Two details about recent interviewing issues:

  1. Many companies do not provide me with any initial contact in which to ask about budget, and instead present me with a technical assessment as the absolute first point of contact. An HR questionnaire or phone chat often comes after the tech assessment to solicit what my salary requirements are.

  2. In these salary questionnaires / phone chats, if I express that my current salary is high and that I would be willing to take a reduced salary if other perks or compensation were availabe for me to consider as a trade-off, HR representatives often view this as flippant or rude and are unwilling to discuss the issue. I've tried many different ways of wording this so I am confident it is not because I choose a poor tone or poor wording.

Given these two items, what is a good way to ensure that I don't waste a lot of personal time solving the technical assessments only to then learn that the company has a budget constraint that entirely precludes hiring a person like me? Simply trying to politely say something like the following quote has not ever seemed to work for any company:

"I would like the opportunity to learn more about the position and the company and whether there is a possible fit for a person like me before discussing salary"

Extra info

I found this answer to a similar question.

I'd like to highlight that, specifically, this has not been my experience at all. In my case, I have performed extremely well in my job and steadily earned a very high salary relative to similar positions at other firms.

When I interview with technical hiring managers, what usually happens is that they like me a lot, there is a flurry of back-and-forth communication and they seem very excited, and then as soon as HR gets involved and budget items are revealed, there is radio silence for a week, followed by a curt HR email saying that they are going to pursue different candidates. Sometimes they explain that it is because of the budget, sometimes they don't explain at all.

I understand some companies may not want to pay a high salary to have a high performing employee, and their budget requires them to hire someone with lower aptitude who is happy to work for a lower wage.

I'd just like to get that information before spending hours/days solving technical assessment materials or taking time off work to do an interview.

  • 9
    This question appears to be off-topic because it is attempting to incite discussion on a topic rather than receive solid answers to an issue
    – user5305
    Commented Jan 29, 2014 at 17:02
  • 1
    This question is being discussed on meta.
    – jmac
    Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 1:43
  • 2
    ****comments removed****: Please avoid using comments for extended discussion. Instead, please use The Workplace Chat. On Workplace SE, comments are intended to help improve a post. Please see What "comments" are not... for more details.
    – jmort253
    Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 4:11

4 Answers 4


If the core question is how to clear a potential salary-related blocker sooner rather than later, then the way to do that is to bring it up sooner rather than later.

As a hiring manager, "What's the salary range you're looking for?" is something I ask candidates before I even phone screen the one who make the first cut, because I don't want to waste anyone's time (especially mine). If I didn't ask the question, and it's a sensitive area for a candidate (for any reason, such as consistently being filtered out because of salary), then at the end of the 30 minute phone screen, I would expect the candidate to ask about a salary range.

Asking "What's the salary range for this position?" is a completely reasonable thing to ask as early in the process as possible -- even before a phone screen. When I am a job seeker, I do this all the time because I don't want to waste anyone's time (again, mine, but also the company's). I've never had an HR person or hiring manager think I was a weirdo for asking the question. I've had people not answer the question, in which case I offer them the range I'm looking for, and we move forward.

My point is, bring it up early even if they don't. In my experience, I've also not been locked into (nor have I locked anyone into) the range discussed in early interview stages. YMMV on that one, though. So, there's definitely a (common, polite, thoughtful, useful) way to discuss salary ranges early in a process. You may be filtered out very quickly, but at least significant time isn't wasted going through a process that was never going to be a match in the first place.

If you're getting pushback when asking common, polite, thoughtful, useful questions early on, with every company, then the least common denominator there is you and your words, so maybe take a closer look at what you're saying and how you're saying it. Workplace SE chat might be a place to work through those very specific (to you) comments.

Note: it is possible, although not terribly common in my experience, that someone is so spectacularly wonderful so as to blow past the upper limits of a company's salary range. For example, if I have a position in which my range is $95 - 120k, and I say that up front, and the person really wants $200k, it's on him or her to decide whether they want to continue on the process. If they continue on, knowing our range is very far apart, and I don't think they offer $80k more value than the next best candidate, I'm not going to feel bad about that. It would be quite difficult for a candidate already that far apart to convince me to put myself on the line to convince management that they are worth so much more than the next best person.

  • It's interesting to revisit this answer some years later. Generally I would say the advice in the note at the bottom couldn't be more wrong. It seems extremely common, at least in software engineering, that different companies have wildly different valuations for the same candidates for the same kinds of roles. Two similar companies in terms of age, size, location, revenue, business focus, etc., and one might see the $200k salary as obviously justifiable to be competitive, while the other wants the same candidate for half the price. It's bonkers how random and unrelated to market wages it is.
    – user12818
    Commented Mar 8, 2018 at 19:32

Reading through your comments and the other answers here, I get the strong impression that you're applying for the wrong jobs.

