Ask a Real Recruiter: Should I Use a Salary Calculator to Negotiate a Job Offer?
by JESSICA VANN
I think I blew my last interview by asking for too much from a nonprofit using a salary figure that I found through Google. My question is, when asked about salary requirements, is it okay to say a number and then mention that's the number you found on Salary.com or Payscale.com?
Still Figuring Out My Worth
Dear Still Figuring Out My Worth,
For many people, the dreaded salary question is the most nerve-wracking stage of the interview process.
Did you aim too high and shoot yourself in the foot? Or, did you aim too low, undervalue your worth, and leave money on the table?
You’re right to want to be prepared for the question, because if things are going well, you’re going to need to face it. So, let’s start with the question you asked:
Data aggregators, such as the two you mentioned, may be useful as one data point, but they shouldn’t be the only thing you consider. Even further, I wouldn’t recommend volunteering that your source is a salary calculator, as it could signal a lack of insight about your profession and the marketplace you’d be working in, as well as an inability to see the big picture.
Which brings me to understanding the big picture. And I’d actually like break this up into two parts because I think it often goes overlooked in most tactical advice on this topic:
The Big Picture Within Your Own Life
Market data is one approach. But, at the end of the day, it’s what matters for you that should govern what you negotiate—provided you’re being realistic. Consider things like your cost of living, as well as the totality of how this job does or doesn’t makes sense for your life.
For instance, if the pay’s slightly lower, but it provides the work-life balance or flexibility you desire, that’s worth considering. What are the benefits or perks like? How about things like the culture or growth opportunities? In addition to salary, you’re allowed to negotiate for these things, too. (It could be easier for a company to give you an extra week of vacation than 10K more than they budgeted for the role.)
Only you know what would make you feel fulfilled and happy in your role, so take the time to really think about it.
The Big Picture Within the Company, Industry, and City
The hard question: Are you being realistic?
Understand that most positions have a salary range and your experience will likely dictate where in that range you fall.
For instance, are you on the more junior or senior end for a role of this type? Do you have relevant experience or are you more of a transitional candidate?
Moreover, what is the industry you’re applying to, is the company currently profitable, and what do the standard salaries look like based on your answer to those two questions? A Series A start-up is likely to have a very different compensation plan than a publicly traded and more established tech company.
Now, those calculators you mentioned can be a part of how you evaluate what standard is. But, in addition to that, I recommend speaking to your network (and even asking in informational interviews) so you can get a real understanding of what’s normal.
Understanding the above should help you go into the conversation with more confidence. And combining that with reading up on articles like this list of negotiation tips and this piece about knowing your worth should make this part of the process way less painful.
This article is part of our Ask an Expert series—a column dedicated to helping you tackle your biggest career concerns. Our experts are excited to answer all of your burning questions, and you can submit one by emailing us at editor(at)themuse(dot)com and using Ask a Real Recruiter in the subject line.
Your letter may be published in an article on The Muse. All letters to Ask an Expert become the property of Daily Muse, Inc and will be edited for length, clarity, and grammatical correctness.
Before a networking event filled with people whose names I need to remember, sometimes I will mouth out the names to myself right before I enter the room. It makes me feel silly and self-conscious, but it has always served me well.
And now, a new study published in Memory backs me up on why reading out loud is one of the best learning and memory tricks you can do to remember words.
Study: You’re more likely to remember words when you read them out loud
Researchers Noah Farrin and Colin MacLeod from the University of Waterloo in Ontario Canada recruited 75 students to take a memory test of vocabulary words. Two weeks before the test, the students recorded themselves saying the 160 words. Then on the day of the test, students prepared in four different ways: They read 20 of the vocabulary words silently to themselves, they heard someone else read 20 of the words in a recording, they heard themselves read the selected words out loud in a previous recording, or they just read the selected words out loud to themselves.
Then the researchers tested the students’ memory recognition by asking them to recall whether the words chosen for the test were words they had just studied or were words from two weeks prior.
Out of all the study methods, having the students read the words out loud to themselves was the most effective recognition tool, with students guessing the correct word order with 77% accuracy. Listening to the recording of themselves came in second place, while hearing someone else’s recording and reading silently came in last.
The most effective memory tool
The researchers suggested that reading aloud in the moment is the most effective memory tool because it’s giving your brain the most tools to remember information. The act of speaking aloud activates motor processing cues because your mouth is physically mouthing the words. Second, it also activates your auditory processing because you’re hearing the words, and in addition to hearing words, you’re hearing them in your own voice, which has been found to make information more memorable.
