Most people find this question difficult to answer. You don’t want to ask for too much, afraid that the position will be offered to someone with a lower demand. You don’t want to ask for too little, afraid that you will find out later down the road you could have asked for more, or feeling that you are not getting paid what you are worth. Keep in mind that what you want and what you are worth can be two completely different numbers. If that’s the case, you may need to re-evaluate your career. But, for now, here are some tips to figure out what you are worth and how to ask for it in your salary demand:
Find the market salary range for the position in question. The most reliable source of information is through the Department of Labor. The Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes national occupational employment and wage estimates. The estimates are calculated with data collected from employers in all industry sectors in metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas in every state and the District of Columbia. Click here for a list of all occupations with their mean salary estimates.
You can also search market salary ranges at salary.com. Keep in mind that the information provided on this website is not from employers. Individuals provide salary information at their own free will.
It would be great if companies would publish their salary ranges for each position. Unfortunately, this is very rare and the information is generally hard to find. Check the job posting to see if there is a salary range. If not, there are websites that allow you to search salary information by company. The most useful websites are glassdoor.com, indeed.com and payscale.com. Search all of these sites and cross check the information. The salaries provided on these websites are from current and past employees and not the employers. While some may be spot on, others may be inaccurate due to fabrication of employees, the information is outdated or the same title of the position is given to those with a wide range of experience.
Once you have researched the mean market salary and information from current and/or past employees, adjust for experience, education and cost of living. For example, if you have years of experience you would most likely be above the mean or top third of the salary range. If you are entry level or have very little experience, vice versa. If you have a degree in a field related to the position, that is worth something and should be used in negotiations. You should also take into consideration the cost of living of where the position is located. If the position is located in New York City, the cost of living is going to be much higher than that of the same position in Kansas City, MO. Click here for a cost of living calculator.
When giving your salary demand, always state that there is room for negotiations. Don’t make the mistake of asking for a firm salary before checking out the other benefits. Salary is one part of a total compensation package. The company may offer other benefits that you should take into consideration. A few of these are: health benefits, PTO policy, bonuses, profit sharing, stock options, discounted products, free lunch, etc. There may also be other non-compensation benefits that similar companies don’t offer that may be worth something to you (i.e. work from home, work flexibility hours, parental leave policy, etc.). You will have to determine the personal value of the company benefits, whether other companies offer similar benefits and if that will impact your salary demand in negotiations.
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