how to find out what salary you should be making

Whether you’re negotiating your salary for a brand new job or asking for a raise at your current job, the first rule of negotiating is to know what you’re worth. But figuring that out can be harder than it sounds. It’s not like there’s the professional equivalent of the Blue Book for cars, where you can simply look up your market value. So how, exactly, are you supposed to know what you should be getting paid?

Plus, there’s a huge information imbalance when it comes to salary: Employers have the advantage of knowing the general range they’re willing to pay and what their overall salary structures are. As a candidate or even as an employee, you generally don’t have access to that information and instead are stuck guessing and hoping that you don’t wildly overshoot (and risk looking naïve or out of touch) or undershoot (and leave money on the table that could have been yours).

At New York Magazine today, I’ve written about how to figure out what salary you should be making. Head over there to read it.

{ 116 comments… read them below }

  1. DNDL

    Does National Labor Relations Act apply to local government employees? I got disciplined for discussing my salary with a coworker, and my grandboss said that it was because government employees are exempt from the National Labor Relations Act.

    (The worst part is I never actually discussed salary–I just used our publicly available payscale and my knowledge of when performance evals are given to discover that I was being underpaid).

    1. FreddyLongJohns

      I literally searched “are local government employees exempt from the National Labor Relations Act” and found this:
      “Most employees in the private sector are covered by the NLRA. However, the Act specifically excludes individuals who are: employed by Federal, state, or local government.”
      Google is your friend :)

        1. Samwise

          It depends on whether the employees at that college are considered employees of the local, state, or federal government. Ask HR.

        2. Sam.

          For salaried employees, this would largely be a moot point, no? The public universities I’m familiar with publish individual salaries (I assumed all public colleges did this, but maybe not). So there wouldn’t be much point in discouraging us from discussing how much we’re getting paid since I can look up my colleague’s exact salary with very little effort. Convenient!

    2. LQ

      This is SUPER weird because, at least in my state, all government employees salaries are public! I mean there’s a little bit of putting together the step and the scale, but you could figure it out with a simple excel spreadsheet.

      Also, if you’re in a union state, this is something to talk to your union about.

      1. DNDL

        No union, and salaries aren’t published–just the pay scales. Someone recently submitted a bunch of FOIA requests and published the 10 most high paying people in my city, but didn’t actually name names–just job titles. We live very close to one city that publishes all city government salaries by name and has a union. Sometimes it really feels like I’m getting the short end of the stick!

        1. LQ

          Ugh. Scale can get you a long way but you have to know a lot of the …tricks for how it’s used. Does everyone get a step increase every year? Only if they have a mostly good performance review? When do reviews happen? (Ours are supposed to be on/before the anniversary of being put into that role (so post promotion you get a new date) but they all have a different HR date that they get submitted by so you can sometimes get a whole lot of step increase back pay if your boss slacked on submitting to HR.)

          This reminds me to make sure that the other new person knows that I’m an ok person to come ask questions like this of. I’m not quite sure how to sort of let people know, “hey! I’m someone you can ask these kinds of questions of, I don’t always have the answers, but I’ll always tell you what I know.”
          When I first started I wanted someone like that so I try to be that for others.

      2. BRR

        I was thinking the same thing. I guess there’s not a need to discuss if everything is public?

      3. Samwise

        In my state, you can look up any state employee (except public school teachers) BY NAME (or by title or department) and see what their base pay is.

        When considering moves within state employment, I always look up the pay of everyone in the office where the job is, plus do a review of similar titles at other similar institutions across the state.

        The info is not up-to-the-minute accurate, but gives a pretty good snapshot.

        1. Arctic

          That’s true in my state too. But you can’t look up city or town employees here, which it seems like OP is.

        2. Blue

          It’s incredibly useful in preparing for salary negotiations. I’m back working at a public university after some time at a private institution, and I felt far more confident going into salary discussions for this job since I knew, definitively, what kind of salaries people at my level were making.

      4. kittymommy

        Same. When I was with the state you could literally go on a site and type in our names and get salary info (still can actually). I’m with a local government now so salary is still public record, you just have to call HR for it.

    3. Arctic

      That’s insane. That is almost certainly public records. You shouldn’t be penalized for discussing public information.

    4. Cercis

      Texas is lucky in that ALL government employee salaries are public information. The Texas Tribune has a searchable database of the salaries. You can search for an employee by name, you can search an organization and you can search by job title.

      I was working for a municipal gov’t when they first started this and the first year was a bit rough. The support staff (which included me) were fairly satisfied, we could see our salaries in relation to our coworkers and other departments and were able to see that we were all equally compensated (even if it was too low). The upper level staff? Were not so happy. There was a lot of discrepancy based upon who hired, how hard they negotiated and just random luck of when they were hired. There was a lot of shake-up and a lot of people didn’t get their normal cost of living raises because other people got merit/”step” raises to bring them more in-line with their peers.

