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Why the salary dance must shift for both companies and candidates


Why the salary dance must shift for both companies and candidates


Oh, what a dance salary discussions are in the marketing world. Even in 2022 where there is a market sway to candidates, the salary floor is often very slippery. It’s time to also knock the salary based on experience nonsense on its head.

Losing power

I have coached hundreds of executives and professionals in their marketing and associated careers and job search. And the salary dance conversation is one of the most difficult ones to have.

Even the most powerful senior candidates acquiesce power once in the hiring ecosystem. And many brilliant women forget the ferocious negotiation skills they use in their actual work. Ironic isn’t it?

Get salaries into the open

Candidates are advised not to bring up salary upfront. But why not?   

Take a leaf from the public sector who always advertise salary bands. It just feels deceitful to hide the dollars.

Current salary is irrelevant

In our culture whilst we are not overly offended with monetary dialogue, it would still be considered rude to dance up to someone and demand to know what they earn. 

And yet so many recruiters/hiring companies think that they should ask such a direct and frankly illogical question to job seekers upfront and without any regard.  

 It shouldn’t be a question of ‘what you are earning now’ but ‘what are the salary range expectations for a role based on your experience and skills and ability to do the actual job’ – period. 

This also sets up a framework for candidates to grossly exaggerate their current salary. It’s a bit like going into a car dealership – both parties are poised to hustle and walk in with ‘attitude’ hence time is wasted unnecessarily.

Transparency matters

Marketing have well-documented salary industry charts to match skills, experience and education. Hence the broadly accepted salary range for positions is quite transparent in the marketplace generally. 

The way the issue of salary is raised and dealt with upfront by all parties will minimise the risk of disappointment and wastage of time for everyone. 

For recruiters and hirers

Be upfront. Look at the exact needs of the job you are hiring for and give the role a definite and well regarded salary level to attract the level of skills required. 

Have a strong and detailed (aka not cut and paste) Job Description and Key Criteria list to ensure the candidate is on the same page as the goals and KPIs

Be realistic that at any given time there may be a candidate market shortage as now and hence your desired 100 percent score of skills sought may not be fully met.  

It also ends in grief when a company offers a salary below standard/market rates to try and save money etc- often from a platform of ‘we are so good to work for we don’t need to pay great.’  

Forget the ‘the salary based on experience’ nonsense

It’s lazy, illogical and often deceitful hiring to advertise ‘salary based on experience’ 

In reality unless the actual tasks and KPIs of a role change with the successful candidate, why would experience drive the salary? Come on its code for ‘trying to get someone cheaper’.

If a company wants to hire a candidate for a different set of tasks then create a different role and salary, simple!

Again, if the job itself doesn’t change, why should the salary? It should be fair and good in the first place. 

It is astounding how many candidates go through a long interview process, get offered a role but at the last minute are advised that they aren’t experienced / good enough to have the originally quoted  salary. 

Candidates rightly are furious (as they were given the salary upfront) that all their time has been wasted.

Now let’s also be fair – there are often times when a company feels forced into offering a salary range far above the jobs tasks because the talent shortage is so abysmal. 

Great that they are willing to be flexible for sure – great attitude. But I have observed that a higher salary just isn’t a good enough reason for a great candidate to join you. 

And of course those candidates will jump again quickly when another super-duper salary carrot is offered.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting offering higher than the average salaries isn’t a good thing – sure it is. But for the right reasons and in the right time it will work wonderfully in the hiring process. 

But it shouldn’t be used as bait to get talent as if the role itself is below the candidates capabilities and career objectives, the $$ lure will wear off pretty quickly when boredom and dissatisfaction sets in.  

For candidates

Don’t fall into the trap of sharing your current salary.  It’s no one’s business except yours.

But you should know the market rate for the job and role you are seeking and are qualified for.  

Then start your salary dance from a position of strength and self-worth. When asked that/ or what salary are you seeking – be clear and upfront with:

‘I’m seeking a salary package circa in the vicinity of this amount  Are we aligned here in the same ballpark?’

Get clarity that your expectations are in alignment.   You must know your worth and value.

You should also be a little flexible as should the hiring company. .If you are seeking circa $150,000 and the company is offering a circa $145,000 all parties should be willing to negotiate. But a significant salary gap is a waste of time as it is a misalignment across all expectations.

Do not exaggerate what you are seeking based on current earnings – i.e.: if you are currently on $110,000 you will not do anyone or yourself any favours if you state you are earning $170,000 and seek that level or more.   I saw that many times in my recruitment agency and knew they were pork pies.

Unless you are being dreadfully underpaid in your current role (and that’s another discussion on exploitation) focus on the requirements, success factors and market rates for the new role.

If you are stepping up to a higher position then of course the salary should be commensurate with that if you are the right candidate.

Don’t tarnish your own integrity with changing your salary expectations at the offer stage. If you don’t want the role at the end of the hiring process (which of course is a candidates right) don’t try and ask for more dollars than was discussed as your expectations at the front end. The dance will stop!

Be honest, if you don’t want the role – tell the company/recruiter. But the way the dance starts will determine the last foot moves!

Now with candidates who are transitioning into a new industry, role etc with a deep learning curve ahead, please be realistic that you may have to take a salary cut. Hey, that fair and reasonable a salary vs skills trade-off negotiation may need to take place.  

The salary dance is a tricky one, and we are talking about a person’s career, financial stability, self esteem and respect.

Hiring processes and the salary dance can and must do better. Everyone will benefit


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Sue Parker

Sue Parker is the owner of Dare Group Australia. She is a national career strategist, personal branding and LinkedIn expert.

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