How to deal with salary ranges with applicants?

Salary range in law firm job offerDuring the hiring process, the question of salary is going to inevitably come into the discussion. Applicants are going to ask what the job pays. On the flip-end, most applicants are going to give you a range in terms of what they are looking for to accept a position if one is offered.

Many law firm owners and managers are not sure what to make of salary ranges from applicants. Can the firm pay the lowest end of the salary range? Should they pay the highest end of the salary range? Or should they make an offer somewhere in the middle? All of these questions are important.

It is true as well that every situation is different. Thus, uniform rules cannot apply to every hiring situation. However, the answer to this question first comes down to a couple of preliminary factors.

First, how badly do you want and need the law firm applicant? If you really like the applicant, and you feel like you do not want to miss on them, that might lead you in one direction (on the higher end of the range). On the other hand, if you are lukewarm on the applicant, that might lead you in another direction (on the lower end of the range).

Second, you always have to keep in mind what other employees in similar positions make. The truth is that while you might not encourage employees to do it, most are going to inevitably disclose to other employees what they are making. Thus, if you are paying one employee substantially more for the same or similar work than others, employees will inevitably end up being upset.

This can result in an “equal pay for equal work” dilemma. This dilemma might result in you passing on a certain candidate because it would not be fair to the other employees to pay a certain applicant what they are requesting even if you really like the candidate. This is an issue that few applicants consider when giving a salary range.

After considering those preliminary factors, if you are still interested in hiring a particular candidate (and their salary range fits generally with what you can pay), there are some general rules of thumb you can often apply when considering the salary range they have given.

  • First, if you offer a number that is near or at the top of the salary range, the applicant is obviously very likely to accept the position.
  • Second, a great number of applicants will accept a salary number right in the middle of their salary range. So, if they are asking between $60,000 and $80,000 for example, most applicants will take an offer for $70,000.
  • Third, many applicants will not take a number at the bottom of their salary range. And if you offer it, you will look cheap. Put simply, for an applicant who says they want $60,000 to $80,000, many applicants will actually turn down an offer of $60,000.

Many wonder why it is that applicants would turn down an offer for a salary that is on their salary range (even if it is the bottom number).  The truth is that many applicants are not serious about this bottom number. A bottom number is often a number they are giving out for purposes of negotiation (and to get their foot in the door), but it’s not actually the number they would take to accept a position. Finally, even if an applicant takes the offer for the bottom number (just to get a job), the reality is that many of these law firm applicants will leave and accept another position at the first opportunity for a higher salary.

If you keep these considerations in mind when making an offer to a law firm job applicant, you will generally be successful in getting an applicant you want to accept an offer. If, however, you are offering a salary number at the bottom of the salary range, do not be surprised when they do not accept the offer (or stay very long, if they do).

If you have any thoughts, feel free to share them below.

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