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EP 1701 Having worked in search for as long as I have, I know what my experience has been . . . and it can be pretty ugly.

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The question I received today is, “Why do you employers keep the salary they are willing to pay secret?” Great question! Let me ask you a question. If you are trying to rent an apartment or buy a house or by a car, do you walk into the owner and say, “ I am willing to pay X number of dollars?”

No. You walk in, you look at the house, you get a sense of what it will cost period it's a different game.

When employers do it, they have the idea that if they reveal salary . . . I will give you a sense. I’m going to pick a number of random. Let’s say they're going to pay between $150 and $175 or, using lower numbers, $90 and $100,000. Well, most people I know when they hear that range, they only hear the in the high number $175 or, in the case of the lower range, $100. They don’t hear that $90. They don’t hear the $150. They hear the $100 and $175 and, if they get an offer, they get annoyed; they get angry. It becomes an argument as to why they didn't get the higher salary.

I understand. They have they been assessed to a lower level or the company just doesn't think there is enough value there or they think they can get them for less.

That's really what it ultimately comes down to. They are afraid that (#1) you are going to be a difficult negotiator as a result, because you are only going to demand the high number and (#2) that there's always going to be resentment that occurs.

In addition, if their current staff hears that they’re willing to pay more for someone than they are receiving, how do you think they're going to take it? Trust me. It’s not going to go well.

So it, it's a real simple reason-- there is nothing in it for them. On your side, in some places in the country, there is now a certain amount of leverage. That’s because employers in those areas are no longer allowed to ask you how much you’re working. Do a Google search and find out the locations where it is no longer legal to ask salary. Scratch that

I know I've a friend who works at a large media firm and what they tell me is that they’re no longer even asking the question because it's hard to keep up with all the new locales that are implementing this law so they have a blanket policy and have stopped asking the question about current salary. That will advantage you. That will kind of level the playing field.

If you'd like that change, lobby your legislators. Have them make the changing in your location like they have in Massachusetts, New York, Pittsburgh, California . . . I believe it is a statewide policy about this. I'm not absolutely sure . . . And other places in the country where this is now a practice.

If they don't have to reveal, you shouldn't have to reveal but if you're one of those places were it is still legal, you have lost your leve. Rage. You cannot just simply say, “No. I’m not going to tell you.” You will wind up looking like a pouting child. They just will reject you. It is really that simple.

So, the reason they do it is (#1) it gives them leverage. It gives them an advantage. Number 2 is, it allows them to avoid issues with their own people that might cause them to leave an organization or be upset with an organization for paying some of the outside more.


Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a career and leadership coach who worked as a recruiter for what more than 40 years. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1100 episodes, “Job Search Radio,” “and his newest show, “No BS Coaching Advice” and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.

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Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

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