“This may well underlie why rehearsal is so valuable in learning and remembering: We do it ourselves, and we do it in our own voice,” the researchers concluded. “When it comes time to recover the information, we can use this distinctive component to help us to remember.”
Next time you need to remember some Very Important Contact’s name before an event, try speaking the name out loud.
Monica Torres is a reporter for Ladders. She is based in New York City and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You’re considering a certain career path. So, in an effort to learn more about it, you gather your courage, heed that age-old career advice, and connect with somebody who already works in the sort of position that you’re interested in.
Yes, you put yourself out there. The hard part’s over right?
Not exactly. Making the most of that conversation involves more than just sitting down at that coffee shop corner table, staring nervously over your latte, and eventually spouting out an awkward, “So… tell me about what you do.”
In order to get the insights you’re so eager to get your hands on, you’ll need to ask targeted and smart questions. Like what? Here are seven you should absolutely have in your back pocket.
1. “What Attracted You to This Career Path?”
Of course, it’s best to dip your toes in and start with the basics.
Kicking off your conversation with a question like this one will give you a greater understanding of what initially drew that person to this sort of position—which provides some necessary context as you move into the rest of your discussion.
2. “What Previous Professional Experiences Have Helped You Most in This Role?”
In a similar vein, don’t be afraid to dig into that person’s professional history. It’s always helpful to understand how somebody arrived at this current point in his or her own career.
Perhaps a specific certification has really given that person a boost in this position—meaning it’s something that you’d also want to look into. Or, maybe he needs to rely on a skill set he didn’t anticipate.
That’s all handy information to have as you consider making a move yourself.
3. “What’s Something That Would Surprise People About Your Day-to-Day?”
You might think that you know everything there is to know about that particular field. But, you’d be surprised—getting a peek behind-the-scenes is always incredibly enlightening.
Maybe everybody assumes she spends her days out in the field—but, her role actually requires a ton of desk work, for example.
Using a prompt like this one will empower you to find out more about those lesser-known parts of a specific position.
4. “What’s One Thing You Wish Somebody Would’ve Told You Before Going Into This Field?”
Sticking with that “surprise” angle, it’s worth digging more into that person’s head to find out what personally shocked him or her about that role.
Whether it’s the fact that he had no idea how much he’d need to rely on his math skills or he didn’t anticipate needing to collaborate with so many different departments, there’s bound to be some element of that job that was unexpected.
5. “What Are Some of the Biggest Rewards of Your Position?”
Of course, the goal of your conversation isn’t to just uncover any surprising or negative parts of that position. You want to find out what that person loves as well.
Perhaps the income can’t be beat or she loves that no two days are the same. Or, maybe the work is fulfilling and rewarding, and she knows that her work is contributing to the greater good.
Finding the right job for you involves finding one that lines up with your own values and priorities. So, it’s smart to touch on the most positive pieces of that role to see if they match up with your own ideals.
6. “How Would You Describe Somebody Who Would Excel in This Career?”
You’re eager to not only discover whether that type of position is what you’re looking for, but also if you’d be a reasonable fit for that sort of role.
The person that you’re meeting with will obviously have some valuable insights into what it takes to succeed in that job, and it’s worth asking how he or she would describe a qualified candidate.
If he or she touches on skills and competencies you already have? You’re well on your way. If not? At least you’ll know what you need to work on in order to present yourself as a seamless fit.
7. “What’s Most Important to Prepare for a Role Like Yours?”
Ideally, you’ll walk away from that conversation with a handle on your next steps. To get some actionable information that you can walk away with, end your conversation with a question like this one.
Is there a certain certification you need to get? A class you should take? Experience you have to have? Other people you should reach out to?
Find out what he or she recommends to help you adequately prepare for that job, and you’ll have leveraged that conversation to actually take steps forward.
When you’re considering a certain career path, informational interviews are an enlightening tool to lean on—provided you’re prepared to ask the right questions.
Make sure to use the seven included here, and you’ll maximize that coffee date—with as few awkward pauses as possible.
Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, self-development, and the freelance life. In addition to writing for The Muse, she's also the Career Editor for The Everygirl, a columnist for Inc., and a contributor all over the web. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she's usually babying her rescued terrier mutt or continuing her search for the perfect taco. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website.