Job seekers interested in work who let hiring managers know of their interest in salary and benefits could end up hurting their chances of getting hired, according to new research from the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. But the scientists behind the research say that being motivated by the work itself as well as the pay and benefits are common, and actually better for both organizations and employes.
“Both motivations enhance performance. It’s actually irrational for an organization to not hire someone because they are motivated by things other than the work itself,” Maryland professor Rellie Derfler-Rozin said in a statement announcing the research. “Both motivations can and should be high, and there is robust evidence from previous research to suggest that together they strengthen each other and increase productivity.”
Derfler-Rozin and co-author Marko Pitesa of Singapore Management University, was published in the Academy of Management Journal.
The researchers ran studies test hiring managers’ biases. In one, they had students write fake cover letters to answer an ad for their dream job. They had another group score the letters for motivation cues, determining whether they were intrinsic, or about the work itself, or extrinsic, about factors like pay and benefits. Another group acted as hiring managers, providing their perceptions of both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, and then saying whether they would hire a candidate based on their letter. In that study, candidates who expressed high levels of motivation from salary, benefits, and the like were seen as having lower motivation for the work itself. The hiring managers were 20% less likely to hire those candidates.
In another study involving real hiring managers, an actor was recorded in different job interview scenarios, talking about interest in the work, as well as a varying level of conversation about salary and benefits. The managers watched different versions of the interviews, and those who saw the actor expressing higher levels of motivation by factors like pay and benefits were 23% less likely to hire those candidates, despite the actor also expressing a high motivation for the work.
Derfler-Rozin’s advice for organizations is for hiring managers to change their mindset about candidates who express extrinsic motivations, especially considering that companies like to tout their location and benefits to attract candidates. “It’s OK when they advertise it, but it’s not OK to ask about it,” she said.
Her advice for job-seekers: “I always say don’t talk about salary while you’re interviewing,” Derfler-Rozin said. “Only once you have an offer can you bring that up.”
Derfler-Rozin recently discussed the research in a TEDx talk.