Money Talks – But it’s not all just about salaries

Let's talk about salaries

Written by Sean Allen

Sean Allen is the Recruitment Manager at BJSS, an award-winning delivery-focused IT consultancy with over 25 years’ software delivery and IT advisory experience. Sean has 12+ years IT/Digital recruitment experience for both permanent and contract hires. This comes from both internal and agency side across Financial Services, Data Analytics, Broadcast Media and Consultancy and is at the vanguard in the battle to attract talent in the digital market.

Salaries are often the talking point in recruitment when it comes to offers.

Let’s face it. Most of us work to live, not live to work. What we get paid for our role is important to us. It enables us to live the lifestyles we enjoy.

But let’s also think about this. Whilst salary may not be the ‘be all and end all’, there are many other factors that we put more weight on. Think about it. Benefit packages vary so much across companies that sometimes the slightly lower base salary is better for you personally because of the overall package.

I know what I look for in a package now differs totally from when I started in recruitment 12 years ago. Back then I wasn’t thinking about a pension, something along with life insurance which now have a large weight for me.

What I do find frustrating, is when hiring managers make offers based on someone’s previous salary and their expectations. Or start rolling benefits into the base salary decision, therefore offering a lower base. Or when they benchmark against people in the business and decide to low ball. We don’t want John and Jane getting miffed if they find out Janet is offered £2k more than them. Even though, realistically, John and Jane should be on a higher salary. Taking into consideration their skills and worth in the business and against the market. Especially if it still remains in your approved budget.

In the past I’ve seen this happen. Where a range would be £40k-£55k but as salary increases each year had been minimal, you still had people on £44k. People who, against market rates, should be at the £50k-£55k range and above. So rather than bring someone worth £55k in, they’d offer £44k to be consistent. This in turn caused loads of problems when it came to trying to get finance approval for a suitable increase for an employee.

I’ve also seen past hiring managers low ball candidates to get a ‘deal’ and not pay what they are really worth to them. Causing that hiring manager a massive headache when it comes to pay reviews.


If we’re honest with ourselves, we have all seen it in one place of work or another throughout our recruitment careers, so what do we do to help educate on this. Here are some things to consider:

1. Never ask a candidate for their current salary or package

Instead, you want to know their expectations (ballpark). Or that their expectations fall within the range you can offer. Some Hiring Managers can be tempted to take a current salary in to their offer decision-making. We need to be offering what a candidate is worth to you as the employer, not what their previous company values them at.

Take into consideration the laws local to you. How much are you paid in your current job? Some US states have passed laws prohibiting this question. As some theories suggest this question leads to reinforcement of pay inequalities.

With Diversity and Inclusion so prominent across all companies and industries, we want to ensure we treat everyone equally.

We should be using our experience to educate candidates on the market and salaries as well. I know I’ve spoken to many career contractors that due to COVID-19 and IR35 are wanting to move perm. Many have done research, others haven’t, and so we need to be able to be honest and educate candidates on the market salaries too.

Daniel Myatt shared a lovely little personal salary calculator by Buffer.

General Market rate x location x your personal multiplier (adjust based on skills / career / personal goals) = salary range

2. Education

Don’t be afraid to speak to those that decide the salaries that are offered. We are at the coal face and can share market insight and data on the market and competitors. Explain the value in offering someone’s worth and not low balling for a deal. How it will cost you in many ways in the long run.

3. Actually use Data!

Ensure you are looking at data in the market and what data you have available to you internally to be able to showcase benefits. In a previous role I did this and I was able to change the offers they were making in a positive way. As well as achieving approval for internal pay increase reviews.

As Talent Acquisition people, we are educators in this field. We are the people with our finger on the pulse of the market. We need to ensure we are partnering with the business and Hiring Managers. Not merely seen as a transactional and passive function.

There are lots of tools and sites out there that can help with this. As well as utilising trusted agency partners to provide deeper market insight. Look at Glassdoor, Indeed, Google Trends, Talent Insights and IT Jobs Watch to name a few.

4. Offer what someone is worth to your company.

Yes, the company down the road may see them worth £3k more, but they may have additional skills they need that we don’t. Let’s not get drawn in to bidding wars with other companies. Make your best offer first and show what that person is worth to you.

Patty McCord talks about this briefly in her book Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility

5. Tangible Benefits.

Hopefully in your initial call with a candidate or throughout the process you’ve understood a bit more about them. Let them know about your benefits however big or small. Be transparent. I’ve taken drops in overall package for a role that I think will leverage my career longer term. But do understand the strength of your benefits. If you offer a standard pension and the candidate has received the same salary but with a 20% overall pension, you’re unlikely going to win that battle, so sell your other benefits as you may offer something the other company doesn’t that the candidate weights more heavily in your favour.

6. Flexibility.

long before COVID-19 struck us, some companies have leveraged flexible working arrangements. And let’s not just talk about WFH (where it is possible to do so), but working hours. Does your role need to be full time? Could it be done over compressed hours, shorter days, part time? When we talk about part time most people think about parents, but you will attract a broader and more diverse demographic of candidates than you think. Yes, parents who need flex may apply, but think about those that are part time carers, those that need flex/shorter hours for health reasons and those whose lifestyle may just suit a shorter working week.

If you’re overall package is pretty basic, consider how else can you make an attractive offer to candidates. Throughout the process from initial engagement to offer, ensure you showcase your company culture, what you can offer that motivates the candidate (this could be anything from hack days, charity days, how environmentally friendly your company is, flexibility etc.) If you find your offer isn’t the best on the table, it could just be some of these soft factors that the candidate buys in to, and it’s something you can showcase throughout the recruitment process and the engagement points you have with the individual.

I’d also like to give a special thanks to Daniel Myatt and Sophie Power for being my sounding boards and for contributing to this content.

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