For any recent job seeker, the following scenario is not unfamiliar. You're going through the online application and all is going well, and then suddenly they ask you for your salary expectations. Or even worse, your salary history. So, you try decide to skip that field. Expect that it doesn’t let you continue. There’s that little, annoying red asterisk by it saying that it’s a “required field.” Okay, fine. So, you put in “Negotiable” thinking you can trick it that way. It stops you again and says it only accepts numerical values. SERIOUSLY!? Well, you could be sarcastic and put all zeros, but you’re pretty sure that won’t get you the job. Neither will bashing in the monitor of your computer. I can't tell you how many times that has happened to me.

Why do employers ask for this information upfront? There’s only one possible reason, right? To gain the upper hand in the salary negotiation. Whatever number you commit to now, can and will be held against you at the interview table. While it certainly does allow for this, the real reason is even simpler. The employer doesn't want to “waste their time” with candidates who are out of range (meaning in the upwards direction.) While I understand the desire to not waste one’s time with people who are not in the same ballpark, the problem lies in the impression that it gives off to the applicant. That impression being that your salary expectation is the only really important criteria in evaluating you and if you’re above our magic number, well…. keep on walking.

Consider this: Asking a job seeker for their salary history or requirements is really no different than asking someone how much money they make prior to the first date. It’s way too early to be talking about that, isn’t it? It’s just not classy either. Plus, all you have is the job description. Is that enough information to know how much money to reasonably ask for? If it’s an outstanding job description possibly, but typically not.

So, what is a weary job seeker to do about this? Simple. You don’t need to apply to that company. I know it’s hard when you’ve been unemployed for some time, you want to apply for anything you can qualify for. And if you do decide to apply, that’s fine. Personally, I did get a good opportunity once from a company that did this but that is not the typical experience. Maybe they’ll call you back and it will work out great and they'll pay you a million dollars. But if they don’t, keep looking and don’t be too disappointed. Classy job seekers deserve classy employers. One that will take a few moments (a phone screen at minimum!) to get to know you before pricing you. Are we pricing jobs or pricing people? A good employer knows the difference.
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