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I just had a first interview and it was really strange to me. These are the type of questions they were asking me:

Q: Does your current position offer health care?

A: Yes

Q: Do you have to pay in or is it all provided?

A: Pay In

Q: How much?

....

Q: Do you get an annual bonus?

A: I did last year

Q: How much was your bonus?

....

Are these normal questions for an HR to be asking? I've only ever interviewed with the departments that I would be working with. For this company I had to first interview with HR and if I'm offered a second interview it would be with the Dept I'd be involved in. Now I'm concerned if they contact my reference from here and ask the same questions if there are any differences it'll make me look like I was dishonest when I really just answered as best I could without wanting to give them to much. Its supposed to be a very good company to work for but this seemed like they were fishing for information to turn around and offer me the lowest amount possible.

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4  
I would expect questions like that to be on the application. Normally an interview wouldn't cover general information like this. I wouldn't appreciate them wasting my time coming in for an interview to gather general information they should have asked for prior to that. –  animuson Jul 26 '12 at 19:21

5 Answers 5

up vote 12 down vote accepted

In the USA they can ask whatever they want of previous employers, but they will only get answers to three questions because of legal reasons

  1. did you work there, if so how long and what was your title. Anything else that could be subjective or used to keep you from getting the job your former employers will refuse to answer, so that you can't sue the previous employer for keeping you from getting the job.

This goes for current co-workers as well, they will be forbidden from giving any kind of reference ( positive or negative ) for you.

These questions are not that strange, they probably are being used to set what is called a anchor point to gauge how much they can low ball you for. In this case you can exaggerate how little you paid for healthcare and how much you were paid, and how generous your bonuses were; they can't prove or disprove any of this information.

The buyer uses the lowball tactic to start the negotiation with an exceptionally low offer. They do so in an effort to set the anchor point in their favor, whereby creating the tone for the negotiation. You can validate your bid by explaining why it is so low.

Be careful to do your research beforehand so that you are aware of what the true market value is for the product, or service, you are seeking to buy. If you do not, and you offer is insultingly low, the seller may walk away from the transaction without further negotiation. An extremely low offer can possibly damage trust and hinder future negotiations.

Here the buyer is the employer and the seller and the product is you.

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@Ryan your co-worker should not answer any questions about you period if they are still working there; they could get fired if they do or worse get the company and themselves sued if something they said caused you not to get hired, this is plainly listed in my answer. Anyway, why would your co-worker know your pay details? –  Jarrod Roberson Jul 27 '12 at 13:31

I would immediately leave an interview that asked these questions, your benefits in a previous job and how much your health insurance cost you personally is none of their business! I have interviewed lots of times and never once have they asked me about the benefits of a previous job.

The correct answer would be, "I promised confidentiality to the company I work for on these issues, so I cannot answer."

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9  
Not me. I'd say I was willing to answer that question if they could give me all the info they have on the other candidates, how much they have in their hiring budget and what other positions they're hoping to fill with that budget. –  Erik Reppen Dec 23 '12 at 14:17
1  
Alternatively: "Oh, I'm sorry. I signed an NDA with my previous company, so I can't discuss their financial and/or policy information." –  BryanH Mar 19 at 18:28

This is to understand the full scope of your current compensation package. Most people, when asked "how much do you currently make," don't factor in much, if anything, beyond salary/commissions. HR does this for a couple of reasons:

1- How much or little can we offer this person for a position?
1a- Can we reduce salary in lieu of a bigger bonus, etc...
2- How competitive are our current packages to the current market for this type of position?

You don't need to worry about this information being confirmed or denied by former employers as these questions cannot legally be answered by your former employers.

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I suppose it's possible they'd check your references and verify salary at this point. But in all honestly, it's not a truth detector test, it's sounding you out on whether your expectations and their ability to meet them will match.

At this point, at least in some industries - compensation expectations are changing so fast they can be wildly variable. In general, you can consider that the person who is first screening you is buffering for the person who has less time to spare and for whom the organization can be more damaged by time wasting. For example, any hiring manager is trying to run a team short handed while they look for new staff.

These questions are to verify that your current expectations are somewhat in line with what the company offers you. If you make $150K, and the company will never offer more than $80, chances are they won't follow on with the interview if there are other candidates who have a closer match. It's "name that price", be truthful - it saves your time, too, if the expectations turn out to be wildly awry.

Figure that chances are, this company has has some serious issues with going through the lengthy and thoughtful interview process only to get turned down by candidates by failure to meet expectations. So, before HR engages managers, they are checking to make sure the time will be worthwhile.

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My guess is not that HR is trying to figure out what 'you're going to cost', they're trying to figure out what they're up against from competing employers. I routinely see ads on Craigslist that are laughable, $30K for someone that can design web pages and knows SQL Server. A few weeks later the ad shows up for $40K, then a few weeks later for $50K, as they get some grasp of what is reasonable in the market. Your prospective employer may be finding the pickings are slim, and they're trying to figure out whether they're doing something wrong. Of course, asking questions like this to people that think they should know better doesn't improve their odds.

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