NOPE: Job seekers, don’t pull this move when applying for a job

[Image description: An ostrich, looking directly at the camera, with only their head and part of their neck shown. They have a look of mild disapproval, but maybe that’s just me projecting. Image by pen_ash on Pixabay]

Hi everyone, I am heading out on a three-week speaking trip that spans the US, Canada, and Aotearoa, so apologies in advance if the next several blog posts may be short, poorly edited, posted at strange times, missing completely, or just a single picture of a majestic kiwi bird. (The use of the Oxford Comma, however, will be consistent).

One of the things I’ve been fighting for over the years is for employers to treat job candidates with dignity and respect. This includes the salary being listed in every job posting. Like the devastation of climate change, the importance of vaccinations, and the deliciousness of olives, the research is so decisive that there is no further arguing about this (Just kidding about olives; I know many of you hate them, and I feel deeply sad for you and your lives). Either you disclose salary ranges on your job postings, or you signal to the world how far behind your org is on equity practices.

That being said, I’ve been hearing more and more stories of organizations that disclose the salary, then candidates apply and go through the process, get offered the job, and then try to negotiate for higher than the salary range that was advertised. It’s confusing and frustrating. Said one colleague: “We were very clear at the beginning of the interview process that this was a grant-funded position and we could not go higher than the salary stated on the job posting. The top candidate indicated they were ok with this, and yet asked for 20K more at negotiation.”

This move—applying for a job with a salary listed, knowing that you plan to negotiate beyond the range, which I am going to call “Negotiating Outside Posted Earnings (NOPE)”—is not helpful, and I encourage job candidates not to do it, for several reasons:

It’s a huge waste of everyone’s time. Job application processes are some of the lengthiest and time-consuming things we do. And just like when employers don’t disclose the salary and job candidates go through endless rounds of interviews only to find out that they cannot live on the salary offered and everyone loses several hours of their lives that they cannot get back and there’s lots of cussing involved, NOPE often also forces people have to start the process all over.

It’s annoying and undermines mutual trust: It is irritating and shows a lack of courtesy for employers to not disclose and accurate salary at onset, but if they have, then it is now irritating for job candidates to completely dismiss the range that’s posted. Employment relationships need to start on a level of trust and transparency on both sides, and this move undermines that.

It disincentivizes employers from being transparent: If enough job candidates are NOPEing, it will increase employers’ questioning why they would be transparent about salaries if job candidates are not transparent about their intentions. What is the point of them disclosing salary if it’s not taken seriously? (They should because it’s the right thing to do, but it does make it harder when candidates also don’t act in good faith)

It negatively affects future job candidates: If enough people ignore the salary range and then ask for higher pay at negotiation, it may cause employers to change their behaviors; for example listing salary ranges that are lower than what’s available, since they anticipate several candidates will try to negotiate beyond the range. This makes salary information inaccurate for other job candidates.  

I understand why job candidates may pull a NOPE. Employers have much more power than job candidates, and they often use that power to withhold relevant information, make ridiculous demands, and otherwise treat job candidates like crap. Many employers list salaries but aren’t honest about them; specifically, they list a range but magically find more money if they encounter a particularly strong person in the search. Because of how shady many employers have acted, job candidates have learned strategies to protect themselves, including how to hardline-negotiate for higher pay. Who can blame them?

But, all parties need to stop with these shenanigans. Employers need to list their salary ranges and mean exactly what they say. No more ridiculously wide ranges like $40,000 to $100,000. And if you can offer a salary that’s higher than the advertised range to the right candidate, then your range should reflect that and/or you have language in the job posting to indicate it.

Job candidates, meanwhile, need to take the disclosed salary information seriously. Reflect on whether you would be able to accept an offer within the range, or even at the top of the range. If the high end is still too low for you, don’t apply. If you think employer may have some wiggle room, email them to ask if there is a possibility of them going higher than the advertised range. If they say no, move on. You will save yourself several hours and maybe some disappointment.

For colleagues from the corporate sector who are trying to come over to nonprofit, please keep in mind that when we nonprofits list a salary, often times that’s what we can afford due to grant restrictions and general instability of funding. Most of us are not playing games with you; what you see is what you get. We do have often have pretty good snacks though. Maybe even olives.

Employers for a long time have treated job candidates terribly and with lack of transparency. In response, many job candidates have developed strategies to counter the shadiness. The application process should be a respectful exploration of potential partnerships. For that to happen, everyone needs to cut the crap.

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