Not that long ago, human resource and recruitment professionals were told to keep discussions about salary and benefits hush-hush. This was partly to prevent the competition from finding out and offering just a little bit more to steal away top talent, and it was a way that companies could enjoy a little room for negotiation during the recruitment phase. Inevitably, however, things changed as social media channels gave way to open platforms where everyone freely discussed such matters.
Why talking about salaries during interviews matters
In a transparent and highly competitive hiring market, recruiters need to be talking dollars and cents. Salaries, benefits and corporate perks are all out in the open where anyone with the ability to research can find this information. So, what’s the hesitation of recruitment pros to discuss such matters during interviews?
At the forefront of the whole workplace transparency movement is Glassdoor, which began offering employees and former employees a place to voice their experiences online. Recently, Glassdoor offered a “Know Your Worth” tool, a free salary estimator and comparison tool. This is not the first of its kind, since PayScale, Salary.com, and some of the larger career boards like Monster and Indeed offer their own versions of industry salary calculators based on current workforce data. Even LinkedIn has gotten in on the salary comparison market, for premium users.
The general consensus around the HR and recruitment market is that things are changing, and that it’s better to keep up with candidate demands than to lose them to competitors. Roy Maurer, who contributes to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) blog, says, “Corporate recruiters and HR should get used to the idea of being open about salary in the hiring process.”
Josh Bersin, principal and founder of Bersin by Deloitte, Deloitte Consulting LLP also advises SHRM that, “Tools that enable salary transparency…give employers new signals on their compensation programs to attract great people.”
Tim Low, senior vice president of marketing at PayScale, and a contributor for ERE Media’s Talent Management and HR website, emphasizes the need for pay transparency today. Low says, “perception of pay has a huge impact on employee satisfaction.” Two recent PayScale surveys of between 71,000 to 550,000 individuals revealed that:
- 80% of people believed their pay was at market or below
- 82% of people said they were okay with lower than average pay, if rationale was explained to them
It’s more than surprising to consider that a recruiter could offer a below average salary to a candidate, if he or she could explain the validity of this to a candidate, and the candidate would believe it based on real salary data. Low does advise that pay transparency must be thought of as a spectrum of ranges between the highest degrees of knowledge of all employees’ pay to only being told their own salary. Companies must decide what level of transparency works best for their needs, but are warned against being deceptive in hiring practices.
During an interview process, how then should recruiters and HR talk about salary with candidates?
The answer is not 100% cut and dried, as it can be based on a number of factors. However, there are some simple guidelines that can be followed.
Have salary and other compensation information ready to discuss.
Before any interviews take place, do your homework and pull up at least 3 sources of salary data for the position you are hiring for. Make sure to consider regional aspects, pay equity, and the skill levels required for each salary range. Have this information handy if the need to discuss things comes up.
Ask the salary question earlier in the process instead of waiting until the end.
Many recruiters are so uncomfortable talking about salaries that they wait until the end of the interview or just blurt it out when asked. Don’t make the candidate worry about this aspect. Instead, ask the candidate what range he or she is looking for in terms of salary, then share what the company is thinking is fair based on what the candidate brings to the table.
Make any job offers more about the total compensation rather than just money.
A recruiter may be overly focused on the financial aspect of the interview process. Many candidates are looking for personal career growth through learning support, the opportunity to work with new and emerging technology, strong benefits and the chance to travel or work with top-level candidate, and other perks.
Find creative ways to negotiate through potential salary limitations.
If you hit a road bump and your company cannot offer the full compensation package that a worthy candidate wants, try to focus on other means to provide a better offer. For example, how about a company cell phone for job use or an extra week of paid vacation each year? Chances are, you can find an agreeable compromise for an outstanding candidate.
Talking about salary during interviews is a necessary part of the process as we enter a more transparent world and recruit future generations of workers who demand to know.