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Recently I was in a phone interview with a company and the interviewer asked me what my "cap salary" would be. I thought it was a strange question to ask, so I told them my minimum salary idea. She said, "no. What is the maximum salary you would accept?"

How should I have responded? What was the point in that question?

  • 3
    infinity +1 would be about right – Old_Lamplighter Jan 29 at 19:31
  • To be honest, I was so caught off guard by this question that I don't even remember how I responded! I tried saying "I don't see myself having a cap salary", but she was adamant about me telling her an exact number. – Michelle Jan 29 at 19:41
  • Were you applying to a non-profit? I can see them valuing selflessness or meager financial ambitions. – dandavis Jan 29 at 19:52
  • Be considerate! There's no reason to have a salary so high that it would start a country-wide inflation... – Igor G Jan 30 at 11:51
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I think this was a poorly phrased "Give me a salary range".

If something like this happens in the future, just give them the standard, "I'm looking for something in the range of "X" to "Y". and leave it at that.

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I told them my minimum salary idea. She said, "no. What is the maximum salary you would accept?"

This is a really odd question. I would accept any number higher than my minimum salary (assuming everything else about the offer and position is fine) and I think 99% of people would do the same. Thus saying "I have no maximum salary requirement" would work.

Typically recruiters will ask for your minimum salary, because the company wants to pay you as little as possible while keeping you happy. Giving a salary range is very unnecessary, because usually a company will just give your minimum.

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On the face of it, it definitely seems like an odd question. Why would you ever reject a job based on it paying too well.

However, while some people may feel comfortable to fight for as much above their minimum as possible - there are also many people who have a comfortable salary range where they feel their skills would meet the expectation set by the salary.

For example, there are people who feel comfortable delivering good value on a £30K salary. Given the potential to make £50K, they may still see this as a good jump and within their reach. However, if you offered them £200K, they will steer away from the position - as they feel their skills cannot match the offer, and that they will be out of their depth.

If your maximum is genuinely "uncapped", then by all means do just tell the recruiter so (and if they persist, find a new recruiter).

But there are definitely people who would take real persuasion to look at an opportunity that "overpays" compared to what they think they are worth. In those cases, it would be a waste of the recruiter's time to apply for them - as the person does not truly feel comfortable taking such a role (even if this seems irrational to somebody who fits the "pay me as much as possible" category).

Of course, the most common way for a recruiter to handle this entire thing - is just to ask "what's your expected salary range".

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Probably a test to check how bold you are able to think. And given you are thinking really big what in exchange you would be willing and able to give.

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