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Should you take a job without knowing the salary?

Warren Buffett

Executive Grapevine | Executive Grapevine International Ltd

Should you take a job without knowing the salary?

Quite often finding out the salary before attending an interview or accepting a job offer is one of the first things most individuals will do.

While salary is incredibly important, to ensure a new role will cover the costs of the commute, living and the luxuries, business magnate Warren Buffett believes that this can in fact be detrimental to someone’s career, and you should instead work for someone you respect.

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Comments (1)

  • SK
    Sat, 14 Sep 2019 9:24am BST
    While I have the greatest respect for Warren Buffett, and his many achievements, I cannot help but think that his advice here is only going to be of benefit to a very small subset of people: those who are (a) interested in the very particular area of finance and business that Mr Buffett has built his career, and (b) who are at the very beginnings of said career, where they can afford to take such chances. For anyone else, especially those that have dependents and other commitments, knowing the salary of a job is rather important, and ironically one key detail that you are not always likely to get before an interview, and probably not even until a job offer is made.

    Some years ago, I took a job with a well-known organisation in my industry, an actual household name, but it wasn’t until the second interview, when the job was formally offered, that I was made aware that it would actually be a 25% pay cut from my previous job. Unfortunately, my previous job was about to become redundant, so I had no choice but to accept the offer. If I had known the true value of the position in question, I probably would not have bothered applying in the first place, and instead used what limited time I had pursuing other options.

    Similarly, I have a job interview scheduled for the end of this month, but have no idea what the salary is, the job specification simple states that it is “competitive”; in fact, all the vacancies for this company are labelled as “competitive”, none of them contain any numerical figures whatsoever. Considering that if I get this job that I will have to move my family to the other end of the country, where the cost of living is so much higher, I can only hope that competitive really is competitive, at the very least above a certain threshold, or I will have wasted a days’ annual leave, plus the travel costs of a 500 mile round trip, for nothing. Some vacancies show a range of salaries, and while these can vary as much as 25%, they do at least give you a general minimum figure that could be expected.

    Of course, by not stating a known salary for a position, the employer is then in a position to ask those most leading of questions of the candidate: “what is your current salary?”, and/or “what are your salary expectations?”. The first is frankly irrelevant, as your current salary might not be an accurate indication of your true skills and value to the new employer. And the second is a bit of a trap. Pitch your expectations too high and you run the risk of appearing as greedy, or simply poor value compared to another candidate. Pitch your expectations too low, and you can come across as too inexperienced to the job, or possibly too desperate to get it. Even worse, you could get stuck in a job at much lower pay than your peers, and then have to fight tooth and nail for a pay rise.

    As an enlightened employer once said to me during the interview process, “the job pays what the job pays”, meaning that if you can do the job, you get a salary commensurate to the value you add to the company for doing that job, and everyone fulfilling that role gets the same. Paying a range of salaries for the same position is actually manipulative and disingenuous, and really only of benefit to the employer. Not telling you up front about the salary is the above issue turned up to 11. And not needing to be bothered by the salary before you take on a role, is simply a luxury that few of us can afford.
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