Expectations vs. reality: When high salary expectations meet low hiring budgets

Digging into all things compensation with CareerBuilder.
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Jackson Gibbs

· 4 min read

Economic uncertainty, smaller pools of qualified candidates, shrinking budgets. HR managers are facing some, uh, unique hurdles in today’s new era of recruiting. But one topic always remains relevant, especially throughout job market changes and economic instability: compensation.

High cost of living is driving up candidates’ salary expectations, but recruiting budgets and strategies are struggling to keep up. And that’s leading to some understandable friction in the hiring process.

We teamed up with CareerBuilder to dig into what’s what in the compensation world, how it’s affecting candidates, and how businesses can respond effectively.

Let’s talk budgets

HR Brew and CareerBuilder created and distributed a reader survey to better understand the challenges HR professionals are facing in 2024. And boy, did Brew readers deliver. Here’s a snapshot of the honest feedback we received about evolving hiring budgets.

Despite last year’s economic uncertainty, most HR professionals (76%) surveyed actually saw their 2024 recruiting budget stay consistent or increase compared to 2023. That said, 64% of respondents working for enterprise companies saw decreased budgets.

Their SMB counterparts, however, could be looking at a year of team growth: 86% reported that their budget remained the same or increased. But those budget changes (or lack thereof) aren’t enough to meet rising expectations among candidates.

Salaries by the numbers

More and more hiring managers report a disparity between candidates’ salary expectations and the actual salaries for the roles they need to fill.

Approximately half the roles managers are hiring for pay $50k–$100k, and just over 20% pay $100k and up. Let’s break that down a bit:

  • Around 30% of roles filled at both enterprise companies and SMBs pay $50k–$75k. From there, roles (and their pay) start to diverge.
  • Approximately 28% of SMB job openings pay $75k–$100k, with 15% paying $100k or more.
  • At enterprise companies, 20% of new roles filled pay $75k–$100k. Another third is in the $100k and up range.

So what does that mean for recruiters? With fewer qualified candidates in the hiring pool and differing salary expectations from candidates, hiring the right fit for every role is more complicated than ever.

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Next, let’s examine how those roles are split among teams.

Who’s hiring who—and how many?

A majority of respondents expect to hire for only 1–14 positions this year. That’s 78% of SMBs and 34% of enterprise companies. So which teams are doing the most hiring?

Coming in at 31%, sales and marketing have the lead. Closely following are roles in IT and ops/logistics (17% each) and customer service (16%).

Here’s the good news. This could signal that businesses are optimistic about the state of the market and economic growth. Sales and marketing teams help drive revenue, and bringing on more team members to support revenue efforts is a positive sign.

Hiring in IT, ops/logistics, and customer service could indicate the market is returning to stable ground. After all, sales and marketing can’t sell without technical and customer support ready to help all those new customers.

Of course, markets are unpredictable even at the best of times—and especially during these unprecedented times we’ve seen lately. Get yourself a partner who’s ready to help you weather whatever comes.

You’re hired

CareerBuilder has the steady support and guidance you need to weather complicated times. With over 41m active job seekers and 175m annual visits, their two-sided marketplace brings unique candidates and employers together. That means employers get a quality, diverse, and deep pool of candidates to pull from.

From customer service representatives to database administrators and beyond, CareerBuilder’s audience covers 82% of the US workforce. Yup, that includes those hard-to-fill roles, too.

Need a little extra help? With over 25 years of experience, CareerBuilder’s flexible teams can step in to handle sourcing and screening for you, so you can get back to what you do best: making the right hires.

Build your dream team without breaking the bank. Learn more about CareerBuilder.

Quick-to-read HR news & insights

From recruiting and retention to company culture and the latest in HR tech, HR Brew delivers up-to-date industry news and tips to help HR pros stay nimble in today’s fast-changing business environment.