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Just what is a “competitive salary”?

Blair McPherson - Former Director, Author and Blogger

Job adverts that don’t state the salary but describe it as “ competitive” make me suspicious. Are they going to offer me the job but at a salary I wouldn’t have considered? Is this the type of organisation where no one knows what anyone else is being paid ? The type of place where you work for a number of years with out realising your opposite number is being paid several thousands a year more.

Is this one of those places where every year following your annual appraisal you have to renegotiate your salary ? The ,” What do you think you are worth?” discussion. I moved from a Local Authority where the salary scales for each post were advertised, where there was limited scope for an increase beyond an annual increment and HR kept a tight hold on pay grades for fear of mass regrading claims. I moved to a Housing Association where the post was advertised at one salary but considerable discretion was given on the actual starting salary for the right candidate and the pay bands were very wide. But you had to know this was a negotiation otherwise like me you would have accepted what you were offered.

I am pretty sure most HR professionals would advocate transparency. In my experience it is the managers who want “ flexibility” and the scope to offer more to secure the right candidate plus the ability to offer more to retain a valued team member who is thinking of applying elsewhere. Such arguments surface when ever the job market favours candidates. But recent research highlighted in HRD indicates that the majority of those looking for jobs are put off by adverts that don’t specify the salary.

So organisations could be losing out by taking this approach. Of course some do this because to put the salary in the advert would alert existing employees in the same or equal value posts to the going rate. In other words upset people who realise that the new starter was earning more than them despite their years of loyal service. Transparency avoids the risk of unrest and resentment on discovering you’re being paid less than the rest.  It is of course possible within a culture of salary transparency  to build in a facility for rewarding exceptional performance and increased responsibility. See HR for advice.

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