Third party recruitment is a rocky system to participate in, whether you’re the talent looking for work, the company seeking the talent, or the recruiter that’s trying to make the connection.

Though there are many inherent difficulties in this entire ecosystem of finding and hiring folks, there is one particular “bug” I want to point out. Of course, this is a difficulty as perceived from the “talent” perspective.

The question that a candidate is often asked is

What are your hourly/salary requirements?

Now, in and of itself, this is not a ridiculous question, but when the candidate is asked is the crux of the problem: they are asked sight unseen.

To prove this is nonsensical, I will ask the same question but in a different context. Prepare to suspend your disbelief.

Illustration in Another Context

Let’s say you need some money, so, I offer to buy something from within your home.

Some object, any object, just the one.

It could be anything I want to buy, you even get to name the price, but my selection is limitless: I can ask for your TV, a spoon, your laptop, kitchen sink, anything within the boundaries of the home.

So, I ultimately ask you

How much do you want for something from your home?

… but I haven’t yet named the thing I get for that price!

Doesn’t this seem like a completely nonsensical way to do business, sight unseen? The seller is at an utterly obvious disadvantage.

Building a More Complete Picture

To be forthright, by the time the compensation question is asked, the candidate often has two pieces of information:

  • the company name
  • the job description

The name and description are important, but hardly enough to base a decision upon. Ideally, there should be at least one in-person visit to the work place and introductions to prospective coworkers and management before naming any price. For the most part, the following questions are subjective, so they need need to be felt out by the candidate alone, thus a site visit when possible.

Note that one doesn’t have to ask these directly. In fact, for some, it makes sense to infer based on the vibe you get when interacting with the prospective team.

  • Do coworkers and departments get along?
  • Who am I replacing or is this for new business?
  • Is the work exciting?
  • What are the major barriers to doing great work in this company?
  • What is the worst part of working here (what gets you down sometimes)?
  • What do the work processes look like?
  • What software and frameworks are you using?
  • What’s the people to projects ratio?
  • How will I be evaluated?

Some of these a recruiter can actually answer. Good. Some of these a recruiter will attempt to answer or even swear to be accurate, yet, you, the candidate, need to discover for yourself while getting a feel for the environment.

Of course, any career book will give you plethora of additional piercing and useful questions, but I have found these above to be the most valuable when getting your initial bearings. Besides, time is of the essence when interviewing so know what you want to ask beforehand.


So, fellow candidates, I don’t have a foolproof solution to completely eliminate this glitch in the hiring system other than insisting, in return, that you have more information to base your compensation upon.

If you never ask to be the exception in this predetermined process pervading the third party recruitment ecosystem, you will be at a disadvantage 100% of the time.