Why Recruiters Ask For Desired Salary Early On (And What to Do About It)

Why Recruiters Ask For Desired Salary Early On (And What to Do About It)

You may have noticed on your job hunt that recruiters get down to business fast. In fact, you may be surprised that they are asking a candidate about their desired salary right off the bat. It may have even rubbed you the wrong way.

The truth is that this practice isn’t going anywhere. Below you’ll find out why and how to handle the desired salary question when it comes up.

Why recruiters need to ask…

Not all candidates have realistic expectations. In fact, experience tells recruiters that some candidates don’t even live on the same planet when it comes to how much they want to be compensated.

If this is the case then why bother with a candidate who clearly has totally unrealistic expectations? A recruiter’s client may be willing to negotiate, but only within reason.

You also have to consider it from the recruiter’s perspective. If they don’t ask a candidate about their salary, pass them along to their client and then it turns out their expectations are unrealistic then they have just wasted the employer’s time. That employer will make sure heads roll if the recruiter didn’t ask you upfront what the candidate’s expectations were. Since recruiters get paid by the companies they recruit for they can’t run that risk.

Now, if you are an experienced candidate you should be paid at least market rate. If for whatever reason the proposed salary is below market rate then this is something you should explore during the interview.

Why you shouldn’t be offended…

Whenever you’ve needed a service from someone most people often ask about rates early on in the process. In fact, money is usually the top concern. At the end of the day there’s no need to fall in love with a service provider who is way above your budget. Why should a salary be any different?

Furthermore, how you react and respond to the question is part of the interview. In other words, if you act offended then that tells the recruiter about how you deal with things that don’t go as planned.

How to answer the desired salary question…

If you are asked what you were making there’s nothing else to do but to tell them the truth. Hold your head up high and drop the number without any excuses or apologies. It is what it is.

If you are asked what salary you are looking for, answer with the range of salary or total compensation that you have been interviewing for…Do not start with, “I want…” or “I am looking for…” Answer with, “I am interviewing for positions in the ____ to ____ range.” Answering in this manner does two things. First, it lets them know that you’ve got other companies calling you for positions at that pay rate (which always works in your favor when it comes to negotiating). Second, this is a subtle way of letting them know that the market thinks you are worth it with an external source (others calling you to interview for positions paying that level you cite).

If you haven’t been called in for any interviews yet or you just started the job search, do some research and see what the going rate is for this position. Then answer with the range the same way confidently, based on your research and skill set. Sometimes you have to fake it until you make it.

Be Well!


Lisa Rangel – Executive Resume Writing Services

Chameleon Resumes

(Post Updated: January 2020)


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