Service of Salary Secrecy

May 17th, 2021

Categories: Hiring Manager, Human Resources, Job Hunt, Negotiation, Salaries, Secrets

Image by Ryan McGuire from Pixabay

Job seekers have shared their opinions with me about whether to insist on knowing the salary range before pursuing a position and in the first conversation revealing, to the prospective employer, the remuneration they expect. They fall into two schools of thought: Do and Don’t. The same thing applies to a PR agency before staff takes time to write a proposal. The risk of failure increases when the client doesn’t share how much the company is budgeted to spend.

One friend at the top of her game won’t work for less than $X and doesn’t want to waste her time on countless interviews for nothing so she says she won’t move forward on a job lead without salary information. She’s also fine with sharing her salary expectations with headhunters and hiring managers.

Alison Green wrote “When Employers Demand a Salary Range From Applicants but Refuse to Suggest One,” asking why “hiring managers play such coy games around salary.” In her article in she reported that employers sometimes wait until they make a formal offer or late in the process yet they require that candidates spill their figure right away. She commented, after being contacted by a close-lipped headhunter: “Why not just tell me what [the salary] is so we each know if we’d be wasting our time or not?”

In one example, she was told the interview process entailed, after HR screening, a call with the hiring manager, a full day of interviews in the office, potentially a second day, and maybe having to complete a project or test.

There’s no surprise why employers opt for secrecy–they want to pay as little as possible. Candidates fear if they mention an amount they won’t be paid what the employer is willing to pay. If the job is appealing enough an applicant might be willing to accept a lower salary but fears, by mentioning a higher one, they will knock themselves out of the running.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Green wrote: “Job seekers who just ask directly what range the position will pay risk running into interviewers who bristle at the idea that money might be a key factor in someone’s interest level.” That happened to her in the example above that potentially entailed two days of interviews. “The HR person got really cold and awkward and said she couldn’t tell me that information. … I received an email later that afternoon that said because I was so interested in salary and not the company or the job, they weren’t continuing with my candidacy.”

She found that some employers say they duck offering a compensation range because candidates will be disappointed if not offered the top salary.

She advises job seekers to do research about jobs in the targeted industry by speaking with recruiters, directors of professional organizations and colleagues. “Ultimately, as long as employers treat salary info like a closely guarded trade secret, candidates will be at a disadvantage.”

Have you been caught up by the salary question? Should employers be open about their salary range and prospective employees be relaxed about sharing their expectations? Aren’t employers who object to candidates asking what the pay will be naive to think that people work for fun, with no concern about covering expenses or what others in the industry pay? What about prospective clients who won’t tell an agency what their budget is–do you write a proposal anyway?

Image by Nattanan Kanchanaprat from Pixabay

4 Responses to “Service of Salary Secrecy”

  1. EAM Said:

    I do believe in transparency with regard to salary expectations but I don’t like it when people require you to fill out your salary on an application before a conversation. I was always told that it was like dating in that you want the employer to fall in love with you and advocate for you once they get to know you.

  2. Lucrezia Said:

    How about a third school of thought: Learn to play by ear. Why worry about salary unless being sure one wants to work there? What does the prospective employer want from future employees? What do they have to offer each other? A mutual attitude inspires trust and respect from both sides, and eases the salary question. Should a misfit be the case, salary isn’t an issue!

  3. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I like the idea of an employer falling in love with a prospect but if they require to know your salary and won’t share a thing about themselves this can hardly happen.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    If a future employer requires to know your current salary many have lost the negotiation right there. I once took a job with a slightly lower salary. I wanted to get out of where I was working and because I liked the feel of the new company I took a chance. Turns out I made the right move and soon was making much more than I had previously. But knowing my salary, had I been forced to put it down, the employer might’ve passed me by.

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