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Should Salary Ranges Be Part of Job Ads?

In a Q&A piece for Forbes, contributor Liz Ryan answers a reader’s burning question that I’m sure has plagued all of us during our own job searches: Why don’t employers list a salary range on their job postings?
salary ranges
Image Credit: Franck BLAIS/Flickr

“If they told us the salary range,” says the reader, “we could skip the ads for jobs that don’t work pay-wise and focus on the jobs that match our salary requirements.” The reader isn’t wrong in his argument, but the answer isn’t so cut-and-dried — and here’s why.

The Method to the Madness

Obviously, withholding salary ranges benefits employers.

“If [employers] keep their salary ranges to themselves, they can use the question ‘What were you earning at your last job?’ to peg the candidate’s salary range,” explains Ryan. The employer is banking on getting lucky, according to Ryan, because “maybe their favorite candidate was earning less than they were thinking about paying someone, and they can save money!”

Do You Know What You're Worth?

Think of it this way: as a job seeker, you’re hoping to get the best deal possible, as well. The employer is trying to get the most qualified candidate at the best price, and the candidate is trying to get the best job offer at the best price. But, that doesn’t mean that either party should nickel-and-dime the other, either.

Ryan agrees that leaving salary ranges out of job ads is a “bad business practice.”

“It wastes time and energy on both sides of the recruiting equation,” she writes. “Recruiters often tell me ‘If I give a candidate a salary range, they’re automatically going to think they deserve the top of the range!’ They don’t realize that they are guilty of the same offense.”

Pros and Cons

That said, leaving off salary ranges could benefit job seekers as well as employers. One of the major downfalls with listing dollars and cents on job ads is the job seeker’s focus shifting from searching for a job to searching for a salary, which is dangerous for both the employer and the candidate in the end.

On the other hand, withholding salary information from a job posting creates more ambiguity, which could deter quality candidates from applying. The fear for job seekers is getting an offer for their dream job, only to be low-balled by the employer when it comes time to talk salary. Unfortunately, what usually happens is that these new hires end up feeling overworked and underpaid shortly after being hired. If the situation is bad enough, they end up jumping ship before their probationary period is over.

What Job Seekers Can Do

In the end, it should be a win-win situation for both the employer and candidate. Here are a few ways to ensure that your job search is a successful one:

  1. Know your worth in the job market so that you have a clear picture of what salary range is realistic when it comes times to discuss compensation. Get your personalized salary report, here.
  1. Research companies you’re interested in and see how they stack up to the competition. What are they paying employees with the same job title? What benefits are offered? Do they have high turnover? This way, you can narrow down your prospects based on legitimate and meaningful criteria, rather than salary alone.
  1. Spruce up on your salary negotiation tactics so that you negotiate with confidence, rather than bank on luck.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you think listing salary ranges on jobs ads is a good thing or a bad thing? Regardless of whether you’re a job seeker, recruiter, or an employer, we’d love to hear what you have to say. Join the conversation on Twitter, or leave your comment below.

Leah Arnold-Smeets
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