Talent Acquisition

Candidate Salaries: Tackling the Taboo Topic

In my career I can unequivocally say that the majority of declined job offers are as a result of something salary-related. There can be other factors that force a candidate to decline an offer; job title, location, benefits package or so much more. However it has been my experience that salary is the number one reason. As salary plays such a major role in a successful hire, it is important that both the candidate and employer are on the same page about it. If there is a significant gap between the two sides, chances are the offer process won’t be a smooth one!

Squash the stigma

Unfortunately, most conversations surrounding salary are very difficult and uncomfortable. As a society we have established that talking about salary feels as taboo as politics or religion. As a recruiter, it is important to separate what it’s like to have a discussion at the dinner table with a friend versus gathering information that leads to a successful hire. The sooner you take away the stigma that goes with “what do you make?” the sooner you will be able to have an effective conversation and understand where everyone stands on the matter.

Get in early

Salary information is so crucial to a successful hire, the conversation needs to be had sooner rather than later. A candidate does not want to go through several rounds of interviews taking multiple days off of work and spending hours preparing for tough questions, only to find out the business cannot afford to hire them! Likewise, recruiters don’t want to spend time prepping and facilitating candidates to interview only to find out the person they are representing has outlandish, unobtainable expectations. The same can be said for hiring managers; no party wants their time wasted for no reason!

Aim for mutual understanding

For recruiters, it is important to be on top of this, the whole way through the process. Keeping all this in mind, I like to have the salary conversation with my candidates immediately. That means on the first call. I always ensure the candidate that I am NOT trying to lock them down on a salary amount, rather that I would like to know what it would take for them to accept a new role. It’s important the candidate knows that having this conversation is actually in their very best interests. I always do my best to relay this to the individual. Also, remind them that in the end, medical benefits, time off and other package factors will impact this number too, so it’s not the be-all and end-all right then and there.

Ask the hard questions

I like to prompt the subject by saying “in order for me to get you the best offer, what would you be looking for in total first year earnings?” It allows the candidate to realize that I am going to work for them to get the best offer I can. If a candidate isn’t comfortable sharing this information immediately, you need to remind them that knowing this information means you won’t be wasting their time, rather just making sure everyone is on the same page to avoid a huge misunderstanding at the end.  It’s also important for recruiters to know what their candidate’s current salary is, to contextualise their expectations and fully understand their situation and motivators.

Understanding what your candidate is currently on AND where they want to be is important information that will help recruiters gauge if the role they are applying for is actually right for them, both level and expectations-wise. There is no point encouraging a candidate through the interview process that is too much of a reach for them, or not going to fulfil their monetary goals. If their expectations are unrealistic, it’s better to confront the situation head on at the start. Likewise if your client can’t pay them what they want and deserve, be upfront about it. Asking them what an unbelievable, excellent, good, okay, unsatisfactory and outright terrible offer would be is also a good way to understand their priorities, appreciate how important salary is to them and recognise how much selling you’ll have to do come offer stage, depending on the amount.

Maintain control

As soon as you realize that you are asking this information for the benefit of the candidate, salary talks no longer becomes an awkward or difficult conversation. As a recruiter it is important to gather all of the information that will impact the acceptance of an offer ahead of time so there are no surprises throughout the process. Enough can go wrong in the recruiting process, so the more you can limit issues, the easier it will be to hire successfully!

Image: Shutterstock

By Chadd Balbi

Chadd Balbi is a seasoned recruiting professional with extensive experience in full life cycle recruiting and business development in both Corporate and Staffing environments. His emphasis is on strong recruiting, business development and client relationship focus. Specializing in the IT staffing industry. Follow Chadd on Twitter @CFBRecruiter.