How much should I ask for? Can I still negotiate if I’m desperate to take a job? How do I know if I’m overpaid or underpaid? How can I hold out for higher pay when there’s someone waiting in the hallway who’ll work for lower pay? […and they’re just as qualified as I am, too?] Can I still push back on salary offers in these recessionary times? Or am I seen as greedy? How do I ask for better-than-average salary if I think I’m a better-than-average candidate?
A single one of those questions that goes unanswered could cost you tens of thousands of dollars in compensation. Determining your individual value is part art, part science. Let’s take a look at the science – the objectively researched competitive market value. When I first began career coaching in 1979, meaningful data was scarce. I would direct people to books in the reference section of the library and Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature, where they could find one- to three-year-old surveys whose data had been collected one to two years before that.
Today you can download practically up-to-the-minute data for thousands of job titles at the speed of light. As a matter of fact, the problem today is not finding data but sifting through the reams of it to make it mean something to you.
Of the hundreds of salary survey sites, I suggest you consult these five. Each one finds and uses the data from a different angle. Each one can round out the information from the others. They are: JobStar.org, PayScale.com, Salary.com, Indeed.com and fledgling GlassDoor.com.
Nothing beats JobStar for getting to the raw data at its source! You’ll find over 300 links to surveys from associations and magazines. But be careful. Along with independent sources and surveys, the site has links to commercial salary information interests: companies such as Vault.com, TheLadders.com and Salary.com. While these for-profit sites are useful and some are even in my Preferred Provider lists, that's not what you want to visit JobStar.org for.
Your purpose is to find raw data: surveys; not to jump to an other sites. When you go to their home page (www.jobstar.org) follow these steps: Click on "Salary info” or the hotlink, "Over 300 FREE salary surveys." Scroll down to the list of 51 career areas, each of which is linked to a salary survey So far, so good. Those surveys contain researched – often raw – data from associations and the like, and it's free. While you’re there, check out the "General Salary Surveys" as well. You have now got down to the “real nitty-gritty."
Nothing beats PayScale for up-to-the-minute salary information. Since 2002 PayScale has been running the largest real-time salary survey on the
web, and their database of anonymous individual salary profiles totals more than 11 million. These profiles enable PayScale to provide real-time and highly relevant information about what an individual should be paid based on their unique personal job attributes (job title, location, experience, skills and education).
Because they collect such detailed information, the free PayScale Report gives you a very accurate estimate of your market value and is very job hunter/user friendly. If you are interested in knowing what factors influence pay for your job, and/or you want a very professional-looking PDF of your report to print and show to your boss, you can purchase the Premium Report.
Salary.com is the oldest commercial internet site for salary data. Originally designed with HR department in mind, it now offers info to individuals. It reports that in 2008 it had more than 2.4 million unique monthly visitors, out of a U.S. workforce of 142.5 million. Salary.com estimates that 1 employee in 5 has viewed salary information at its site in the past year. Like PayScale, this is a for-profit site. Freebies include a general report on your salary based on a company size of 1,000 people; a more detailed report is available, of course, and reasonably priced, too.
Indeed is a website that amounts to “one stop shopping” for job listings on the internet. They don’t have proprietary listings from employers; instead, they are a free search engine for [almost] all the job listings and descriptions in cyberspace. As such, they are able to assemble a great number of salary ranges as part of their job postings.
Recently Indeed added a Salary Search tool to its lineup of helpful features. This means you can see the actual dollars and cents that employers are offering to pay, today, for the right candidate. Here’s how the Salary Search tool works: Visit the Indeed homepage Click on the “Salaries” link below the search fields Perform a search on the Salary Search page (Interested in different locations? Click the “Add comparison” link below the search fields to compare up to 13 different job and location combinations) Review the average salary for jobs/titles in your search results. View a particular job by clicking on its link. Note the national ranking just below the average salary result. (This tells you what percentage higher or lower the salary for your job title ranks as compared to the rest of the country. For example, as of June 2, 2008, “accounting” jobs in NY ranked 22 percent higher than average accounting salaries for job postings nationwide.)
Look for related titles. A group of job titles and salaries closely related to your search will also be listed in search results. There will generally be a wide range of salaries so be sure to examine job descriptions carefully ensure the positions are aligned with your current and future titles and responsibilities.
With voluntary input from employees at 14,000 companies, you can mine some helpful salary info from this site. But 14,000 companies is actually a rather small pool. If it grows to the millions of companies, you’ll have more use for this site. What are you worth? It’s a combination of the bell-curve statistical sampling of salaries attached to jobs like yours, and the unique things about you that put you at the first or 99 percentile on that curve. It is further modified by your level of willingness to accept the risks and rewards of performance-based compensation. With a range established, you can assess where you fit in that range which will provide a good basis for your salary negotiations.