  2. gawaine42

    As an employer, I find the whole thing frustrating, too.
    I’ve had people come in and ask for $X to Y, and the general perception is that I shouldn’t give them more than Y – but I know that they’re looking at jobs 10 miles west of here, which is a huge difference. (Almost $10K of salary, usually). So they’re asking for too little, and it’s bad form to tell them that. In some cases, that hasn’t stopped me.

    On the other hand, I’ve also had people tell me that they need to make $Z because that’s what teapot developers make, when they don’t realize that’s the number for silver teapot developers. Copper teapot developers, which is what I want, actually make less than $Z because of perfectly good reasons.

    I’ve also had people who were applying for a Junior Teapot Developer that usually paid $C, but had weak enough resumes that I felt I was really taking a risk, and I was OK with hiring them at less than the normal going rate because they were really a Junior Junior Teapot Developer. If they’d insisted on making $C instead of 0.9 of C, I would have held out for someone who really fit the bill instead of taking a risk. In those cases, I usually end up doing massive raises after the first year to bring them up to speed.

    1. Kramerica Industries

      Your second paragraph speaks to me as an “Analyst”. Do you know how ambiguous this title is? It means something completely different and can be a totally different level of experience depending on the company.

      1. elemenohp

        I feel like that term is getting very overused. I saw a job posting for an analyst position that was basically an administrative assistant position, based on the duties. There’s nothing wrong with being an admin assistant– the role doesn’t need another title just because that’s en vogue right now.

        My other favorite: a customer service position listed as “happiness engineer.” I kid thee not.

        1. Canarian

          Yes, I have seen admin assistant/receptionist jobs listed as “administrative specialist” “adviser” “analyst” “engineer” and “director.” I can’t imagine trying to find one of these kinds of jobs, you need to wade through job postings and scrutinize listings just to figure out whether it’s the right role

    2. Mrs_helm

      I’m not sure what is 10 miles west of you, but I’m guessing it is a bigger City than yours. Sometimes, for some people, they would rather take the $10k less and not deal with more gas/traffic/parking/commute. Especially if they actually live 10-15 minutes east of you, and/or have other concerns closer to your location (kids/school/doctor/gym/family).

    3. Anonymous Educator

      I think the best thing you can do as an employer is list the range you’re willing to pay, depending on what the candidate brings. Yes, you’ll get some obnoxious candidates who always think they should be at the top of your range, but you should be able to comfortably articulate what qualifications you think merit the bottom of the range, the middle of the range, and the top of the range.

      1. selena81

        to me it’s really a big point in favor if an employer does this, mostly because of the whole ‘not trying to screw over naive women/poc/first-generation-students/etc’, but also because it indicates you put some real thought into what you want and what those skills are worth to your company, and because it prevents miscommunications of people f.e. accidentally applying to a junior function thinking it was senior.

        of course i’d kinda expect to make at least the bottom of that range, but if the job sounds good and the employer and i can agree that i _do_ really lack some important qualifications (certain diploma’s f.i.) than anything is negotiable as far as i’m concerned.

  3. sloan kittering

    When I was looking for a promotion, I was able to ask other people in the organization if the number I had was reasonable. People were reticent to tell me their own exact salaries (understandable) so I didn’t ask for that, but I could ballpark it for them: “low fifties? Mid sixties?” If anything I would guess this method results in a slightly low estimate since people probably think you’re worth less than them. Note that my org would have stopped me if they could have, so these were low-key coffee conversations, and no matter what I would not have been able to use the argument “I know you pay X person Y amount” in my negotiations, since that would be crappy of me and a poor argument.

    1. Legal Rugby

      This only seems to work if your employer has a lot of people with your background, academic credentials, and duties – which would result in a lower salary, I would guess.

      1. Sloan Kittering

        There were a range of experience and background, but I could triangulate after talking to three different people. Plus, I wanted to ask for the highest range that was feasible and let them tell me why I deserved less (don’t worry, they did) – without asking for so much as to seem naive. Knowing they paid at least one other person that amount meant it wasn’t crazy to ask for it. But yes I did work in an org where there were at least three people with the title I was going for, which isn’t always the case. I think even if you were the only one in the range, knowing what the position above and below you makes would help you narrow what they’re probably willing to pay you.

    2. SansaStark

      I did a very similar thing and I was lucky to have 2 close coworkers give me an actual dollar amount – and thank goodness they did. HR’s initial offer was almost 10K lower than they were actually willing to pay me. I have another coworker who is up for the same promotion and I’ve been really candid with her about my promotion amount so that she’s armed with the same info I was.

    3. designbot

      I also think people would giver you numbers below what they make because they’re backdating it. It wouldn’t be reasonable for someone just getting promoted to come in at the salary of someone who’s been doing that job for five years, for example.

