Don’t ask about pay in the job interview. It could cost you the job

You need to know what a job pays before you know if you should consider it, but don’t ask about pay in the interview. A new study says it could cost you the job.

A new study has found that asking about pay and benefits during the interview process can turn hiring managers against you.

The research, published in the Academy of Management Journal and covered in Academy of Management Insights, found that:

“A significant bias…”

“hiring managers often have a significant bias against candidates who ask about pay and perks during interviews. Further, in evaluating people for positions, managers rate candidates who focus on the job higher than applicants who also inquire about benefits.”

We have written before that it is a bad idea to ask about these things during the interview, and this is further evidence of that.

Researchers at the University of Maryland and Singapore Management University conducted four studies among hiring managers and business school students testing the theory that “candidates’ expressions of extrinsic motivation lead decision makers to infer that the candidate is less intrinsically motivated, leading to bias against such candidates.” Lead author Rellie Derfler-Rozin is quoted as saying that the research “shows that decision makers penalize candidates who express an interest in pay and benefits, assuming their motivations for going after that job are not pure.”

The purity of your motivation

Yes, your motivation when job seeking are expected to be “pure,” and you’re not expected to care about whether it will allow you to pay your bills, support your family, and function as a human being. The pay and benefits are supposed to be a bonus. Ridiculous? Of course! Almost everyone cares deeply about pay. It’s the reason we have jobs. But this is not entirely new information.

In the article, titled “Motivation Purity Bias: Expression of Extrinsic Motivation Undermines Perceived Intrinsic Motivation and Engenders Bias in Selection Decisions”, Derfler-Rozin points out that employees who are motivated by work they enjoy (intrinsic motivation) as well as good pay, generous vacation time, and family-friendly policies (extrinsic motivations) may benefit organizations just as much as those imaginary applicants who don’t give a hoot about pay and just want jobs for fun (I might be paraphrasing a little bit).

Academy of Management Insights states that the findings “have broad implications for managers, who may be missing out on the best candidates by passing over prospective employees who express interest in compensation. Motivation purity bias also could have negative consequences on job seekers from lower economic backgrounds, who are more likely to need money, and on women, who are more likely to be concerned with flexible schedules and benefits, such as childcare.”

Not likely to change

This bias isn’t likely to change anytime soon, just like the bias against the unemployed. This means that, unless you’re in a position in which you can afford to take the risk, you should avoid talking money or perks in the preliminary hiring stages, and wait to find out about these things until you get an offer. This may mean taking the time to go through several rounds of interviews before you even know if you want the job and there isn’t really any way around it.

It’s a game we all have to play.

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