Advertising Salary

PUBLISHED ON OCT 14, 2021 - LAST UPDATE OCT 18, 2021 — RECRUITMENT

This is a subject I see on LinkedIn all the time, frustrated candidates who have many negative experiences with investing much time and effort into a recruitment process, only to find out late in the process that the salary range is way below where they are in their career. People looking for jobs and finding a wall of no salary listed and not knowing where to start. I appreciate it can be hard.

I have been involved in recruiting people for my teams since 2005, a lot has changed in that time, particularly the need for digital skills in the work place and the gap between the requirement for people with digital skills and the number of suitable candidates. Right now, there’s a massive demand for candidates as so much stuff has moved online as a result of the pandemic, people are racing to catch up and skills are in demand. It’s a huge change and really matters to how we recruit.

Right now, it’s a candidates market. If you’re hiring, you should do everything you can to attract the right talent, so there’s a real need to be clear on salary. But I don’t think that means always listing the salary, so long as you’re clear as to why. But let’s dig in a bit more first.

There have been roles I have posted where the salary has not been advertised. There have been a number of reasons for this, and despite seeing candidates saying things like:

There are only two reasons a company wouldn’t be transparent about their pay practices. 1. They aren’t paying enough 2. They don’t want employees knowing how much others are making. Red flags everywhere.

It’s not that simple, there are other reasons some of which I think are good, others are equally red flags.

Why I Have Not Listed Salary

I have posted jobs, without a listed salary. Here are the reasons which I believed in at the time. I think more thought is needed for the future though. But, I think sharing some context for those who don’t have the benefit of being on the other side of the table may be useful.

Company Policy

Some companies have a policy of not listing the salary for any role, a hiring manager can not override this no matter how much they’d want to.

A larger company (hundreds of staff) is more likely to have this kind of policy and it could be due to some teams/locations having an issue and the area you are looking at might actually be fine. There may be a toxic culture with serious pay issues in a division in one location, possibly an acquired company, that does not reflect on the rest of the business, but has resulted in a company wide policy.

The policy could have stemmed from the time there was an issue, and that issue is long since gone, and salary is all fine. But no-one has ended the policy. Seems mad, but in a big organisation realising that’s the point to revoke a policy is often harder than you’d think.

Sometimes it’s just the way the HR team want things to be.

It’s not always a sign of a problem, and you’ll never know as a candidate that that is why the salary wasn’t listed.

No Idea What the Range

I have hired for roles where we don’t know what the market rate in our region for a role is, for example a highly specialist role. We’ve not been able to get good enough signs from other adverts, as no-one is recruiting for it recently enough. Agencies that offer salary surveys have been no help.

Candidates are rare, roles are rare, we need to tempt someone out of post. Budget very rarely can be signed off based on what we need to pay for the role.

So the job goes out with no range attached, recruiters who are headhunting for us are briefed to discuss this with candidates and find out what they are looking for. We won’t waste people’s time past that point if they are way out. And yes, that’s possible, even with an open budget!

Not Wanting to Put People Off

This is something I’ve been involved in a lot of debate about. If a role is worth (say) £30k-40k to us, are we going to stop good candidates applying who are heavily undervalued in their current role? There is a gender pay gap, if a woman worth £35k to us is on £22k somewhere will she not apply because it’s too big a jump to be credible? This is a genuine and serious concern I’ve been trying to find ways to address in my recruitment. Research also indicates than men are cocky and overconfident and will as a generalisation not be put off by a “stretch” like that. Some will though.

We don’t want to stop candidates who are undervalued in their current role, or their own heads, applying for a role because we feel they are worth more.

Causing Issues with Current Staff

Sometimes I have been involved in a decision to not list salary as it could give us an issue with current staff. In some organisations this may well mean there isn’t a good situation with salary and that they’re underpaying existing staff and not providing pay rises/promotion.

This hasn’t been the issue for me. For me the issue has more been about individual cases of an issue, or timing.

Timing

I have on some occasions had to leave the salary off, because it will be seen and commented on internally and we have a plan to provide salary adjustments for the wider team, but are locked in to a corporate timescale. i.e. pay reviews are twice a year in a specific month, effective from a specific date.

We have established we’re off market rate, so will hire new hires at the market rate. We know we have a signed off pay adjustment due for the team to adjust people who are no-longer on a competitive salary. The market goes through changes, so do businesses. Some years we’ve been unable to get the budget for raises to match the market and now we need to catch up again.

We still can’t adjust them until the pay review, but they will be adjusted. So the job advert goes out without salary as we need to hire now and pay rises are in 3 months.

Staff Issues

There have also been times when we have kept the salary off the job listing as we have an on-going issue with individual members of staff. There have been cases where we have had individuals who we feel we are paying inline with market rates based on their individual skills, experience and their contribution. However, they may be aware of colleagues in the same role who they see as being peers who earn more.

Sometimes a job bracket is large, Software Engineer for example in some organisations is a wide band with a wide range of people in it, those who are getting ready for promotion to Senior Software Engineer will be earning more than those who have just been promoted from Junior Software Engineer.

But some people really don’t appreciate or understand how much growth and variety there can be within a given band and feel that they are worth as much as a colleague, and we feel they aren’t. There can be significant performance differences that people are blind to, they don’t realise that Bob is a lot better than them and contributes far more.