    4. selena81

      alison’s advice seems like a good way to get people to talk: ask about salary in general terms (‘does this seem right to you?’) instead of jumping to ‘what do you make’

  4. School Inclusion Specialist

    When first started working, an older colleague pulled me aside and told me what I should ask for in an upcoming salary negotiation (internal promotion). He basically said not to let them lowball me. I am forever grateful for that conversation. So, when I was still in a field that didn’t have a salary scale and I was working with early career co-workers, I would initiate similar conversations when appropriate.

    1. sloan kittering

      I would be so hesitant to do this though! What if I’m wrong about the value of that candidate and they doubled down because I had assured them they were worth X? Maybe if I had lock-solid info, like I knew for sure they had paid all the last five people a certain amount. Also, selfishly, it’s not uncommon for the person to panic if the negotiation is going wrong and say, “but Sloan Kittering told me to ask for X” – and now I’m the one in trouble. And saying “don’t say I told you” just comes off as shady. I wish there weren’t so much subterfuge around all this :(

      1. Lily Rowan

        I’ve done a similar thing with a non-early-career coworker! I can’t remember how I knew what she was making, but I was in a job where I often had some salary information, and because she had been at the same nonprofit for so long, I was making way more than she was, even though she was more senior. She had had 15 years of small or no annual increases and not really thinking about it.

      2. irene adler

        Older colleague might have been privy to information not known to the younger colleague.

        As we were hiring a new QA supervisor, the president said he was so tickled that she actually agreed to a hiring salary range way LOWER than the current salary of her predecessor. I should add that new QA supervisor had like 30+ years experience over the prior supervisor. She was from out of state and didn’t really know the current market (San Diego- expensive!).

        They brought her in for a final round of interviews. I was one of the interviewers. Wish I had told her to push for more $. But I feared she would rat me out to management. Major regret for me.

      3. LQ

        I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I think part of how it gets less subterfugey is by doing it. Especially when you have the standing. I don’t need lock solid info, and I’m not going to tell someone they have to do something. But I can give them the information I have, my experiences, and what I’ve seen around me.

        And at a certain point with a place when you have enough capital that if someone does say “But Sloan Kittering told me to ask for X” that they’ll come you you and you’ll say. “I didn’t tell them they had to. But I did talk with them about salaries and expectations as I would with someone who asked questions about our work place.” or even “Yeah, I talked to them about salary which isn’t illegal, and is absolutely something I’m going to be comfortable talking with any of my coworkers about.”

        If you have enough capital, at most they’ll tell you not to do that again. It’s a little bit of a risk. But I do feel like it’s a thing I’m ok knowing that some of my capital at work might go to that from conversations I have some day. I don’t know that I’d do it right away at a new job, but I have and will have that conversation with people who are looking at promotions or who are trying to figure out what to do with roles and increases.

  5. Rebecca

    I really wish employers would provide at least a general range for hourly positions. It would make it so much easier for already employed job seekers to determine whether it’s actually worth our while to even fill out an application, miss work to go to an interview or do a phone interview, etc. As an example, I spotted a job that looked like a perfect fit, until I learned that the starting pay was $7/hour less than what I was making then and insurance cost more. Glad I didn’t waste my time applying. Thankfully it was a county government job, so the starting pay was posted – I just had to do a little digging. But usually that’s not the case with privately held jobs.

    1. sloan kittering

      It is pretty egregious when a company lets you go through multiple application steps before even giving you a whiff of their pay range. I don’t even want to apply for a job that’s 20K less than I make now, never mind take a day off to interview. Sometimes you can force the conversation in the initial phone screen just to make sure you’re in the same ballpark.

      1. Zombeyonce

        It’s so frustrating, and I’ve had several job searches where I wasn’t given any idea of the salary or benefits until actually offered me the job, after which I had wasted so many hours of my time and PTO for interviews for a job that paid the same or less than the one I already had.

      2. Lily Rowan

        I would always ask in the phone screen, and not move forward until I had at least a range.

    2. Anonymous Educator

      It’s not just frustrating for hourly positions. It’s also frustrating for yearly salaried positions. One time I was applying to a position (again, with multiple interviews, phone and in person), and I knew that I would be taking a pay cut, and they knew I would be taking a pay cut. I just asked if they could give me a rough ballpark, so I could see how much of a cut it would be. They absolutely refused to give a ballpark of even + or – $20K. Unbelievable.

  6. BRR

    I save (some) online job postings that contain salary ranges. It came in handy once when my manager asked for something she could use to help make the case for my raise. I am a team of one and the first person here with this type of job so having a reference point removed several steps from our internal process.

    1. Katrinka

      I have a very specific kind of job, and it’s really hard to find online job ads that actually give a number or a range and don’t say “salary commensurate with experience.” I print them out when I find them.

  7. LQ

    Public salary information is a benefit an employer can provide to me. (And government employee, so does.)

    I think being more public about it more often is a huge benefit to employees in general.

  8. Amber Rose

    This is pretty silly, but I recently got a (pretty generous) raise that left my hourly wage ending with a nine, and I had to battle the urge to ask for an extra dollar just to round it out.

