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Opinion: Pay transparency is good for workers — and employers see more of the top job applicants

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Posting salary ranges on job listings is the smart move for employers looking to attract stronger candidates and build a relationship based on mutual trust from the get-go.

One in five Americans live in a state that requires pay transparency. For companies, colleges and public agencies in states that don’t require salary disclosure, it makes sense to stop listing “competitive salary” and start providing potential job candidates with meaningful financial information upfront. Why waste your time or theirs on one or two interviews that are likely to end with a rejected offer?

At least some of the resistance to full transparency seems to be fading, either because employers are being forced into it by law, applicants are insisting on it, or the competition is already doing it. In January, for example, California and Washington state began requiring published salary ranges. Colorado started in 2021. New York is considering a similar law, while New York City’s requirement is already in effect.

The thinking behind the laws is that pay transparency reduces gender and racial wage gaps and brings more equitability to the hiring process. Those are both good reasons. But employers also stand to benefit as much, if not more, by opening a process that can tend to be combative rather than cooperative. Plus, as survey after survey shows, Gen Z is all but demanding more openness, along with plenty of top talent of all ages.

There’s a reason a TikTok account called Salary Transparent Street, which simply asks random people what they do and what they earn, has racked up more than 1 million followers and 1.3 billion views. People are hungry for honest information about salaries.

For instance, more than half of all respondents to a 2022 survey by the job search engine Adzuna said they “straight-out declined a job offer” after hearing the salary. That’s hours spent culling through candidates, arranging interviews, meeting applicants, deciding on a finalist, and then following through with an offer — all for nothing. 

Moreover, one-third of job seekers also said they wouldn’t even bother interviewing without knowing the salary first. And let’s not underestimate the consequences of this finding: 34% said they believed an employer who refuses to list salary might be hiding something.

A 2022 survey of 2,000 employees and job seekers by showed equally strong interest in pay transparency, with 77% calling salary the most important factor when looking for a new job; a staggering 98% of respondents said it was important to know salary before considering whether to apply.

Still, employers resist. Some fear the backlash from current employees learning that newcomers earn as much or more than loyal veterans. That’s a real concern, but also a separate problem (and pay scale) that needs addressing. It should not be an excuse to undermine the openness that employers should be moving toward. 

Here’s what employers who post salary ranges — and the key here is a credible range, along with explanations of the lower, middle, and upper pay rungs — can expect:

  • Not just more applicants, but better prepared ones. They’ll bring their full selves and “A-game” to the interview — ready to prove they are worth their place on the pay scale.

  • More serious candidates who would actually accept the job, rather than people just randomly throwing their resume in the employment ring. 

  • A potential employer-employee relationship that’s honest rather than adversarial from the earliest encounter.

  • Employees are more likely to join the company and stay put. Top talent always knows their worth, so it’s better to tell them upfront than lose them because of a lowball offer — or to a better-paying position that comes along months later.

  • Employees who know their worth and know that you do, too. Those kinds of employees give their all.

  • Mutual respect that comes from honest conversation rather than tough negotiation. 

Conversely, employers who continue to resist pay transparency, and who treat salaries like a closely guarded secret, are going to see fewer applicants, worse applicants, and time and money lost to what is on its way to becoming an outdated hiring process. They won’t have to worry about the competition finding out what they pay, because the best job-seekers will already be working for the competition.

Michael D. Brown is senior managing partner at Global Recruiters of Buckhead, an Atlanta-based executive recruiting and leadership consulting firm.

Also read: How the new trend of pay transparency could impact your bargaining power or job hunt

More: Pay ranges aren’t too ‘ridiculous’ as transparency laws take effect, report finds


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