Advice for Employers and Recruiters

Trying to comply with salary transparency laws by including false salary ranges? You could be committing a crime.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
Steven Rothberg AvatarSteven Rothberg
September 20, 2023

Attracting the best talent is a top priority for many companies. And it should be, as employers that are fortunate to have the best employees inevitably deliver the best products and generate the highest profits.

Part of attracting the best talent is paying fair wages, and a number of jurisdictions have recently implemented salary transparency laws, so even if an employer has historically paid fairly, they now need to disclose their salary ranges in their job ads. However, some employers resort to dubious tactics to lure in potential candidates, such as advertising job openings with inflated salary ranges. While this might appear as a quick solution to attract high-quality candidates, it can result in severe repercussions that not only harm the employer’s reputation but also expose them to legal risks.

The Legal Consequences

One often overlooked aspect of false advertising is that it can be subject to legal penalties. Laws exist that explicitly criminalize false advertising, and job postings are not exempt. Employers could face hefty fines or even class-action lawsuits if they deliberately mislead candidates about salary compensation. Companies might think that an exaggerated salary range is a minor infraction, but the legal system may view it quite differently. Is risking your company’s reputation and financial stability worth the short-term gain of attracting more candidates? Probably not.

A Drain on Time and Resources

The repercussions extend beyond legal concerns. Picture this: an experienced candidate with a well-honed skill set and high salary expectations applies for a job based on the advertised salary range. They go through the entire recruitment process only to discover that the actual offer is significantly lower than advertised. The candidate feels deceived and is likely to decline the offer. The recruiter has now wasted valuable time screening, interviewing, and negotiating with someone who was never a suitable match.

Even worse, the overqualified candidate could accept the job offer out of desperation, only to continue their job search on the side. When they eventually find a job that meets their salary expectations, they’ll leave, forcing the recruiter to restart the hiring process. High employee turnover costs companies both time and money, from recruitment and training to a loss of productivity as the new hire gets up to speed.

Damage to Reputation

In the era of social media and platforms like Glassdoor, it’s easy for disgruntled candidates to share their negative experiences with 5,000 of their closest friends. False advertising can significantly harm a company’s reputation, not only deterring potential employees but also impacting customer perceptions of the brand. A tarnished reputation can take years to rebuild and can significantly affect the quality of applicants and even business partnerships.

A Viable Alternative

Instead of inflating salary ranges, companies should focus on building a strong employer brand and creating a value proposition that genuinely attracts the right talent. Transparency is key: openly discuss the components of the compensation package, opportunities for growth, and company culture. Authenticity will not only help in attracting candidates who are a good fit but also contribute to long-term employee satisfaction and retention.

I get it: there is a short-term allure of inflating salary ranges in job advertisements. But I hope that you now get it too: the false advertising necessitated by that strategy comes with considerable risks that far outweigh the benefits. Don’t. Just don’t.

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