I've only been a hiring manager for a year, and in that time have made three solid hires. In all cases, the interviewing and on-boarding went smoothly.

Now, we're trying to fill a position and every candidate seems to have the same salary requirements, regardless of years on the job. From entry level to 20+ years' worth of experience, the pay range is all within ~$5-$10k across the board. And, with 1 exception, every single salary "requirement" significantly above that of our current staff. 

Something else we've noticed is that there seems to be no correlation between ability and salary. We give candidates a test based on a real-world experience for them to work on when they apply, so we know what the correct answers are. And we've been giving the same test for years and have thousands of data points. We've noticed that those individuals who have been doing this for 20 years do about as well as those with very little experience.

The third odd thing I've noticed. When asked why they applied to the position, every one of them, even those who have been unemployed for up to 2 years says that they don't need a job, but they're just "looking around".

I do believe that part of the problem is recruiters. We get some applicants from recruiters who have told us that it's a candidate's market right now. While that may be true, I can't really justify paying someone 20% more than a recent hire doing the same job with less experience and scored higher than an applicant on the exam.

What gives?

jsigned's picture

Salary ranges are readily available on the Internet, so your candidates maybe doing their home work before the interview.  If you are indeed paying 20% less than the going rate how are you getting anyone to do the job?  The economy isn't great, but it isn't that bad either.   In the past I've hired new employees and paid them more than the person doing the training.  I hated doing it, but the internal politics of salary were too difficult to solve and I really needed the work done.

BariTony's picture

 I think that you're under the false impression that we're paying 20% less than the going rate. First off, salary surveys are subject to selection bias, and the reported salaries tend to be higher than they really are.

I'm not buying the argument that I'm going to have to pay a new employee 20% more than their manager who is a recent hire with 20+ years of experience.To give one example, we had someone with 7 years of experience asking on their application for $20 k more than someone else with 20 years' of experience. It just doesn't make sense.

We've had over 100 applicants to this position, so it's not like it's actually a job seeker's environment. In fact, most of those who've applied have been recently downsized and are looking for salaries equal to or higher than their last position. To my mind, that points to some unrealistic expectations.




JonathanGiglio's picture
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The job market IS heating up, no question. Don't forget when making new hires, you're suffering from salary compression. You have to pay for the experience your new hires are giving up from their previous roles (those who haven't been downsized).

You might also be competing against other offers these people may have.

Finally, this is the employees only chance to negotiate. They know once they get hired, they will get the standard increases and perhaps bonuses. The bigger the base, the bigger the increases.

At the end of your recruitment, you'll have to weigh the value they bring versus the pain of their increases. Presumably considering you have a requisition open, there is significant pain in your organization to justify the hire. Remember, keep the bar high, but if someone meets your requirements try not to let price stand in the way. Think value!

Interesting comment on the testing however. It seems that your role tops out relatively quickly. Once someone learns the job, there seems to be little incremental value tied to experience. How do people grow in these positions? Do they get promoted?

Hope that helps.



Smacquarrie's picture

I think many of them are reading the same articles that I have:

"Employees market"

"Aim high on salary, let them come down"

"Experience doesn’t matter as much as fit"

Many of them think that they need to overinflate their resumes, exaggerate their experience, and ask for a huge salary. Many bloggers are telling them not to leave anything on the table. That if they do not ask, they will not receive.

As far as the "I don't need to look" this comes from many of the same blogs. We always hear that it is easier to get a job when you have a job. They think they can bluff their way through with that line so they try.

This is the same as many professionals who put down "consultant" to explain periods of unemployment - while occasionally true, most often it is a place holder.


DiSC 7121

BariTony's picture

 Thanks MAC. I hadn't thought about the blogs because I usually don't look at them, but that might help explain what I'm seeing. Lots of inexperienced folks demanding large salaries. I've never in my career gone in to an interview with "salary requirements". I always felt that you did your best and the prospective employer put a number down based on their pay scale and which skills they could use (note: not all of the skills/experience/education that you might have!). Either you take it or leave it. No "negotiating" salary. It's always worked out for me before, but it seems that a lot of folks in their 20's are coming with a totally different mindset. I wonder if they realize they're shooting themselves in the foot...

When I was laid off a few years ago, I just told hiring managers upfront that I was unemployed when they wondered about the gap in my employment. I didn't try to cover it up. More than a few told me that they weren't interested in hiring someone who didn't have a job. But at least I didn't waste my time with them. Interestingly enough, some of them are looking for jobs right now. What goes around comes around...


jennrod12's picture

I was talking with a neighbor the other day who said she can't even find someone for relatively low level work like admin or kitchen staff, so the hiring environment is definitely changing.

Have you told any of the candidates straight out that their salary requirements are too high and disqualify them? Unless people start hearing that, the behavior is less likely to change, in my opinion.


mattpalmer's picture

First off, if you aren't publicising your acceptable salary range for the role, you should start doing that.  It'll weed out the people with whom you would be completely unable to come to terms on salary.  After that, look at a candidate's salary "requirements" as nothing more than their first words in a discussion around remuneration that will be had further later.  As others have already said, it's almost certain that these candidates are assuming that they're publicising an "absolute upper limit" when they state their expectation, so they're shooting for the moon, and will actually be willing to take something less.

The important number to look at is how many offers you make that don't get accepted.  Over time, this number can tell you whether you're just getting "the usual rate of rejections" or if your rejection rate is spiking (possibly indicating low salary, although there are plenty of other causes).  If you're just starting to track this now, you won't have the data to make that sort of decision, but you can see the reverse -- if people are accepting your offers, then your salary must be at least marginally competitive.

Also, salary ain't everything.  I've had candidates, referred by recruiters, who have come in with an unrealistic salary requirement, and they've ended up taking an offer I've given them for 25% less than their "requirement" was, because I highlighted the value of the role to their career and development, and the intangible benefits that working for the firm gave them.  This would probably be harder to do if you were working for a crap firm, hiring for jobs with no prospects of advancement or personal development, but at the very least you can make the candidate feel as though they're special and valued, which is, ultimately, what people want, if they've got a living wage under their belt (a la Maslow).


BariTony's picture

I'm sorry if I haven't been clear, but I have had some discussions with multiple candidates about their salary expectations. Most either put a high number down on their application and refused to discuss salary until the offer came (which does make sense from a candidate's perspective), or state that they refuse to lower their expectations.
For the record, we only needed to send out one offer letter for this position, which was accepted. Over the previous 18 months, I've filled 3 other positions, and every offer was accepted on the spot. All of those people are still with me, so I'm guessing our salaries aren't that out of whack.

Actually, the person we landed on had reasonable (from our perspective) salary expectations, years of work experience in our specific corner of the industry, and scored the highest on the test we'd ever seen. 

Thanks for all of the feedback, it was much appreciated and I got some useful insights.