Post a Salary Range in the Job Description, You Fucking Cowards

One of my favorite blogs, the ever brilliant Nonprofit As Fuck, has this great piece titled “When You Don’t Disclose Salary Range on a Job Posting, a Unicorn Loses Its Wings.” It’s a snarky, 100% accurate treatise on the evils of not including a salary range in the job description.

When I read it I felt like Bono listening to Hozier’s Take Me to Church for the first time: furiously jealous that I hadn’t written it myself.

Salary transparency in the hiring process has become my sacred battleground. Few things get this money nerd’s hackles up like the unfair, unethical, and straight up bullshit practice of salary secrecy. This righteous fury is bursting out of me and it can no longer be contained!

Because let’s be honest: no one gets a job because they’re enthusiastic about the contents of the company’s vending machine or the color of its cubicle walls. We work jobs for the compensation. We work to earn an income that will support ourselves and our families. Money, health insurance, retirement funds… all of this is far more important to a job candidate than anything else an employer has to say in the job description.

Job candidates want to know they can afford to work a job before they apply. They don’t want to wait through two interviews and a job offer to find out if the compensation will pay their rent and student loans. To pretend otherwise is ludicrous, irresponsible, naïve, and insulting.

So put a salary range in the job description, you fucking cowards.

Salary secrecy is a bad thing

Salary secrecy—the practice of withholding the salary range until a candidate has applied—perpetuates all kinds of systemic discrimination and unconscious bias.

From Nonprofit AF: “When you don’t give a salary range, you’re saying that you’re only going to hire people who are married to people with professional salaries, young folks still supported by well-off parents, and the independently wealthy. The rest of us can’t spend a half-day writing a cover letter and tailoring a resume to your position, only to find out later that we can’t live on what you are offering.”

In other words: salary secrecy means you’re counting on only hiring people wealthy enough that money isn’t their first concern when job hunting. Which is, y’know, classist to say the least.

Women of color earn some of the lowest salaries in the United States. It’s a huge problem. One way for individuals to increase their income and narrow the racial and gender wage gaps one person at a time is by job hopping. But salary secrecy makes this process a gamble at best, and a part of the problem at worst.

Imagine it: you’re underpaid in your current role, so you apply to another job. They don’t list a salary range in the job description. During the interview, you’re asked about your current salary, so you tell them. Then they make you an offer based on your current subpar salary. So your inadequate salary follows you into your next job.

Salary secrecy places the job candidate at a distinct disadvantage in the hiring process. It tilts the balance of power toward the employer, who has every incentive to try to get their new employee as cheaply as possible.

Even without systemic discrimination based on demographics… that shit ain’t fair to anyone. Might as well announce to your job candidates that you’re a cartoonishly villainous stereotype of unfettered capitalism!

Salary transparency is a good thing

There’s an easy solution: salary transparency. For oh so many reasons!

  • Including a salary range in the job description levels the playing field for all job candidates. Can’t have unconscious bias when everyone, no matter their race, gender, or disability knows exactly what’s on offer.
  • It starts a relationship of mutual trust and honesty between employer and employee.
  • It saves time. Candidates who can’t afford to work for the salary you’re offering will self-select out of your hiring process before it even begins.
  • It cuts down on anxiety and underhanded tactics during salary negotiations.
  • It signals to your business community that you are on the right goddamn side of the fight for income equality.

It’s important enough to write into law

My great state of Colorado isn’t just great because of the legal weed and the gnar pow-pow (translation for you flatlanders: high quality, fresh snow on ski slopes). It also recently passed a law decreeing employers must include a salary range in the job description.

It might seem like a small measure in the fight to close wage gaps based on sexism, racism, and ableism. But you guys… it’s working. According to Business Insider, “Thanks to Colorado’s new law, no region has seen a bigger boom in pay transparency than the Rocky Mountains. There, job postings that include salary information have quadrupled since 2019, according to Emsi Burning Glass, which tracks labor-market data. But the trend is taking place everywhere: “In March through June of [2021], 12% of job postings nationwide included salary information, up from 8% in 2019.”