    I’m guessing “has a thing about round numbers” is not a good reason to ask for more money. xD

    1. Can't Sit Still

      When I was salaried non-exempt, I received a raise that made my annual salary end with something like 4997.89. I looked at it, I looked at my boss, and she said “I know, I know, I’m sorry!” Our raises were given as percentages with 3 decimal places, as they were very particular about not paying a literal penny more than they thought you were worth.

      1. Annie on a Mouse

        My salary last year ended with something like 4000.08. Every few paychecks, I’d get an extra penny. I don’t know what’s funnier: the oddly precise salary or their meticulously honoring those last eight cents…

      2. NotAnotherManager!

        I worked under HR that did raises like that, and I had people making annual amounts like $71,123.97, $53, 982.51, and absurd things that were hard to track and also didn’t divide very nicely into biweekly checks. The payroll person called once to verify that one of them wasn’t a typo because it was so… not round. One of the first things we did first review period under new management was tip everybody up to an even number and ended in zero cents.

    2. MCMonkeyBean

      I used rounding in my last negotiation! Mostly just so I could say that I negotiated which I had never done before lol. I asked for basically a few hundred dollars more in a year which brought my salary to a nice even number.

  9. Parenthesis Dude

    I’ve always been worried about coming up with a salary range instead of a single number because I feel that companies will almost certainly give you an amount in the lower part of your range.

    I also feel like it’s hard to factor in other parts of compensation that a company is offering, because it’s hard to get a full understanding of what they’ll give you until after you get an offer. For example, most companies will tell you how many days of vacation you’ll receive and many will tell you how their 401k plan is designed, but fewer will give details about bonuses or significant details about health insurance (premiums, out of pocket expenses). Even if they are open, you usually don’t have enough time to think it through. Unless when they ask for your salary requirements, you’re supposed to have a really detailed discussion about benefits (Do you cover this provider?).

    What recommendations do you have to prevent telling companies you’re looking for a salary in a certain range, and then finding out they’re low-balling you on the range and the benefits are below average?

    1. AnotherAlison

      I have found they will ask the salary in the phone screen or application phase, but don’t talk benefits until later. I had one recruiter tell me he would consider my 10% 401k match like a bonus, which although his range was bigger than my current salary, it quickly made it less attractive. Another company offered 3 weeks vacation when they knew I was getting 5 and was less than a year from getting 6.

      If you want to avoid all that, I think you have to find an insider who can tell you about benefits.

      As far as not lowballing yourself, I have not mastered that yet, but 3rd party recruiters normally name their position first.

    2. Samwise

      You can look at their website and see if there’s benefits info for their employees. If there isn’t, I think that asking specifics about their benefits is perfectly reasonable. I did this when looking at a possible job at a private college (currently at a public U) — the salary was somewhat lower, but the PTO was great (they told me the exact number of days for sick and annual leave), insurance was comparable (they told me the premium cost and outlined the benefits, gave me url to review it more closely), employer match on retirement fund better and short time to vesting. This was a place that asked in the HR application about salary requirements — I answered “dependent on salary and benefits package” and they followed up with me.

    3. Coverage Associate

      Working with a recruiter who has placed people at the employer before is one solution. They will know the benefits package, and you can ask even before the interview, if it’s important to you.

      Totally feel this issue, because of health issues in my family, I could take a $10,000+ salary cut, and come out ahead, if the insurance was just difficult, not even necessarily “better.”

    4. JR

      I actually think these two issues are related. Part of the reason you give a range is because your target depends on the benefits, which you don’t know early in the process when they may ask your salary requirements. Then, when you get the offer, if the number is on the low end of the range, you can say something like, “I based my range in part on benefits, and I see that your health benefits cost X. Now that I know that, I’m looking for a salary closer to Y. Can you do that?” Or the opposite. “With a salary of X, I’d be looking for 4 weeks vacation, instead of 2. Can you do that?”

      1. Parenthesis Dude

        What I find is that the company says, “Oh, we have great benefits”, when their benefits are actually below average. After all, which company wants to say that their benefits are terrible? And then they’re “surprised” when you say you want the higher end of your range because who wouldn’t want to work for them?

  10. Midwest Officeman

    I just want to be able to look for a job without being lowballed. There are many things other than salary I may consider if they are flexible enough. I would rather ask them what they are willing to pay and work with that. But sadly often that’s not the best move.

    Sincerely, if there was more honesty in this process instead of strategic value padding, everyone would win out in the end.

    1. selena81

      i was SO upset when i found out some of my colleagues where making almost twice as much, and a big part of it was my manger had been susshing me several times when i asked for a better contract (‘no no, you are already on the upper end of the scale, be a good girl and not greedy’)
      if she’d have come up with a real reason for why i’m not worth the full package then that’s one thing (i am pretty junior), but don’t you f*cking lie to me

  11. Never

    Re #7: That the CEO only makes $50k is useful info, but when the CEO makes $600k, that still leaves a huge range…

    1. LQ

      Yes…but that doesn’t mean that you don’t want the person who is looking for a job at the 50K place to have that information…That was the point of #7.

