What Are You Even Hiring For? Vetting Candidates Under a Salary History Ban

How to Adapt Your Hiring Approach When You Can’t Ask About Salary History.
Nov 7, 2019
Jon Heise
Jon Heise
Lead Recruiter
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You have a process and rhythm to your hiring approach. You have your go-to questions. But if you’re in Illinois, a recent law banning questions about salary history may mean you have to make some changes.  

As of September 29, companies in Illinois can no longer ask job applicants for their salary history—a bill that Governor J.B. Pritzker signed into law in July. While the law advances pay equity and could be life-changing for workers, it forces recruiters and hiring managers to adapt their approach to interviewing and hiring.    

We want to make sure you’re ready to adapt to these changes. Start by looking at the company from a high level: 

  1. What kind of talent is the company lacking? 
  2. Are the needed skills easy to find? 
  3. What kind of personalities will mesh with the organization? 

There are basic questions that your interviews must answer: 

  • Does the candidate have relevant experience?
  • What are they doing in their current role?
  • What do they like about the work they’re doing?
  • What do they dislike?
  • Why are they looking for something new? 
  • Does what they are looking for align with the company’s needs? 

Ultimately, you have to be realistic about what you’re looking for. Candidates are only going to succeed if you know exactly what the company needs and who will work best within that specific company’s culture.  

When hiring for a new role, consider three ways of framing the position:

Executional vs. Leadership

We also think of this area as tactical vs. strategic. And we further delineate it in this way: Is this a new role or function with no prior benchmarks? Or, is this a replacement hire or adding to an existing team with some prior benchmarks? If it’s the former, you want to understand as many expectations as possible for the new role before interviewing; if it’s the latter, use what you know to drive the interview process.

Structured vs. Unstructured

This bucket can also be viewed from the perspective of more established companies vs. start-ups. But it’s not always based solely on the type of company. Some companies have unstructured divisions or teams within a larger structured environment. Either way, you have to understand both the company’s structure and what the candidate is looking for in a work environment. 

Hard Requirements vs. Soft Requirements 

What are the three things you deem necessary for the role, and what are the non-starters if the job seeker does not have them in place? What skills or experiences are preferred? Define the non-negotiables, what’s nice to have and what’s miscellaneous. Ask yourself if the hard requirements are truly hard requirements. Are you thinking too narrowly? And is the role in its ideal form actually fillable? Too often skills that are very rare and/or can be easily learned, are considered must-haves. Top talent will want to learn new things - the ability to learn new things is the best way to attract great people.

Additional Considerations

Beyond these buckets, consider the following:

The Company

Assess the employee population that’s doing well at the company. Explore their backgrounds. And for those who didn’t or aren’t working out, find out why. Perform stay or exit interviews to learn what the challenges were.

Develop a mission statement for how the company defines itself and its goals and objectives. Look back five years and ahead five years. 

The Hiring Process

Ensure that whoever is initially screening candidates understands the domain area you’re looking to address. Get in sync with the hiring manager.

Re-visit the company’s core values and explore if the candidate aligns with them. 

Decide if you’re looking for a jack-of-all-trades or a specialist. Because there are rarely positions to fill that fall in between these options.

The Job Seeker

Find out why the job seeker is looking for work. 

Are they curious about the company, their career and themselves?

If they hate their current company, ask what’s behind that. And be careful of anyone that is too negative about their former company in the interview. There’s a high likelihood that negativity is an everyday thing. 

When asking about their current job and the current environment, ask if they know what they like about the work they’re doing. Also, inquire about why they’re looking for a new position.

Determine if they want to be managed or left alone. A lot of people say they don’t like to be micromanaged. That doesn’t mean they can be productive without micromanagement. Make sure you understand how they manage themselves and stay organized. Especially if they are remote or in an unstructured environment.

Check their work history to see if their career journey appears experiential or monetarily/seniority/title driven? 

Encourage them to share what they’re expecting in terms of growth and career expectations in relation to their future with the company.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, making the right hire comes down to the right skills and the right fit. Make sure you can define what you’re looking for in terms of talent, skills and personality.

Jon Heise
Jon Heise
Lead Recruiter

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