This law is the nuclear option. But apparently, it’s necessary. I have ANECDOTAL EVIDENCE (the most irrefutable kind of evidence) that if we don’t drag employers kicking and screaming towards pay transparency, they won’t go themselves.

I saw that an old employer had posted my old job. Sure enough, there was a salary range in the job description! I didn’t yet know about the new Colorado law. So when I wrote my old boss with a reference for a former intern who was applying, I congratulated him on taking steps to end pay inequity. His response? “Yeah, well, it’s the law now so I had to.”

My dude. Come on.

Shitty arguments against including a salary range in the job description, refuted:

“But it saves time!”

We published an article about what to do when asked about your salary requirements in a job interview. You should read it; it’s great! I worked really hard on it and I’ll be mad at you forever if you skip it in your completionist reading of my blog.

Anyway, it discusses the unfairness of omitting a salary range in the job description. It led to this comment:

Steamy. Creamy. Bullshit.

Job hunting takes time. Besides the time it takes to write a cover letter and complete an application, there’s all the unseen hours spent sifting through job listings and researching potential employers. All that labor goes completely uncompensated. To get low-balled in the interview is just insulting after all that.

A great way to avoid wasting anyone’s time in the hiring process is to post a salary range in the job description! Waiting until the interview to discuss salary requirements means the employer has already wasted the applicant’s time.

So claims about avoiding wasted time are completely disingenuous. Especially when an employer could cut out even more wasted time by just including a salary range in the job description. An applicant could jump right to the salary range without spending a minute wading through the corporate-speak about “team players.” And then they could immediately toss that job description without wasting their time applying or heading in for an interview.

“But compensation will depend upon experience!”

Let’s ignore for a moment how ageist this claim is and focus on the practical. What kind of Mickey Mouse operation* hires someone without a budget for their role?

If you want to pay a less experienced person less than you would a more experienced person, fine. Have it your way. But that doesn’t mean you can’t include a salary RANGE in the job description. Candidates will understand where they fall along that range based on their own experience.

*An underrated dad-ism that I would like to reintroduce to our vernacular.

“But then existing staff will know what the new team member is earning!”

Salary transparency is another great way to ensure pay equity across demographics. We’ve been over this before: women, the disabled, people of color, and particularly women of color (isn’t intersectionality FUN?) don’t earn as much as white men for a whole host of shitty reasons. And since this article is already running long, I’ll spare you those reasons… for now.

As Nonprofit AF says: “If you’re afraid they’ll get upset if the new person makes more than they do, then you need to focus on developing fair compensation plans for ALL staff, current and new, and being transparent about your compensation policies.”

Letting everyone know what everyone else makes is a great way to smooth out these inequities. Just ask Lilly Ledbetter.

Be the change you want to see, baby

Great news! This isn’t one of those times where we rant about problems without offering answers. In fact, we all can be part of the solution! Here’s how:

Call them out on this heinous fuckery

One of the best things about the Great Resignation is that we’re currently in a job hunter’s market. Lots of companies are desperate for quality employees. They’re at the mercy of labor, which is just where we fucking want them.

So if you see a job description notably lacking a salary range… call them on this heinous fuckery.

I’d never suggest such a brazen tactic if I hadn’t already tried it myself! Here’s how it went:

Callout #1: They ghosted me

During my last job search, I had a great series of interviews with a company, but ultimately didn’t get the job. The manager then told me he was getting budget approval for a new position. And he thought I’d be perfect for the role.

Sure enough, when the new job was posted he personally invited me to apply. But something was missing. That’s right: there was no goddamn salary range in the job description. So I told him:

I know you might not personally have any control over this, but I’ve seen evidence recently that not including a salary range in the job description is a discriminatory practice. This hilarious article explains it pretty clearly: When you don’t disclose salary range on a job posting, a unicorn loses its wings. Hopefully your HR folks will be able to make a change.

