Applying for jobs is a time-consuming and sometimes disheartening experience. Sometimes, you stumble across an opportunity that feels perfect—only to be ghosted after the first round of interviews. And other times, you come across a gig that seems too good to be true—and then discover they’re paying far less than your salary qualifications. Particularly in a competitive market like today, it’s harder than ever to find an ideal fit.
One smart way to maximize your time and effort is to look out for red flags that a position will pay you way less than you’re worth. Here, recruiters and career experts share the industry secrets to be mindful of:
The recruiter keeps selling you on the company’s ‘potential’
Many times, interviewees are overly concerned with how they respond to questions from a recruiter, rather than paying attention to what the person on the other end of the line is actually saying. The next time you’re on an introductory call, career expert for TopInterview Amanda Augustine says to take note if the recruiter is trying to ‘sell’ you on the position in question. If they talk about the company’s future or continuously bring up its stock option plan, she says there’s a good chance they’re not paying market value for their employees. “Whereas stock options can be incredibly valuable if the company takes off, if you’re considering more immediate payouts, then this type of opportunity might not pay the salary you’re expecting,” she adds.
The salary isn’t listed as ‘competitive’
It may seem like common sense, but if a job says ‘competitive salary’, it is usually true, according to industrial-organizational psychology practitioner and workplace expert Amy Cooper Hakim, Ph.D. Often, a recruiter will rave about the benefits and the pay if it’s impressive, particularly to grab the attention of an executive or senior-level professional. But if they’re mum on the topic, altogether? Hakim says it’s a clear indication your paycheck won’t be anything to get excited about. “If the recruiter doesn’t mention this or indicates that the business is a start-up or in its infancy stage, then this might be a red flag,” she continues. “The recruiter might even say that most won’t take this job just for the pay.”
The role is unclearly defined
If you leave the interview scratching your head and confused about what your job would be at this company, you probably don’t work for them. Though this isn’t true 100 percent of the time, when a role is unclearly defined, it could point to disorganization and thus, a less than stellar salary package. “When your interviewer isn’t able to discuss what the key duties of the role are and how those duties relate to the central goals of the organization, that could be a sign that big picture vision and day-to-day operations are not in alignment there,” explains Dr. Roshawnna Novellus, the CEO and founder of EnrichHER.com. “Such a misalignment is likely to affect revenue and may prevent your salary from being what you would like it to be.”
The job seems way too easy
If you’re listening intently to the role and responsibilities for the open position, and you find yourself thinking: ‘Okay, what else?’—you may want to look elsewhere for a gig. Every company has a different perception of what job functions should require—and what they should pay, according to Augustine. Take for an instant a senior manager of marketing at a budding new start-up, and then the same title at Facebook. These are vastly different organizations, and if you feel like you could do the job in your sleep, it probably means the salary won’t be impressive.
There’s no acknowledgment of the competition
Smart interviewers will take the time to analyze the market rate for their position. This is an easy Google search based on your industry, your experience, and the current economy. The best types of recruiters and hiring managers understand that candidates care about what they make, and will often have information on the competition handy. If they don’t, Dr. Novellus says it could mean they’re trying to cut corners. “While you probably shouldn’t broach this discussion at the very beginning of the interview process, once you get to a later stage, you may want to inquire about the typical salary range for a position on your level,” she continues. “ If the range your interviewer gives doesn’t match up with industry standards, or if it seems not to have kept pace with inflation or cost of living, be wary.”
The interviewer says you’re “overqualified”
Executives with more experience than necessary sometimes apply for roles ‘below’ them if they’re making a career pivot or trying to break into their dream company. However, if you’re interviewing for an opportunity that is in-line with your past work history and a recruiter keeps saying you’re ‘overqualified’—it could be that they don’t want to fork over the change for what you’re worth, according to Augustine. “While the ‘overqualified’ excuse is sometimes code for age discrimination, it can also be the interviewer’s way of alluding to the fact that the job probably pays less than what they assume you’re seeking,” she continues. “The years of experience requirement in a job listing offers some insight into what the company has budgeted for that person’s compensation.”