Should I provide a compensation expectations before a phone interview?
May 5, 2016 10:55 AM   Subscribe

I am trying to move from Seattle to Ohio and received a request for a phone interview tomorrow. In the follow up email HR asked me to provide my compensation expectations. Should I?

A little more about my situation here.

If this was a local position I would respond with a boilerplate "I would like to learn more about the position and your company" before giving a number but I don't know if that's different going across state lines.
posted by Tevin to Work & Money (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I would. I'm always just honest in this situation. You don't want to waste your (and their) time if they can't meet your expectations.
posted by something something at 11:01 AM on May 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


If you know what you want and that what you want is justified based on the market in Ohio, then there is no downside to providing compensation expectations immediately. You will avoid wasting your time and their time. It's not a bad thing for you if they chose not to proceed further - you will have received an indication that either they aren't able to pay you what you want (which means it is good that you won't have to waste your time) or that what you are expecting isn't commensurate with the market. Continual rejections tends to indicate towards the latter. However, inconsistent rejections means that you are probably at the optimal place for compensation expectations.

In general, I assume that candidates that don't provide clear compensation expectations either don't know how much they are worth or don't know how much the market values them. In both cases, they ultimately end up undercompensated.
posted by saeculorum at 11:08 AM on May 5, 2016 [6 favorites]


If it were me, I would ignore it until tomorrow. If they ask before the interview, tell them. If not, respond to the email after the interview.
posted by AugustWest at 11:08 AM on May 5, 2016


Yes you should. I make a point to ask candidates during the first round interview, to weed out anyone who I genuinely can't afford, or anyone whose salary expectations are too low and therefore indicate they are too junior for the position.

Side note: it is amazing to me how many people can't answer this question and frankly it puts me off otherwise qualified candidates when they umm and ahhh about how much they believe they are worth. State clearly what you're looking for and don't prevaricate.
posted by citands at 11:11 AM on May 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm sure some people will disagree with me, but unless you've been getting a lot of interest from other companies, I might do whatever it takes to ease a potential employer's concerns. With long distance candidates, it's easy to pass on someone for minor reasons.

If moving was important to me, I'd rather miss out on a little money and put some cards on the table and have a job to move to rather than moving and then hunting for something. You don't have to give an exact figure but I don't think you're shooting yourself in the foot by giving a range.
posted by Candleman at 11:16 AM on May 5, 2016


Increasingly, I think you do have to give some indication of your expected salary very early in the process. So, the key is to not lock yourself in to a lower number than you think you might otherwise be able to get. Giving a range is a good start, but it's important to know what you're going to do when they come back with an offer at exactly the bottom of your range. When you just say "I'm looking for $50k to $65k," it's hard to imagine why they would ever offer you more than $50k.

I'd say something more like "I would need to know more about the position before negotiating a salary. At this stage in my career however, I won't be considering offers of less than $50k."

They'll probably still offer $50k, but you're in a slightly better position to come back with a counter offer.
posted by 256 at 11:25 AM on May 5, 2016 [5 favorites]


Try to get them to give you a range first. If they can make the first move, that's better for you. You can play up your out-of-state status here. Say something like, "I don't know the Ohio market as well as you do, so my estimation of my value is just based on numbers I found on the internet. It would probably be better for you to give me an idea of what you're expecting." Remind them that the cost of living in Seattle is higher than in Ohio, and so without some knowledge of the market, you might come in higher than they are expecting. That way, it looks like you're trying to help them.

After they give you a range, you will definitely want to answer the question. Give a number toward the higher end of the range.
posted by kevinbelt at 11:40 AM on May 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I do think it's a waste of everyone's time if the numbers aren't in the same ballpark, so in that sense it's good to make sure your needs match up with their ability to pay. That said, give a number that you legit would be happy with, not the bare minimum that you'd be able to afford. If $60K would leave you scraping by but $68K would be comfortable, give them the higher number. I just recently did an interstate move (and dear god, don't underestimate the cost of a long-distance move, mine was about $8K just for truck, fuel, hotel, and food costs during the move, plus some housing delays which cost another $2K) and named my desired salary... they ended up coming in $2K below that, which was still above my secret minimum so I accepted. I bet I would have just gotten my minimum if that had been the number I gave.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:41 AM on May 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yes you should. I make a point to ask candidates during the first round interview, to weed out anyone who I genuinely can't afford, or anyone whose salary expectations are too low and therefore indicate they are too junior for the position.

Of course, you could avoid wasting each others time just as easily by giving the candidates your hiring budget up front instead. It's definitely still a power play and whoever names a number or range first is at a disadvantage.

If your budget is 55k-60k and their expected range is 50k-55k, then you have compatible expectations, but they'll get a lower salary if they give their range first.

