I ask you, my fellow recruiters, to banish a well-worn tool from your arsenal of words and phrases. Please stop talking about salary ranges. That phrase should never cross your lips again. It adds no meaning at all to our conversations, and in fact, can drive exactly the wrong behavior. Companies do not make offers of salary ranges, they offer a salary and a salary is a very specific number. Dealing in ranges tends to point us toward the composite, and we make a living by staying, quite persuasively, in the particular.
I do a lot of split business. In the past several weeks I have had to turn back several candidates to my partners in order to get concrete details on compensation. I don’t usually present a candidate who has not shared concrete details regarding their situation. What my partners had shared with me was this: “Candidate X would consider making a move for a salary within the range of this position.” Insanity.
I can imagine the conversation, though. Be honest, so can you:
Recruiter: I have this really cool job.
Candidate: What is the pay range?
Recruiter: Oh, it could pay up to 95K if you are awesome.
Candidate: Sign me up, but I need to be near the top for it to be worth my while.
Recruiter: Cool, send me your resume.
In both cases my partners admitted they led with the "salary range" of the position before they got the details of the candidate's situation. This is never a good move.
When I approach a candidate, I talk to them specifically about their current situation before we progress to discussing any of my current opportunities. I want to know what it is they love, what is missing, what excites them, what drives them. Part of that conversation is, of course, compensation, but people don’t really fall in love with salaries. Don’t get me wrong, money is important. Hello, I am a sales girl at heart! But it is the work, the people, the company itself and the opportunity to make a difference that gets people excited. Money is simply a part (albeit an important part) of that complicated calculation of value.
Our job is to find out all we can about their particular situation - including how important cash money is to them. No one ever turned down a role because it paid too much, but varying levels of compensation will produce commensurate happiness. Probing and understanding their perspective is essential to delivering opportunities calibrated to please. I build rapport (this really is an art, but an art one can and must learn) by helping them understand every question I ask is essential to my goal of representing them in a way that will get them the very best offer possible if we are fortunate enough to get to that point. I ask a lot of questions. If I don't get answers we don't get to talk about the positions I have at my fingertips.
I am respectful, firm, not rehearsed, and I am very good at helping them understand why it is in their best interest to fully disclose. And I believe it myself. This is part of my right livelihood. I believe that by getting the best offer possible I am truly serving both the candidate and the client because the candidate will stay at my client happier, longer.
This has become second nature to me. I have a patter. It doesn’t matter if I am talking to a contractor or an employee in any type of role. All the bases get covered because all of them matter.
Yes, this is my very first conversation and these are all important details to know early on. Any one of them might be so significant to cause a painful train wreck if not probed and represented carefully. Sometimes other recruiters will call me up all excited about a candidate who is perfect for an opportunity. When I ask about money they often say, “I have another call scheduled to discuss that.” Huh? How did that not come up already? That has to happen before we talk about any positions. Often it is the way people answer (or do not) that tells us the most about working with them as a candidate.
Our job is to set and guide expectations on both sides of the equation. The details matter.
After I have gotten the necessary information and have decided they seem interesting to me, the door opens to talk about my available opportunities. I can now say with confidence, "I think that this opportunity could offer you a step forward in regards to both the work and the people as well as your financial considerations." When asked about the “salary range” I tell them this: "What the client will pay depends on how well you interview and what you bring to the table. But I think we have room here, if you interview well, to certainly improve your position.
This initial conversation is as important to our screening and qualifying as any skill set check. In this conversation you will often get what you need to help guide the candidate through the entire process toward acceptance. This conversation provides a tiny road map of their heart - powerful stuff one must be sure to use for good, not evil. I often use their language from this initial conversation when delivering offers, it helps the odds of acceptance. But that is a post for another time.
Only the candidate will know what it will take to happily make a move to new pastures. At this early stage they don't have enough information to know what that will be. So I stick to what we can know – the concrete details of their situation.
When I craft presentations to my clients using this information, they are compelling and tell a story that spurs the interest of the reader. Interest leads, more often than not, to an interview. One more way I serve my candidates.
Avoiding the "salary range" discussion when talking to candidates helps me stay focused on what matters most - their particulars - which helps me do a better job for them and my clients.
I can imagine one reaction to this post. But Lisa, our clients speak that range language! Yes they do, but we don't have to, and in fact - in order to maximize success - we can't afford to. When I encounter the dreaded range from a client company I take the same probing, questioning stance and asking questions in the particular – just like I did with my candidate. Often their range is not a solid indicator of what they'll pay and by probing salary and skill set, goals, and success factors we get a much better picture of the position than we would have. Sometimes they can and will go higher for the right person - which we need to know. While when recruiting I never shoot for the highest range a company will pay, having a good understanding of their real limits is useful. Often my competitors don't know because they didn't ask.
In our business, the details matter. Only by asking good questions and listening to the particular answers on both sides of the equation can we find them.