Dilemma of the Month: Low Salary Expectations

I’m a corporate recruiter. For candidates that progress to an HR phone screen, we ask their expected salary and share the range we have for the role. Is it appropriate to use someone’s low salary expectations as a reason for not moving forward? For example, I was recruiting for a mid-level management role, with compensation between $125,000-$150,000 per year. Many of the candidates had salary expectations within that range. However, a few candidates that seemed like a good fit only asked for around $85,000 per year. I’m concerned that a candidate who makes so much less won’t be a good fit. Is that the case?

To read my answer, click here: Dilemma of the Month: Low Salary Expectations

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15 thoughts on “Dilemma of the Month: Low Salary Expectations

  1. It’s mind-boggling that a professional recruiter would even ask such a question. And symptomatic of how much work remains to be done to achieve any type of pay equity.

  2. I was downsized along with a number of other long-time employees because we had been given regular raises during the boom years. When lean years came, the difference between our salaries and the starting salary for a college-hire was glaring. I hit the job market at a bad time so I reduced my salary demand well below what I had been making so that I wouldn’t be priced out of the market. It hardly seems right that demanding too much makes one unhireable but demanding too little should do that as well.

    1. At one job (early 80’s) the manufacturing firm was having trouble recruiting ANY candidates. They would have had to give new hires a salary higher than any of the current staff. A few rounds of “equity” raises attempted to reward older (and wiser and more capable) employees. This still did not erase the “salary compression” where the new and “old” employees had only a $5K spread with a max of $40K. I left before they shut the plant down.

  3. Wth? You select the higher and pay based on the job and the person’s qualifications. In California, we can no longer ask for the person’s current salary and we must provide the range.

  4. The question is stupid and it does lead to bias in pay. So if you have an over confident charming guy on the phone. Who demands more money. He will get it.

  5. And let’s not forget that the pay scale for a for-profit may vary a lot for the same work in a non-profit or government sector job. Also, not everyone job hunts for more money.
    Some people are looking for better benefits, a shorter communit, a work from home option, a less toxic environment, a change in industry, less hours, more hours, more job security, etc.

    Pay me what I’m worth to you – not what I was worth to my previous employer!

  6. This is a fantastic answer, EHRL. I wish we could get this simple process enacted into law everywhere – stop asking, start telling!

  7. Excellent point, the recruiter should be the one giving the salary range in the first contact with potential candidates so that the decision to continue the process is in the hands of the person who is looking for a position. This information is so often held back until the final offer which means one never knows actual salary range until then. Like some of the other comments put forth, salary is not the same in different companies for same job for various reasons. Give the salary range upfront and don’t ask for the previous salary.

  8. An even better idea to help eliminate pay discrimination is to make all compensation public. When Sally notes that Harry is being paid 30% more for doing the same job, the company would have to show a valid business reason (he books 30% more company income per year.)

    And just to ward off the “That should be PRIVATE!!” gang, I’ll give you my current pay. My current hourly pay is $40.431 per hour.

    1. I’ve been in the government sector for 18 years. All of our salaries are public and the sky has not fallen. What it does do, is force the powers that be to be able to explain why two people with the same title have different salaries. It happens, but it’s FAR less likely for the reasons to be arbitrary. Applicants know what to expect from the get-go and salary offers are not based on your previous employment.

  9. AMEN. I was seriously underpaid at my last position, so much that when I was asked my salary range, I gave myself a raise in my request. My offer was at $10K MORE than what I had requested. It was a great way to start out at the company, knowing that they valued me.

  10. This is just another reason not to disclose your salary expectations or current salary until after you have a job offer in hand. They can and will use it against you.
    It is mind boggling that anyone, especially and HR professional would ever think like that.

  11. This is a new one for me. Counting it as a negative if a candidate asks for too low of a salary.

  12. I always struggle with this question as an applicant. During an initial phone screen, there are so many unknowns about the position that I don’t think it is appropriate to ask about an applicant’s expectations. This is sort of like asking someone how much they would expect to pay for a blue car. This seems like it may be just a sneaky way to ask what an applicant has earned in the past.

  13. I’m a recruiter and completely agree with the response on this one. When I encounter this as a recruiter, I share the targeted comp range for the position and take the opportunity to educate the candidate on what they should be targeting in their career search so they don’t undersell themselves.

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