Never heard back. To be fair, I also didn’t bother to apply. I didn’t feel like going through the frustrating ritual of “no you say a number first” that determines the power imbalance in a job interview.

Callout #2: They changed for the better!

A friend on the job hunt found a salary-range-less listing. Instead of a salary range, they wrote the dreaded “Tell us your precise compensation requirements.” Since I had nothing to lose, I wrote to the company to tell them the error of their ways.

And babies, I am thrilled to announce that there is a god! And she looks just like Alanis Morissette!

The hiring manager actually wrote back! We had a lovely interaction that ended with the company updating all of their job descriptions to include the budgeted salary ranges. Here’s part of what she said:

Thanks for your note. I agree with you and I removed it! Thanks for being an advocate for women (I looked up your URL and love your site!) and pointing this out.

One of the traits I admire most in people is the ability to admit when you’re wrong and to change accordingly. There is nothing shameful or bad about saying, “You know what? I was wrong. But henceforth I shall do better.” So I have nothing but admiration for this company. They did the right thing.

Practice what you preach

If you’re hiring… put that salary range in the job description, you beautiful force for change! It’s as easy as that!

Currently Bitches Get Riches has one (1) employee: our amazing podcast producer and social media manager, Ducky. When we were hiring for Ducky’s roles, we got an incredible 128 applicants. And not a single one of them had to ask about compensation because we’d included it in the job description:

It gave us peace of mind to know that everyone applying understood the compensation. None of them were nervously awaiting the tired “no you say the number first” song and dance. And neither were we.

Don’t apply to jobs that don’t post a salary range

This last tactic requires a bit of privilege. Because if you’re unemployed and desperate for an income, you should do whatever it takes to get employed as soon as possible. So if this describes you, consider yourself temporarily excused from the fight for ethical hiring practices.

But if you have the privilege of a leisurely, extended, picky job search… just ignore job descriptions that don’t list a salary range! See how they like it when they miss out on exquisite, high quality candidates such as yourself. Maybe that’ll break them out of their stubborn adherence to unethical, unfair hiring tactics.

Lastly, your humble Bitches are on a crusade to make the job search and hiring process a more fair and equitable landscape for all. Join us in our fight:

Pin this article

22 thoughts to “Post a Salary Range in the Job Description, You Fucking Cowards”

  1. I have seen job postings/companies that try to evade the law by saying that Colorado applicants shouldn’t apply. What if they add the same saying that people in NYC are not allowed to apply as well due to the recent law passed in NYC to have salary ranges posted on job descriptions?

    1. I can’t tell if you’re asking for how an individual should troubleshoot this issue, or making a case for salary secrecy.
      Either way, here’s my disgustingly optimistic take: the arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice. More and more states are considering implementing the Colorado salary transparency law. Short-term inconveniences like companies trying to evade the law by excluding candidates from Colorado are not a reason to keep the shitty system of salary secrecy as the norm.
      Eventually the number of places with salary transparency laws (or even just accepted practices) will reach critical mass and it will no longer be practical for the holdouts to exclude candidates based on location. Especially in these days of remote work.

  2. Something I’m wondering is: what does posting the range do to negotiation? My current gig had a top budget number that was $10k below what I was looking for. I probably wouldn’t have applied if I’d known that in advance. When I told them what I wanted, they got the okay to go a bit over budget and met me half way. If they’d posted the range and I’d applied anyway, I suspect it’d have been a lot harder to get that extra $5k. Me saying “well, really I’d like this much” would be met with “well, this is the top of the posted rate.” Right?

    1. That’s a great question! And stubbornly, I don’t think it’s a case against salary transparency. A strong candidate can still negotiate above the posted salary range by saying, “Look, I know you posted this range when I applied, but now that we’ve sat down for several interviews together and I’ve got a better sense of the position and how my experience and skills apply to it, I’d like to ask for $10k more than what you’re offering. Can we discuss a way to get there?” And an employer is in no way beholden to stick with the maximum they posted in the job description if they find a candidate who they think deserves more.
      Glad you got the job, btw!

