I’VE SEEN a fair number of recent LinkedIn from recruiters encouraging businesses to list salaries in job posts. And, when the salary is not listed, they encourage candidates to ask about it very early on. I love this.
Normally, an organization has a vacancy and decides it needs to be filled. The hiring manager gets approval to hire at a certain level and within a salary range. When the job is posted, the requirements are listed, but the salary is not mentioned or, if there is a reference, it’s something vanilla like “salary commensurate with experience.” No actual numbers are given.
Say I am looking for a job and see the post. I believe I have most of the qualifications, remembering that I don’t have to check all of the boxes to apply. I apply. Through the magic that happens “behind the curtain,” I make it to a place where I am contacted for an interview.
At this point, I have no idea what the salary for the position is, although I’ve done my industry research and have a fair idea about what the range should be, assuming the salary will be competitive. I recommend asking about the salary before the first interview, but most candidates are not comfortable because that’s “not the way it’s done.”
I am well prepared for the interview process and dazzle the recruiter with the ability to articulate my knowledge, skills, and experiences. I’m told I’m an impressive candidate and that the recruiter would like for me to talk with the “next-level” person.
I still don’t know the pay is. I could ask about salary at this step, yet I probably won’t. I tell them I’m still interested. And this second-level person is amazed by my brilliance and wants to hire me on the spot, but I still must talk with Ms. Big, the ultimate decision-maker. Arrangements are made for that to happen, and I still don’t know what the salary is.
Oh, and have I mentioned that this process is taking several weeks to play out?
I have the conversation with Ms. Big and she, too, is overwhelmed with my abilities and wonders aloud why I am even available. I’m that impressive!
“So what are you expecting in terms of salary,” she asks. You’ve done your homework, and you’ve been told by several people that you are above average. You could toss out a number at the high end of the range you’ve researched.
Instead, what if you ask what they’ve budgeted for the position? You know they have a range. Get Ms. Big to put the first number on the table. If it’s within your acceptable range, you should take it. But most folks who hire expect people to negotiate, so I’d recommend reflecting back on the range you’ve uncovered and, especially when you’ve heard just how impressed they are with you, ask for more. They won’t withdraw the offer if you do.
What if Ms. Big refuses to share the salary they have budgeted? This might not be a popular answer, but I’d say, “Thank you, but I’m not willing to work for an organization that is trying to see how little they can pay me. And that’s what this feels like to me, so I appreciate your time, but I’m no longer interested.” If Ms. Big thinks you are worth it, she’ll toss a larger number on the table than even she expected. And if she doesn’t, you probably don’t want to work there anyway.
I don’t understand when organizations try to hire employees for the lowest salaries they can. My philosophy has always been to try and delight people. In my world of higher education, that’s a bit harder to do than in for-profit organizations, but we always tell candidates what our salary range is when we call them for a first-round interview. If we’re not in their ballpark, they should exit now before either party gets too invested with time. I also don’t want either side to “fall in love,” only to learn that this marriage has no chance of happening because of the salary.
I hope you’ll consider putting salary front and center in your recruiting. If not, you’re likely losing great candidates!
Lynne Richardson is the dean of the College of Business at the University of Mary Washington.