It Pays to be Open About Salary

‘I don’t care too much for money, money can’t buy me love’ - The Beatles

It’s true. Money can’t buy you love, or happiness. It’s also been called the root of all evil in the Bible no less, and when it comes to looking and applying for new positions, it’s often not (and shouldn’t be) the main motivator for leaving a position.

That being said, money can buy you some things. Like cars for example. Or hats. Or exotic pets. Therefore, when it comes to accepting and starting a new position, salary will almost definitely be the second or third most important factor in negotiations for candidates (especially if they’ve got their eye on a new iguana).

To stay on animals, salary is often the elephant in the room throughout a recruitment process. If it’s ignored or not disclosed, then when actual conversations and negotiations do start, they can suffer as a result. If you’ve got a recruitment consultant working on your behalf though, negotiations should be straightforward. All you have to do is have a chat at the beginning about your expectations, and go from there.

People aren’t always that keen though.

So why don’t we like to talk about it?

Working internationally, it’s also always interesting to see how people from different places handle conversations about money. On the whole, us Brits don’t like talking about it. In fact, we’re apparently 7 times more likely to discuss whether or not we’ve had an affair than we are about how much we earn. Madness.

Affairs aside, the reasons for this are clear. It can be seen as ostentatious to discuss our income in day to day life, so we don’t do it. It’s the same reason we don’t all wear pink suits and dislike karaoke – we don’t like to show off – but sometimes it can be more of a hindrance to withhold the information than volunteer it.

In a recruitment scenario, being open and honest about what you earn can be essential to making sure a process runs smoothly, and can ultimately lead to negotiating the best package for you at offer stage, because the understanding is there between you and your representative about what you will and won’t accept.

This understanding needs to be established early on in a hiring process. Firstly, finding this out allows them to immediately tell you whether or not the role could be a fit for you economically. Even though it’s not all about the money (see top), if a role is paying you 20% less than you’re on now, then you’re probably not going to be interested in it, which is understandable.

The objection to this argument is for a candidate to say ‘that’s fine, you tell me the salary then, and I’ll tell you if I’m interested’ which does, in theory, make sense. However, that’s not always possible. Sometimes companies absolutely insist that we don’t disclose the salary of the role we’re working on to our candidates. I personally have worked with multiple businesses that adopt this policy, and in that scenario, unfortunately, my hands are tied.

So that’s something that we have to deal with. It’s easy to say ‘well I don’t want to work for a company that has that attitude’, but in all honesty you probably do. Especially if they’re a multi billion dollar business, a great opportunity and the recruiter tells you it’s a great package (after you’ve told him). 

The above scenario isn’t uncommon, and in this circumstance the thing that can slow down or totally derail a recruitment process is if the candidate refuses to disclose what they earn. As we’ve already covered, the recruiter’s hands could well be tied on this, so this presents a stalemate, which will leave said recruiter with a choice.

They can either:

1.      Submit the candidate and hope that they’re about right salary wise

2.      Tell the candidate that you’re unable to submit them for the role (however perfect their experience is) without salary information

Unfortunately, Option 2 is going to be a popular one here. If a recruiter can’t provide salary information about a candidate to a client, they look like they haven’t done their job thoroughly. Not good. They also run the risk of the candidate being above the salary bracket for the role which, again, doesn’t look great.

I realise that this sounds like we’re asking for quite a lot without giving much back, but sometimes that’s the only way that we’re allowed to work. This can’t be helped, and sometimes – however strong your antipathy is to recruitment consultants in general, or how much you type out long status’ then say ‘rant over’ at the end – it will stay that way.

The key thing to do is establish a mutual level of trust. I know that, having seen the odd post on the topic, that some people have issues with recruitment consultants and trust. That’s another topic, for another 10,000 status’ though. What that emphasises is why it’s so  important to spend time getting to know, and trust, the person who will potentially be representing you in a process (more on that here). If things go well then you’re likely to have a lot more conversations with them further down the line, so if everyone is on the same page from day one, there’ll be no nasty surprises later for anyone involved.

So, that’s it. A summary? Talk less about your affairs, and more about your salaries.


I’d be really interested to hear your comments on this topic, so please get in touch with your thoughts. If you’re looking for a role in the Energy, Life Science or Medical Device sectors make sure to email and one of the team will be in touch.

From the archive

To take your recruitment to the next level, simply talk to our specialists today