Why are salaries such a secret?

I've noticed a worrying trend in job advertisements. It’s been going on for a while now, but seems to be becoming the norm.

Job advertisements which use terms such as, “attractive salary and benefits”,  “salary negotiable based on experience”, or similar.

This is such a waste of everyone’s time including the employer's.

Employers and recruiters are struggling to handle the volume of applications received for many positions.

This omission of such critical information makes this problem worse. Without the benchmark of salary, both under- and over-qualified applicants will apply when many of them would either not take the job if were offered to them because the salary was too low, or will be too junior to be a serious contender.

It reeks of deviousness and destroys brand value.

What message does this send to the world? That you are open and transparent? That you are trustworthy? That you care about your employees? I’d argue that it is rightly or wrongly interpreted as, “We’ll see who applies and then with luck we’ll be able to hire someone who fits the spec, but whom we can pay far less than the market rate for the job”.

All those carefully crafted brand values are brought into question by this one simple omission.

To apply a less negative viewpoint, it’s also possible, that they are thinking, “If we get an absolute superstar applying who we have to pay over the market rate for, we don’t want to put them off applying”.

I’d argue that this is wishful thinking. Not specifying the salary or even the range, will mean that the real superstars assume the worst and ignore the vacancy. After all they are probably already being generously remunerated in their present position and they know that if someone really wants them, they’ll come knocking.

There’s no excuse.

I accept that in advance of appointing someone, it's often impossible to know the exact salary that is appropriate. An employer doesn't know who is going to get hired and what their precise experience level might be. But they’ll have a clear idea. So there’s nothing to stop them specifying a range of salaries.

I think it's just plain dumb and helps no-one including the employer.

I’d love to hear what job seekers, HR and recruitment people have to say about this, so do please post any opinions below.


  1. Neil,

    I agree 100%.

    Another distressing trend is when job ads require past salary or desired salary. It would be much fairer and more productive for the employer to state a salary range.


    1. Hi Diana! Always a pleasure to get your take on things! Re past and desired salary, I agree that this is also a complete red herring. Salary progressions are rarely linear these days and HR people should know this better than most.