I have spent an inordinate amount of my career campaigning for more transparent salary structures within software engineering. There is one widespread habit that aggravates me whenever I see it: positions advertised without a salary range.
If you don’t present a salary range, I will assume you are a crook.
For an applicant, it can save them an incredible amount of time. Phone screens, take home tests, whiteboard interviews and their like require an horrendously asymmetric amount of effort on part of the applicant versus the hiring firm.
For the hiring firm, you save time with everyone passing through your pipeline unlikely to drop out at the last moment when your monetary offer is insufficient. It’s a mark of honesty and transparency that highlights a more cooperative approach to hiring, which may appeal to some candidates.
An above average salary range also broadcasts that you’re willing to hire top talent, and although most people aren’t entirely driven by money, the world’s best are also unlikely to work for cheap. Netflix is a brilliant example; they pay incredible amounts to keep their talent density consistent as they grow.
All these benefits! So, why wouldn’t firms post salary ranges on their job postings? Since I drink a lot in London’s tech yuppie heaven, I have a combination of honest alcohol elicited answers and rampant speculation.
The cost of engineers in London keeps going up. The demand outstrips supply, and we’re slowly edging towards something a US engineer might not laugh at. Of course, this means that if you want to hire someone new, you might have to pony up more than you did six months ago.
Are you going to put a salary range on your posting where the base is higher than the salary of your current employees who have the same role? Of course not. They’d be livid. They’d ask for raises! Realise their worth! Leave!
They will do this regardless of course, just with greater anger and resentment when they find out their friends earn more than them while six drinks deep at the pub.
Let’s face it, the person hiring you probably has more experience than you do at being hired. They know all the tricks, have all the confidence. This is why negotiating with a car salesperson is such a minefield, she has likely practiced her spiel tens of times per day for possibly years. You’ll probably buy a car a handful of times in your life.They have time to size you up and predict what you might take.
If at the end of all your effort, all the interviews, all the take home challenges that make you doubt yourself, the firm even offering you a job can feel like a blessing. They suggest a number that’s a bit low — but you’ve put in all this time and they made all these promises, and they’re even pretending like this number is good! Maybe you over-estimated?
Maybe you’ll take the job anyway?
It seems rather unlikely that if you were paying top dollar, you would forget to slap that big old number on the post with pride to attract the best of the best.
If you get lucky and underpay a few people who don’t realise their worth by leveraging negotiating power and push back salary increases for current staff, over time there will be a massive diversity of pay throughout the firm unrelated to merit. You’re on a ticking time bomb, and if people get the idea you’re willing to pay significantly more for someone joining them in a similar role, there’ll be justified anger.
A colleague once accidentally discovered a document containing the firm’s complete salary data. They left shortly after.
I’d like that to be the case, but when pushing people on the topic there are a number of common responses. They don’t inspire hope, for example:
“Oh, just email and ask”
If you want a candidate to email you to ask about the salary range, and you’re happy to give it to them but not happy to put it on the job spec itself, it really feels like you’re desperately trying to suppress wages.
“We’re willing to pay a lot for the right person”
This is a vague statement that in no way means anything without defining what qualities makes a person “right” and how much “a lot” is.
“We’re not quite sure yet”
If you’re telling me your budget for an engineer in this fiscal year stretches from zero to infinity, I either don’t believe you, or have grave concerns about the accounting practices at your firm.
Be good to yourself, take a job with a visible salary range.
N.B. This was originally a medium post. I am slowly transferring content from there to this much friendlier platform.