring good people.

      It’s a stunning failure – that top management doesn’t realize HR isn’t qualified to judge job applicants. While HR worries about a “wrong” candidate getting an interview, the board of directors should consider all the great candidates HR rejects in error!

      Thanks for posting this. Other managers need to learn from your initiative. And job seekers need to realize there are good managers out there who know how to manage UPWARDS.

  5. Nick, the informal way in that you suggest works, but is not easy when HR is in the way.

    I recently had a really good open-ended business meeting at a government agency that I worked with a decade ago. I was given an introduction by an old boss I had beers with a few weeks prior to this.

    I tried this same technique-an introduction to a mayor’s office from a previous mayor who my father once worked for. Repeatedly, this favor has been bounced through the HR office at the city, resulting in delays and confusion. The HR department thinks I am looking for one of their posted jobs, rather than a general introduction to their needs and , if they arise, contracting opportunities.

    What is funny is that I went to school
    With the HR director, but, even if I try to speak with him to clarify, he will revert to HR BOT. In HR’s robotic world, talking shop with managers who do the work DOES NOT COMPUTE! Hahahaha

    • JC: No one could make this stuff up… HR runs the world…

  6. I am a Small Engine Mechanic with 30 years experience.
    ALL of the “job shops” will have one or two Small Engine jobs listed for me, but 50 miles or so away.
    But, jobs listed close to me, are avionics, Diesel truck specialist, parking lot attendant, or CEO of a company.
    This is not just one job shop, it’s all of them.
    Don’t they know Small Engine Mechanics is specific field, with specific training?
    Don’t they read the job descriptions and distance requirements?
    How do you get hired if only less than 1% of the available jobs are remotely related to a specialty you have worked all of your working life?