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 , 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:
- Beware These 5 (Perfectly Legal) Discriminatory Hiring Practices
- What To Do When You’re Asked About Your Salary Requirements in a Job Interview
- 10 Questions You Should Never Be Asked in a Job Interview
- Are You Working on the Next Fyre Festival?: Identifying a Toxic Workplace