Thinking About Including a Salary Range in Your Next Job Posting? Here’s What You Need to Know
Writing an effective job post for an open position is not a simple task.
Does it capture the essence of the role? Will it attract viable candidates? Did you include sufficient information about the job expectations? How many bullet points are too many bullet points? (Hint: 10 is too many.)
Questions like these have long been part of the job-posting challenge and will likely remain for the foreseeable future. However, one specific question seems to be drawing more attention (and controversy) in recent years: Should you include a salary range in a job post?
For some companies, disclosing salary information from the get-go is the standard. Their reasons run the gamut, from legal requirements (outlined below) to streamlining the eventual salary negotiations for potential candidates and supporting pay equity. On the other hand, many companies don’t ever share their pay ranges, arguing that doing so is bad business and potentially disastrous for employee-employer relations.
As you weigh these and other factors in the decision to include or exclude pay range for an upcoming job opening, consider the outcome beyond your recruiting strategy. Salary transparency of any kind has far-reaching effects inside and outside any organization, and those effects can be positive or negative, depending on how you deal with them.
Potential Drawbacks of Including a Pay Range
Despite the growing body of evidence demonstrating that full transparency leads to more diverse candidates and more equitable pay for women, people of color, and other historically underpaid groups, most companies still lean towards omitting salary ranges. According to a recent Payscale report, only 12.6 percent of global companies advertise salaries in their job postings.
Candidates Might Overlook a Job
Among the reasons companies withhold salary information are concerns about limiting the number of candidates who apply. Candidates with a specific number in mind may dismiss a job post if the salary information is not aligned with what they’re initially looking for. However, this hasn’t necessarily proven to be the case for candidates looking for the right fit.
It Takes Time and Effort to Find the Right Range
Another reason companies tend to omit compensation details is because of the time it takes to research and settle on a final number. To determine fair compensation, employers must consider several points, including (but not limited to):
- The salaries of existing employees
- Offers for comparable roles in other companies
- The cost of living in candidates’ geographical areas
- General industry standards for pay
After determining a range, companies typically develop a salary package based on factors specific to the candidate, including:
- Years of experience
- Cultural fit
- Growth potential
So, when deciding whether to include salary range in a job ad, it can feel like you’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t: starting off with a range wide enough to cover the whole spectrum of possible compensation offers little guidance, yet guarantees disappointment for all but the most stellar candidates. Too specific a number, on the other hand, may be more than a certain candidate should earn at their level of experience, or may imply there’s little room for exceptional candidates to negotiate.
A Candidate’s Market Can Create Internal Conflict
In a perfect world, every worker would receive perfectly calculated compensation based on objective factors that employees and employers agreed were fair. But we aren’t living in an ideal world. In fact, we’re not even living in a “normal” labor market. With 52 percent of workers planning a job change in 2021 and job openings trending above 10 million, the Great Resignation is pushing employers to consider higher salaries that better attract competitive talent.
This is another reason why many companies choose to exclude salary ranges in job postings: disclosing what they’re willing to pay new candidates could cause internal conflict with existing employees—especially ones who started at a lower wage.
Why You Should Add a Salary Range to Your Job Posts
Many job seekers, employers, and recruiters have expressed support for salary transparency, from a reflective “let’s make this job post worth people’s while” to a straight-up “don’t be a coward,” call-to-action. But appeasing online proponents isn’t the only benefit to adding salary range to job listings:
- You’ll give the people what they want: Compensation and benefits are the main focus for candidates seeking a new job. One Glassdoor study indicated that salary is the most critical part of a job post, with 67 percent of employees and job seekers citing it as a top factor. Save your company some time by incorporating it in the job posting and give interested job seekers a chance to consider your open position more seriously.
- Your employer brand will get a boost: Disclosing salary information may not be the norm, but that means the employers who do reveal salary range tend to stand out. Adding wage details in your job post is one way to start building trust with job candidates during the recruitment process, and to continue the loyalty from current employees who know exactly where they stand on the pay scale.
- Your “secret” is likely already public knowledge: Job sites like Indeed, Payscale, and Glassdoor offer up salary information freely. Current and former employees can post salary information in reviews, on social media, or communicate the old-fashioned way—by word of mouth. Being open about what you pay your people lets you set the record straight and prevents any misinformation from spreading.
- You’ll save time and stress by not negotiating: Being straightforward about your company’s compensation allows job seekers to enter the interview process with an accurate idea of the compensation package to expect, rather than a number they create themselves and need to justify to you. You already have a number or a range in mind; being open about it saves time and worry for everyone involved with the hiring process.
- You’ll contribute to a more equitable environment for everyone, including underrepresented groups: Pay gaps among underrepresented groups and minorities are a pervasive problem in the corporate sphere. Your company can take a powerful stance on the wage gap by engaging in better, more transparent methods of communicating salary information.
Why You May Not Have a Choice: State Laws and Salary Information
Salary transparency is more than just a “perk” in some states—it’s the law.
States with Pay Transparency Laws
In California, Maryland, Rhode Island, and Washington, employers must disclose salary information if an applicant asks for a pay range. Washington takes it a step further by also requiring that employers provide the salary range to employees who are changing roles, if requested. Other states have similar disclosure requirements:
- Nevada requires employers to provide the wage range to job applicants who have completed an interview—even without the applicant’s request. However, employees still need to submit a request to view their salary range.