      I mean you could say the same thing about for profit companies who do say what the multi-million dollar salary for their CEO is. For some people it will be useful. If it’s not for you, advocate for more salary transparency.

  12. Applesauced

    I’m so sick of jobs with a salary listed as “aggressive compensation” or “excellent pay” or “competitive salary” or (this one is a repeat offender) “Salary compensation will be commensurate with experience.” (all real phrases I just saw when trying to take Alison’s advice)
    Employers have a budget for their open position, I wish they would stop playing games and SHOW ME THE MONEY

    1. bdg

      I’m looking at resumes for an open position in my group right now. We’re hiring anywhere between entry level and just below supervisor (anywhere from 0-25 years experience, basically). It really does depend.

      1. Anonymous Educator

        That seems an odd case. Most of the time when I’ve been involved hiring, we have a specific level we’re looking for (not 0-25 years’ experience). The specificity can have some variability, but it’s not usually entry level to supervisor.

      2. Anonymous Educator

        Plus, that does not at all go against Applesauced’s point. You still have a budget for the position and a range. You have a range in mind for what you’d pay for 0 years and a range in mind for what you’d pay for 25 years. List it.

      3. Applesauced

        That doesn’t sound like ONE job though – you probably need X senior teapot makers and Y junior teapot makers, so can you post jobs for each “class” with a salary range?

        1. bdg

          Nope! It’s a single position. I’m in a pretty niche field and the position is literally open to any level. This is not unusual for my field, but I’ve definitely encountered it in job postings in my larger, way less niche field too.

          We do have pay scales for levels, as Anonymous Educator talked about. But listing those pay scales for each level (especially when the level you come in to can sometimes be negotiated) isn’t necessarily helpful.

          1. NotAnotherManager!

            It’s not just you. Particularly for niche positions where the market is already small, we are indeed open to taking a fairly wide range of candidates.

            I also have the added twist of working in a billable profession, so, if I’m able to hire someone with more experience, I can change more for their time, and can therefore pay them more. I know this is unusual – most people have a budget of X, but I have a recovery percentage rather than a dollar range (except for zero-experience entry-level where they starting salary is disclosed immediately).

    2. Socks

      Ugh! Yes! “Commensurate with experience” is the worst. Like, oh, weird, I thought you paid different employees by pulling numbers out of a hat, thank you so much for clarifying, this was very helpful.

      1. TardyTardis

        What happened at ExJob is that everyone knew there was a Y-chromosome bonus, and that only women and Hispanic men were hired for certain low-level jobs. Don’t know if they’ve ever changed, but I doubt it. Let’s just say I got Significant Looks of Agreement from payroll people I had lunch with when I ventured this theory.

  13. Annie

    If you live in California, a new law went into affect last year that employers cannot ask you for your current salary and must give you a salary range for a job when asked.

    1. irene adler

      Yep. Now I get “we’re considering a hiring salary range roughly between $X and $X+15K. This is not the final hiring salary range. These numbers will change as the process goes forward.”

      So the process is better, but not perfect.

      1. Anonymous Educator

        Having any numbers in any kind of range is still an improvement over nothing.

    2. Public Sector Manager

      I’ve been in the public sector in California for quite a few years, and I’m also responsible for the budget for my team. When you add in paid time off (vacation/sick leave and holidays), pension, healthcare, etc., public employer costs for all that is generally 55%-60% of salary. Of that, pension is, for my classification, about 30% of salary, healthcare is between 12% and 15% of salary, and 13%-20% is PTO and other fringe benefits.

      If you’re in the private sector and you can find a similar public sector job in your community, you can at least ballpark what should be a good range for the private sector companies, depending on what benefits the private sector is offering. No pension or 401(k) matching? Add 30% to the public sector range so you can ideally fund your own retirement. PTO and other fringe benefits are better in the private sector? Reduce the public sector range 5%-10%, depending on what’s being offered.

      It’s not perfect, but it helps.

    3. Elle Kay

      The problem with this is that they’re required to tell you *if asked* but also say in the job posting “absolutely no calls”. So how are you supposed to ask?!

  14. Mediamaven

    There’s frustration on both sides. I recently withdrew an offer after the person waiting on giving me an answer for too long, because it gave me time to realize the offer was simply too high for her past experience. She has requested a range far outside of what made sense for position and experience and I countered with a smaller but still wildly high offer. After reviewing her qualifications and the offer, I realized I simply made a mistake in terms of what I proposed and it just wasn’t fair to the rest of my team. Not her fault but salary negotiation is a really challenging area to navigate sometimes. As much as we want to pretend it’s cut and dry, when people bring different experiences and value to the table it’s not that simple.

