By Susan Adams
One of the most useful tools when entering a salary negotiation: Knowing how much your prospective employer pays others at the company who hold your would-be title. It's also helpful to have a sense of what you are worth in the labor market. In other words, what would competitors of your would-be employer pay someone with your level of training, skill and experience? All of this information is increasingly easy to find. Besides the old-fashioned method of schmoozing with folks who work in your chosen field, there is a treasure trove of salary information online, much of it highly specific and lots of it free of charge. In Pictures: How To Know What That Job Pays The easiest, fastest way to get a salary snapshot: Google. Just type in a job title, location, company name and the word "salary" or "compensation," and you'll get a quick hit of information. A lot of that data will likely come from the job aggregation websites Indeed.com and Simplyhired.com, both of which have a salary link at the bottom of their home pages. These sites collect their information from job listings. Consider this information a ballpark estimate. It isn't specific to you, but it can help give you a sense of the salary range for the position and company in the city where you're interviewing. Caveat: The results are scattershot on these sites, but worth spending a minute searching. Another source for ballpark estimates: the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics' table of Occupational Employment Statistics, which offers a wealth of salary information drawn from its employer surveys. This data is best used to get a broad sense of various fields and what they pay in different regions of the country, rather than a laser view of a job at a particular company. For instance, the mean annual wage for a computer and information systems manager across the nation is $126,000, In the metropolitan New York City area, the job pays a mean of $157,000, while in Chicago it pays $115,000, and in Silicon Valley, $175,000. This data can be useful if you are considering a career change and/or a move, and wondering about compensation prospects in a particular field and region. But the BLS offers no information about jobs inside companies, and its job titles are broad, so it won't help you much in salary negotiations. For quick, specific information about companies, a Google search will likely show results from Glassdoor.com. This four-year-old site, based in Sausalito, Calif., bills itself as the Trip Advisor of career sources. It offers snapshots of information gratis. If users want to delve more deeply, they must fill out a questionnaire about a recent or current job, including compensation. Glassdoor does no independent checking of the data its users provide. It's easy to navigate and costs nothing besides time. Glassdoor claims to have salary information for 160,000 companies based on 2.5 million user reports. It also offers user-written reviews of what it's like to work at companies and information about what to expect at a job interview. For more sophisticated compensation information, there are two older sites. Salary.com, the oldest source besides the federal government, was founded in 1999. The Waltham, Mass.-based site gets its data from vendors who survey companies' human resources staff, and purports to have gleaned data from more than 5,000 employers. It offers a free "salary wizard" that can be used in several ways. You can get a quick snapshot of the salary for a given job title in your city by putting in minimal data. Or you can answer a questionnaire with specifics like your level of education and your years of experience, and receive a more focused result. For $30-$80, you can answer an extensive questionnaire and receive a personal report that takes into account details like advanced degrees and numbers of employees you will be expected to supervise at your new job. The personal report offers information about your market value, what kinds of benefits and bonuses you should be offered, and sample arguments you can make in a salary negotiation. Payscale.com offers similar information to Salary.com, but there is more data available free of charge. Based in Seattle and founded in 2002, like Glassdoor, it offers access to its database in exchange for information from users. Payscale has a leg up on Glassdoor because of the depth of its information, some 35 million user-submitted profiles and data on more than 4 million employers, according to Katie Bardaro, the site's lead economist. You can search salary in two ways on Payscale. In its "career research" section (you click through a tab at the top of the screen), you can put a company's name in the search field and instantly get broad salary data, though the ranges it offers are quite broad. I tried searching for "editor" at Thomson Reuters, and found a stretch from $27,000-$90,000. Like Salary.com, it's best to use Payscale to get a sense of your value in the labor market. For this, you fill out a detailed questionnaire similar to Salary.com's, with information like your years of experience, your current pay, your company's annual revenues, and where you earned your academic degree. The site crunches this data and tells you what someone of your age and experience should expect to earn in your city. Economist Bardaro argues that this can be more useful than learning about a salary for someone with your would-be job title at the company where you're interviewing. For instance, she explains, in Seattle, if you were to negotiate, say, for a software engineer job at a small company, that firm would be competing with Amazon, a major employer there. Bardaro argues that it's most useful for a job candidate to know what their value is in their marketplace, according to the specifics of their background. I'm ambivalent about Bardaro's argument, and the usefulness of the kind of information Payscale and Salary.com provide. While I can see the usefulness of gleaning your theoretical labor market value, a salary negotiation comes down to the realities of what a specific company is willing to pay. At least in my field, salaries vary widely depending on the company where you work. Then of course you need to weigh compensation against all sorts of other competing and often less tangible factors, like office environment, reputation, opportunities for advancement and how well you think you would fit with the people who would make up your new team. I'm convinced that it makes sense to use the free online tools at Glassdoor, Salary.com and Payscale, but I don't think I'd spring for Salary.com's paid $80 report. Whatever online resources you decide to tap, you should research compensation the old-fashioned way, by talking to people in your line of work, say Robert Hellmann and Anita Attridge, two New York coaches with the Five O'Clock Club, a career coaching organization. A good line, Attridge suggests: "What would you say is the salary range for someone coming into that position?" That way you're not asking someone to reveal what she makes. When interviewing, be careful how you use salary information. Both Hellmann and Attridge agree that you should postpone any salary negotiation until after you've been offered a job. At that point, if you're offered too little, don't hesitate to speak up, they advise. "Say, â¿¿I'm really excited about this position, but I'm disappointed about the salary,'" Attridge advises. "Ask what can be done, as far as the salary is concerned." In Pictures: How To Know What That Job Pays
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