  3. I 100% agree with this! Posting the salary in an advert is better for everyone. As a hiring manager everyone who applies knows exactly what we can offer – and as a charity it may not be the highest salary out there but it is fair (while managing this team all roles have had a salary review and increase in compensation).

    My partner recently underwent a job search. His industry don’t advertise salary and it made the whole thing so much harder. One job he applied to invited him to interview, at that point he asked about salary and the top of their range was 20% less than what he was on. What a waste of everyone’s time. The job he ended up taking raised his base salary 20% and has bonus potential of 30% – amazing! BUT he had 3 interviews before he got that information. He really wanted to work there so we had all these conversations around what if they only offer this? What if the offer is that? My blood pressure would have been so much healthier if that info was out there.

    My partner is a white man and had a strong suspicion he was the top earner in his old team. He told a couple of female colleagues his salary to help them negotiate but that went against everything he’d been taught about keeping salaries confidential. I’m encouraging him to be more open but it would be easier if companies were open during the hiring process.

    1. I would much rather apply for a job where the salary is posted, but modest, than a job where they deliberately hide the salary range and put you through the demeaning process of explaining your “salary requirements.”
      Also… you are doing the lord’s work. Both by posting the salary range for jobs at your charity AND encouraging your white male partner to share his salary with his female coworkers. That’s LITERALLY how the Lilly Ledbetter story started: one man who recognized the unfairness, telling Ledbetter his salary.

  4. Amen. It’s garbage like not posting wage/salary ranges in job descriptions that’s got me positively giddy that so many employers–especially in traditionally low-paying industries–are getting thwacked hard upside the head by the market. Even better is that not only are they having to raise wages/salaries, but that even still they can’t find candidates, and so have to raise them higher.

  5. Yes – and it’s not just salary or hourly rate, but what’s the total compensation package? Because base salary or rate is just one component of that, if you happen to work in a job that provides other financial and non financial benefits like bonuses, stocks, etc. So I see a challenge in coming to an agreement about it even if the salary is in an acceptable range. Definitely an ok starting point but important to also say that you’ll be interested in the total compensation.

    1. THIS. I was actually talking to a coworker who works on our hiring team recently about how she feels like she has an unfair advantage over recruiters at other companies. Because our benefits are just that good.

  6. If you don’t apply for a position because the job description did not include a salary range, the company doesn’t know what they missed out on. Wouldn’t it be better if you sent them an email/letter stating, “Hey, I’ve got all the qualifications you’re looking for and then some, but I’m not applying because you didn’t include a salary range in your job description. ”

    Obviously you have to be in a privileged position to do so.

    This reminds me of an interview I had with Coca-Cola Canada no less where the manager’s first or second question to me was my salary expectation. I tried to dodge the question but he kept insisting. I finally answered something along the lines that if he had to ask for the price than he couldn’t afford the product. I was very young and inexperienced at the time, so this was very ballsy of me. But I was also employed (unhappily, but still) when I went for the interview so that provided some FU courage.

    1. I like it! Agreed, it requires some privilege. But that’s what those of us in privileged positions are supposed to do: use our advantages to smooth the way for people who are less privileged.
      And I’m so angry at your interviewer. THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE AUDACITY OF THAT BITCH.

    2. This is a good point! I stopped applying for jobs that didn’t list a salary range, but if the companies don’t know that, they don’t know it needs to change. I need to start stealing Piggy’s email from the post. I have nothing to lose so I need to become the harbinger of “Post a Salary Range in the Job Description, You Fucking Cowards”.

  7. It was f’ing ridiculous. One company I interviewed with literally made me go through 5 interviews without revealing their compensation (I asked multiple times and they refused) only to find out when it came to the offer, they couldn’t afford me.

    These days, I’m becoming much more financially independent so if companies refuse to tell me what the salary range is, I walk away. Companies play such ridiculous games, it’s disgusting.

