Salary Information: To Tell or Not to Tell?

Salary Information: To Tell or Not to Tell?

Salary Information: To Tell or Not to Tell?

Salary Information: To Tell or Not to Tell?

Salary disclosure has been a hot topic in our industry lately. Recruiters and candidates both have very strong opinions on this. Maybe if both sides understood each other’s motivations better, this would not be such a controversial question. But that is easier said than done. You’re probably going to encounter a lot of articles and blogs offering advice on this topic. Some of them will be more helpful than others. Should you share your salary information with recruiters or hiring managers? Here is what the Bradley Staffing Group recruiting team has to say on the topic.

Why do candidates hate this question?
In our experience, the root of the fear most candidates feel about disclosing salary information is the result of the abundance of bad advice available online. These unreliable sources have helped sustain the belief among jobseekers that disclosing current salary information limits the potential increase they could receive if they were looking to change jobs. We have encountered several of these blogs that actually advise candidates to fill in “$0.00” in the salary field where salary information is requested on an online job application. Imagine yourself as a hiring manager on the other end of this submission. Wouldn’t you find that response disrespectful? Would you reach out to someone who left a response like that? Ironically, these same blogs caution that this approach could affect your chances of getting an interview. Is that a risk you’re willing to take?

Do you have accurate salary information?
Candidates also have the perception that if they are being paid below market value for a current position, they will most likely not be offered much more than that to make a job change. An interesting fact of this debate is that most people don’t actually know whether they are being paid fairly. In a recent survey by Payscale, 2 out of 3 people who are being paid at market value actually believe they’re underpaid. Many of the websites that claim to give salary information, like Payscale and are not reliable because they employ cost of living adjustments (COLA) in their salary calculations. A trusted recruiter is a more reliable source from which to gain accurate salary information.

Are You Confusing Disclosure with Negotiation?
Disclosing your salary history and expectations should not be confused with negotiating your salary. You are not attempting to negotiate your job offer at this initial stage. Giving this information is just providing a jumping off point to determine if it makes sense to continue the conversation. Be careful not to jump the gun. Bradley Staffing Group wrote a blog that provides candidates with some tips to negotiate an offer letter that you may find useful at that stage in the process. This is just one aspect of the job search where an experienced recruiter or reputable agency can make a significant difference in what kind of offer you receive. A trusted recruiter will understand the value of your skills and experience in the current job market, and will work with the employer to get you the best offer possible. A good recruiter will often turn down a job order from a client if the salary and compensation package are below market value.

How much is your time worth?
Imagine you receive a message from a recruiter about a position for which they think you would be a good fit. You set aside time for an initial phone screen in which they tell you about the position. You set aside more time to interview with the hiring manager. If you’re currently employed, this may mean you have to use vacation days or PTO. The job sounds like everything you want. You wait several days or longer to receive the offer. Then your heart sinks when the hiring manager extends an offer that is $10,000 below what you’re currently making. Because that hiring manager did not ask the salary question, you wasted precious time that could have been spent on a position that is better suited to your salary requirements. This same scenario has the potential to happen if you decline to disclose your salary information and expectations. We saw this happen quite frequently years ago when candidates were applying to jobs on their own and the market was softer. To avoid wasted time, lost wages and a lot of hassle, you should put your cards on the table in the early stages of the process.

Why do they want to know?
A major misconception is that recruiters and hiring managers ask candidates about their current or expected salary so that they know just how low they can go in terms of an offer. In fact, most of the time, this question is more a step in qualifying you for a position. The last thing a recruiter wants to do is insult a potential candidate by offering them less money than they are currently making to recruit them out of a position. Some local employers have a ceiling when it comes to salaries. They want to be able to give you raises in the future, and this can be impossible if you have already reached the maximum salary that they can pay. Recruiters and hiring managers have a responsibility to their clients and employers to thoroughly screen candidates prior to employment. Inquiring about current and past salaries and benefits packages is one way to assess a candidate’s trustworthiness.

Is it legal for them to ask?
In day to day interactions, it is in generally poor taste to ask someone how much money they make. Is it against the law? Many cities and states across the U.S. are banning employers from asking prospective staff about salary history. This is actually an effort to foster pay equity among men, women and minorities as opposed to being a candidate vs. employer issue. However, it appears that all roads are leading to a climate in which asking about salary history may soon be a thing of the past for legal reasons. Philadelphia attempted to pass a version of the salary history ban in 2017, but it is currently on hold. According to our research, at the time of this article, New York, Delaware, New Orleans, Oregon and Puerto Rico all have passed some type of law which prohibits employers from asking about a previous salary. Similar laws are also scheduled to go into effect in Massachusetts and San Francisco in 2018. Regardless of location, it is likely that it will take time for the bans to be clearly defined and interpreted. Employers can still ask candidates about salary expectations or the amount of money they would like to make in the new role. If you are asked the salary history question and your city or state has enacted a ban, politely say that you were under the impression that such a question was no longer allowed but that you would be willing to discuss your salary and compensation expectations. Currently, unless your prospective employer is in the Center City Philadelphia area, you should be prepared to be asked about your past, present and expected salary.

So What Should You Do as a Candidate?
Whether or not there are legal protections that come into play in your area, you have the option of not answering. However, you should know that, for better or worse, not answering this question could hurt your chances of receiving a job offer. If you choose not to respond and don’t structure your response carefully, you could give the impression that you are difficult to work with or have something to hide. The organization may just assume that you make too much money and they can’t afford you.

Our veteran recruiters recommend adopting a “Know and Tell” process when it comes to disclosing salary information to a perspective employer or hiring manager. Consult a trusted recruiter to find out what the typical salary is for the position you’re seeking. Knowledge is power. If you know what the typical salary is for the position your recruiter can make a case for why you deserve to receive that, or more, given your level of experience. Secondly, tell your employer about your full compensation package. Include your base salary, bonus structure and any other benefits included such as paid health benefits. Explain that you feel you have a general understanding of what market value for the position is, and that you would be happy with something in “X” range.

Depending on how interested you are in the position, it may make sense for you to overlook any strong opinions you have about answering the salary question. If you are adamant about not sharing your current or expected salary, or would like to hold off on doing so, there are some constructive ways you can communicate this without appearing difficult. Here are a few examples:

  • “I am a little reluctant to talk about salary expectations without hearing more about what the job entails. Can you provide a salary range for the position so that I know if it makes sense for us to continue talking?”
  • “I can give you a salary range that I would expect at this stage in my career, with the understanding that it could change as I learn more about the position with your company.”
  • “I’m seeking a package that takes into account benefits and other forms of compensation, but I’d like to know a little more about the job requirements first.”

At the end of the day, it is up to you whether you choose to disclose your salary information or not. In our experience, candidates who are transparent about their expectations and prepared to make a case for why they deserve certain compensation are more likely to receive an offer that they are happy with. Yes, it is intimidating to think that the wrong answer could potentially have you earning less than what you deserve, or price you out of the job. Feeling hesitant is part of the normal process of developing a rapport with your prospective employer. If you are working with the right recruiter, they will ensure that you are compensated accordingly. Best-in-class companies understand how essential it is to provide employees with competitive salaries. They know that in order to avoid turnover and retain employees, they have to be competitive when it comes to salaries. The scales of the job market are tipped in your favor right now, which is not always the case. If you are truthful and upfront in the course of your search, you will be much more likely to land the job you really want.

Bradley Staffing Group is a full-service staffing firm based in Wayne, PA. We are committed to matching A-level talent with best-in-class businesses. Our knowledgeable and well-trained staff brings a combined 70+ years of staffing experience to our clients and candidates alike.

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