Dear J.T. & Dale: Perhaps you can talk me out of being annoyed and/or put off entirely by employment ads that ask for a salary requirement. The company has to have a salary range in mind, so if I'm outside it, my resume is immediately trashed. Why not just put a salary range in the ad? Should I just assume an employer seeking a salary requirement is rude and not worth joining, or is there some legitimate process at work? - Joe
J.T.: I'm not sure I can make you less annoyed about it, but I can explain the hiring manager's perspective: When I worked in HR, we found whenever we posted a salary range for a position, the job seeker saw only one number - the highest of the range. So if we said, It pays between $45K and $60K, every candidate automatically believed he or she was going to get $60K.
Dale: I'm not surprised. In my negotiation work, one of my principles is, A range is not a range. Here's an example, Joe: You have six to eight weeks to submit your report. So, how long do you really have? Eight weeks. But with salaries, the idea of a range gets much trickier.
J.T.: That's because when hiring, we have to balance the qualifications of the new hire against other people in the position. Our goal is to hire the best person for the job, at the right rate. If our offer was $50K, the typical reaction was, Why didn't I get the $60K? They'd accept the job but be resentful.
Dale: Which brings us to the other half of the question - asking the applicant to do what the company won't and name a salary range. I know it seems intrusive - in normal conversation, asking strangers about salary is as rude as asking about how often they go to church or have sex - but hiring is not conversation, it's selling. And hey, you're the seller, and the buyer is merely asking you to name your price. Are they going to zero in on the low end of your range? Sure. But once you get them interested in hiring you, that's when you grab some negotiating leverage.
J.T.: Too many job hunters focus on what money they want or need and forget that they are businesses-of-one, subject to the basic economic law of supply and demand.
Dale: That means you must do your research on salaries, play the game and work to be the sort of employee who is outside the marketplace, one of the great ones who's always in short supply.
Jeanine J.T. Tanner O'Donnell is a professional development specialist and the founder of the consulting firm, JTODonnell.com, and of the blog, CAREEREALISM.com. Dale Dauten resolves employment and other business disputes as a mediator with AgreementHouse.com.
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