we ask job candidates, “what salary would it take to turn up happy every day?” — Ask a Manager

we ask job candidates, “what salary would it take to turn up happy every day?”

A reader writes:

I work for a law firm and have significant input in hiring (including interviewing candidates). I have a question about how we talk about salary with candidates.

None of the job ads we publish specify a salary range. They say something like, “We have no fixed salary for the position, but intend on making an appropriate offer to the right candidate.” This is true, although we do generally have a rough idea of what is on the table. Each lawyer we hire has a vague position in the hierarchy of fee-earners, meaning we will sort of know the work that will be allocated and the fee-earning potential for the new hire.

Whenever we interview, the person is asked, “What salary to do you need to earn to turn up every day happy, motivated, and not grumbling about money?” Lots of people balk at giving an answer, particularly because a specific figure is required, not a range or a “rough idea.” Sometimes people who have really been caught by surprise are given overnight to think about their answer.

After the interviews, the salary the person nominated is part of the consideration as to who gets the job (although certainly not the main consideration), and once a person is chosen they are offered the job at the salary they nominated.

I can’t decide what I think about this policy. I’ve seen good candidates blow themselves out of the water with numbers far too high — but maybe that’s a good thing, because they would have been unhappy at a lower number. On the other hand, we have hired candidates at numbers higher than we planned because they were a standout candidate and were worth paying out of the range we planned. What do you think?

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

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