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Why Employers Are Approaching the Salary Issue All Wrong

Steve Browne, HR professional and CareerBuilder contributor

These days, the majority of the job search process is transparent. Companies go out of their way to make job postings attractive so that they will be considered over others. However, there is one topic that both employers and candidates avoid: salaries.

A friend of mine described these unmentionable topics as “the dead moose on the table,” which is a bit more uncomfortable than the traditional phrases people use. Talking about money makes people clam up because employers don’t want to show their hand, and neither do candidates. There’s this innate fear that a number which is unattainable will be shared and the two parties won’t be able to reach any middle ground. People treat the subject as a make-or-break issue when it doesn’t have to be.

We need to come to terms with the reality that salary information is a key consideration in someone accepting a job, but it doesn’t have to be the lead or the close. In fact, learning how to incorporate salary information into the fabric of the entire recruitment and hiring process takes away the awkwardness of any discussions about money.

Here are three ways to do this that will keep money in the mix and no longer make it an obstacle.

Be realistic about the value of the role.

Employers need to define the value of the role they are filling before assigning a dollar figure to it. Value is made up of items like scope and reach of the role, where the role is positioned within the company and how it affects others. When you communicate the value of a role, candidates can start working with you to see where the money will land. More often than not, you’ll both be very close in the end.

Offer the best salary you can upfront.

When candidates and employers negotiate back and forth on salaries, each side ends up being on the defensive at least once through the process. After being on both sides of this process as a hiring manager and as someone looking for a job, I’ve found that you need to give your best offer first. It seems a bit terse, but it’s better to have expectations established up front. People like clarity versus ambiguity.

Focus on the whole.

The job posting, as well as the discussion throughout the hiring process, needs to have a broad focus on the company, department, role and how they’re all tied together. With an all-encompassing approach to openings, salaries are easily discussed because they aren’t treated as something separate; they’re included in the mix. The art of framing is needed by talent acquisition professionals, because each role, salary and opening is unique — just as is each candidate. Develop a more holistic approach, and salaries become more natural.

Money doesn’t need to be a stumbling block in the hiring process. This is an opportunity for you to rethink how you talk about salaries and understand that being direct about a facet that is a substantial reality is a much healthier approach to being a talent acquisition professional. Candidates will appreciate the candor, and it will reflect your high regard for people in your company culture.

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