That said, the old advice of never naming a number first always results in a weird and sometimes lengthy dance. And expectations have changed so that, most of the time, the candidates have to bite the bullet on this one and accept the disadvantage.
posted by 256 at 11:49 AM on May 5, 2016 [10 favorites]


Of course, you could avoid wasting each others time just as easily by giving the candidates your hiring budget up front instead. It's definitely still a power play and whoever names a number or range first is at a disadvantage.

This is not necessarily true.

Many hiring budgets are fluid. I have gotten an additional $10k above range to hire a candidate who brought externalities and experience to the table we did not expect. I have also thrown a bad pool out and interviewed and hired a candidate for a more junior position that did not exist because, though they did not have the full package or experience I needed, I had a great feel about them in a mentee role and could find a way for the duties they could not handle to be re-assigned.

Big, old-fashioned structured organizations may have rigid salary scales, but leaner, more modern organizations are often casting a net looking for skills and experience rather than someone to fill duties. Thus - not having a range is often a product of not wanting a rock star candidate to balk at a salary ceiling that you might be willing to blow up under the right circumstances.

One way to avoid answering the question directly with a HR screener, however, is to ask questions about the compensation package. You can tell them that things like benefits, retirement, vacation, perks, etc.are part of how you evaluate compensation and you would be more capable of giving them a good answer if you know those things.

If they provide it, chances are some of the details on the financial fit will be located there-in.

Most likely they'll just defer to the interview process because an HR admin is not going to start the negotiations.
posted by scrittore at 12:12 PM on May 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


Thank you all for the advice! The email asked for "desired compensation" so I gave my base (plus wiggle) salary and noted I would need to learn more about the position before negotiating a total compensation package. Fingers crossed.
posted by Tevin at 12:14 PM on May 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


Of course, you could avoid wasting each others time just as easily by giving the candidates your hiring budget up front instead.

I will simply note that I have never worked anywhere where I have a "hiring budget".
posted by saeculorum at 12:14 PM on May 5, 2016


Earlier this year, I had an employment agent contact me about a local position. I wasn't looking, I was just called. I was asked what I was looking for as compensation and I shared my salary and benefit data freely. I was told that I'm at the high end of compensation for my area and my field. That may be true, I'm unsure.

What I can say is I wasn't called to interview.

Do I believe I hurt myself by being so honest? I'm not sure. Should I be called again, will I be so candid again? Yeah, I will.
posted by Colonel Sun at 12:56 PM on May 5, 2016


Fine, don't give them your hiring budget then, just tell them how much you're willing to pay for the position. You know what you want them to do, you know what it's worth (arguably, much better than the candidate) so there's no reason you can't just tell them, right? Then they can go forward or pass, and all that time you are so dearly worried about is saved.

It's an asymmetrical situation and the party with most of the power and information is trying to make good use of it. I mean, good for them, but that doesn't mean I need to play into it.

If you want to make more money than you really even thought was possible, then you can not answer that question with a number. If you answer with a number, 9/10 times you won't make more than that. Sometimes they'll hound you into it. Sometimes they won't.

You're a salesman and your product is you. When you go to buy a car you can't ask "how much is the minimum you can sell me this car for" and expect to get an answer. They want you to decide to buy first, and then discuss the price second. When you're selling yourself, you need to do the same. Tell them "I think it's premature to be discussing compensation". Get them to want you on their team first, and talk about money second.

I agree that it's getting much harder to take my own advice - many places just won't go forward without a number. Still, do your best.

And the notion that I "don't know what I'm worth" because I don't want to give you a number is just hogwash.
posted by RustyBrooks at 7:18 PM on May 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


If you want to make more money than you really even thought was possible, then you can not answer that question with a number.

I just deleted a longer answer to this sort of response because it became an argument and not something useful to the OP.

For the benefit of others - the highest compensated employees I know are the ones who can answer the compensation question with an unequivocal answer of "I will work for $x", without dithering, equivocating, or ambiguity.

If you would like to have a discussion of why I do not provide compensation ranges, feel free to MeMail me. It is, however, an almost universally held position in management, and the way to deal with it effectively (which is the OP's question) is to provide a very specific and well-reasoned number, upfront, and to be able to confidently convey that number.
posted by saeculorum at 9:00 PM on May 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


It's actually a myth that the first person to name a number "loses" in negotiation.
posted by rainydayfilms at 7:29 PM on May 6, 2016


From that article:

There is one situation in which making the first offer is not to your advantage: when the other side has much more information than you do about the item to be negotiated or about the relevant market or industry.

Who do you think has more information in this situation? The job seeker, or the hiring company?

Hint: the next sentence is

For example, recruiters and employers typically have more information than job candidates do;
posted by RustyBrooks at 7:34 PM on May 6, 2016


Follow up: I got the job with the salary I gave as a result of this question. I'm starting in (just over) a week!
posted by Tevin at 10:01 PM on June 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


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