“If I had known the budget range, I never would have applied. If the HR manager had known what I wanted to make, she never would have interviewed me. By the end of the interview process they were comfortable enough with what I can contribute, we were able to negotiate a salary that is good for both of us”. These are the words one client recently hired. It is a story I have heard repeatedly. On the other hand, I have heard so many times on early interviewers insisting a candidate say what their lowest acceptable salary is.

The other day, at a career fair and networking event, I had the opportunity to talk with a couple of recruiters. In introducing myself, I mentioned that I am a career coach. They asked if I was one of the people who coached job seekers to evade initial salary questions, and to negotiate salaries at the end. When I said “of course” they both said, that they hate when candidates do that. It makes them angry. I understand that HR doesn’t want to “waist time” with candidates that may be out of their range. However I would say that their focus forces them to “waste time” interviewing and hiring employees that will not bring maximum benefit and ROI to the company. I do not think HR as the time to waste on focusing so much initially on salary. Based on current practices, you end up with approximately 30% of the workforce underperforming and over paid, and 30% underpaid for their contribution. This leads to performing employees looking to leave at the first chance, and underperforming employees staying at the company continuing to drag down efficiencies and effectiveness of the company. The reality is, what a candidate wants or needs to be paid is and should be irrelevant to any company looking to hire people. Every employee needs to perform in a way that they help a company in one of three ways:

  1. Help generate revenue
  2. Help reduce costs
  3. Help mitigate risks

If the projects and tasks an employee works on don’t achieve one of those three things, there is no reason to pay a salary. Ideally, the employee’s contribution in these areas will be 3 to 5 times the value of their compensation. Therefore the process of the interview should be to:

  1. Find the best person to carry out the responsibilities and objectives of the position,
  2. Determine a mutually beneficial compensation package through past experience, including understanding their past accomplishments and contributions, and objectives of the position determine a mutually beneficial compensation package.

Therefore, I recommend when ask what your salary requirements are, I suggest you say something like “salary is only one component of my decision making process, and now cannot give a number. Once you determine I am the person who can best achieve the objectives of the position and the company, I am confident you can offer a mutually beneficial compensation package”

I look forward to your comments.


  1. DanTrojacek says:

    Another right on target topic, Greg! In today’s job market, salary has become HR’s initial “eliminator” in the interview process as companies focus on the immediate easiest cost reduction rather than on the longer term best interest of the company.

  2. Ian Jackson says:

    Absolutely. Well said. What you are not saying though, and the real crux of the matter for me, is that companies treat HR as a cost, put second and third rate people in 75% of the HR seats, and the 25% of HR professionals who really are heads-up, capable “HR PROFESSIONALS” who think about their job when not doing it, generally end up working away from recruiting. Recruiting ends up being predominantly the entry job into HR before you do the fun stuff, rather than the core way to differentiate your business. Of course there are exceptions, but many businesses set up to just replicate what they had, and HR are looking to replace people with lookalikes, rather than attracting new talent.

    HR and procurement are both due for major reform I feel. This weak corporate conservatism is clearly not helping drag the economy out of the mire it finds itself in.

    • Ian,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to contribute. You are 100% right that the crux of the problem is that HR is viewed as a cost center in most companies. This topic alone is enough for at least one blog, which I am planning soon. In order for companies to operate at their maximum, every area of the business needs to be viewed in how they are helping the company improve revenue. HR should be at the core of this, and you obviously get it. I appreciate your HR insider perspective and thank you again for your valuable contribution, and bringing up a very important issue.

  3. Deniece Moxy says:

    Thanks for the timely discussion on HR requesting salary requirements in the initial stages of the interviewing cycle. I have numerous experiences where HR requests salary range without even giving the details of the job. From their perspective, they are trying to find out if you are in the salary range and worth interviewing. I think that is short-sighted and one of the reforms that need to take place in the overall hiring and interviewing process in the 21st century. Thanks again for your invaluable insight and I look forward to your blog on this topic. P.S. As part of this blog topic you may consider what to say when HR requests W-2 info.

    • Thanks for the comment Deniece,

      I agree that it is shore shore sighted, and harming the health of many companies. This is why I suggest going around HR to get your foot in the door, so that by the time you need to have this information, you have an internal advocate. I will continue themes like this in my blog, with some possible answers.

  4. […] Why HR’s Question “What Are Your Salary Requirements?” is Counter Productive To Fi… (gregljohnson.wordpress.com) 0.000000 0.000000 Share this:FacebookTwitterStumbleUponDiggRedditEmailPrintLinkedInTumblrPinterestLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. Tagged Business, Compensation, Compensation and Benefits, Employment, human resources, Job Offer, Overpaid, Salary, Salary Negotiation, Underpaid, Wage […]

  5. Steve Guest says:

    Greg, sorry to come late to this. I was wondering as I read about your interaction with the unhappy recruiters – what do they say when they are asked this question in their personal hiring process.

    • Steve,
      Thanks for reading the post, and asking the question. Are you talking about an outside recruiter or inside recruiter. If you are dealing with an outside recruiter, that is a different animal all together, and you need to be up front on what your general salary requirements are. They would be able to help you negotiate, if they believe you are the best person for the job.

  6. Dan Stone says:

    Greg, you are so right about this topic. Currently, it is hard to know the range of salary being offered.

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