- Connecticut requires employers to provide salary information upon a job applicant’s request or, if the applicant did not request it, by the time the company extends an offer of compensation. State law also requires disclosure to employees when they are hired, change roles, or if the employee requests it.
- New York and Massachusetts are also looking to introduce bills that disclose compensation.
Colorado: The Gold Standard for Pay Transparency
No state has more stringent requirements than Colorado. An employer recruiting for a job in Colorado, remote or otherwise, must include:
- The wage range for the role
- A general description of other compensation available for the role, such as bonus structures or commission
- A description of benefits for the position in the job posting
Colorado’s Equal Pay for Equal Work Act went into effect in January 2021 to prevent gender-based wage discrimination. The law does include a list of allowable factors for salary discrepancies, so long as the employer “applies the factors reasonably and they account for the entire wage rate differential.” Factors include:
- A merit system
- Quantity or quality of production
- Geographic location
- Relevant education, training, or experience.
Still, all Colorado-based businesses, even businesses with one employee, must include expected salary ranges and benefits in all job postings. This empowers applicants with a better understanding of their market value, and allows them to come prepared to discuss their compensation with more tools at their disposal.
What About Remote Workers?
For the most part, remote job applicants fall under the jurisdiction of the state or city laws that govern salary disclosures for the company they are applying to. This isn’t always the ideal situation for employers who, along with a potential ban on questions about salary history, may feel like they’re at a competitive disadvantage with job seekers. Nevertheless, the movement toward salary transparency is enabling a growing number of employers to disclose the information on job posts—whether by mandate or by choice.
How to Disclose Non-Salary Compensation on Job Posts
Not all salary ranges are created equal.
Specific industries or job roles, like sales or account management roles, may offer compensation structures that are not strictly tied to a base salary. Instead, these roles rely on bonuses or commissions to complete the entire compensation package. As a result, the starting salary may seem very low when listed on a job post, yet the actual earnings could be closer to or even higher than what candidates anticipated.
Unfortunately, on job search sites, it’s too easy to miss commission-based listings. Job seekers will often filter by base salary when searching for open positions. Many candidates won’t even see the job opening if they aren’t looking at salaries that low.
Whether your state mandates your organization to disclose salary information or not, if you opt to share wage ranges, try to get the range as close to the total compensation as possible while being both realistic and crystal clear about your compensation structure. If you can’t include commission, or there’s no space to add supplemental wages, at the very least make the earning potential very clear in the wording of your job posting.
How to Write an Effective Job Post (with or without Salary Range)
SHRM recommends crafting job ads that primarily focus on the role. Of course, job seekers will want to know how much they’ll make, but they also need to understand what they’re expected to do and whether they have a shot at the job.
So the next time you sit down to write a job post, consider the following areas to make it an effective one:
- Job title: It’s all about brevity! Jobs with shorter titles that include only the essential words have higher application rates. Also, try to opt for a non-generic title that describes the position. For example, “Marketing Analyst” rather than just “Analyst II.”
- Location: Let candidates know if the position is in-person, remote, or hybrid. Candidates will need to prepare for relocation or a higher/lower cost of living.
- Qualifications: Keep this section short, simple, and easy to read. A clear list of bullet points can be more appealing to candidates over a long, bulky paragraph. Unless the job calls for it, too many specific qualifications may deter some job seekers from applying.
- Company reviews: Companies will often include a website, mission statement, or culture statement on their job post to give candidates an overview of the organization itself. However, LinkedIn developed a job posting “heat map” that shows candidates often skim over these statements and instead focus on other areas of a listing. If you really want to improve how candidates perceive you as an employer, put your efforts where they’re looking: on employer review sites that post unbiased views of the organization. Take some time to search your company online and preempt possible candidate questions based on company reviews that may be floating around.
- Tone: In the same heat map mentioned above, LinkedIn tested three versions of the same job description with different tones—straightforward, formal, and casual. The direct approach was the best-received among respondents, followed by the formal ad, whereas the casual, conversational post did not do well. Those who read the casual post were two to four times less likely to apply to the job.
Salary Transparency Opens More Doors to More People
In our current job climate, a salary is more than an exchange of money for labor. Salaries are indicative of how invested companies are in their employees’ wellbeing, in fair and equitable compensation, and—when they’re made public—in overall organizational transparency. Whether you make that information public or not shows more than just how confident you are that you’re truly paying every employee what they’re worth; it shows how confident you are as a business in the idea of doing what’s right.
Wage transparency requires that you consider more than just what benefits the business most or brings in the best candidates—perhaps most importantly, what you’re paying your existing workforce. This point alone is likely what stops most companies from being more transparent about wages. However, if you’re willing to confront any possible gaps that salary transparency reveals, you’ll help create a more inclusive and equitable work environment for everyone involved.
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Rob de Luca has written extensively on culture and best practices in the HR field, combining original research and input from HR experts with his own perspective as a manager, creative executive, and veteran of industries ranging from hospitality to consumer electronics. He believes culture is critical to organizational success and that HR holds the keys to defining the employee experience.