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May 10, 2017 10:41 AM

We Need To Talk About Money - Why Salary Is An Interview Taboo

It’s an undeniable truth that people, in general, are uncomfortable when it comes to discussing money. Whether it’s asking how much a service is going to cost or letting our friends know how much tax we pay, it seems that once money comes into the equation, the vast majority of people simply clam up.

However, if there’s one situation when discussing finances is surely acceptable, then it has to be the interview.

Yet why do so many employers, recruiters, and consequently, candidates deem the topic of salary an interview ‘no no’?

In fact, some consider the subject such a taboo that it’s a game changer in an interview as a young job hunter who applied for a job with Canadian startup SkipTheDishes recently discovered. We’re sure you have heard of Taylor Byrnes, the woman who, when inquiring about salary and benefits at the company, was told in no uncertain terms that she wasn’t a good fit for their workplace culture.

Her tweet outlining her experience has gone viral over the last month with many people shocked that a company would have such an unreasonable reaction to a simple question. But the reality is that this is an all too familiar experience for many job seekers today.  

There’s a belief ensconced within a certain sector of the recruitment industry that the perfect candidate (if indeed one exists) should never consider financial gain or benefits a primary motivator in their job hunt. Theirs is a life devoted to their chosen career where inconsequential factors such as salary or health insurance are, well… inconsequential.

This rather curious school of thought is by no means the opinion of the majority of recruiters and employers. But the fact that there are any at all that believe it to be true makes the interview process a veritable minefield for the already nervous job seeker.

The truth (and deep down we all know this) is that people, no matter how much passion they have for their job, work for money. We all need it to live, and in fairness, it’s quite reasonable for a candidate to want to know at the outset if this is a move that they can afford to make.


Why employers don’t like to talk about salary

So why is it that the subject of salary is such a touchy subject for some employers?

Could it be that it stems back to a time when people rarely questioned employers but were only too happy to have a job in the first place? If this were the 70s then perhaps we might agree, but it seems unlikely that the employers of today would still harbour such antiquated notions.

It’s more likely that the current inclination to hold culture fit in the workplace in such high regard has seen salary and benefits take an undeserved back seat.

salary topic in an interviewIndeed, some recruiters feel that a candidate’s suitability for a role depends more on their ability to integrate than their actual skills. And such is their determination to find the ideal team players that they often forget to talk money at all and find themselves in a state of shock should a candidate have the temerity to broach the subject.  

The workplace has certainly gone through some incredible changes in recent years, and it’s heartening to see so many employers take such affirmative steps towards creating a positive working environment. It is not uncommon now to see companies extol the virtues of their work culture and how their employees are their number one priority.

Facebook and Google are the most notable examples, and such is their success in creating a positive buzz around their workplace culture that the best candidates in the world are falling over themselves to work with them regardless of the financial package on offer.

And as other companies follow their lead, could it be that these employers have placed a little too much significance on their culture?

Unintentionally they may have created an environment whereby the cultural fit of an employee or their desire to work with the company supersedes salary or any other form of monetary benefit to the employee.


The solution

However unintentionally employers and recruiters may have created this situation, the onus is now on them to adjust in favour of their candidates. Of course, cultural fit should still hold a place of import at the interview table but so too should salary.

No longer should we leave it up to candidates to raise the topic of money or benefits. In fact, and there are some that will disagree with this assertion, money should be one of the first topics on the agenda in an interview.

Let’s be clear, though; we are by no means advocating a full-on salary negotiation at this early stage. What we’re proposing is that the recruiter broaches the subject, maybe offers ballpark figures for salary and touches on benefits.

Doing this at such an early stage in the interview process will set a candidate at ease and allow them to focus fully on the other aspects of the job. But most importantly, it prevents wasting time for both parties.

Many a candidate has wasted several hours in interviews and tests only to find that the salary package is far below what they believe they are worth. Likewise, recruiters don’t want candidates that pull out at the final stages of an interview leaving them back at square one.


Companies these days are vocal proponents of transparency in all aspects of their business so it stands to reason that this should extend to their interviewing process or they may just end up as another SkipTheDishes.

Since the cancelled interview debacle, the startup has had to deal with a massive backlash online and now faces an uphill struggle to reconnect with their target audience. Such negative publicity could have so easily been avoided had they understood that not all companies hold the workplace pulling power of Facebook or Google.

So in short, talk money and do it early or face the consequences.


What other topics do you like to discuss in interviewsNot sure where to start? As experts in passive candidate sourcing, we know a thing or two about candidate experience. Why not talk to us today to see how we can help?

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