Talent Tip #27: Talking Turkey: Determining an Appropriate Salary Range

MoneyStackWhew! Last month’s tip about providing requested salary information inspired a lot of great feedback! It’s going to take several months to get to all the great ideas, but let me start with the most common question I received: how does one determine an appropriate salary range?

Yikes. That’s like answering, how do you fall in love? Hell, if I know!

I jest. However, determining one’s salary isn’t something you can easily calculate with a simple formula. Rather, it’s a very subjective, imperfect science that involves many factors. Let’s walk through some of the factors hiring managers and candidates should consider when determining salary.

  1. Years of experience – How many years have you spent in the working world? Were your roles fulltime? Part-time? Do you have long gaps in between jobs?
  2. Work history – What types of positions have you held? What sorts of responsibilities have you had? Did you manage people? What value did you create in these roles?
  3. Quality of employers – Did you work for solid, reputable entities?
  4. Longevity – How long did you last at each role? Did you have good reasons for making job changes?
  5. Salary history – What do you earn now? How has your salary record progressed? Have you been overpaid? Underpaid?
  6. Location – Where do you live? What’s the cost of living?
  7. Role at hand – What is the new role under consideration? Does it involve more responsibilities than your current role? Fewer? Will it involve a significant change of lifestyle (i.e. lots of travel, long hours, etc.)? How does your work history apply to this role?
  8. The market – What does the job market look like? Is there a surplus of talent or openings? How’s the economy? Are organizations scraping by or living as if we’re in the 80s?
  9. Now, take all these factors, add in a healthy dose of subjective value, equal parts pride and humility, eye of newt, a pinch of turmeric, and voilà! There’s your magic number.

Right, so you see how complicated this is.

Since I can’t give you a magic number, let me just offer some things to consider as you develop your salary requirements.

  • Some people are getting pay increases with new jobs, but many people are making lateral moves or even pay cuts in order to move into stable positions.
  • If you’re on the job market now, don’t expect a big pay increase when you take a new role. If you’re currently at 50k, your salary expectations probably shouldn’t be 70-80. A range of 50-60k or 55-65k would be more realistic.
  • Perhaps it goes without saying, but if you are currently unemployed, you will have less leverage in salary negotiations.
  • If you’ve been in a position without significant raises over the last few years, you shouldn’t feel entitled to a large pay increase in your next role to make up for it. Remember, this is a tough market, and most organizations are tightening their belts.
  • Consider the role and the responsibilities of the job. If you’re applying for a position of less responsibility, there’s a good chance you’ll take a pay cut. If you have clear fundraising or revenue-generating expectations, salary might be higher. For many organizations, the value a new hire will bring to the organization relative to other employees is a major factor in determining salary.

Now, if anyone has thoughts on the love question, I’m all ears.