When Should You Include Salary in a Job Description?

Discussions abound about whether it’s a better strategy to include salary ranges in job descriptions, or whether it’s smarter to reserve salary discussions for interviews. If you aim to attract top talent in today’s competitive market, you need to turn heads with job posts that bode well for your company brand and give job seekers enough information to decide if the positions fit their needs. The reasons to include salary range are specific and well-supported by data, while the justification for omitting this information is anecdotal and vague.

Payscale’s 2015 Compensation Best Practices Report highlights data on hiring, compensation and retention amassed from nearly 6,000 business leaders. The report states: “The main reason people leave medium and large organizations is for better compensation.” So whether or not you include a salary range in your posting is an important decision, as this is likely the most motivating piece of data for your audience.  

With a 15 percent year-over-year increase in open jobs, it’s become a job seeker’s market. As the economy continues to rebound, employers are on the hunt for talent. So how do you ensure that the postings you prepare attract top talent? Is it better to be transparent with salary ranges in job postings or does tipping your hand take away some of your negotiation power?   

While all government positions are posted with a salary range listed, only about half of non-governmental jobs share salary information. The benefit of omitting this information seems to suggest that it takes the advantage away from those on the hiring side when it comes to salary negotiation. Leaving this data out of the posting makes it part of a conversation during a face-to-face interview. It gives the HR team control of that information and how and when it is presented rather than just making it public to be seen by recruits, employees and competitors.

Tools such as Simply Hired’s Salary Estimator give job seekers helpful resources to prepare for negotiations. This way, when they come to the interview, they can discuss salary using more than just their previous earnings to benchmark what they can expect to earn.  

Contrary to many private sector jobs, Government job postings always include pay scales. This enables government entities to adhere to their budgets and to facilitate salary equity among staff members. A positive result of this transparency is that the gender gap among government employees is closing. A 2014 report from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management revealed that in 1992, women in white collar government jobs were earning 30 percent less (or 70 cents on the dollar) than what their male colleagues earned By 2012 they were making 13 percent less (or 87 cents on the dollar). When it comes to pay equity, the government standard indicates that listing pay has yielded more fair compensation practices.

Pay equity is an important reason to post salary ranges. Several other considerations are also compelling:

  • It increases the total number of resumes each post receives by about 30 percent.  
  • Job seekers will find it particularly irksome if they have to go through a lengthy application process or if they are invited to meet for an interview before they know whether or not the position is a financial fit for them.
  • Job posts are prospective employees’ first interaction with your company brand. Including salary data looks democratic, transparent and employee-centric while omitting the range can make your corporate brand come off old-fashioned and not entirely forthright.
  • Omitting this vital piece of information from the job posting may put candidates on the defensive when it comes to negotiations because they know that they have been purposefully put in a disadvantaged position before the salary conversation even begins. This sense of feeling “bargain basemented” is compounded if they are asked to report on their previous salaries before they learn about the range that a new employer may offer.  

Posting a salary range has had measured, positive results for the U.S. government, and it can work well for your company, too.