There’s been a disturbing trend in recent years that employers will post positions they want to hire someone for and omit the salary. This evolved into what is now, distressingly common, where they ask an employee their expected salary as part of the initial application. This needs to end.
Why They Do It
The reason for the employers to do this is transparently obvious. They hope that a qualified applicant will put a lower salary than the company is expecting to pay and they’ll hire someone cheaper than expected.
When someone is first applying for a job, they have the least power during the whole process. Companies are ruthlessly exploiting this to force them to commit to a salary, chosen when they’re trying to be selected for an interview.
It’s taking someone in a vulnerable position, then demanding they negotiate AGAINST themselves.
Why They SAY They Do It
Companies and recruiters, if called on this, will lie and say they just want to make sure that the company’s and the worker’s salary expectations are the same, before everyone’s time is wasted in interviews.
A far easier way to accomplish this would be for them to include the salary in the job posting.
Wasting Candidates’ Time
Beyond just the time taken to actually attend an interview, candidates will spend time preparing their application and researching the position and company to prepare for it. I have friends who work at Google who estimate that it takes about 80 hours to prepare for a Google interview. This is unpaid work that the company expects applicants to front them for the possibility of working there. It’s deeply obnoxious when those companies hide necessary information and trick applicants into doing this for a job they don’t want. I did this for a position at Google, and was quite bitter once I found out the salary wasn’t enough to be worth relocating to Mountain View for. The entire process was a waste of my time, which could have been avoided if they’d disclosed the salary (I never would have applied if they had).
A friend was a part of a hiring committee years ago and every applicant would refuse the job once they finally disclosed the very low salary along with the offer. My friend finally told his supervisors that they needed to include the salary with the job posting, otherwise everyone was wasting their time. HIs supervisors told him no, if they included the salary no one would apply. They KNOWINGLY created a post for a job that no one would take, tricked applicants into wasting their time, then wasted their own employees’ time running the charade of an interview for a job no one would take. All in the pathetic hope that someone would desperate enough to take a very low salary at the end of the process.
I applied for an academic position and spent quite a bit of time preparing and even purchased a new suit for the interview. It turned out they had an candidate already chosen, and the interviews were just to satisfy an HR requirement before they hired the person they already wanted. As a young graduate student, it cost me time and money that I didn’t have to spare.
Companies Don’t See Who Doesn’t Apply
I have, on numerous occasions, looked at jobs that were interesting, then decided not to apply because they didn’t provide the salary. If companies could see these candidates who almost applied, but didn’t, they would finally have some understanding of what they’re losing with this process.
The best people don’t apply to job postings. They work for a long time for a decent employer or get poached by former co-workers who know how good they are. In the rare case they apply for a position, they’ll be quickly snatched up. The people who are most likely to apply to job postings are either candidates early in their careers or left overs no one is eager to hire. Driving off the stronger applicants (who can afford to be picky) makes the candidate pool the employer is selecting from even weaker.
This Isn’t The Way To Start An Employment Relationship
Workers constantly complain about hurting themselves by putting a low expected salary in their applications. Companies seem to hope for workers who are smart enough to do the job, but too dumb to realize the company screwed them over during the application process. Such savants are rare in my experience.
The actual result is that the newly hired employee is bitter towards the company before they even begin work. They start their new job having been treated badly before they’re hired. There’s been a break down in the employee / employer relationship, and treatment like this is a big part of why employees will happily screw over employers when they get the chance, with new trends in ghosting and similar behaviors.
Years ago, at my first job out of college, I was asked my expected salary at a startup company I was going to work for. I got an offer that was much higher and happily accepted and was excited to join the company. Once I’d been there a few weeks, a co-worker, Simon, said “hey John, you owe me a beer – I got you the higher salary than you asked for!” I asked Simon what he meant, and it turned out after my phone interview when I said my minimum salary, the CEO was dancing around bragging about how cheap they were going to get me. Simon told him “yeah, we can get him cheap, but as soon as he moves here and realizes how low his salary is, he’ll just get a job at another company and all we’ll have done is pay for his relocation to work for someone else.” The CEO understood this, and instead of taking advantage of my inexperience they offered me an appropriate salary.
If you start off by taking advantage of an employee, they’re going to take revenge against the company or move on to another job the first chance they get.
How To Handle Job Posts Without Salaries
If you’re in a position to work elsewhere, consider that. The company is showing their contempt for you, so why would you want to work there? If you don’t have any other options, I would put $1 in my expected salary for the application. HR reps rant about applicants who do this, but they’re angry because you’ve avoided the trap they laid for you.
If, in the interview, they try to clarify your salary expectations, stay non-committal. Say things like “right now I’m more interested in seeing if we’re a fit for one another. If we are, I’m sure we can find a salary number that works for both of us.” or “I’m still trying to understand everything that the position will entail and I can’t determine my salary expectation until I’ve gotten all the information from our interviews.” If they keep pushing and you can’t put them off, I might get a bit more frank and say something like “we both know that it puts me at a disadvantage in salary negotiations if I give you a number before you’ve offered me the job. Please don’t ask again.” If they kept pushing after this, I’d probably withdraw from the interview process – they aren’t going to be pleasant people to work for.
Another way to answer this would be to tell them the salary range for other positions you’re currently interviewing for or to offer to let them know the salary for other positions you’re expecting to get offers from. This let’s them know that, instead of you being a desperate beggar approaching them, you have other irons in the fire and they need to make you a competitive offer if they want you to work for them.