One of the hardest things job seekers face in their search is salary expectations. Price yourself too low and you’ll be miserable; too high and you price yourself out of the game. On top of this, when you factor in demographic wage discrepancies, this guessing game becomes an especially frustrating subject for women and people of color. However, job seekers aren’t the only ones who do this dance with dollars. Employers feel the frustration, too: Top talent wants to be compensated appropriately; allocate too few funds for a position and those top performers won’t show up.
Fortunately, different salary data tools and salary benchmark calculators exist to help job seekers negotiate an appropriate salary and help businesses budget for top talent. Even then, certain salary benchmark databases can, well, miss the mark.
More important than having a site you can trust is having the know-how to navigate and understand these salary finder tools. Here’s what you need to know when searching for salary and 10 salary benchmarking sites you can use to kick start your salary research:
Check Similar Job Titles
Salary benchmark sites also vary in how they collect and calculate income data. For example, while some sites may group “Customer Service Representative”, “Client Service Specialist” and “Receptionist” together, others may not. This is why it’s so important to research job titles that share responsibilities with the position you’re applying to--especially if it’s a common (and possibly overused) job title.
Collect as Much Data as You Can
A salary benchmark database is only as good as the data it collects. Most sites rely on professionals to put their data, so you might see some variance from site to site because of that. Additionally, every site organizes and collects salary data differently, so it’s important to be able to take your salary research and apply it contextually to the company you’re applying to.
If, after checking a few salary benchmarking sites, you see a pay range appear, it’s safe to say you’ve found the salary sweet spot.
Check Other Titles, Too.
Going along with checking other job titles your prospective position can have, it’s important to check the income averages of the job titles that people around you in your new job may have.
Doing a quick search of CEO versus COO is a great example of why this is important: In most businesses, the COO (Chief Operations Officer) will report to the CEO (Chief Executive Officer). It stands to reason then, that CEOs would make more than a COO. But that’s not what the data shows us.
According to Indeed’s salary exploration tool, the median income of a CEO is $115,875, but a COO is $121, 822. How can that be? Well, it’s because not every company that has a CEO will have a COO, and the COO-less CEOs tend to work for businesses with less budget to allocate to salaries. In other words, the CEO average takes into account smaller companies that don’t have a budget for both positions. This is different than the COO salary data that is mostly compiled from larger companies that tend to pay their CEOs well, too.
The long and short: Because CEOs are found at all types of businesses (including small businesses, startups, and companies of one) the median CEO salary is brought down where the COO job isn’t.
If you’re looking at larger companies for your next career move, researching in this way can help you avoid underselling yourself when it comes to pay negotiations.
Mean vs Median
The next three words I’m about to say might bring back some PTSD from grade school math class: mean, median, and mode. When looking at salary data, it’s important to know not all averages are calculated equally and each type of average can give different insights on salary expectations.
Most sites will provide median salary benchmarks, and this is because it accounts for any skew caused by extreme highs or extreme lows in the data set. Mean averages, (adding all the numbers and dividing by the total number of data points) could add a skew to the average and thus, have you walking into the interview room with a salary expectation that is often too high.
For example, if I was asking a group of 50 people how much they made in a year and Jeff Bezos was one of those people in my group, the mean would be much higher than if I were to take the average through the median or the mode.
If a company's budgeted pay range is less than you think it should be based on your research, showing them your data won’t magically make more money appear.
Budget Matters more than Benchmarks
Of course, it’s important to know your worth, but at the end of the day, a company’s budget has the final say in how much you can expect to be compensated for any given role. The hope is that a prospective employer is doing proper market research and has budgeted in a way that makes their salary competitive. But chances are, if the pay range is lower than a healthy range, based on your research, showing them your data won’t magically make more money appear.
In these instances, you have to know what you’re willing to put up with in a job opportunity and what you have to walk away from.
The cost of living varies throughout the country as does the amount you can expect to be compensated based on your experience. Learning the national salary average for a position can help, but in practical terms, drilling down into salary by region might earn you a larger paycheck –especially if you have a remote position and live in a different city than where your employer is located.
Experience Level Matters
There are certain jobs where the title doesn’t change even as you continue to take on more responsibilities, or where companies play it fast-and-loose with the responsibilities given underneath a job title (Manager, for example). For these roles, knowing your worth can be difficult, and gaining accurate salary data might require additional research.
For example, if you’re a tenured service technician or loan underwriter, your skills make you a valuable asset to a company; you should be compensated more than the professional who only has six months of experience.
Salary benchmark and salary exploration tools can make it difficult to gauge what you should be asking for in your next raise or job because the greener people who hold your title will weigh the average down –especially when you consider the fact there are way more Service Techs with 1-2 years experience than those with ten years. The nice thing is most sites have started asking questions about years of experience as they collect their data so that people using their tool can now drill down into benchmarks based on years of experience.
Here are 10 salary databases and salary finder websites to get you started in your compensation research.
- BLS (Bureau of Labor and Statistics)
- Glassdoor Salaries
- Simply Hired Salaries
- Indeed Salaries
- LinkedIn Salaries
- HR 360 Salary Benchmarking
- Robert Half Salary Guide
The Value of Knowing Your Worth
Knowing how to properly assess your pay not only helps you negotiate salary but helps you assess the value your skills and experience bring to a business. It’s all about making sure you’re paid for your worth! Doing your research can help you build confidence and go into your next interview or performance review boldly and armed with information reaffirming your worth – helping you make sure you get the salary you deserve and more.