      1. Mediamaven

        She clearly wasn’t interested enough to give me an answer after 10 days had past and it’s important to me to have people working for me who are excited about it. I also needed to continue on and not let other candidates pass me by – we have a very competitive field. So between all the pieces, yes, I pulled the offer. I’m happy to admit the original mistake was mine by agreeing to such a high number that wasn’t realistic. We’re all still learning, even employers.

        1. The New Wanderer

          10 days is a LONG time to respond to an offer without some kind of conversation. I was allowed up to 10 days with my last offer, after which time the offer would have been withdrawn automatically. Another place allowed me only 36 hours even though I asked for 10 days.

          I’m guessing the highly paid employee might have seen zero raises for a couple of years until the colleagues caught up (this is the catch-22 of negotiating on the high side of an offer). But I think the lesson learned is, since you know what your current employees are paid, you do have a built in salary range and new employees should never be given an offer that far outside the top end of the range unless they’re coming in at a very senior level.

          1. Mediamaven

            We did have a conversation but it was only about the compensation and then I checked in with her a week in and she said she needed more time. And yes, you are correct on all of those things. She had an inflated title at her old position that typically requires 3 or so years of experience and that threw me. Plus I’ve been struggling to fill this role. But I’m going to take deep breathes and make sounder decisions.

        2. she was a fast machine

          For the love of all things holy, please don’t fall into the “but we need people who are excited!!” trap, because as Alison has said before, it’s a code word for dysfunction. I totally understand and thing 10 days is a really long time and definitely long enough to revoke the offer, but the way you’ve phrased the whole think is just icky feeling to me.

        3. NotAnotherManager!

          Yeah, people who hold an offer for more than a week, in my experience, are using it as leverage for other positions. Giving people some time to review/compare your offer is fine – most people I hire ask for 2-4 days to consider – but no one who’s held an offer for more than three or four days came back with an acceptance.

          I withdrew an offer a few years ago under similar circumstances because we really needed to get on with interviewing other candidates.

  15. Pink Shoelaces

    This is probably a really stupid question, but where do you find recruiters who would have knowledge of your industry? The only recruiters I know of are at staffing agencies but they are generally looking for workers at a lower skill and experience level than what I have.

    I’ve never used a recruiter so the whole recruitment world is wrapped up in a mystery for me.

    1. irene adler

      There are recruiter agencies that are industry-specific.
      Might contact the professional organization in your industry and ask them to suggest some agencies.

      There are also independent individuals who contract with many companies within an industry to help find people with higher skill levels or very specific skill sets. These types should be known by folks in the professional industry. You’ll need to ask-probably more than one person -to find these types. NOTE: the client for these folks is the company- not you. LinkedIn is good for connecting with these individuals.

    2. Coverage Associate

      Do you have friends in the same industry at bigger companies? I find recruiters because they spam me at my mid-size (for the industry) employer. I am happy to forward the emails to friends.

    3. T. Boone Pickens

      Hello there, as a recruiter I can hopefully help. I’d start with Google searches for 3rd party recruiters in your area and your expertise and see where that goes. You could also start broader and look for 3rd party recruiters in your area and drill down from there. LinkedIn could also be a good resource too.

    4. NotAnotherManager!

      In my area, if you search job postings, a significant number of them are posted by staffing companies rather than companies themselves. I would search through for my target jobs, make a list of the companies that posted them, and start there.

      This is also when your peer network comes in handy – ask who helped people in your industry find their position.

  16. CC

    I work in academia, and during my visit on campus the professors I talked to said there was no flexibility on salary, but that I should ask anyway. Another said that there would be only a tiny bit of flexibility, but less than 5% more than the offer. I had planned on asking for 10% more than what I was making. Based on their advice, I asked for what I was currently making (5% more than the offer) and got it automatically. I wish I would have asked for more!

    This is basically just a rant but, I guess take what your future coworkers say with a grain of salt? Also ask if there is flexibility on the salary and kind of gauge there response. I said “I understand there isn’t much flexibility” and he said “there is some” which I should have tipped me off to ask for a *little* more.

    Also a good source for academia is “The Professor is In” about this.

    1. Elle Kay

      Hi, yes, also in academia and I work in the HR/admin dept. There are literally salary bands of what I’m allowed to offer based on position. I have to prove that a candidate satisfies a certain % of required job experience to hire them into a given level and there’s a max/min salary set university-wide for that title.
      We do usually offer at the lower to middle-part of the range so a 5% increase might have gotten you to the top but 10% could easily be outside the range!
      Now, usually we’re very upfront with that constraint. If you ask for over the salary band I literally tell people that it’s over the max allowed salary rather than play some game about it

  17. Artemesia

    There is this myth that men make more because they negotiate harder when there is a lot of evidence that women who do negotiate hard are punished for it. I know people personally who behaved perfectly professional in negotiating salary and had to face a lot of negative attitude from their bosses once hired even when they got a bit more as a result of the negotiation. And there have been cases of offers being withdrawn when women try to negotiate.

