Get Ahead of the Curve and Be Transparent About Salary Information

Roy Maurer By Roy Maurer April 19, 2018

LAS VEGAS—HR is not usually driving change in workplace practices.

It's more likely pulled into change, usually by the workforce, technology or laws, said Dawn Burke, the founder of consulting firm Dawn Burke HR in Birmingham, Ala.

However, a big change happening right now is revealing a job's pay early in the interview process, and HR should be at the front of this wave, she told attendees at the Society for Human Resource Management 2018 Talent Conference & Exposition.

"There is absolutely no correlation or causation between what somebody made in their past and what they should be making now or in the future," she said. Reasons for that include:

  • The job is not the same. "It could have the same title and description, but it was a different time, a different pace, a different product."
  • The market is not necessarily the same. The previous salary could have been determined during the recession, for example.
  • There is an unequal playing field for long-tenured employees. "We know that the [typical] 3 percent year-over-year increase does not net the same amount as a new hire coming into the workplace right now," Burke said.

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'But I'm a Size 14-16'

Burke gave a personal example to illustrate the incongruity of using past salary as a guideline for a new job. She lives in Alabama, where it's required that her height and weight be displayed on her driver's license.

"Certainly, the weight I admit to when I have to renew the license is either a total lie, or it has changed over the years," she said. "Imagine if I walked up to a retail clothing store. The person at the front welcomes me and asks to see my license. She says that I'm a size 10, based on my height and weight. But I'm not a size 10. I'm more like a 14-16. But they insist based on my past record that I'm a 10. Maybe they can bump me up to a 12. But I'm a size 14-16. Size 10 doesn't fit my current need. So, I say I'll spend my money somewhere else."

It's the same when job seekers are job shopping—especially for younger workers, who are used to researching everything about an employer or the industry online, Burke said.

Pushed into Change

Employers are being pressured to be more transparent about pay because of both technology and the law. "Google for Jobs is happening," Burke said. "It is shaking up the industry. Now you can go to the search function and type in a job and a location, and they all pop up."

Google has also partnered with data providers like Glassdoor, PayScale and LinkedIn to collect self-reported pay and market data. "Now candidates don't have to spend any time looking for pay data. It's right there," Burke said. "They can now come in to the interview and say, 'Here's what you should be paying me. Let's talk about it.' "

Google is incentivizing employers to post the salaries for their roles by boosting visibility for their job ads.

Laws are also pushing employers to change. A handful of states and cities have passed legislation banning employers from asking candidates about past or current salary.

Transparency Pays Off

Being upfront about pay during the interview process will reap the following rewards, according to Burke:

  • Increased diversity in your candidate pool.
  • Boosted branding.
  • Increased trust from Day One.

In a recent survey, 83 percent of candidates who were told from the start of the hiring process that the salary was below market—and the reasons why—accepted the job offer and showed higher satisfaction and engagement, Burke said. "They respected the fact that they were told up front they were going to be paid less."

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