I want to address this quagmire from two perspectives - as a recruiter and as a job seeker.
As a recruiter, I ask for salary expectation information for the sole purpose of screening candidates. For example, I am recruiting for a Purchasing Agent in a small to medium sized organization. The salary range is budgeted for $45,000-$55,000. I don’t want to disclose this information on the job posting because I will lose negotiating power when I find the right candidate for the position. If I find someone with the excellent qualifications, experience, and attributes that desires a salary range of $40,000-$50,000, and they accept a position at $43,000 to start….I just filled the position under budget and I look like a rock star to the employer. It’s as simple as that.
As a job seeker, when a prospective employer asked for my salary requirements, I wanted to cry. Just so you know, I’ve felt and understand your frustration. It would be so much easier to know up front what an employer is willing to pay for a position, but that is rarely the case. Through personal experience from both sides of the table, here are some tips to help you break down the process step-by-step and learn the salary dance.
Salary Requirements Is Not the Same as Salary History
Salary requirements (or salary expectation) is the market value that you bring to the position and organization for which you are applying. It is not the amount of compensation you are currently earning or last earned. When stating your desired salary range, you should:
1. Do your homework and research the job position, the company, and past/present employees in the same or similar positions. A Purchasing Agent at a Fortune 500 company can make up towards a six figure salary. A Purchasing Agent at a small, family-owned business could be paid an hourly wage. There are many tools for you to conduct some research online. Websites such as Glassdoor (www.glassdoor.com) and Vault (www.vault.com) give first-hand, employee submitted insight to companies’ compensation, benefits and culture. Think of it as a review of the company, like one would post an online review about a movie or restaurant. If the company you are researching is not listed, you can research competing companies or similar sized companies to get an idea of salary ranges. Another option is to talk to current and past employees of the organization. While they might not share with you their own personal salary, they would probably be able to give you a ball park of the salary range in the posted position. If you don’t know of any employees within the organization, get on LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com) and type the company name into a search. Here is where you can connect with people through your own personal network. (*As a job seeker, you must have a LinkedIn account. If not, contact me directly and I can help you set one up.) Every organization has customers and suppliers. Find out who they are as these people can give you more perspective on the company and how it operates.
2. Assess your experience, education, skills and personal attributes. Are you in the early stages (0-5 years), mid-point (5-10 years), or more experienced phase (10+ years) of your career? What degrees of education do you have? Have you held positions with progressive levels of responsibilities? How much on-the-job training do you have? Have you been recognized for specific talents and attributes? Have you been assigned to special projects? Do you hold current licenses and/or certifications in your field? What are your greatest career accomplishments? The more experience, education, training and level of responsibility you have under your belt increases your market value.
3. Research your market value. You can do a search on the Bureau of Labor
Statistics (www.bls.gov) and research compensation and benefits. The statistics allows you to narrow down your search to geographic locations and
level of experience within a job sector. Another option is to contact your local
Department of Labor, Chamber of Commerce or Business Council to see if they have conducted a salary survey of companies in your area. If your field has a professional association (example: NAPM – National Association of Purchasing Managers), you may be able to obtain salary surveys for your specific industry (sometimes there is a fee for this information). Other sites such as Salary.com and Payscale.com offer a broad range of compensation data and this information tends to be more relative than specific. (*Note: I suggest for you to exhaust other resources before conducting a search on the salary calculator websites like Salary.com or Payscale.com. Job seekers and compensation analysts find that the information on these websites tends to be inflated.)
4. Conduct a comparative job search. As a recruiter, I’ve gone on to Simply Hired (www.simplyhired.com) and Indeed (www.indeed.com), typed in a job title and location, and looked to see what other companies are paying for the same or similar job duties and responsibilities as a quick way to benchmark the compensation for a position. If it works for employers, it will work for you as a job seeker.
5. Don’t forget the benefits! A general rule of thumb, fringe benefits account for approximately 26%-30% of your salary. When stating salary requirements consider bonuses, sick/vacation time, retirement plans, health/dental/life/disability insurance, and other company benefits as open for negotiation as well.
6. Define a salary range with a starting-point, mid-point and high-point. After you have researched your employment marketability, define a salary range (including benefit package) that is commensurate with the level of responsibilities and requirements for the position. The high-point of the salary range is the amount of compensation you hope to be offered by the employer. The mid-point is where you hope to meet and employer in salary negotiations. The starting-point of your desired salary range is the lowest salary you will accept, but remember, it is an acceptable salary for you. Once you go through this process, an offer of employment within your desired salary range is a win for you!
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