The Salary Shell Game Poll

There’s a fascinating post from Vu Le from the 6/1/2015 edition of Nonprofit With Balls that examines the practice of failing to disclose salary ranges in job listings. Spoiler alert: Le doesn’t find much value; in fact, he comes up with eight detailed reasons why he believes they are counterproductive and recommends that groups embrace what he defines as equity and transparency.

Adaptistration People 033If you aren’t familiar with Le’s writing, it is important to understand that he approaches this topic from the perspective as the executive director of a Washington based charitable nonprofit so if you thought the post is nothing more than the ramblings of a disgruntled entry or middle level manager, think again.

Le’s post was especially intriguing because it was only recently that I decided to remove the salary range taxonomy at Adaptistration Jobs. The decision was ultimately based on an evolving pattern designed to see how much of an impediment the salary range option would present.

  1. When the site launched, it required employers to select a range.
  2. After conducting a good bit of “abandon process” metrics analysis, it seemed that this was the major sticking point as nearly 100 percent of job posters deciding to abandon their listing stopped at that point.
  3. As a result, a “CWE” (commensurate with experience) option was included.
  4. Shortly thereafter, abandoned listings dropped by nearly 90 percent.
  5. After another 12 months of tracking, only 0.8 percent of listings selected anything other than CWE so the salary range taxonomy was entirely removed.

When Adaptistration Jobs was launched, the salary range taxonomy was included as the result of a strong belief that it was beneficial to both employer and candidate for many of the same reasons Le includes in his post but it has never been something of a strong issue so in light of the user metrics, it was phased out.

But reading Le’s post has rekindled my interest in this topic as his arguments are as solid as his rationale; consequently, I’m curious to learn a bit more via a reader survey. As such, thank you in advance for taking the time to complete the following survey.

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About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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3 thoughts on “The Salary Shell Game Poll

  1. There are a lot of wingless unicorns out there… hmm although I can’t remember the last time I saw a real-life winged unicorn. While I agree with Mr. Le’s points on applicant salary history and salary transparency within an organization posting D.O.E is often needed. In my experience as a for-profit hiring manager & npo board member this gives the employer flexibility to reevaluate the original maximum salary when an extremely qualified candidate rises to the top of the pool. Had a range been posted these candidates may not have given the employer a second look when in reality the hiring manager/board of directors might be flexible for the right candidate.

    A savvy job seeker has a number of tools to estimate what the salary range is (ie. 990s, audited financial statements, peer organizations in that area, Glassdoor.com). If an ED has been getting on average $25k/year perhaps you shouldn’t waste your time applying thinking that they’d give you $80k because you’re awesome.

    Ultimately the job seeker needs to have a very clear idea of what they’re worth (with regards to the points about supporting one’s family, gender wage gap, discrimination). If a highly qualified candidate that I want to hire asks for a salary that is $20k less than I’m willing to pay for someone with their qualities I have to assume that number works them to support their family etc…

    • Interesting perspectives and per your first paragraph I think it the issue becomes increasingly influenced by budget size and position. For example, salary range for the CEO position at a ballet company with an annual budget of $15mil has far less value than a grant writer or education coordinator.

      I would also agree that some 990 level due diligence will provide higher level executive positions in middle to larger budget nonprofit performing arts orgs, they little to no value for middle and entry level admin positions. In fact, the current salary reporting threshold in the 990s of $100k is a good benchmark for determining the value for including salary ranges; in short, if it isn’t reported on the 990, it probably needs a salary range.

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