  8. I’ve been job searching since March 2021 (when it became painfully clear that my Big Name financial firm DGAF about clients’ best interests if it’s a choice between them and shareholders; or if there’s money to be made). I don’t even want to think about the number of hours I’ve wasted applying and interviewing for jobs where the salary offered is so far below my base requirement, it’s insulting. (Pro tip: If a candidate has 15 years of experience and several industry licenses/designations, she’s probably not going to take your entry-level salary offer.) It’s been a eye-opening experience to see exactly how shitty my industry (finance) is about salary transparency; I’ve had several companies require multiple interviews before they’re even willing to discuss comp, which is CLEARLY the highest and best use of everyone’s time.

    The silver lining in all of this is that I have been able to leverage BGR advice in my salary negotiations, though; so much gratitude to Piggy and Kitty for that. I’m grossly underpaid in my current role (yet another reason to GTFO), and have no interest in perpetuating that in my next gig. I usually counter the “what are your requirements” (or the dreaded “what is your current salary?”) question with a question about the average comp in the company for similar roles; and I’ve gotten more confident (or, at least, less nauseous) when asking for a number that makes me slightly worry that “they’ll laugh in [my face] when [I] say it out loud.”

    Fingers crossed, 2022 is my year!

  9. Thank you, thank you for addressing this topic. When I worked for my former employer, I was responsible for filling multiple positions within my dept but HR wouldn’t list a salary range for any position. They would require the person to provide the salary range they were willing to work for. This drove my crazy and I begged, pleaded, yelled at HR so many times about how much of a time waster it was for both me reviewing resumes and for the applicants. I once received 420 resumes for a position and the applicants said they’d work for everything from $35k/yr (recent grads) to $150k/yr (PhD’s). We wasted everyone’s time by not providing a range. Once I left that company after 15 years, the first company I applied for provided a very clear salary range with benefit package. Every penny was detailed. It was amazing to see! I then had a clear idea of where I could start to negotiate if needed. Luckily I went in fully prepared to negotiate the hell out of my salary, but they offered me the very top of the scale without me saying a thing. Whew! Didn’t see that coming. I accepted. We all know what each employee makes and there’s no hard feelings, because everything is right out in the open. I still am baffled by why employers don’t save time and just list the salary range (fucking cowards). 😉

  10. Such strong anti-work vibes here. This is such an important issue, and I look forward to more on this topic. Great job as always ladies. And excellent comments on this article too – very informative!

  11. Okay, gotta be honest: capitalism is a corporation-eat-human world and I have no problems lying to employers if I won’t be caught out on it. For example, I’ve had to lie to HR about chronic health conditions to ensure I wasn’t discriminated against. So that’s where I’m coming from when I ask:

    What do you bitches feel about lying when asked about your current compensation? Some job applications REQUIRE a numerical-only (so no dashes to make it a range) answer to your current pay rate. And if they ask in person and I refuse to answer, I feel like they’re probably assuming it’s low and that’s why I won’t say. Is it okay to lie and tell them I get paid what I probably SHOULD be getting paid (and the fact that I’m not is primarily why I’m leaving lol tears of desperation)? Is this a lie they can catch me out in? Is this a lie that’s worth it? Thoughts?

    Y’all are the big sisters this big sister never had. I’m a gay disabled woman whose only good career advisor is my lovely but very white and very computer-nerd-vibes dad. I appreciate you so much.

    1. DO IT

      Seriously, your reasoning is spot-on here. If they catch you out in the lie all you have to say is “Yeah, my answer was untruthful. But did you know that your question is illegal in 21 states because it’s discriminatory and unethical?” Then let them stew in their shittiness.

      Especially given you’re gay and disabled, you need to do everything in your power to beat back discrimination in hiring practices. Here’s more advice, cutie pie:

      1. Thank you soooo much. I have taken literal notes from that post for next time I interview. (I go to interviews with a fancy leather notebook thingy, which makes me look professional, and in reality holds notes of all the things I want to mention/ask, because I will inevitably forget.) You rock! <3

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *