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Why graduate employers should reconsider listing jobs with a “competitive” salary

Nora Blackie
23 Mar 2020

A recent GradTouch survey of over 5,000 graduates revealed that salary was considered the most important factor when applying for a job, beating location, career progression and company culture. This is the case for applications too: a GradTouch analysis in 2019 found that graduate jobs with fully disclosed salaries perform 30% better than those that don’t reveal what the applicant can expect to earn.

So why are graduate employers still listing salaries as “competitive”?

From an employer’s perspective, there’s a number of valid reasons not to disclose a salary: it’s company policy, because there’s a salary range to be negotiated, to avoid awkward conversations with current employees or to deter hopefuls who’re “only in it for the money.” And for more experienced employees, who have a better idea of what salary to expect and how much they’re worth, this poses few problems. But in the early careers market the phrase “competitive salary” doesn’t necessarily translate so well, and for graduate job hunters, can be confusing and off-putting.

Here’s why not disclosing a salary on a graduate job advert might be hindering your chances of finding the right candidate.


Graduates don’t understand what “competitive” salary means and feel uncomfortable asking about it.

Many graduates simply don’t understand what a competitive salary is or what it means for them. When a specific salary isn’t listed, it indicates to candidates that a conversation, or even a negotiation, needs to be had with the employer about what they’re going to earn. For some graduates this can be difficult to navigate and either deters them from applying, or if they do apply, results in them setting a salary expectation that’s higher, or lower, than average. Of course, it’s a candidates responsibility to research this themselves to a point, but some will see your lack of transparency at entry-level as a bad omen.

The clearer you are with graduate recruits about what they can expect to earn from an early stage, the more confident they’ll feel discussing it themselves, and the more certain they’ll be about how much their skills and experience are worth. You also won’t lose out on those candidates who find negotiating a salary intimidating.


Not knowing the salary gives graduates little incentive to apply for your job

Flexible working, yoga in the office and a beer fridge are all attractive perks, but what graduates really want to know is how much they’re going to earn.

For a recent graduate with little experience of the working world and who can’t compare how “competitive” your salary is to any other – aside from trying to find a vague salary range for the role via Google –, a competitive salary gives them little incentive to apply for your job. If anything, graduates might be inclined to presume you’re withholding the salary because it’s particularly low, or worse, will vary depending on the gender of the candidate you hire – 54% of female applicants worry they will be paid less than male peers, according to GradTouch research.

Salary is the most important factor to graduates when applying for a job; if there’s no clear salary on your job advert, what motivation will they have to apply?


Employers expect a lot from their graduate applicants, but offer little in return.

In the competitive graduate job market where applicants are encouraged to share more and more information about themselves in order to stand out, there’s no reason for graduates not to expect a similar level of honesty in return. In fact, in a recent GradTouch survey honesty was listed within the top four traits graduates look for in a company. That being the case, if you’re offering a salary that’s fair and you have nothing to hide, is there any reason not to disclose it? Demonstrating open and honest communication with applicants from the very start will not only attract top talent, but help retain it too.

Showing more of your company’s personality is something to consider too. At GradTouch, we’re proponents of the idea that generic, impersonal job adverts are a thing of the past; the more you show of your company’s culture and values, the more easily you’ll attract likeminded candidates. If you want to learn more about the importance of showing your company’s personality when hiring graduates, check out our latest e-book, Personality Power.

23-03-2020Nora Blackie

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