I'm going to make up some numbers here, but imagine that you know that an average senior level developer earns £40k in that field / location. A company advertising for a senior developer will probably have £30-£50k in their budget. There's a bit of flex upwards from average for them finding someone good.

If you show up and say you want £80k and this is justified because you are a totally amazing, rockstar developer that will transform the way they work, you are wasting both their time and yours. If they wanted a rockstar amazing developer, they would have made that clearer in the advert and given job requirements to reflect that. What they want is someone that can do a decent job for £40k.

You need to seek out positions that are specifically looking for someone of a higher calibre. Don't get fooled by the word Senior, it seems to just mean that you actually know how to code well. These awesome positions will be a lot rarer though.

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    You should try to get companies to recruit you instead. Start networking by publishing papers or articles, attending relevant conferences and talking to CIO/CTO, other upper level technical employees, etc.
    – mkennedy
    Commented Jan 29, 2014 at 18:15

The situation here is that you AND the company are trying to save time. That's a laudable goal, but probably one with no perfect answer. In many cases in the tech world (and I'm betting form the context of the question), the problem from the company's perspective is to weed through a pretty large list of candidates as quickly as possible to get to a yes/yes answer. Because their resources are as finite as yours, they are looking to get from application to "no" on either side (you saying "no" or them saying "no") as quickly as possible.

In essence - so are you - you don't want to waste time on work (the technical eval) when the salary range will result in a "no". Either on your part (offer would be way too low for you to consider) or theirs (they don't want to waste the time when they know how low the offer will be compared to your salary).

If you withhold all information about your expectations, it's only fair to expect that the company will do the same. In all honesty, I don't know that anyone can really answer the question "do you have strong budget constraints?" In most cases, there is a general environment of "we will go to great lengths to work around our budget constraints for an absolutely amazing candidate, we will work all that hard for someone who only seems basically good". So we get back to the "how absolutely amazing are YOU for THIS position?" If you are changing industries it's hard to be 100% perfect for a position, because the perfect candidate will have familiarity with the business domain, which you do not.

So we're back to "how much time will you risk before you state your salary expectation?"

That's the call you need to make.

Note, I say "expectation" - you can play this a number of ways:

  • Mention that your salary is high for the position, but that you'd be willing to take a pay cut to X salary if the position meets your criteria. HR has a number, and you may qualify for further discussion

  • Mention your salary up front and ask for confirmation that it is within the ball park before you fill out the technical eval.

  • Judge based on role as well as salary when you apply - I generally have a sense in my field of what my role will pay, as well as what the roles close to my own pay. If the salary won't work for a lower role, I won't even talk to recruiters who call be regarding it - I just know it won't be worth the wasted time.

  • If you are way miscalibrated (sounds like it) you may want to decide on a new salary quote if you really want a different job. Don't even say your actual salary - say the salary you'd be willing to accept. It puts an obligation on you, though, to start asking about your criteria as soon as you get in contact with an individual who can answer them. Commented Jan 29, 2014 at 16:31
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    As for the tech manager vs. HR - there are reasons why tech managers don't ask salary and it could very well be that when the tech manager learns you cost A LOT more than other candidates, the enthusiasm they showed you is waning. I know that I personally would fight for an awesome person, if we're talking a 10% difference between current salaries and the new hire, but there's very little I will do when we're talking a 25-50% difference. It's easy to be excited before you learn the price tag. Commented Jan 29, 2014 at 16:34
  • You are definitely stating the exact problems that I face in a very clear and well-phrased way. It just seems there's not much I can do about it.
    – user12818
    Commented Jan 29, 2014 at 16:35
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    Sounds like you are at an impasse - you think you can find a position for which your salary is justifiable for some firms, but you haven't found any of these firms. That means you either need a better way of figuring out what firms will actually pay your demands, or your expectations are inaccurate. The higher your salary relative to the norm, the longer it will take to line up the position. Figure that the time investment you are making is to get that high salary or give up and stick with the job you have. Commented Jan 29, 2014 at 16:40

Give a salary range.

Indicate there are facts other than salary that you would like to know more about, so your needs may change depending on those. They'll assume you will not take a pay cut, so let them know you understand the current market and how your present position's salary is at the top, but you want other things: benefits, less travel, flexible time, etc.

Don't feel you have to negotiate the final salary with the HR person at the early stage. You can always ask for more after you've reassessed.

You may be worth more to your current employer than everyone else at the beginning. Find out how long it will take you to be evaluated for a raise. They're trying to limit their risk, but you need to know that if you prove yourself, the opportunity to make more money is available.

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    A 40% difference is huge. There's something going on that just doesn't add up.
    – user8365
    Commented Jan 29, 2014 at 15:35
  • ****comments removed****: Please avoid using comments for extended discussion. Instead, please use The Workplace Chat. On Workplace SE, comments are intended to help improve a post. Please see What "comments" are not... for more details.
    – jmort253
    Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 4:09