What “number” to put in salary requirements section of an Online Application

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009 - Job Interview, salary


Kathy, a CPRW at The Write Resume asks: a client wrote me an email and told me how frustrated he was when filling out the “salary requirements” section of online applications. These systems would not allow for an answer such as “open” or “negotiable” – they wanted an actual dollar figure. Given today’s poor economy, I have heard that many salaries have gone down dramatically. Further, it has shifted back to an “employer’s market,” where companies are receiving resumes from (in some cases) several thousand applications for one job posting. Many job seekers are desperate and will take large hits in salary to put food on the table.  So, I ask several questions:

  1. How do job seekers determine what salary to put down without pricing themselves out of the market (what they were previously making) or bidding so low that they aren’t taken seriously?
  2. If you saw an application with $0.00 in the salary requirements box, what would be your reaction? Would you interview the candidate or go on to the next applicant? Would you think the candidate was being “cute” or “arrogant” or “clever”?
  3. How important are the salary requirement numbers when you are selecting candidates for interviews? Do you pass by people who are way over or way under your salary range?
  4. What are the reasons why you don’t post the pay range for a certain position?

In answer:

The simple answer to part 1 of your question, as we have explained here before at CV4.biz is:

  1. Know what your minimum package requirement is
  2. Only apply for jobs which have a package which is greater than this
  3. If the advert does not state a package, call the recruiter or HR department before applying and ask
  4. If you don’t know that the package requirements meet your minimum requirements, then such as getting a bland reply or them asking “well what do you want,” then don’t apply

In the interview, when asked the question, now simply say: “Well, it is above the minimum I require for my life style, and the stated range seems reasonable but low when compared to the market. I am looking for a whole package, and that from what has been stated to me seems that we can reach an agreement.” And then stop! If they ask what the numbers are, just repeat their own advert or as stated in telephone call numbers back to them, and again says “…and that from what has been stated to me seems that we can reach an agreement.” If they press again, say “Look, I think we can reach an agreement if the level is as stated, but I would have to review the whole offer that includes salary as part of a package in a written contract form before I could make a final decision.”

This way you don’t state a number, but are saying that you like them, and if they like you and make you an offer in their stated range, you would highly consider it. In others words, for the sake of saying a number you don’t exclude yourself from an offer letter, and show willing but not soft.

This strategy allows for the inevitable “job description creep” in interview of “Oh, we didn’t realise you had that skill, so may be we could use that/deploy it” which means you end up doing a bigger job for less pay. It could also mean you play one part of the package later against another – OK, not as much base but better OTE; a better car; more healthcare, etc.

Only you know what’s the right salary and package for you, but there are good ways around getting job offers and possibly employed without falling into the pit of stating a number,

In answer to your further three parts:

  • (2) & (3): the same reaction – the candidate was trying to be too clever. For most jobs – accepting that the process is defined centrally by the client and not me as the recruiter/or the HR assistant who is vetting the applicants – they would be rejected. However, if it was a sales job, I may pick up the phone and expect a maverick, so if I was going to put them through I would want to know how hard they were going to be to manage.
  • (3): Salary expectations which are too low or too high suggest poor research on the applicants behalf, and ultimately rejection at some point. Too low and it suggests their skills are over written and they would not perform; too high and they could waste client time going through the process, and probably leave once a job with their desired salary came along.
  • (4): Because the client instructs me not too! Some have an internal policy not to reveal package details, while others may be hiring in new blood and want to attract a different type of employee, and hence are getting flexible with their package offers – if this got out, it could upset the existing workforce. The reasons are simply too many in policy or requirement, and go beyond a simple “being obstructive” approach on our or our clients behalf

Good Luck!

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