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Including The Salary In Your Job Posts

It’s a debate hotter than ‘jam first’ or ‘cream first’ in the great scone disagreement (fun fact, according to the good people at Mob Kitchen, neither is right, it’s just cream first for the ‘Devon way’ and jam first for the ‘Cornish way’): should you include the salary in a job description or not?

In the same way that I’m vehemently ‘Devon way’ when it comes to my scones, I have strong feelings about whether or not salaries should be included in job specs (and I’m talking actual salaries here, not the cop-out £50k-£200k range ones that sometimes pop across my feed). I’ll share my opinion at the end of this article, but first let’s make the case for and the case against. 

Why you shouldn’t include the salary in your job posts

1. Including the salary in your job posts negatively impacts your ability to negotiate

You don’t need me to tell you that times are tough, runways are short, and all the funding ran away to join the circus. When you’re running on a low profit margin, being able to negotiate what’s often the biggest expense in your business can be make or break for your capacity to keep operating as a business. 

It can be hard in a startup to know what rates people should be charging for their time; if you’ve never hired an engineer before, how do you know how much an engineer costs (I mean, you ask Dr Google, obviously, but ignore that for a sec for the hypothetical argument I’m making…)? By not including the salary in the job spec, you reserve the ability to ask candidates what they’d like to be paid and you may well save your business some money by doing so. 

Additionally, by including the salary in the job spec you may run the risk of losing your negotiation potential with existing employees who will expect to be paid at the same level. 

2. Including the salary in your job posts over-simplifies the value of a total compensation package

This is especially true in a startup environment where you may need to leverage the value of long-term rewards, specifically the equity you can offer, in order to attract talent you may otherwise not be able to afford. 

If you’re including the salary in the job description, it’s likely you’re including the basic cash remuneration and not additional elements that are dependent on the future growth of the company - things like bonuses, experiences, benefits in kind, or options grants. 

By narrowing the compensation down to the single figure of the basic cash compensation, you may put-off candidates that could add significant value to your organisation but can be paid more cash elsewhere.

3. Including the salary in your job posts could help your competitors outbid you for the best talent

In an advanced and diverse economy, particularly one that empowers small businesses to strike out on their own as I sincerely hope our new government will, competition is fierce for any contender. Some Founders are confident in building in public, some prefer to keep their cards closer to their chests. 

By disclosing the salary range in a job spec, you could be inadvertently signalling to your competitors how much your company is bringing in and how much of a potential threat you pose. It’s not out of the question to suggest that they may adjust their strategy in response and may resort to outbidding you for the good talent you need to hit your goals.

Including The Salary In Your Job Posts

Why you should include the salary in your job posts

1. Including the salary in your job posts increases trust in your company

I’ve seen this be true for trust from both prospective employees and existing ones. If I were a prospective employee and I was applying to a role with a company that had shared the salary, I would automatically view that company as being more trustworthy because they were willing to share something about themselves without asking for anything from me in return. 

For your current employees: by including the salary in job specs when hiring new team members, you remove the risk that their work is impacted by the bitter thought that a new hire is making more than them for a similar role. It’s often cheaper and easier to retain (good) staff than it is to hire new ones, even if you need to increase salaries in line with market changes to do it.

2. Including the salary in your job posts saves time - on both sides of the interviewing table

Recruitment takes a lot of time and effort - on both sides. From a candidate’s perspective, finding a new job can feel like a full time job in itself. From the search for open roles, to the time spent tailoring a CV, to the cover letters, to the research, to the tasks that claim to only require a few hours of work but always need much more - the list of things that need doing only grows as more roles are added for consideration. There’s nothing more frustrating than going through all that, only to find that the company you’re interviewing with wants to pay you less than you’re already making. 

On the employer side, I’ve seen multiple times what happens when a company invests too much energy into recruitment to have enough time to continue the day-to-day work. If you’re recruiting because you’ve grown in revenue and you want to use some of that growth to power the next stage of the company by expanding teams, it makes little sense to waste time interviewing people who will never work with you - that puts you at risk of damaging that revenue you fought so hard to win. 

By including the salary in your job posts, you save everyone time and effort and make for a more efficient and pleasant recruitment experience all-round. 

3. Including the salary in your job posts helps close various pay gaps

I’m not just talking here about gender-based pay gaps, but those related to all kinds of different circumstances. In 2022, The Guardian reported on the fact that employees from working class backgrounds are paid as much as £10k less per year than their middle-class colleagues - for doing the SAME jobs. 

For those of you reading who’ve met me, don’t let the accent fool you - I was a scholarship kid and I’m from a proudly working-class family. But no-one has ever suggested that that would mean that I’d be less good at my job, and that’s probably because I have the accent of an am-dram actor from the Home Counties. It’s pure bias to pay someone less based on something so irrelevant to their capacity to perform at a job, but, interestingly, it’s not always the fault of the company. 

You can’t be what you can’t see, as Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund, so rightly said. Candidates from a working-class background may not have experience of people earning at the higher end of the range a company might be willing to pay for a role. Someone once told me to ‘say the highest number you can without laughing’ when setting a rate for myself; it’s a fun and glib statement until you realise that our different faces might crack into laughter at very different numbers. 

So, do I think you should include the salary in the job posts?

As a general rule, yes. I definitely think you should include the salary in job posts. To the point where I actually felt quite weird writing the case against it. I make no secret of my distaste for the elements of Capitalism that treat workers like expendable resources and I work very hard to help the companies that I support build inclusive and rewarding environments for their staff.

Your employees are fantastically important to your business. As a COO, I work very closely with CFOs and FDs and I’ve built enough financial plans to know that no company would spend as much money on its staff if it could get away with generating the same revenue without them.

But a company can’t deliver the same revenue growth without increasing the number of employees it has. Per the ONS, micro businesses in the UK (0-9 employees) deliver an average of £99.5k in turnover per employee per year, a small business (10-49 people) delivers on average £152k per employee per year. It’s clear that there are economies of scale to be found as a company grows, but those economies aren’t massive enough to say that it could easily be done with fewer employees. 

Your employees are your most precious resource and by being open, transparent, and kind to them from the very start of their journey with you, you increase the chances that they’ll deliver the kind of revenue growth (and thus exit valuations) that most startups can only dream of. 

That said, I appreciate the difficulties that are unique to the startup journey because I’ve been a startup COO since 2018. You may only be able to keep your business going if you can negotiate down a salary range for a key role. This is a complex and nuanced decision to make and there isn’t always a simple answer. 

If you're struggling with the decision, why not book a free Discovery Call below and we can chat it through?


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