Mon, Aug 8, 2022

Before you apply for a job, know the salary range the business can commit to.  Job ads withholding pay information are often NOT real opportunities but labour market surveys conducted by companies to see what skills are available at reduced prices. 

There is no evidence showing how many job ads placed are real nor a standard code of ethics for recruitment.

When business removes pay information from a job advert it’s because they want you to apply ‘blind.’ Applicants who know less and who don’t know how to find the information, or how to exert a negotiating advantage – will accept less pay.

Public Enemy: Job Ads No Pay information

Firms try to avoid disclosing pay until applicants have stated what they are willing to work for. 

In addition, employers demand confidential information (payslips) from applicants regarding past and current earnings.

In a negotiation, we know that whoever declares all their information first, is at a disadvantage. That’s why people will say ‘let’s play with open cards’ implying that information isn’t hidden.

The wage negotiation is about power – the less an applicant understands about an employers budget for the job, the easier it is to persuade an applicant into believing a biased view regarding the value of their skills and experience.

For example Truworths tells job applicants how much they are worth during interviews and claims that applicants often have unrealistic p[ay expectations. It’s interesting to note that Truworths pays among the lowest pay in retail.

Income inequality, the difference between very high earners and very low earners, starts with what you agree to during negotiations and what you accept as true.

When a job is created or a post becomes vacant – ethically administered companies allocate a budget or a standard salary range. Opportunistic and exploitative firms use recruitment as a labour survey in order to see what skills they can access for the least amount of money.

‘Negotiable Remuneration’ is misrepresentation

Do you think this means the wage conversation is wide open as the employer is generous? It means the exact opposite.

When you see that pay is ‘negotiable‘ it implies the company hasn’t created a specific role for an employee but is scoping (trying to see who is available) and what their pay expectations are. Applicants are participating in a labour market survey that may not even result in a job.

When Get Smarter was asked if their advert stating  ‘Remuneration: Negotiable depending on experience. Job level: Entry level ‘ was contradictory, they responded

“This role is by our definition an entry level position, however on reading the full job specification and requirements, you will see that the role is open to a variety of people from matriculants to anyone with an undergraduate qualification and we are looking for people starting with just 1 years’ experience. Due to the “open” nature of the requirements, we feel it better for a candidate to indicate what they are looking for, and we can then have open and honest conversations with them through the process.”

That’s just bollocks Get Smarter

A rational decision about what a company requires and what they can pay for is not vague – it’s very specific and to save time, recruiters convey specifics. Adverts that are this vague indicate an opportunistic organisation. In other words, high risk. No specific, real post is going to be this vague. They either want a matriculant or someone with a degree – you cannot place them both in the same category and call it ‘open.’

This is an inefficient suggestion that cannot be backed up.

Business has no rational interest in catering to what impressionable inexperienced new market entrant applicants ‘are looking for.’  That’s rubbish and Get Smarter couldn’t continue defending themselves against the criticism so they left the conversation.

We cannot keep assuming businesses make decisions in the interests of the public – they don’t and it’s an outright lie when they make this claim. If it was true, we would not have the crazy, growing income inequality that we have.

Get Smarter would like us to believe that we can trust their ‘virtue’ – why? We have learnt repeatedly that when left alone, business does not act virtuously.

Get Smarter still hasn’t responded to the following:

“I find your emphasis on ‘open’ both ironic and counter-intuitive. Withholding information about pay does not inspire the perception of an ‘open conversation’ – which is actually a livelihood negotiation (let’s not create an impression of casual). In addition, if job specs are so vague it implies the employer has no real perception of the role they want this recruit to play and are simply engaging in a labour market survey. Globally, the practice of withholding this information is contested as it’s considered unfair and allows for inequality. S23 of the Constitution says: Everyone has the right to fair labour practices. In this context, how does your advert inculcate a concept of institutional ‘fairness’ for the applicant?”

Collusion, Power and Policy

Truworths, when questioned why they withhold pay information from vulnerable target groups, respondedadvertising employment opportunities without a salary range is not an unusual practice in South Africa.’

Business requires society to accept that their practices are virtuous simply because other firms mirror their behaviour. But we all know that business will collude against the interests of society and against their competitors.

How Public Enemy Power Works

  • Business prefers limited legislation and limited public participation, in other words restricted interference in their decisions so that maximum profitability is realised.
  • Business exerts pressure on government and pacifies their role by offering support and funding.
  • Business prefers to act as authority in labour issues and believes that labour should submit to the profit mechanism or lose employment. Labour is a ‘resource’ and like other resource acquisitions, the ‘buyer’ is looking for the best for the least.

Society exerts pressure on both business and politics when society is informed, engaged and united.

The more divided society is, the more business and politics can exert power over labour. However, business and politics will move to limit public participation as it can disrupt power relations. Questions regarding the Truworths recruitment strategy were brushed aside with a threat that “Truworths will not hesitate to defend itself against defamatory statements, and reserves all its legal rights.” How are questions defamatory statements?

After asking the Pietermartzburg Chamber of Commerce if they thought non-disclosure of pay information was fair,  Melanie responded with

Positions taken need to be backed up with evidence and presented in an appropriate manner in order for others to be convinced. I’m afraid that I have a great deal on my plate already and I cannot use my time (which my members pay for) to research issues that are raised by a non-member.

Does this response indicate a general business arrogance and inability to engage with issues of income inequality and economic development? If, like Melanie, the wider business community believes that only ‘members’ may raise issues then who is responsible for informing them? Evidence is is widely available, why is business not responsible for ensuring that they make  informed decisions about fair business practice?


  • Applicants must understand the value of their skills by looking at market rates and clearly communicate what they have to offer for the rate they require.
  • Applicants must learn to fight for their rights and to walk away from bad offers so that they are available for employers who have fair payment systems.
  • Applicants often have no choice but accept exploitation.

Ethical Recruiters State Compensation Upfront

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