Does posting a salary on your vacancies make a difference?

For me listing the salary on your job adverts is a bit of a no-brainer on both sides: 

  • For employees, it’s a signal of transparency, honesty, and a lack of political games. It gives potential employees the information they need before entering a time-consuming application process.
  • For employers, the same arguments apply but the other way around – you attract people who are attracted to all the traits listed above who are also applying with the information they need: there are fewer last-minute hurdles to overcome.
  • In addition to fighting more systemic issues such as the well-documented wage gap between genders.

Regular arguments with the other side include:

  • “Our competitors will find out what we pay” and
  • “We don’t want our team to find out what the new person will be paid”

Which to me at least, feels a bit thin. Salary is one factor in the consideration of a job, but not the only. Additionally, if you don’t want the rest of the team to know what new people are paid, there is an implication of a lack of transparency/feeling of something needing to be hidden. Neither gives off good vibes for potential employees.

There is a touch of nuance in the argument: there are well-meaning organisations who are on the journey to creating better transparency in their organisation but aren’t there yet: but I do feel like the window is closing in this being an anywhere near reasonable excuse.

It’s the reason we established The Marketing Meetup Jobs Board with a mandatory requirement to list a salary with the role.

But at the end of the day, these are just the opinions of a man sitting in his home office. 

And so, I wanted to test the theory more. Here’s what I did.

Survey questions

Using Attest, I surveyed 899 people asking them the qualifying question ‘Have you searched for a new job or role in the past three years?’

Of the 899, 750 people qualified for the follow-up question of ‘Rank the most important factors in how you judged whether you would apply for a job’ with the options of: 

  • Location
  • Job Title
  • Salary
  • Responsibilities of the job
  • Company culture
  • Availability of remote working
  • Job perks (free lunches, gym etc)
  • Company reputation

For each respondent who qualified to answer the follow-up question, the order of the response were randomised each time to avoid folks just clicking through on the answers as they were presented to them.

Respondents

To be presented with the survey, respondents had to be:

  • Based in the UK
  • Employed full-time
  • In a role that required a touch of experience, specifically: 
    • Director (Group Director, Sr. Director, Director)
    • Manager (Group Manager, Sr. Manager, Manager, Program Manager)
    • Analyst
    • Assistant or Associate

Our respondents were: 

  • 22.3% Male and 77.7% Female
  • Had a wide array of Gross Household Income (Attest provided 12 options ranging from Less than £15k to £100k and above) – there was a standard bell curve distribution across these folks
  • 48.9% in the Manager, 37.9% in the Assistant and Associate, 10.5% in the Analyst, and 2.7% in the Director category
  • Across a wide array of industries: note this isn’t just a marketing industry survey, but I don’t think there is anything more specific about how marketers search for jobs than anyone else

There is a bunch more demographic information Attest provided, but this was the most notable when considering the final results

Results

On average – the respondents ranked the factors in the following order…

  • Salary (on average ranked 2.1)
  • Location (avg 3.4)
  • Responsibilities of the job (avg 4.3)
  • Job Title (avg 4.6)
  • Company reputation (avg 5)
  • Availability of remote working (avg 5.2)
  • Company culture (avg. 5.5)
  • Job perks (free lunches, gym etc) (avg 5.9)

With a further breakdown here: 

So what does that mean?

Salary

There is a fairly clear indicator: for those surveyed, salary is a very important factor when potential employees are considering whether to apply for a job or not. 48.7% listed it as the single most important thing. On average, it was listed at 2.1 in the ranking, with the next closest (location) being on average selected at the 3.4 mark.

I was a touch surprised by this. If you head onto Linkedin on any given day – you will see 100 posts saying ‘only work somewhere you love’ and very rarely any that say ‘it doesn’t matter – take the money!’. Perhaps anonymity is one factor, but I also wanted to further interrogate the data to see if there were any other variations. 

Does income make a difference?

One hypothesis I wanted to test is whether the current income would have an impact. An unfortunate truth is those who are most likely to be impacted by the cost of living crisis are those with low or average incomes. I wondered whether they would skew the results of the survey. 

However, of those with household incomes of less than £30k per year, the salary was still ranked top with an average rank of 2.1 (48.4% of folks ranked it number one). This is interesting because if we only focus on those with a £50k+ household income, 47.8% list salary as the most important factor. Hardly a big difference.

How about seniority in a company?

Personally, I was surprised to see company culture so low on the list. 

To further investigate this, I sliced the data to only look at managers and directors: i.e. folks who will have more experience, and therefore more likely to have been part of positive and negative company cultures. 

Once again, 46.6% still record salary as number one and company culture remains in the same position, marginally moving up on average position from 5.5 to 5.4. 

The results came out remarkably similar to the rest of the data set, suggesting that seniority in the business also wasn’t the biggest determining factor in how people perceived jobs.

Coming to a Conclusion

The truth is no matter how I sliced the data by demographic in this study, I didn’t find anything that was markedly different from what I’ve already shown you.

And while I don’t want to present this data as an ‘open and shut case’ (we could have broadened the sample and also included more questions and qualitative data) what the sample shows is an indication. An indication that salary is indeed an important part of the puzzle when it comes to attracting applicants. 

To close, the question on my mind is: ‘is not listing the salary on your job descriptions costing you the best candidates?’. My answer… probably, yes.

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