Did you know “Salary: DoE” stands for “Don’t Apply Here”?

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(“DoE” literally stands for “Dependent on Experience”. But read on to find out what that tells you about the company and the role…)

Job adverts sometimes contain the text “DOE” next to the Salary/Remuneration/Pay box. This is a way for companies to hide the salary before they’ve met you and learned what figure you might accept. But this often tells you a lot more about the company and role than HR and Hiring Managers realise…

Assuming you join the company (or work at one already): Which perks of the job could we take away and your colleagues would continue to come in to work? What’s the biggest number of things we could remove and they’d stay – and what’s the smallest number it would take for them to ALL quit?

Perks vary, but the smallest number you need to remove is easy: one. Take away the salary and no-one’s coming in to work next week.

Salary is the most powerful tool in your toolbox as a hiring manager. If you’re not using it then you’re undermining all your other recruitment activity.

What hiding a salary tells the candidates

Tech hiring happens on a 1:1 basis: you don’t hire groups of people, you hire individuals. It’s high-skilled, specialist, high paid work – each candidate is unique. In a 1:1 sales process, it always matters how the other party perceives you. What does “Salary DoE” say to a candidate?

There are two immediate assumptions, depending on how many bad experiences the candidate has had before. The positive assumption is “This hiring manager has no idea what they’re doing – they’re not even using salary correctly, and they probably have no idea what the role entails”. The negative assumption is “This hiring manager knows exactly what they’re doing, and the role is so bad, the company so awful, that their bar for hiring is ‘hire the weakest, least skilled, most useless, lowest quality people you can find’ – i.e. the ones who have already given up hope of being paid for their work”.

What about those who aren’t motivated by money?

Many candidates are willing to forgive a bad job description – we all know what it’s like: a misguided employee, or a divorced-from-reality senior manager, made a mistake and mangled the advert.

But omitting salary tells them something else too: It tells them the quality of co-worker they can expect. Tech employees frequently cite “coworkers” and “team” in their top reasons for joining a role – and leaving it. One candidate may be fortunate enough not to care about cash (young, single, childless) – but they’ll go to great lengths to avoid working at a company of bitter, low-skill, untrained, amateur developers … a place where they’ll never get anything great done, constantly let down by those around them.

What this does to your hiring

None of the interpretations of your salary is a good look. Good candidates are going to reject your job advert out-of-hand – you won’t see them, they won’t even appear in your funnel, because they’ll go out of their way to avoid you. Your view of the candidate pool will be distorted and you’ll believe there are few great candidates – all because they’re hiding from you.

Bad candidates will be attracted, but … now you’re hiring bad candidates. Your candidate pool is further distorted – in your position, it seems like EVERYONE is a bad candidate, and you adjust your recruiting practices (budgets, time-to-hire, expectations) appropriately.

What can you do instead?

If you have a salary – share it! Put it at the top of every job-advert! In practice … if you’re not already doing that you might not be able to right now (because your budgets are unclear, too small, or not fully signed-off).

That problem really started “last April” – the start of the tax year, when your company budgets were finalised. I’ll be covering that in future articles (and the book) in more detail – especially: techniques for making sure the budget gets set appropriately, and the budget holders come away feeling happy about it rather than feeling extorted.

But … for now … you can paper it over by writing a range that you’re willing to pay (use a mega-jobsite to get a feel; they tend to lean cheap – unlike sites that get paid on commission, who lean expensive) – if a candidate expects the top, get them to justify that assertion at interview. (A common mistake of inexperienced hiring managers is believing that whatever the largest number they write on the range, every candidate will demand that and not budge. This is very wrong – but either way it’s a better problem to have than the one of “good candidates don’t even speak to us”.).

Remember: a salary range is a range, and you have the ability to negotiate with each individual candidate over where in that range you believe they sit.

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