by Susan Strayer
As long as I have been in talent acquisition, I also have been career coaching. Even as a full-time HR leader in corporate America, I worked with coaching clients on the side to ensure I was always in touch with a key stakeholder: candidates.
I’m finding both recruiters and job seekers are trying more and more desperate practices to make the process work.
Case in point: Last week I met a frustrated job seeker I’ll call Alicia. She’s currently working for a large corporation and has been looking to move on for some time. She tells me she’s in the midst of the hiring process with a consulting firm, but she’s run into a big problem.
“What happened?” I asked.
“Well, the interviews have gone really well and they’ve given me a verbal offer with a dollar figure attached,” she says, “but earlier in the process they asked what I was currently making. I gave them the average salary for someone at my level across the entire company.”
Alicia works in an arm of the company that for a host of reasons pays less than the average across the company. It’s not a cost-of-living thing—it’s client and travel related. She’s also in the midst of transferring to the part of her current company where she would make the increased salary.
I grimaced: “You should never lie in a job search, Alicia. A salary is about what you’re worth in the market, what the value of the position is, and the budget they have for the role.”
“I know,” she replied. “And that’s the problem. Now I’m screwed. They called yesterday and want proof of my salary. Not just details on what I am making, but an actual pay stub.”
Yikes. Here’s where it gets interesting. Alicia sent in the requested application and pay stub with a note explaining the situation—why she gave the figure she did, how she was transferring to the new part of the company and how she was already doing work with clients in that part of the company.
The recruiter pushed more—asking Alicia for email documentation of the transfer. But internal emails are proprietary, so Alicia didn’t feel comfortable sharing them and told the recruiter so. She then added “I’d hope that the offer you gave me is based on the expectations of the role, and not the salary history of the individual candidate.”
When the recruiter finally got back to Alicia, her offer was cut by $15,000. She turned it down. And when I heard that, I wanted to throttle them both.
Desperation. Is this where we are with recruiting? As recruiters, are we so desperate to please hiring managers that we’ll lowball the offer to save a few bucks? Do we not know that current salary shouldn’t be the only factor to consider? After all, if we didn’t have the budget, we wouldn’t give an offer we couldn’t afford.
But it’s not just the recruiter’s fault. As job seekers, are we so desperate that we have to lie to get what we think we’re worth? Do we not have the faith in our value in the market, an ability to research or the confidence to share our salary expectations at the same time we share our current salary? I guess not.
The worst part is that no one won here. The recruiter had a chance to fill a role with a successful candidate in budget. Alicia had the chance to get the job she wanted. But because we’ve forgotten the basics, everyone loses.
Of course, this all could have been avoided. Alicia shouldn’t have lied in the first place. And the recruiter could have asked for both current salary and salary expectations giving Alicia the opportunity to make a case. But they didn’t. Now they both start over wasting time and resources.
This isn’t an isolated incident. As talent acquisition leaders, we are continuing to put pressure on recruiters to meet demanding needs, measures and metrics. Then we look back up—up at our hiring managers, our demanding leadership teams. They put pressure on us and we pass that on to the front line that can often result in rash decisions, or just a lack of basic training.
What’s causing the desperation? Maybe it’s that we’re so focused on where recruiting is headed, we’ve forgotten how we got here and where we came from. Maybe it’s time to go back to the basics. I’ll say it again, Alicia shouldn’t have lied. But if the recruiter had set the stage correctly, asking for current salary and salary expectations, the scenario could have been avoided.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. Have you trained your recruiters today?