If there’s one topic everybody wants to know more about, it’s salary. (Well, that and where socks go when the dryer eats them.)
My friend Alex in Kentucky requested that I write a tip on handling salary when it comes to job applications. He sums up the salary dilemma perfectly:
“Can you provide guidance on how to handle salary requirements on a job application? I don’t want to lose out if an organization is willing to pay more than the salary I provide. On the other hand, I don’t want an organization to look at my salary requirement and say, ‘That’s so far beyond what we want to pay. Toss that resume in the trash!’ ”
With Alex’s thoughts in mind, I’m going to provide some guidance about the factors involved in determining the “right salary” on a job application and then reveal the magic formula for finding your exact number.
- Start in Reality – The first thing I tell folks is that your desired salary needs to be based in reality. It shouldn’t be a wish-list or a pipe-dream. The figure should be a reflection of market forces; that means you probably won’t be asking for a 50% bump in pay.
- When in Doubt, Go with a Range – I often suggest candidates use a range instead of just one number so that they have built-in flexibility. A range should span roughly $5-10K for mid level employees and $10-20K+ for senior staff with higher salaries. This flexibility will allow you to account for things you learn as the interview process moves along, including work schedule, telecommuting options, etc. For instance, if you find out you’ll be expected to work long hours and commute to the office every day, you may decide you won’t take the job unless it’s at the top of your range. Conversely, if you learn you can work from home several days a week and hours are flexible, you may be quite happy at the bottom end of your range.
- Do Your Homework – You are probably thinking, but how do I know what my range should be? Good question. To determine your range, you should take into account a laundry list of factors, including but not limited to:
- Your experience – Years of experience? Work history? Quality of employers? What rock star stuff have you done? Are you currently employed? Have you been out of work for a while?
- Current/most recent salary – How long have you been at that figure?
- Salary history – Has your salary consistently increased? Has it been all over the map? Did you take a big pay cut and want to make up for lost ground?
- Geography – Where is the job? What is the cost of living there? Is it a desirable place to live? Can you work virtually?
- Education – Do you have any fancy advanced degrees? And are they relevant for this job?
- Market conditions – What is the demand for your skill set?
- Longevity – Have you changed jobs with the frequency of a cheap ham radio?
- Reputation/recommendations – Who is willing to go out on a limb and say you rock?
4. The Role – The list above is a good start, but you also have to consider the role at hand.
- Type of role- What level is the role? What are the responsibilities?
- Type of organization – What is the type and size of the organization? Is it a $50M behemoth in DC or a $500K mom and pop shop in Poughkeepsie?
- Competition for the role (or lack thereof!) – Is this a role that will attract dozens of qualified folks? Or are you one of just a few credentialed candidates?
This all makes sense, right? Now, you just need the magic salary formula into which you can plug all of this information.
Folks, for the first time ever, I am about to reveal it to you. I’ve been holding back for years, but it’s now time for me to share with you – with the world – this long-sought secret. Drum roll, please…….
Right…so, I’m just kidding. There is no magic formula!
Your best bet is to combine all of the factors listed above, as well as information from trusted associates and online salary sources. Throw in some turmeric and puppy dog tails (figuratively speaking, says the animal-lover!) for good measure, and mix it all together. Voila! That should give you a pretty good range.
Next month we’ll tackle Alex’s concerns about providing a salary that is too high or too low. Until next time, my friends.