Advice & News

November 15, 2021

Why Are Salary Ranges Excluded from Higher Education Job Postings?


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Searching for a new job is logistically and emotionally demanding. Higher education is a bustling industry that attracts talented, well-credentialed professionals. Exciting opportunities abound, as does competition.

There is much that job seekers can do to manage the project. Other elements, though, are hard to strategize. I caught up with Director of Talent Acquisition at the University of Cincinnati, Debbie Hatke, to discuss common job seeker questions.

Note: These insights relate mostly to staff, rather than faculty, positions. This interview has been condensed and edited.

Salary Mystery
Eileen Hoenigman Meyer: Why are salary ranges often excluded from job posts? Transparency is so attractive for a brand; when employers don't include salary info, it feels like they are hiding something or trying to control the salary conversation.

Debbie Hatke: Transparency is extremely important, but it runs both ways. Experience has taught employers if they post the range everyone always wants the top number. On the other hand, providing the starting salary may be too low and could discourage good applicants from applying because they feel the pay is inadequate even though there may be other attractive non-monetary benefits. So, employers default to the easiest practice which is to post no salary and ask their applicants to disclose their needs. If you are honest about your needs, and what it would take for you to accept the job, both parties should arrive at a satisfactory conclusion.

Often universities must rely on total compensation to attract new hires, as salaries may not be in alignment with the market. Not providing the salary upfront helps mask the inequalities in pay and gets applicants in the door allowing hiring managers to upsell the other non-monetary benefits of working for a university.

Negotiation Hesitation
EHM: Sometimes employers ask for job seekers' salary range during an initial screening. It can feel uncomfortable to throw out the first number before discussing the role in depth. Why ask for a candidate's range early in the process? Can we change this after we discuss the job? Can we defer?

DH: Higher ed employers need to set the expectations early to avoid getting too far down the line and having to start over. We don't want to waste your time, or ours, by continuing talks when, in the end, salary could get in the way.

You can change the salary you are seeking after it is discussed, but if you want to be taken seriously, you'll need to provide sound evidence of how your skills and experience command a higher salary than what you originally stated - just because the range revealed to you is now higher isn't a good reason. You can defer and not offer a number -- it may disqualify you, it may not. It depends on how many others in the applicant pool share your same skills, the timing of the search, and the patience of the hiring manager. Remember -- this is not a game of chicken, although it can sometimes feel like it.

You need to be fair in your salary expectations and do your homework. If what you are asking is reasonable and you can do an adequate job explaining your value, the employer will see that and reciprocate if it is truly possible.

Having to Re-Enter Information
EHM: Why do applications ask us to populate information that is already on our resumes? If we know the reason, it makes it easier to engage with the process.

DH: An application is meant to collect a historical summary of your employment history -- the when, what, and where of your past employment. Resumes, cover letters, and other attachments are simply additional pieces of information to help fill in the gaps and tell the story of who you are as an applicant.

The application is, in most cases, a legal document. When you complete an application, you are attesting to the authenticity and truthfulness of the information you provided in the application. If you attach a resume but include no history in your application, you haven't attested to anything other than your name and address. Quite honestly an employer can pass on your application for simply being incomplete, so it is always a good idea to comply with the application instructions if you really want the job.

Completing the application also gives you a better shot at other jobs. The application, in most modern applicant systems, can be searched for keywords, however, in many cases, the attachments cannot be searched. If a recruiter has an opening for which you did not apply, by using keyword searches you can be identified from your previous application as having the desired skills for a different role. By omitting the information in the application, you may just be eliminating your chances at another job.

The Additional Materials
EHM: Some employers want references, writing samples, salary info, etc. upfront. Is it really necessary to get all of this from us at our first expression of interest? How do employers protect candidates' privacy and information?

DH: When you apply for a job you are not "just expressing interest." You are saying "I'm qualified, I'm the best person for the job, and I'm seriously interested." Why waste your time and the employer's if you are just dipping your toe in the water to see if anyone will call?

If you are serious about the position, you need to put some skin in the game and provide the information requested in the posting. It takes a LOT of work to properly apply for a job and employers know that. They also know that only those that put in the work are genuinely serious. Recruiters get hundreds of applications because it is relatively easy to apply for a job. Employers ask for a lot of materials because they know it is relatively easy to apply for a job -- and they know that the sincere applicants are those that follow the directions and provide well-thought-out materials to showcase their skills and experience. Is it a test? Sure. Is it useful information? Absolutely. Does it weed out casual job seekers? You betcha'.

The information you provide is most likely contained in an ATS. These systems have all sorts of permissions that only allow those close to the job vacancy to see the applicants and their materials. This also helps protect the identities of internal applicants wishing to leave one department for another. Privacy is always of utmost concern in an HR department and search committees have confidentiality agreements and rules for the sharing of applicant information. Most HR departments have a retention schedule for applicant data and federal contractors must follow OFCCP guidelines for retaining applicant information.

EHM: Do prospective employers read cover letters? Any tips?

DH: Applicants assume that a "computer" will be reading their resume and that's often just not the case. It's usually a human that needs to determine if an applicant should be moved forward for further review. Cover letters are very important - they help tell us if the applicant is a good fit for the job. The cover letter allows you to address how well you meet the needed skills and experience outlined in the job posting and helps the recruiter, and the hiring manager, understand how you fit the role. The easier you make it for those evaluating your fit for the job, the better your chances are of getting an interview.

Only you can determine the amount of effort you are willing to put into the job search. As with most things in life, you get out of it what you put in.

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