Money… you earn it, you save it, you spend it… and it’s an amazing song by one of the greatest bands ever (Pink Floyd, but I am sure you did not have to look that up).

Money is why we work. Really, if we’re being honest, it’s the only reason many choose work. Yet, it seems to be the toughest conversation for companies, candidates, and recruiters.

Years ago, I hired a recruiter who was incredibly talented. She could find any candidate for any job and knew how to source like a wizard. I noticed that her candidates were falling off for one reason – compensation. I sat in on a few calls and she simply could not bring herself to ask about money. She felt it was an invasion of privacy.

Most organizations have a compensation guideline. In fact, many have an entire team dedicated to compensation. They spend months analyzing data to ensure each level or band is paid at or above market. Yet, sharing this information with candidates is forbidden, likened to betrayal of the sacred oath, “Thou shalt not share the bands.”

California and New York have recently passed laws requiring salary bands on job descriptions. I love working with clients in these locations because of it. It makes recruiting so much easier. Personally, I have always discussed salaries with candidates and I am perfectly fine “showing my cards first.”

Here’s how a conversation might play out:

Me: “So, what type of compensation are you seeking, in terms of base and total compensation?”
Candidate: “I’m not sure. What is your range?”
Me: “The range for this role is $xxx – $xxx. An offer will be based on factors, such as your experience level, internal equity (what others are paid in the group), and other factors. Is this range acceptable for you?”
Candidate: “Yes/no, this range is/is not within my range”
Me (if “yes”): “Great! Where do you fall within an acceptable range if an offer comes forward” or if “no,” “Where do you fall outside the range?”

The candidate typically goes on to provide their comp details, including current structure and breakdown of base/bonus/benefits/etc… which I don’t ask for nor have to because we have built rapport. However, this is not the end of the conversation. At each point in the interview process, we discuss the interview, how they are feeling about the job, and I reiterate the range and ask if their comp expectations are still inline.

Money is a hard conversation, but it doesn’t have to be! Negotiation is not about paying less. It’s about paying what is expected and fair across the board. Transparency is not just a word for the hallway motivational poster. It’s about being human and having real conversations.