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.
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