Q: There’s a job I’m interested in applying for, but the salary range posted is mostly below what I would want to make—basically, I’d have to enter at the very top of the range to make it worth it. Would they even want to hire me? Would I be wasting my time?
A: Salary ranges listed on job postings indicate what the organization expects to pay for the position they are recruiting for, and there’s often some level of flexibility, particularly if you’re an extraordinary candidate for the role. To get a better sense of the role and if a higher salary would be possible, read the job description carefully; typically, the more vague or “flowery” the language, the more likely it is that the role may not be as senior as you think it is—and therefore not open to a higher salary. If that’s the case, applying may not be worth your while. But, it’s generally not a huge investment of time to apply to a job, so if you’re interested in the role and think your skills are a good match, then there’s no reason not to pursue it.
You might consider initiating a conversation about being at the top of the range early on in the interview, since by law, companies cannot ask you what you’re making as part of the hiring process. This will be beneficial for both sides to determine if you want to continue with the process—if there’s no flexibility in the salary range, you may not want to chase a role that doesn’t pay enough and the organization likely won’t want to pursue a candidate they can’t afford. Compensation probably shouldn’t be the very first thing you discuss in an interview, but if you position the issue appropriately, you can learn more about the salary while still conveying your interest in the role: “I’m very interested in this position and the company, but I need to understand how senior this position really is and if it’s a match. I’m at the high end of the salary range, and I’d like to know if this is a job that would represent an increase in responsibility and deliverables.” Stay focused on your interest in and suitability for the job, rather than thinking strictly about money.
If you can’t negotiate for more money, is it a bad move professionally to start a job at the very top of the salary range? Maybe not, as it depends on what else might be part of the compensation package. If there’s little flexibility in the organization’s pay bands, you might come into the role at a base salary that’s the same or not much higher than your previous job, but perhaps the compensation package now includes incentives, stock, or other benefits that you find valuable. Maybe the organization has a reputation for promoting cross-functionally from within, giving large bonuses, or providing a great training program that’s highly respected in the industry. This isn’t just about salary. Consider the whole package before deciding it isn’t worth it.
It’s never a waste of time to explore other opportunities—you gain valuable information on hiring trends, comparable salaries in your field, and key players in your industry. If you do learn early on that there’s no flexibility in salary, then it’s up to you to determine if the increased responsibilities of the role, potential added benefits, or reputation of the organization make a job shift worth it.