What ‘competitive salary’ really means in job postings, according to recruiters

What ‘competitive salary’ really means in job postings, according to recruiters

Pay transparency laws are on the rise nationwide, but so is the share of companies that use the ambiguous phrase “competitive salary” to describe what they’ll pay.

As of May, the phrase appeared in 3% of U.S. job postings on Indeed, up from 2.5% of postings at the same time last year, the employment website told CNBC Make It.

It’s a small but notable increase that reflects thousands of job posts with unclear pay ranges, according to Indeed.

Companies refer to a “competitive salary” in job postings either because they mistakenly believe it’ll entice candidates or, more often, to preserve their flexibility to offer different pay based on the qualities of a specific candidate, says Jeff Hyman, an executive recruiter of 28 years. 

For job seekers, though, “it’s a useless, throwaway line,” Hyman tells CNBC Make It.

“In theory, the term ‘competitive salary’ is supposed to mean that pay for the role is on par with what similar roles, in similar industries, and in similar locations offer,” says Jennifer Herrity, a career expert at Indeed. “But without further details in the job posting, the phrase puts the onus on the job seeker to know what a competitive pay range may look like.”

If you’re applying to jobs without clear pay ranges, here are a few ways to discuss salary during the hiring process.

Know your worth

The first thing to do is figure out what you’re worth in the market to confidently and realistically advocate for your desired pay, Hyman says.

Doing so is easier than ever thanks to publicly available data. Websites like Glassdoor, Levels.fyi and Payscale can provide salary benchmarks for your position and industry, or even a specific company, says Bonnie Dilber, a recruiting leader at software firm Zapier.

If you know multiple people working in roles similar to what you’re applying for, you can gauge your possible pay band by asking them about their salary levels, Hyman suggests. Depending on the region you’re seeking work in, you can also factor in cost-of-living adjustments, which can be estimated using online data as well, he adds. 

Don’t ask until the second interview

It’s important to ask about pay early in the hiring process to avoid wasting your time, but it can be equally important to hold off on inquiring too soon, according to Hyman.

“I typically wouldn’t recommend doing it in the first conversation,” he says. Instead, wait until the second or, at the latest, third interview — that’s when the hiring manager is more invested in your candidacy, and “on the hook.”

At that point, consider following this script: “‘I’m curious … now that we’ve gotten to know each other a bit, based on my experience and what value I explained that I can contribute to the organization, what do you see as the market compensation for [this position]?'” Hyman says. “Then just shut up and just listen.”

It’s generally best to have this talk verbally rather than via email. “People are a bit squirrely when it comes to putting numbers in writing,” he says. 

Hyman recommends having this pay discussion with the hiring manager — the person you’ll be working for — not a company intermediary like HR or a recruiter. The reason is simple: The hiring manager “is the buyer” who feels “the pain of an open seat” on their team, he says.

As a result, they’re likely to be “a bit richer” with their compensation offer, he adds.

‘Play dumb’

Some employers might ask candidates their salary history — an illegal practice in some states and municipalities — and what they expect to make in a new role. But don’t be so quick to share that information. The reason: Those who speak first in a negotiation lose, Hyman says.

“As soon as you throw out a number, negotiation 101 says that that number becomes the anchor of the discussion,” he says. “You might have thrown out a number that’s 20, 30, 40% less than the company was thinking that they might need to pay, and so you can really shoot yourself in the foot.”

Rather than answer that line of questioning, “respectfully turn it around” to the company and “play dumb,” Hyman says. If asked how much you expect to earn, he suggests saying, “‘I’m really not sure. You’ve been at this a while, you’ve been seeing other candidates — what have you found to be market for this role?'”

“Answer with what I would call a non-answer,” Hyman says.

If the hiring team insists on a specific answer, however, offer your own range, he advises. The low-end number you give should be the “absolute lowest compensation” you’re willing to accept, while the high-end can be as much as 50% to 100% higher than your low-end figure. That wider range may be most applicable for applicants negotiating compensation that includes more than a base salary.

“But again, you should only do that if really pushed multiple times,” Hyman says. “It’s always the better strategy to let the company have the first crack at the numbers.”

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Original news source Credit: www.cnbc.com

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