Salaries are an essential part of the recruitment process, so why do we find them so hard to talk about?
Discussing dollars can be the most awkward part of a job interview.
On one hand, a nervous candidate might leave the discussion until the last minute – only to discover that taking the role would mean taking a big pay cut – wasting their time and the recruiters time.
On the other hand, an employer, to save time, might bring the salary up too early – then miss out on attracting the right talent because they didn’t have the opportunity to talk about the other perks of the role.
So, what’s the best way to go about it? HRM talked to four recruiters to find out.
1. Range is preferable to exact figures
“Money doesn’t need to be a hard or embarrassing thing; it’s all in how you frame it,” says Rhyley Hunter, managing director, Huntsman Recruiting.
“I always tell clients that the onus is on us, as a recruiter, to bring up salary. Asking candidates what they’re willing to accept makes me cringe, as they often don’t know how to approach it and it puts them in an awkward position, you want to make them feel comfortable with the conversation.
“We encourage the employer to provide a salary range – usually within 10 and 20k – then mention this in the initial phone conversation.”
What about getting in earlier, by including the salary in the job advertisement? Hunter says this isn’t a bad idea.
“This can save a lot of time. You don’t want to attract candidates who are miles away, in regards to remuneration.
“If the ad is for a role with the government or a large organisation that has set pay levels, and there’s no room for negotiation, then why not include it and be honest?
“On the other side of the coin, if there’s space to move, you can advertise a range, mentioning that it’s up for negotiation – which means you’ve been transparent and opened up the dialogue, while not missing out on a candidate who sees a particular salary and disregards it.”
2. Be honest, open and clear – from the start
“Ninety per cent of the time, I would discuss salary in the first phone call with a new candidate, then further our discussion in our first face-to-face meeting,” says Sonya Oberstar, principal consultant at Davidson WP.
“I would find out the candidate’s current salary, and their expectations for their next role.
“If their expectations weren’t quite valid, in terms of their experience and skill set, I would educate them about the market, by giving real-life examples, then try to guide them in the right direction, by helping them work out the areas where they need development, in order to earn the salary they want.”
Equally important is managing an employer’s expectations.
“Putting a candidate and client through three or four interviews, only to find out, say, that the client can pay $90k maximum, but a candidate wants $150k, is just a waste of everyone’s time.”
3. Talking about salary isn’t just about talking about salary
“Research shows that when it comes down to it most people are motivated by a role that’s interesting and challenging, rather than purely money,” says Michelle Gibbings, founder of Workplace Expert.
If during an interview it seems a candidate is keen on a position, but not so keen on the salary, it could be a good idea to raise other benefits, from company culture and flexibility to opportunities for training and career advancement.
However, she warns to be careful only to promise what the employer can deliver on.
“I knew of a candidate who was very clear, at the interview stage, that they needed flexible working arrangements. The employer agreed, but when the candidate started, [the employer] wasn’t able to deliver – so the candidate left.”
“There are no gains when people aren’t honest about the working environment.”
4. Think problems, not money
If a candidate is ideal for a role, but ready for a higher salary than what the employer has in mind, then it can be useful to think outside the box.
“Recently, an employer asked me to find a candidate who could help expand his stagnated security business,” says Chris Homsey, general manager, Readi Recruitment.
“I knew of someone who’d be an excellent fit. At first, the employer wasn’t sure about meeting the candidate’s expectations, in terms of salary, but I explained that the candidate’s skills and experience were a worthwhile investment.
“In the end, the employer took the plunge and agreed to engage the candidate on an appropriately attractive remuneration. Shortly after commencing, the candidate returned that investment by landing the business its first $1 million contract.
“Sometimes, employers need to think not in terms of money, but in terms of their growth challenges. They should analyse what’s holding them back, and think carefully about what they really need from their workforce, and how much they’re willing to invest to convert the company vision into business reality.
“The right candidate might command an extra $10,000 or $20,000, but their ability to deal with issues quickly and effectively while solving today’s challenges – that would otherwise be costly and difficult to overcome – is just one of the cost offsets. Landing the right fit for your future business aspirations is an investment that pays dividends.”