    1. Anonymous Educator

      This is why negotiation should just go out the window, and employers should just pay people fairly.

      When I was a classroom teacher, I had students try to beg me for higher grades or try to make cases for why I should change their grade. Unless I actually made a mistake (yes, it happens), I never gave in. Giving in would have sent the message that A) pleading for a higher grade gets you a higher grade and B) students who don’t grade grub will be punished by receiving a lower grade.

      It’s not a direct analogy, obviously, but employers could (and should) do the same. Why would you reward a pencil pusher who does an average job pencil pushing just because that pp was really good at negotiating salary? And, on the flip side, why would you punish a pp who does an excellent job pp’ing, just because that pp was terrible at negotiating salary?

  18. Turtlewings

    I suspect I’m underpaid, but my exact job title (interlibrary loan coordinator) doesn’t seem to exist at very many places, and while I’m part of an ILL Facebook group that might could give me info… so is my boss. :/ It leaves me pretty unsure where to turn.

    1. Hey Nonny Nonny

      There’s a Facebook group called Library Employee Support Network that has an anonymous account you can use for exactly these sorts of situations. You can get the log in info from the group admins. I’m sure there are some ILL people in the group that could help.

    2. Elle Kay

      Yeah, that sounds like an uncommon title. I’m my library board president and all of the staff help handle ILLs. I imagine you’d have to be in a very large library or a research/otherwise dedicated library to need a dedicated ILLcoordinator which would make comparing salaries hard :(

  19. Lauren

    I think a teapot developer is more a developer than an analyst. This is especially true of silver (or porcelain) teapot developers.

  20. Stephanie

    I just looked up the salary for my job on one of those online websites and my current salary is definitely above that–probably because I came in with above average level of education and experience for the role. Talking with recruiters is a good idea.

    Alison, are you planning to do another one of those “What do you make?” posts?

    1. Anonymous Educator

      I’ve loved those, but I would prefer a proper survey to just an endless thread of “I make _____” posts.

      1. LQ

        A survey would be good but I think a lot of the value comes from all the other information. If you make 50,000 but get a 30K bonus that changes things. Or if you get 50K but have a defined pension, no employee contribution to a Cadillac health care, and 6 weeks vacation+sick time. Vs 50K and only a high deductible health insurance plan and 10 days of PTO. Those are very different 50Ks.

        Also a little job description (the analyst thing mentioned above) is helpful too.

        1. Anonymous Educator

          Those could be all part of the survey. No survey is perfect, of course, but sometimes even having the dollar amounts can give you a sense of thigns. A 30K bonus isn’t something you can count on every year, but a salary is. If you see that you’re making 45K for your position and getting no bonuses, and others are making 80K for similar positions, that’s still good to know!

      2. Ask a Manager Post author

        I don’t have the time/resources to do a proper survey, unfortunately.

        I don’t want to do the “how much money do you make posts” too frequently, but maybe next year! (Although I’m not sure how universally useful they are — my sense last time was that it might have been weighted heavily toward junior folks … which is great for junior folks, of course.)

        1. Anonymous Educator

          Even if you go for random posts in a thread versus a proper survey, it can still be helpful… and maybe it is for junior folks!

        2. Alianora

          If somebody else were to design & post a survey in the comments of the Friday work post, would you be okay with that?

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            It’s fine with me, but be aware the responses would be skewed — most readers don’t read the comments, and fewer read the open threads so it’s going to be disproportionately … something.

        3. Socks

          Aren’t junior folks the one who would benefit the most from the thread anyway though? Like, because people further along in their careers a) at least have some experience being paid in their field, so at the very least they know if a salary would be too low (because it’s what they made at a previous level), and b) have more connections to solicit information from IRL.

  21. As Close As Breakfast

    I have had the worst luck with the online salary estimates, like Glassdoor and Indeed, lately. I’m an engineer working in a somewhat rural area. We’re just 2 hours from a large metropolitan area, but it might as well be another planet when you’re looking at salary estimates. A few months ago I got one of those salary estimate update emails that said that the salary estimate for an engineer in my area had been updated and was now approximately $21,000. That is… extremely low. And I couldn’t figure out where that number was coming from! Since then I’ve come to believe that it’s due to many of the hotels/hospitals/etc. here calling some of their maintenance and facilities jobs something with ‘engineer’ in the title and that has overwhelmed the data. But honestly, who knows? Just another reason to be extremely skeptical about online salary estimates.

  22. Anon for this

    On the point about sharing salary info with colleagues, I think it’s messy. In fact, all of this is messy IME, but I’ll just share my experience on this point.

    At LastJob, a coworker was hired a after me. Technically, we were the same level at the time, but I had about 10 more years experience. He was promoted from an internal, entry-level position, and I was hired externally. I also negotiated a higher salary before accepting the position. In a nutshell, I had the experience to be a safer bet, and he was given the opportunity to stretch.

