In a growing number of cities and states across the U.S., knowing how much a company will pay for a given role is no longer a secret.
Starting Nov. 1, most employers advertising jobs in New York City must disclose salary ranges in their job postings or face civil penalties under the New York City Human Rights Law. The pay range cannot be an open-ended reference like ”$50,000 and up,” either. Employers posting jobs in New York City have to post the minimum and maximum salary they in “good faith” believe they are willing to pay at the time of the posting.
New York City joins California, Connecticut, Colorado, Maryland, Nevada, Rhode Island and Washington, which have also passed similar state-wide pay transparency measures for employers posting jobs in their areas.
Having one more piece of information in the hiring process can help level the playing field between applicants, said Kalani Leifer, CEO of COOP Careers, a nonprofit that aims to advance upward mobility for diverse college graduates, and has been posting salary ranges in job descriptions since 2021.
Leifer said that when you don’t know the pay range, then you have to rely on someone inside the company to give it to you, which leads to unequal information between candidates.
“Candidates who are getting a referral, you can bet that that person is telling them what they should expect, what others are making,” he said. “‘They say $70,000 but they can definitely do $77,000.’ That’s incredibly valuable information.”
Although the impact of pay range transparency laws is still emerging, some research has found it to help narrow gender pay gaps and boost salaries. One study, for example, found that in Colorado, salaries posted by employers increased by about 3.6%, on average, following its pay transparency policy.
“Creating equitable policies like this can truly help people of color, women and other historically marginalized communities to finally close the huge pay gaps they face,” said Nadia De Ala, founder of Real You Leadership, a group coaching program for women of color.
Regardless of where you live in America, there’s a way to leverage the rise in companies having to share pay ranges to your advantage. Here’s how:
If you’re a job applicant, use the information to decide how to answer salary expectation questions, and whether to bother applying …
De Ala said that even before pre-pay transparency laws, she always coached her clients to talk about salary up front during the very first interview, and to ask what the budget and salary range is before the end of the call if they don’t bring it up first.
If you do know the pay range, you can ask, “Where do you believe I land within the salary range based on my experience and the value that I will be bringing to this role?” De Ala said.
But stating that you want the top of the salary range may not always be the right move, even when you do know what the range is.
Daniel Space, a senior HR business partner for large tech companies, suggested that it helps to be self-aware about your experience and value that you bring to the company, so you can validate your desired salary level if it comes up in a job interview.
“You have to consider how qualified you are from the company’s view,” he said, noting that if you are not able to answer questions about experience and skills, a recruiter may place you on the lower end of the range.
One other big benefit of pay transparency is that it allows you to be more focused in your job hunt.
Leifer noted that with the knowledge about a salary range, you can decide if a job is worth your time applying to in the first place. “If you don’t know until the end [of the hiring process] that this job is not going to pay [you] what [you] need to survive, that’s information that everyone should have upfront to not waste time. And not waste the employer’s time either,” he said.
… even if your state or city doesn’t yet require companies to share it.
Even if you are not job-hunting in a location with a pay transparency law, you can still use roles that the company has posted elsewhere to gauge your range, Space recommended.
Colorado, which passed a pay transparency law in January last year, requires employers hiring in Colorado to share salary and benefits information for all promotional opportunities and job openings, including remote jobs.
You can now use Colorado ranges in your own job-hunt, Space said, giving the example of wanting to apply for a human resources job at Google in an area without a pay transparency law. If it’s a national role that is hiring in Colorado, Space suggests searching for the same role at the company on LinkedIn, but making your search parameter a job in Colorado. That way, you’ll see a salary range for the role you want and you can then adjust for the cost of living where you are to get a ballpark estimate of what you can expect Google would pay.
If you’re a current employee and find out you’re on the lower end of a salary range, start asking questions.
If you find out you are making less than a new hire likely will after seeing the salary range listed for your same role, it’s easy to jump to anger and frustration. But it’s better to gather information first on how your compensation package was determined before making any judgments.
Space said the reasons you can be on the lower end of the range can vary: It could be because you lacked certain experiences and skills when you were hired or it could be an oversight, such as the company having failed to update market data when you were hired.
That’s why Space cautions against outright calling your salary unfair until you have the conversation with your manager or human resources representative about how it got decided. “Ask a lot of questions, but don’t go in demanding anything,” Space said. “Don’t go in with conclusions ready.” Your mindset should be “You have a data point. Let’s talk about it,” he said.
If you do believe a pay adjustment is needed after that conversation, De Ala said you should come prepared with receipts of the value you already bring to the company as you ask for clarity on what is necessary for an adjustment.
“If your company claims to care about equity and inclusion, then you can use this knowledge to your advantage by asking for a pay adjustment if you see a similar job listing for your existing role with higher pay,” De Ala said. “Keep it positive, be direct in pointing out any gaps you see and ask them to support you in reaching pay equity by having your salary adjusted to the high range of the market value.”