Let’s be honest: most companies are looking for the best talent at the lowest possible salary, and most candidates are looking for the best opportunity at the highest possible salary.
But the playing field isn’t level. Many companies don’t include a salary range in their job posts. Instead, they expect candidates to reveal their salary expectations first.
Unfortunately, most candidates don’t come into interviews knowing their true market value. They wind up undervaluing themselves or accepting whatever number the employer says. Then, even if the person gets the job, they eventually realize they’re being underpaid and often lose motivation or go look for another job that pays better.
The good news is, strong candidates who want full-time jobs are hard to find and in very high demand. People have more control over their earning potential than they realize.
Candidates need to understand their true market value before having their first conversation with a recruiter or hiring manager. That way, even if the employer doesn’t provide a salary range, the candidate will be prepared to answer the question, “What are your salary expectations?”
Here are six simple steps you can take right now to make sure you earn what you’re worth in your next job:
1. Do your research. You’d be amazed how few people do this. Before speaking to a hiring manager, make sure you understand what the market rate is for the position you are applying to. Take into consideration the city and country the company is located in, the size and stage of the company (startup vs. Series D), etc. Here are a few starting places to research salaries:
Compare results to come up with an average number that would make you happy. (This should be a single number, not a range.) When assessing your market value, make sure to take into consideration the type of companies you have worked for, years spent in previous positions, the experience/skillset you have gained and developed, your managerial experience, previous job titles, the benefits and equity included (if you know), your education level, certifications received, etc.
2. Ask your network. If you’ve been in the same industry for several years, you have likely developed a solid network of colleagues and peers. Reach out to former managers and former colleagues who are now hiring managers. They will provide amazing insights into the market and will also give you the confidence to discuss salary when speaking to hiring managers. Your network is your greatest resource.
3. Talk to a market expert. If you’re a software engineer working with Laskie, for example, you can get free expert advice on what you should be getting paid. We’ll even help you negotiate your salary and equity later, after you get an offer. (All at no cost to you, of course.)
4. Remember, your current salary doesn’t matter. This is a common mistake candidates make. Just because you are paid below market rate now does not mean you have to use your current salary as a ‘starting point’ for your new role. In the US, many states have even outlawed employers asking about your current salary. And if an employer asks you, you can just politely decline to answer that question.
5. Take control. If the job description doesn’t include a salary range, ask the hiring manager what their budget is for this role. If they give you a number that is below what you are looking for, politely tell them, “Thanks. Based on the market and my experience level, I’d be looking for $X.” Don’t apologize or sell yourself short. If the employer won’t tell you a salary range or is vague, tell them exactly what you’re looking for. Again, you can literally say: “Based on the market and my experience level, I’d be looking for $X.” (Don’t give a range, give a specific number.)
6. Don’t be afraid to walk away. If you’ve offered the first number but the hiring manager still refuses to have a transparent conversation about their budget for the role, then politely decline and remove yourself from the interview process. Hiring is a two-way conversation, and some employers seem to have forgotten that.
Talking about money can be uncomfortable, but it’s a lot easier when you’re prepared and know your market value. Make sure to have a number in mind before you even start interviewing. That way, you’ll stay confident and anchor the salary conversation in a number that represents your true worth.
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