It’s an age-old issue: You’re talking to a recruiter who wants to know what your salary requirements are, and you want to know what salary the job offers. How does one get around this stand-off?


I received an e-mail yesterday that describes an issue that many of us have likely experienced. It is the recruiter call in which the screener pressures you for salary guidelines. Here’s the text of the e-mail:

“I received a phone call from a recruiter this morning concerning a desktop support position. She wanted to know if I’m in the job market. I said I am currently seeking opportunities. She has my resume, can see what I’ve been doing for the past 15 years, can see what environments I’ve worked in and what capacities I’ve filled.  I said I’ve worked as a field tech, on site tech, bench tech, I’ve worked in medical facilities, manufacturing facilities, you name it. I am flexible and am looking to continue my employment. She asked me when my contract ends. I said for as long as I can make it last. The state is making cuts, and there is a hiring freeze. This is why I’m out looking.

She wanted to know what I’m making. I replied that I am making a wage commensurate with my position. I can tell this response was not on her script. Oddly, she then starts describing the position, to which I responded ‘Typical desktop support.’ She says ‘Yes, which is why I’m asking what you are currently making.’ (i lost the connection there.) I asked her for the range the position goes for. She refused to answer and again asked me what I’m making. I repeated my standard response that I say to every recruiter that I previously mentioned. At this point she gets really snotty with me, and tells me she does not feel I am a good fit for the position to which I reply ‘Thank you for calling.’

I have never met this person before, never spoke to her before and do not feel it is OK for her to ask for that information without giving me any details about who or where or what pay range the position is for. Am I off the mark or am I correct in my displeasure with this first contact?”

I understand the frustration. It’s like a bizarre game of Chicken — seeing who caves in first. Many of the first-round recruiting calls are done just for the sake of weeding out salary demands that are outside of the company’s desired range. My guess is that she is very pressured to get that information. I had one recruiter call me on behalf of a company in a state with a higher cost of living and got frustrated when I couldn’t offer a salary range that would be acceptable. Like I carry around a Cost-of-Living calculator on my belt. I also think that if you don’t offer a salary at all, then you’re automatically thrown out of consideration and are not moved to the next level, but that’s just a suspicion.

Let’s throw this out to the gang and see what kind of experiences they’ve had with first-round recruiting. Also, if there are any recruiters out there reading this, can you offer us some inside dope?

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