The Risk of Salary Surveys

So, it’s time to hire a new financial professional for your company. I guarantee, one of the very first questions you’re going to ask yourself is “what is the salary range I should offer?” If you’re like most people, you might go looking for salary survey data provided by the various sources in the accounting, tax and finance fields.

I want to caution you in taking this step. After years of monitoring these reports, I’m still consistently disappointed to see average salaries that I know are too high and, surprisingly given the source, too low.

Perhaps the salary survey data isn’t factoring in regional differences. You might, for example, expect that salary drops significantly outside of the GTA core, due to the lower cost of living for the employee and operating expenses for the employer. What might surprise you though, is that there are some very large companies within the GTA core which sometimes pay less. Why? Because they offer greater job security, pensions, incentives or other benefits that offset a lower base salary.

Move into the government and/or not-for-profit sectors, such as hospitals and charities, and salaries tend to be lower there as well. Again, pensions and benefits often offset a lower salary, but there also can be fewer hours and/or less of a competitive strategy requirement in those sectors as well.

Early on in my career as a consultant for hiring financial professionals, I made the mistake of relying on the compensation structure provided by one of my large corporate customers. Ironically, prior to working with that client, I always started with an area and industry-specific, compensation survey that I executed myself. After that tough lesson learned, I now dutifully execute this critical step before issuing any full service job posting out to members of our Financial Professionals Network.  It’s the only way I can feel confident that that my client is going to make well-informed decisions about their compensation package.

You might ask, isn’t this step going to slow down my project? Well, I believe the exact opposite. It’s going to save you time, and more important, it could save you money. I have found that it’s fairly easy to do once you know enough of the appropriate senior financial people and how to ask the right questions.  When companies go to market with a competitive compensation package — one that’s appropriate for their area, their industry and the role they are trying to fill — they attract the right talent, with the right compensation, right away.


Stephen Smyth is the CEO & Managing Consultant of Chief Financial Interviewer, Inc.