    Here’s the thing, I was making roughly $20K more than he was. He knew he was underpaid for the position, though he had received a decent raise for the promotion. He told me what he was making and asked what I made. I didn’t tell him because at the time I felt nothing good would come of it. What’s he going to do with this information? If he goes to our boss armed with this info to negotiate a higher salary, how do I come out? We can debate about the unfairness of it all, and yes, there were many problems with management, but I don’t see how transparency would have helped either coworker or me. I think what it does, it gives us some transparency about the pay discrepancy and decide what to do with that info.

    My advice to him at that time was, get some experience in this role because it is a big step up from where you were previously. Then find a better job with a different company where you stand a better chance to make more money, if that’s your goal. A few years later he did exactly that.

    1. The New Wanderer

      The only colleague who ever brought up salary in conversation and hinted he wanted to know what other people make wouldn’t have been able to do much with the information the rest of us could give him. He was pretty open that he felt underpaid since he had lots of life experience, but had just earned the degree relevant to his new position at this company. And he was asking people who’d been with the company for 5-10 years or were in very different areas with possibly different compensation brackets. It was just generally uncomfortable.

      Fortunately, most of us (including him) were union and we could just say look at the salary charts that are published every year to get a good sense of where you are on the pay curves.

  23. Doc in a Box

    I’m in a field with published salary tables (academic medicine) that come out once a year. For each specialty, you can look up the 25th, 50th, and 75th percentile by rank (instructor to full professor) and by region. The data lags a year behind, but it’s still incredibly useful.

    When I was looking for my first faculty job out of training, I had looked up the salary tables for my specialty and used them in negotiating. The chair at one university acted offended that I had data to back up my salary request. I should have seen it as the red flag it was; he later flipped out when he learned I’d asked a former mentor for general advice about the non-salary aspects of negotiating (like protected research/teaching time, productivity targets, start-up fund — all the things that are part of an academic job but no one teaches you when you’re in training). Needless to say, I turned that offer down like a bedspread.

  24. Mrs. Fenris

    In my field, unfortunately, my salary isn’t based on how much I think I should make/how much my employer feels like paying me. It’s…not exactly commission, but it’s roughly calculated on 20-25% of how much business I produce. Some of this is under my control, but a whole bunch of it is not, and employers have exactly zero empathy for how little control I have over it. Argh.

  25. Nameless

    I wish I could agree that agencies are a useful source of information, but ime they really aren’t. I’ll give an example from last year. I went to a very well-known recruiter in my city that is specifically geared at my industry. They told me I couldn’t expect to get more than 60k for a 40 hr week (permanent) in my field. This was what I was already earning in a temp position though a different agency.

    I negotiated directly with my current employer, and am now a contractor with them being paid 70k for a 30 hr week. Doing the same work, I might add.

    Maybe – just maybe – you can go by what agencies tell you if you add their fees on top? But in 2 decades I don’t think I’ve ever dealt with an agency who didn’t push jobs that paid the same (or less!) than the job I was in at the time.

    1. teapot

      Do you get the same benefits as a contractor as you would as a full time employee though? That could account for it pretty easily.

      1. Nameless

        It might do in the US, but I’m not in the US :). Employee benefits aren’t worth anything like that where I live.

  26. Non-profiteer

    I gave this advice here before in comments and people appreciated it, so in case it’s helpful again: My job is pretty niche-y, and when I was negotiating for a raise at my old employer, I had no idea what my ‘market rate’ was. Since I work in DC, the federal government is always a competing employer. So I looked up what federal government job I would be qualified for – it’s fairly easy to figure out where you fit on the GL scale. From there I figured out roughly what the feds would pay me, and used that as a reference.

    Of course, that won’t work for everyone. But at a nonprofit, getting a salary comparable to federal government work is pretty good.

  27. Editor

    One of the people in my family has a pretty specific job title. I was able to search either census or BLS numbers to get them salary figures for that title for the county where the job was and a couple of neighboring counties. The numbers might have been a range — I will try to duplicate the search and see if I can provide more info. And… generally, this works best with non-rural counties, where multiple folks have the same or similar titles (the federal government doesn’t generally reveal numbers if the figures would provide data on private businesses, so rural reports often have a lot of asterisks or dashes).

    It’s also worth checking out state databases to see if there are any interesting stats buried in the labor department website.

    1. Editor

      Here are a couple of sites to try:

      https://www.bls.gov/oes/2017/may/oes_stru.htm#13-0000
      Click on OES data on left menu, then choose state or MSA data or whatever, then dive into tables.

      https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oessrcma.htm
      Compensation ranges by metropolitan and other statistical areas.

      Pennsylvania presents BLS data this way:
      https://www.workstats.dli.pa.gov/Products/Occupational%20Wages/Pages/CountyAreaData.aspx

      Good luck! If you have trouble with this kind of search, see if a reference librarian at a public or academic library can help you. Larger libraries may have librarians who specialize in government documents.

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