The Most Awkward Part of the Hiring Process

Compensation conversations can create uncomfortable moments if you don't manage them correctly.

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May 24, 2023

And they lived happily ever after.

That’s how fairy tales typically end. The problem is, people sometimes expect the same ending when it comes to the hiring process.The bliss of posting a job, a wealth of well-qualified candidates apply, the completion of interviews with top candidates, the extension of an offer, and then the acceptance by the candidate — all one happy story, right?

Let’s be honest. This process often stalls at the offer stage because candidates don’t trust companies, and the compensation process often lacks transparency.

Managing the Elephant in the Room

Despite a host of elements that possess value to persuade a candidate at the offer stage, discussion usually centers around compensation — because, of course, people want to be compensated for their work. This naturally can include base compensation, annual bonus, vacation time, sick time, medical insurance, retirement benefits, tuition reimbursement, commuter assistance, and more. Though this is not an exhaustive list, it does represent many of the ways the employers compensate employees.

On Jan. 1, 2023, California joined more than 30 states and cities to require employers to list the salary range in job postings or to prohibit questions about salary history. Candidates have openly rejoiced in this legislation (as if a single action serves to address concerns of transparency and distrust).

But are such laws enough? What is truly necessary to help candidates feel good about companies and the way in which they are compensated? What must organizations do to create policies and practices that serve to openly share the details of any element of employment that is of financial value?

For starters, action must start with employers (as opposed to the government). Companies must create a competitive compensation strategy, which should include identifying compensable factors, a tiered or layered grouping of core and premium benefits, a regimented distribution schedule, and regular review to remain competitive.

Last but not least, a solid strategy should remove any barrier that would prevent employees and candidates from gaining awareness of their total compensation elements.

This process must be supported by TA and HR team members and managers who are well-versed in discussing these factors with candidates. The encounters should lead with information, not bait candidates with veiled and incomplete details. Tell it all! Talk about the company’s position in the industry as it relates to total compensation, not just hourly or annual pay.

Such pay transparency may result in fewer candidates engaging in your hiring process, but that’s OK, because you ultimately want job seekers who are on the same page as you. If all cards are on the table from the start, the discussion avoids awkward pauses and ambiguous responses. The process is free from deferred detailed conversations, while both the company and candidate await what’s next. In other words, stalling gets eliminated in favor of leveraging genuine interest, obvious talent needs, and career goals.

The Big Fear

It’s also important to address a concern that often comes from recruiters: “If I tell the candidate the full pay range, they’ll ask for the top of the range.”

My response is always the same: “As a recruiter, you should be able to explain to all candidates that the range reflects the spectrum of experiences and expertise for a role. If a candidate expects the top of the range, the company should expect the candidate to be able to articulate a level of competence that substantiates this expectation.”

Ultimately, a well-orchestrated hiring process shouldn’t stall at the offer stage. The removal of practices that create distrust can improve candidate attraction, offer-acceptance rates, and overall employer reputation.

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