How Employees and Jobseekers Can Prepare for Pay Transparency

Pay transparency

Pay transparency laws requiring employers to list salary ranges on all advertised job posts are becoming more popular. Colorado passed trail-blazing legislation in 2021, and California, Washington, New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and South Carolina all have legislation either passed or currently pending. According to CNBC, experts tell us it’s only a matter of time before salary ranges will be standard on all job listings.

We hear a lot of talk about what public salary ranges mean for HR departments and hiring managers, but what does it mean for you as a job seeker? How can you go into an interview prepared to show your worth and get an offer at the high end of the pay range?

Pros and cons of new pay transparency laws for job candidates

While people in HR departments have mixed feelings about pay transparency laws, they are likely to benefit job seekers most of all. For one, they make the recruiting process far more comfortable by banishing the elephant from the interview room. Instead of worrying about how to approach the delicate topic of salary, you can focus on the interview itself so that it feels less like a negotiating game and more like a genuine conversation.

Another pro in favor of posting salary ranges involves enabling underpaid employees to negotiate for the pay they deserve at their current companies. Many employees love where they work and have no plans to move; however, are not paid fairly according to what they are seeing in the market (job postings). Pay transparency enables you to research the current market and empowers you with the data you need to negotiate with your employer. If that does not work, you have the information to find work that will compensate you fairly elsewhere.

Perhaps the most significant disadvantage of pay transparency laws affects job seekers who are paid above what the market says they should be paid. If you are a job seeker who has negotiated a high salary in your current position, you will find your options more limited now that salary ranges are common knowledge.

Currently, a lot of people are overpaid. During the pandemic, employers were desperate to hire talent, but the job market is shifting control back to today’s employers. If you are one of the many blessed with inflated wages, published salary ranges may limit your ability to negotiate when you look for new employment. You will need to balance your expectations with the new reality.

How to fight for the top of the salary range during the interview

When you see a salary range on a job listing, you may wonder whether to expect an offer from the bottom or top of that range. As a job candidate, you should do everything possible to position yourself to receive the upper end of an employer’s range.

If you are like most job seekers, when you see a salary range listed as $50,000-$60,000, the only number that sinks in is $60,000. Of course, to be offered that job and the upper end of that salary range, you have to be qualified. Now that salary ranges are becoming a standard part of the recruiting process, I believe most companies will start measuring comps based on different components and variables. Those variables will likely include your training and years of experience.

ask for a raise

Justifying Your Worth

To justify your worth during an interview, gauge what the employer wants and show how you are valuable to them. You have to offer training or experience that separates you from the rest of the candidates if you’re trying to get into the upper end of that salary range. Do your research before the interview, and bring whatever you can offer to the table.

Start laying the groundwork and advocating for yourself from the beginning. If you know you’re going to have a phone interview with a company or a face-to-face interview, be prepared to dig in and tell them what’s important. It’s your responsibility as a job seeker to understand what the employer is looking for, what the qualifications are, and how you exceed them.

During your first interview with a recruiter, ask questions such as:  

  • How will you gauge the success of the candidate you hire for this position?
  • What are the qualifications marking an ideal candidate for this job?
  • Where do I stand among the other candidates for this position?

With answers to these questions, you will be better prepared to show your worth when you are sitting across from a hiring manager.

Ultimately, however, the ability to justify your worth depends on how hiring managers view compensation. If their ranges are based on years of experience, the offer you can expect is mostly set in stone.

dream job

How to approach salary ranges as a job seeker  

If you are like most other job seekers currently, you likely have several questions about new pay transparency laws. First, you may have seen examples of jobs with insanely wide salary ranges, such as $0-$999,000. Essentially, this is a tell-tale sign that employers are cutting corners or feel that the law doesn’t necessarily apply to them. If the salary range is posted by a smaller company, the hiring manager may be struggling to post accurate compensation, but salary ranges like this typically indicate companies have not done their homework, do not know how to compensate employees fairly, or do not take the law seriously. Regardless of the case, it would be wise to ask a wealth of questions before agreeing to work for such a company.

But There’s More Than Just Salary Range

Now that salary ranges are posted for many jobs, you may wonder if you should focus your efforts by only applying to jobs with the highest salary ranges. Generally speaking, however, there are better strategies. Even though salary ranges make the job search easier, you still have to put in the work. As I always say: “looking for a job is a full-time job.” Rather than just looking at salary ranges, research each position in depth. Applying for jobs you are not qualified for simply because of high salary ranges is a waste of everyone’s time and can muddy how you are perceived in the jobseeker market. It’s better to take the time upfront to determine how their skills match each job’s qualifications.

Finally, like many job seekers, you are probably wondering whether or not these salary ranges are negotiable. The short answer is: yes. When applying to a job where the posted range is $40,000-50,000, you can always ask, “Is $50,000 the top of the range?” Employers will let you know if the range is negotiable. Of course, there is a chance a recruiter will be frustrated with the question, but you will never know the answer if you don’t ask. If you are not qualified for the upper end of that range and persist in asking for it, you will only be hurting yourself.  

Know Your Worth

It is my observation that job seekers tend to think they’re worth more than the market says they are. If you research salary ranges of similar jobs, you should start to see the salary range your training and experience can command. When you are honest with yourself, this will give you good insight and a solid foundation to build your search. The salary range you should apply for is not based on anything personal; it is solely based on cold, hard skills.

As you approach a changing job market with salary ranges posted on more and more job listings, it’s important to be transparent and upfront about your target salary and advocate for yourself during the interview. At the same time, understand that your experience will not always qualify you for the top of the range. You can ask employers and recruiters how salary ranges are determined, but you must be realistic about your qualifications. Employers are being more transparent than ever before, so take time to evaluate your qualifications honestly and be transparent in the jobs you apply for.

This guest post was authored by Kelly Robinson

Kelly is a recruiting expert, entrepreneur, and the CEO and Founder of PKRecruiting. PKR is a leading professional services firm focused on recruiting with intention through structure, strategy, and support to connect employers with top talent. Robinson is an award-winning talent operations specialist for her expertise in hiring operations, talent acquisition and retention, and organizational leadership. She coaches leaders throughout the recruiting space globally on strategies for success in the digital era of work.


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Ms. Career Girl was started in 2008 to help ambitious young professional women figure out who they are, what they want and how to get it.