At what point in your life do you learn to negotiate? As a child in a military family, I think they skipped over that lesson. No one who went to Boot Camp negotiated with a three-year-old afterwards. That’s just not how we handled tiny terrorists in the military. My childhood was non-negotiable.
In all fairness, negotiation was not the more important career skill to have – as a child or for my parents as soldiers. In the military, you get what you get. Based on a formula consisting of location, time, education, and a few other variables, pay is calculated. There’s a compensation plan.
Imagine how they reacted when they figured out that’s not even close to how corporate America worked. My parents were shocked – not just at the lack of structure, but to find out I knew someone at my level was making more than me. “That’s not right,” they said with shock.
The Best Negotiators Get Paid The Most
We know it’s “not right,” but it happens every day. The best negotiators get paid the most, not the best workers. In my case, I didn’t know how much my peers were making as a starting point and I wasn’t a skilled negotiator – two strikes against me in the battle for equal pay. It shouldn’t be that way, and that’s exactly why salary transparency matters.
It’s also why states across the country are starting to legislate pay and conversations about previous salaries. Some are even mandating salary on their job postings, requiring it in a few and even going so far as to create boards and groups that punish the companies not following guidelines.
Here’s a TL;DR version of where that’s happening now and the ever evolving law of the land when it comes to pay transparency:
- At least 14 states have laws that prohibit employers from asking job candidates their salary history, and 20 states and Washington, D.C. offer protections for workers to discuss pay. Read more: https://www.cnbc.com/2022/01/12/states-and-cities-where-employers-must-share-salary-ranges-when-hiring.html
- Colorado’s Equal Pay for Equal Work Act requires employers to include the pay range and benefits in every job listing. Companies with at least one employee in the state are required to post pay for any remote job that could potentially be performed in the state. Read more: https://katrinakibben.com/2021/01/05/salary-and-benefits-in-job-postings-colorado/
- The 10 states and cities that require employers to post salary ranges: California, Cincinnati, Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, Nevada, New York City, Rhode Island, Toledo, and Washington. More on the nuance in each state here: https://blog.aghires.com/states-and-cities-that-require-employers-to-share-salary-ranges
Making Pay Transparency & Salary On Job Postings Work
Regulation won’t fix bad recruiting practices like wild pay ranges (for example, 29,000 – 119,000) or other made up salary numbers that simply don’t make sense. It’s why recruiters have to be ready to talk compensation and to understand it before adding the number to the job posting. More than legislation, we need education to make pay transparency work.
Recruiters have to know how to talk about salary and ranges, not just slap some numbers on a job post. But for the slapping the number part aka legal compliance, here’s what I recommend.
In the best case scenario, you will be able to list a base salary on job postings. You can list the base pay and say, “if you meet the following requirements, we will pay you this amount or more with commensurate experience.” Easy.
The experience that qualifies someone to make more money and coming up with a real range is a lot harder. Ideally, you can say “this is the range” and then explain what people who get paid at the top range have experiences doing in their career. For example: “To earn the top range of this pay, you must have experience leading a team of 10 or more to double revenues quarter over quarter.” It has to be specific and allow people to self-identify, not to get paid based on their negotiation skills.
If not, you’re making shit up and that is a bias hub in itself.
Beating bias at work isn’t just about updating how we ask – it’s how we talk about salary, too. If we’re negotiating with bias, we’re creating a more biased workplace every day and perpetuating biases that have existed for years and left people making pennies on the dollar compared to their white, male counterparts.
Katrina (Kat) Kibben [they/them] is a keynote speaker, writing expert, and LGBTQIA+ advocate who teaches hiring teams how to write inclusive, unbiased job postings that will get the right person to apply faster.
Before founding Three Ears Media, Katrina was a CMO, Technical Copywriter, and Managing Editor for leading companies like Monster, Care.com, and Randstad Worldwide. With 15+ years of recruitment marketing and training experience, Katrina knows how to turn talented recruiting teams into talented writers who write for people, not about work.
Today, Katrina is frequently featured as an HR and recruiting expert in publications like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Forbes. They’ve been named to numerous lists, including LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Job Search & Careers. When not speaking, writing, or training, you’ll find Katrina traveling the country in their van or spending some much needed downtime with the dogs that inspired the name Three Ears Media.