Jun 16, 2022 - Economy

A big worker-friendly change is coming to the job hunt

Illustration of a hundred dollar bill being revealed behind a help wanted sign

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Actual salary-range numbers are increasingly showing up in companies' job postings.

Why it matters: Applying for a job with no real idea of the kind of money you might be making could soon become a headache of the past.

Driving the news: Microsoft last week quietly became one of the biggest and most influential U.S. employers to commit to publicly sharing salary ranges for open roles, a move that will likely set the tone for other companies.

  • The number of LinkedIn job openings with salary data was up 44% year over year in April, the company says, with pay info showing up in 25%-30% of U.S. listings.

Posting salary minimums and maximums is a worker-friendly decision that will make it easier to job hunt and reduce gender and racial inequities, experts say.

  • For employers, the policy will help prevent HR inboxes from filling up with resumes from applicants with wildly off-the-mark expectations.
  • But if handled poorly, it may create turbulence among longtime employees who suddenly realize they're being paid less than the newbies.

The big picture: A handful of U.S. states and cities — including Microsoft's home state of Washington, as well as New York City and Colorado — have recently passed laws requiring employers to disclose salary ranges in job descriptions.

  • In our new, remote-friendly world, local rules like these can have an outsize impact as national and international companies seek to simplify their compliance efforts.
  • "Companies are realizing they have to think about this more broadly," says Gartner research director Jamie Kohn. "And the more they have remote workers, the less possible it is to shift this strategy by geography."

For workers, this new salary transparency is pretty much all upside.

  • It means you won't spend time applying for jobs with salaries that wind up way under or over your expectations.
  • It will help women, people of color and other historically marginalized groups better understand the value of their labor and push for equal wages — both when applying for jobs and while at their current companies, thanks to the leverage provided by real-time market data.
  • Salary numbers directly from companies — even in fairly wide ranges — are better than the may-or-may-not-be-true numbers on sites like Glassdoor. "Having real-time data is going to be a game changer for everyone involved," says Erin Grau, co-founder of future-of-work site Charter.

Yes, but: Some companies may simply avoid hiring in jurisdictions with stricter salary transparency rules. That will get harder if more cities and states pass these kinds of laws.

Employers need to be thoughtful about their approach. If they post a listing with a salary range above what somebody currently performing a similar role is paid, that's a recipe for trouble.

  • "I had a manager tell me recently that pay transparency sounds great," says Kohn. "'But now I have this wonderful employee who is probably going to leave because they've realized that they consistently get strong performance reviews and make the bottom of that salary range.'"

Workers should remember that cash compensation isn't always the be-all-end-all, says Grau. Other benefits, like stock options and 401(k) matches, can mean a seemingly lower-paying job is a better option in the long run.

  • Moreover, salaries aren't always apples to apples between companies, she notes — a company like Facebook or Apple may pay differently than a tech startup for a similar role, and those job experiences would probably vary significantly.

Microsoft's move is the latest in the tech giant's efforts to get ahead of competitors on labor issues.

What's next: Other companies will likely follow Microsoft, says Grau, especially as new transparency laws come into effect nationwide.

  • "You see smaller companies waiting for one of the big giant companies to make a move, and then they do it," she says. "And so I think you're going to see all the dominoes fall now."
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