Oftentimes, I ask candidates up front what salary range are they targeting in their next opportunity. Some don't hesitate to answer but many try to avoid with the standard responses we all know and hate. I have come to a point that I simply say, "Look, we know our range and what we can pay, I just need to know if we should get in the sandbox an play." After I say that, many let their guard down and provide the range.


I see so much advice given to applicants about how to "avoid" the salary question, but I feel the advice being provided is ill advised.

How do you all feel about the salary requirments game?

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Don't play games unless you want to attract children

I agree - getting this out near the beginning of the conversation is almost always useful for both sides. And, I don't see the point of playing games as a way to pretend this isn't a necessary data point to avoid wasting anyone's time. 

If you (employer) have a budgeted range for the position, spell it out and let the candidate decide if making a change is financially feasible or if the opportunity is a logical step in their career path. Candidates should have a fair market range in mind as well based on the scope of the role and be willing to share that when it comes up. 

That said, I don't care for the practice of relying on someone's prior income as a major factor to determine their present/future worth for an entirely different role. Some people are/were underpaid and some generously compensated. Without knowing the overall context of each step or situation along the way, it is unfair to only use prior/current salary as a measure of their potential value to a new organization. 

Someone's personal reasons for pursuing or accepting any given position might not be obvious and may change over time. It is short-sighted to place an inordinate amount of weight on a dollar figure when there are countless other intangible criteria that might be more of a priority.  

As far as the dreadful advice out there to" dance around" this issue as if the applicant/candidate actually has bargaining power is beyond pathetic. I'm so sick of seeing, reading and hearing people (experts, gurus, etc.) recycle the same old stale cliches and tired advice about this issue.

Most salary related advice has zero connection to how compensation structures, philosophies or internal decisions are made, yet people perpetuate these ridiculous concepts as if they have some sort of magical power to super-cede how a business formulates their budget and rewards platform. 

I so agree with you Kelly. I am a Career Coach as well as a Recruiter/Generalist. When I break down to folks how compensation really works, candidates/clients are amazed. I pretty much let them know that you truly don't have much power. Ok, if the manager can pay between 65-75K, you can only wiggle within that range. Anything over 75K is out of the question....even if you do walk on water.


When candidates state they are negotiable, I sometimes respond by saying "so this position is paying 20K, is that ok with you." I get a chuckle, then they tell me the range.

I just had someone who has never had full time employment cite a salary calculator as part of their argument that they should make X+ instead of just X. Times have changed, and I have yet to find a salary calculator that is accurate. What are your thoughts on salary calculators?

For folks who have no clue about salary ranges, I think it can possibly help a job seeker gauge where they should be, but I don't use them. I'd rather a job seeker use salary.com.

Todd Lempicke said:

I just had someone who has never had full time employment cite a salary calculator as part of their argument that they should make X+ instead of just X. Times have changed, and I have yet to find a salary calculator that is accurate. What are your thoughts on salary calculators?

The fact that it's even referred to as a game is ridiculous. We're all after the same thing - making a good match of employer and employee. The conversation should be open and transparent from the beginning.

If someone really won't tell me the range they're looking for, I don't have a problem opening up first with a low-end budget for the position. If I'm asking them to open up, I should be willing to do the same. That has never failed to start the conversation.

I have found if you treat a potential candidate openly and honestly, they will normally return the courtesy.  If after I share as much information about the position, company and compensation as possible, I expect and ask them to do the same regarding their current situation and compensation package.  If I sense that there is some reluctance or games being played, I tend to feel that this isn't a viable candidate, and that if I don't correct this behavior quickly, there will be problems down the line.  

@todd, when a candidate starts quoting info they got from a salary calculator I tell them that unfortunately employers don't use salary calculators and most employers do not share payroll information with those sites. I took some time once to run those things to see if they were even close to accurate. They were not and the variance between them for the same area were wildly different. I let the candidate know the range my client is considering with the caveat that most of the time employers to not start at the very top unless the candidate is currently making that and will make a lateral move.

If a candidate refuses to disclose salary asking range, I'm sorry but I will not represent to my client. A candidate has the right to know the range the mployrs is thinking and the mployrs has the same right. If money on both sides is not in the ballpark there is no reason to move forward.

The most frustrating thing to me is the unemployed candidate who insists they cannot consider less starting salary than they were making after 10 years service with their last employer or insist that they want to show progression in title on their resume when they are looking down the gun barrel of long term unemployment. A whole different topic perhaps but closely tied to the bad information given to candidates by the "schmu gurus".

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