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I’m applying for a position that would require relocation. So far I’ve been through:

  1. A quick “resume buzzwords” screening call with the recruiter.
  2. A 45-minute tech screening call with a senior developer to test me on platform basics.
  3. An in-depth tech round, administered as an assignment to do a full-stack vertical slice of code.
  4. An in-person interview with the CTO and a HR person.

The tech round alone took me two all-nighters, so about 4-5MDs of work to complete, not to the full extent of the assignment by the deadline, but enough to pass the round apparently.

The last round involved a total of 8 hours of a train ride. My impression from it was it wasn’t really a test to pass anymore, as much as getting more details on what I’d be doing and to get the usual talk about the perks, which I believe strongly hints I’m going to get some offer.

The HR lady did ask me about my money expectation, I said my numbers which research tells me aren’t outlandish. In other interviews, by this point, I’d get some sort of feedback to the tune of “oh that sounds doable.” Here the HR lady segued to “what else besides money would motivate you to move across a country?”

Now, I’m not a twenty-something that just needs to drop a lease and pack a duffle bag. I’d be moving for the third time in four years: crashing on somebody’s couch in a new city until I find a place there; pay three months’ rent or so just to get the keys to that; keep paying the rent on my home until I’m certain I’m established and staying for a while; and then sublet my home, possibly at a loss to keep it occupied. And as cynical about capitalism as I am, I think it’s disingenuous to talk about moving for a new job as if it’s a fun adventure they’re letting me have and not fundamentally a business transaction where they offer me money for my skilled efforts and I weigh that against the costs incurred by me.

Am I just being paranoid and is what I saw as evasive behavior just standard HR nonsense where said person just wanted to do her thing of gauging my attitude? Were they simply being oblivious of my part of the equation? Or is the lack of transparency a sign that they aim to try and lowball me?

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    Why did you let them drift off topic when starting to discuss the salary expectations? Surely this is a key point and you should have been happy with your answer before moving onto another subject. – user44108 Oct 5 '17 at 13:50
  • "a sign that they aim to try and lowball me" - Any HR will try that! It's their job. The question is how hard they'll try. – Fildor Oct 5 '17 at 13:55
  • @Fildor only bad HR has "lowball our new employees" as their job. – Erik Oct 5 '17 at 13:55
  • @Erik I dramatized a little ;) But they surely won't pay more just because they liked you so much. – Fildor Oct 5 '17 at 13:56
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    Just as we often advise candidates never to talk about their salary history, as a matter of personal policy, it's entirely possible that a company might have a policy not to discuss numbers until they've figured out what their actual offer is going to be, to avoid miscommunication or a candidate thinking they pulled a bait and switch if someone threw out a wrong number based on incomplete or inaccurate knowledge. – PoloHoleSet Oct 5 '17 at 21:58
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I think you missed a great chance to actually answer her question. It's possible that the question signals they can't (or don't want to) give you as much money as you want, but it could also signal "please reassure me you really want to work here and aren't just looking for money."

A good answer would have listed 3 or 4 things you know they provide (exciting work, a chance to make a difference in the world, fun working environment, new responsibilities, opportunities for advancement, pleasant commute, nice living environment, lower housing prices etc etc) followed by several non-cash perks they could give you (vacation time, on-site facilities such as a gym, daycare, etc, commitment to x amount of training a year, being sent to conferences, access to luminaries of your field, etc.) You could then smile and say something positive about how sure you are that they will be providing all of that, so it's really just down to making sure the actual salary is ok.

That brings the conversation back to where you want it (please offer me a salary high enough to let me take this job) while also pointing out that a lot more than the money has gone into your decision, and you think highly of them and want to join them.

What to do now? Wait and see I suppose. You could always email her and say you feel you skipped answering that question and would like to answer it now. I can't see how that would hurt. But this far into the process, they must be very close to making you an offer now.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Monica Cellio Oct 6 '17 at 3:00
  • Discussion aside, I’m accepting this answer because it explains the segue from the perspective of the hiring person the best. – millimoose Oct 6 '17 at 15:23
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You are a bit paranoid. Total compensation is often a motivator. When I taught a job-hunting class, I would ask people if they would take a job for 250,000/yr. Every hand went up. I said "Good, it's in Iraq, and you're going to have to hire your own private security team.

This is of course an extreme example, but the HR person was simply trying to find out what motivates you besides money. I'm sure if they came back with:

Well, the salary is below your range, but we do have 4 weeks vacation, a company car, and full medical and dental for you and your family with a low deductible.

Your view may change. It's not dodging, it's trying to see what your interests are and what total compensation you would be satisfied with.

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    The HR person did go over their perks, they were pretty run-of-the-mill, healthcare is regulated here, and I can’t pay rent with a loaned car. The “perks we want to get going” mentioned were to the tune of maybe a few hundred a year. (Gym membership and public transit pass?) So I both don’t expect them to come up with something that would make up for a low salary, and even if they did it’s not of much use to me. But you might be right in that maybe they wanted to find out exactly why the money is important to me. (Which: odd, seeing as we do in fact live in a heavily monetarized economy.) – millimoose Oct 5 '17 at 14:06
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    @millimoose the point is that there may be something else that they can offer you that may not raise your pay, but could lower your expenses. – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Oct 5 '17 at 14:12
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    There may, but going off the experiences in my environment, it’s not very likely. – millimoose Oct 5 '17 at 14:19
5

I'm going to run counter to a few answers here...

Having spent what sounds like around 20 hours proving your worth to the job, I'd say it's fair to ask "are we on the same page with money?". If you've researched what the living conditions are and what a fair wage for your skills are in the area, and what fair relocation costs would be - I'd say it's not too presumptuous to say "am I wasting my time if I expect this basic ballpark?" Particularly before you spend more than a few more hours on further discussions.

I'd suggest that you politely parlay the "but what else excites you?" type conversation - grant the premise (presumably there ARE some cool things about this job that make the move exciting?) - say what you like about the company that make the move sound great - but gently bring it back to the point that all the intangible benefits are GREAT, so long as your basic needs are met. And politely raise the point that you've had NO indication that you and the company are on the same page.

I think everyone has their own point at which the lack of a salary conversation becomes a breaking point. For me, it's sometimes been before the first onsite interview, as it means taking a day away from work, and I won't leave a good job to go to a worse situation. The more eager you are for the given position, the more you may be willing to let it ride. Only you can decide when you've spent enough time to feel you need that answer = as cirumstances are unique to each of us.

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    I guess my takeaway here, combined with another exchange in the thread, is then that I should have indeed been more assertive about the money when it at all came up. I mean, it’s clearly a very crucial factor in my decision that I wanted to know today, and it’s this that makes me frustrated. Whether it’s suspicious or not is then arguably irrelevant; and to a lesser degree, who’s to blame for me not getting an answer. (We’re not exactly culturally primed to be assertive to potential employers here.) I’m still left in a position where I can’t responsibly assume the offer will be good enough. – millimoose Oct 5 '17 at 22:07
  • The good news is - if the offer isn't good enough, you don't have to accept it. Until you have agreed, all things are subject to negotiation. – bethlakshmi Oct 6 '17 at 14:49
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    But you're right that the knack of navigating salary discussions is, indeed, very cultural. Nationality, gender, role, confidence, and all sorts of other factors come into play here, and there's no one right way to do it. The best I can give to anyone in any culture is to make sure that you don't feel like your time/effort/energy is being wasted. Whatever that means for you in your world. – bethlakshmi Oct 6 '17 at 14:51

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