Is a shift in salary range appropriate and common? Ask HR

Johnny C. Taylor Jr.
Special to USA TODAY
Employers regularly monitor labor market data to optimize their salary structure.

Johnny C. Taylor Jr. tackles your human resources questions as part of a series for USA TODAY. Taylor is president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, the world's largest HR professional society and author of "Reset: A Leader’s Guide to Work in an Age of Upheaval.”

The questions are submitted by readers, and Taylor's answers below have been edited for length and clarity.

Question: My company recently reevaluated our pay structure. The salary range for my current position was altered. However, my job description remains the same. While my pay was not reduced, the ceiling rate for my classification was lowered significantly. Is such a shift appropriate and common for business? – Sarai

Johnny C. Taylor Jr.: A shift in salary range can be disconcerting for you – particularly when your work responsibilities haven’t changed. It is natural to want to understand what such a shift means for you now and in the future.

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Your company is likely in the process of communicating its reasoning for the change if they haven’t done so already. While I can’t speak to the specifics of your situation, there are a couple of likely reasons why a company may choose to revise its salary ranges.

Employers regularly monitor labor market data to optimize their salary structure. If your job was reclassified or shifted to a different division within the company, the salary range for the new category may be different than the previous one. Additionally, your employer could also expand their compensation structure by consolidating or separating positions into new categories with different salary ranges.

Occasionally, organizations will adjust overall expenses in response to financial circumstances. They begin this process by evaluating employee-related expenses which include salaries. It isn’t uncommon for organizations to reduce some or all salary ranges to accommodate financial conditions – especially during times of economic upheaval.

Going further, such a change may also signal a revision to your company’s priorities or future workforce planning based on their external and internal evaluations. It is good to be aware of these types of shifts as you move through your career. You’ll want to understand how your personal goals fit within the context of your employer’s strategic plans.

If your company does not provide clarity in a timely manner, I recommend having a candid, but respectful, conversation with your people manager regarding these changes to highlight any concerns and resolve any uncertainty. Hopefully, they can address any issues and provide some context.

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Q: In a recent interview, some of the hiring manager’s questioning seemed to cross the line into personal questions that were borderline inappropriate? What should I do when an interview steers away from my qualification for the position? – Quincy

Taylor: I am sorry to hear your interview ventured into uncomfortable territory. The interview process is challenging enough without an undue focus on personal topics not relevant to the work.

If HR was not a part of this interview, you should circle back with them to provide feedback. Hiring managers may not always preview or report back complete interview details with HR. Though it is not illegal for an employer to ask personal questions relating to religion, ethnicity, or personal life, it is illegal for them to base hiring decisions on those factors.

I’ll add this: Even as an external candidate HR should welcome your input as they are chiefly responsible for managing the recruitment process. If there are any problems with professionalism or otherwise, they will want to know.

Interviewers commonly ask you to share some information about yourself – including your work history, where you’re from, and your skills and experiences. Generally, any kind of personal details is just context for the work-related details they seek.

Should you feel the conversation becoming overly focused on personal information, try to redirect back to your skill set, work experience, or job responsibilities. Remember, you aren’t under any obligation to answer invasive questioning. You can always respectfully request clarity on how a particular question aligns with the position.

The interview should be a two-way conversation between candidates and prospective employers. As a candidate, you wield significant power in the interview process. You should be inquiring whether the employer is a fit for your career as well. Ideally, an interviewer should focus on details pertinent to the position, not your personal background. I hope you connect with an employer who appreciates your talent and character.