When, how, if to bring up the topic of salary during the recruitment process can be one of the most difficult challenges to consider. And, if not handled correctly, can be a potential embarrassing, awkward, time-wasting show-stopper.

There is little point in both you as the client and the candidate investing what can be a considerable amount of time and energy into the process, if salary expectations on both sides are not aligned or achievable.

When should the topic of salary be brought up?

As early in the process as possible. The greater the level of transparency the better.

It is not necessary to be too exact in terms of potential figures or package but by at least indicating a range will allow the candidate to ascertain if this is a role they can potentially afford to consider.

A challenge that many clients face is candidates, seeing a range of offer, asking immediately for the top end. Candidates will typically be looking to enhance their earning potential by making a move. They may be on track to secure regular payrises at their current employer, or have been experiencing pay freezes during the recent pandemic so would want to ensure that they don’t end up potentially worse off. It is worth including in the salary information how/when pay reviews are conducted. Candidates can understand what future earning potential looks like, and what they need to do/demonstrate in order to achieve pay increases/top end of range.

Ways in which your recruitment agency support in this process.

What is the role’s value?

Client-facing roles typically can be assessed by what an individual is able to charge on behalf of your business. Support roles/non-client facing are not so easy to assess but it is worth reflecting on the value each role brings to the company as a whole. Client-facing consultants need support staff to deliver their role objectives or their billing potential drops. What is the cost of replacing staff regularly if the salary is not attracting and retaining them?

Do your research.

Alongside drawing up your job and person specification, research current pay levels for the role. Is your offering competitive?  What benefits and incentives do you offer, training, support with professional study? Flexible working hours? Sammons Pensions Recruitment Consultants conduct regular salary surveys and benchmarking and can provide feedback on market trends, what candidates are seeking (not just in terms of remuneration).

What to do at interview stage?

Your recruitment partner should have already discussed salary expectations with you and the candidate to ensure broadly aligned. When the candidate attends their interview it is a good question to ask (ideally during the first interview) in general terms what the candidate’s understanding is of the remuneration on offer and what their expectations are (you can always probe to understand their reasoning, is a big pay hike because travel will increase, or hours are longer or they will lose certain current benefits?)  It doesn’t have to lead to negotiations at this point but can be useful to clear up any misconceptions.

Time to negotiate.

Your recruitment partner should support you and the candidate at all stages of the recruitment process to ensure expectations are aligned. Discuss the salary/package that you would like to offer the candidate with your agency and they should be able to advise on how well it will be received. A bidding war between candidate and client can leave a very bitter taste and is not an ideal way for a new member of staff to join. Consider also that in a highly competitive market counter offers are all the more common.

You need to ensure that you are offering a package that is fair, in line with your pay structures, similar to those already in place (you can run the risk of overpaying a new member of staff and existing, less well paid staff leaving). Ask yourself:

  • Do they bring more to the role than the job description asked for?
  • Will they be worth the investment?
  • Are they affordable?
  • What else could you offer that would appeal to them, aside from salary?
  • What can you/they compromise on?

Salary is not a dirty word.

If the topic of salary is handled in the right way, it can be a very positive tool in the recruitment process. Transparency, ensuring expectations are aligned throughout the process will help ensure you secure the talent required for your ongoing business growth.

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