We’re starting a new blog series called, “Ask Peoplr” where a member of our team will be answering some of your most commonly asked HR questions. Today’s hiring question comes from Lance R. in Tampa, Florida.
Lance R: I’m a small business owner and I’m having a hard time having salary conversations with people. We recently had a guy tell us he was making $120,000 when we asked about his current salary. Our budget for the job caps out at $85,000 so I told him this wasn’t going to be a fit. Instead of agreeing with me, he said he’d be willing to consider the job at $85,000. I thought this was strange. How do you recommend handling this?
Robyn Wassman: Hi Lance! Yes—this happens. The first point I want to make is that your guard should be up when you run across this kind of situation. We’re talking about a discrepancy of $35,000—this is a salary by itself! The first question you want to ask this guy is how he can afford to take a $35,000 pay cut and more importantly, why he’d want to do that? Are you offering amazing benefits? Is there an unusual career growth opportunity that he’s after?
Assuming your answer is no, then I’d ask your candidate to explain how taking a pay cut of $35k makes financial sense for him. I’d be willing to bet that he won’t be able to offer a convincing response. This leads me to a bigger point of consideration: he may have exaggerated how much he was making in your initial conversation. Many candidates think that if they overstate their current salary, they’ll end up better off—but this usually backfires.
If you find yourself talking to someone who is backtracking on salary requirements this is a red flag. If you offer him the job at $85,000 and another role comes up that is closer to his desired salary, he’ll most likely leave for the higher paying opportunity and you’ll have to start your search over again. If he really is willing to take a drastic pay cut then he’s probably overstated his current salary in the hope of extracting more money, or there is something else about his situation that he’s not telling you. Both scenarios indicate dishonesty, so I’d steer clear.