That’s not to say there aren’t companies who are using confidentiality of salary to under-pay staff, but in my experience it’s more about managing people’s unrealistic expectations. Perhaps there are other companies where they would be worth more, but in a given situation when they have shown a given performance and value, salaries are often inline.

If you’re dealing with a team member in that position, you also have to remember that the perceived unfairness of salary might be the de-motivating factor that impacts their performance!

Equally, more than once, I have used a new hire as an example for how we need to buff up the pay of existing people for whom I was fighting for additional budget for.

How Candidates See It

It’s been really interesting reading how candidates see that lack of salary. For some, it’s no big deal, they don’t expect to see salary listed. They are prepared and expect that discussion to be an early part of the conversation.

Other’s have got heavily invested into the process of applying, interviewing possibly multiple times, doing tech tests, assessments etc and then finding out the salary is far too low for them.

Some people won’t apply because they see it as a simple red flag. Others won’t apply as it makes them too anxious. What if it’s really looking for someone at the top of the market and they are no-where near good enough? What if they’re too senior? People are anxious about asking as it makes them look financially motivated.

You have to realise, if you are advertising without a salary, who you will be cutting off as a result and why. What candidates could you be missing out on?

One thing that I’ve noticed in the discussions, which is think matches up with more scientific research, is that men will apply for anything (broadly) and women will be much more selective and will not “reach” as far as men. They’ll apply for roles they think they could do now to a high standard. Men will apply for roles they could have a stab at and work it out as they go. Broadly, there’s a lot more to it than that!

So by not listing salary, are you cutting off your diversity massively? Are you skewing your team towards a white male bias? Needs some serious thought and a sensible approach!

How I Have Listed

Most of the recruitment I’ve done has been via agencies. Mostly, I’ve been looking for more than can be achieved with a passive job listing. The agency gives the ability to have someone dedicated to finding the right candidates, pre-screening them, giving them the pitch for your role up front and making sure there’s a match.

Whenever our official listing hasn’t included a salary, we’ve told the agency to discuss it with the candidate, establish their expectations and let them know our bracket. I’ve often asked agencies to show me the CVs of the candidates that are over-budget so we can see if we’re really missing out and need to uplift.

Of course, agencies are paid based on first hire salary, so strangely enough they never seem to find candidates who are below the start of the bracket, or more junior than we were hiring for that have the potential! They’re investing their times and skills in finding the top end candidates. Which is what you want and expect.

When I’ve listed without an agency, it’s generally been an entry level role. We’ve listed salary there most of the time. Recently I left it off because I didn’t want to exclude the chance of an experienced person who could bring new ideas into the business. But the job description was written from an entry level point of view.

How I Will List

I have done a lot of thinking about how candidates feel, reading a lot of feedback on LinkedIn recently. I’ve also been thinking about why I might still not want to list a salary on a role, putting that into context.

I can still see good reasons not to list a salary, mainly not to exclude people who are under valued but also to not exclude people I should try and get more budget for. I don’t want the job to not come back in a search for the inexperienced people.

So I guess it will depend on the platform, I’d like to be able to list “up to £X, depending on experience” where possible on a platform. If I can’t, I’ll leave the salary off and rely completely on the description.

We need to make it clear what our culture is, we hire based on aptitude and passion. We hire people who will be great in a role and we help them become great in that role. Sometimes we might need someone who can hit the ground running in certain aspects of the role. We’ll need to make that clear.

Clearly communicating what our “must haves” are and where we can help you develop and that the salary will be dependent on experience. An indication of our budget range, and actively asking people right at the start for their current salary and expectations.

Hopefully, with that approach we can remove any exclusion of great candidates due to platform limitations. We can remove anxiety and challenges preventing people from applying. Probably improvements to be made from that approach too. But, I feel it’s the right intent.

Advice for Candidates

If the job description sounds interesting, but there’s no salary listed. Apply. Presumably your CV/Resume is ready to go. Put your salary expectations into your application/cover letter.

Every agency I’ve ever worked with has included that information in the cover sheet they put on candidates anyway. Managers should be used to seeing it. Throw your notice period on there too. Always handy. Long notice period? Your company must really value you!

There may be some hiring teams who find stating your salary expectations in the application off-putting. Saying you may come across as motivated by money to them. But, that’s the simple truth of the matter. If a manager uses that as a reason to screen you out, that’s a manager you don’t want to work for anyway.

The best performance from people in a knowledge worker role (as opposed to more manual roles) comes from mastery, autonomy and purpose. But that assumes a baseline of earning enough money in the first place. So screening out because you are only interested if you can afford to take the job and feel it pays you fair value is definitely a red flag. You’re doing yourself a favour by getting screened out that early, a much better risk to take than not applying for what could have been your dream job as they didn’t list the salary as the platform wasn’t flexible enough.

So, I think there are well meaning reasons a company might think leaving the salary off is ok, and that it’s not a red flag. Definitely reasons it could be a red flag. See what else you can do to validate the organisation without using the lack of salary listing as a no-go area. But don’t over-invest in applying for the role without clearing that up. Find out on the first phone conversation at the latest if there is a salary match. If they can’t tell you by then, then it’s not worth pursing further. You don’t have to hear their range necessarily, they just need to know yours and to tell you that that won’t rule you out.