Why Salary Still Matters

More states, counties, and cities ban salary history inquiries each year, and the growing effort to combat pay inequity is leveling the field for workers nationwide. That’s great! However, many employers are struggling to adjust. Why? Because compensation structure is not a black and white issue.

Every industry, discipline, and geographical market is unique, and these are blanket policies. There is no single “going rate” for a financial analyst or manufacturing engineer. What’s more, available salary data sometimes lags two or more years behind the current employment market rates.

Here’s how you can navigate this uncharted territory and get the offer you’re worth without pricing yourself out of the market.

1. Know Your Value
Salary data websites are good tools for getting a ballpark idea of what your skills and experience are worth in a given market. Visit multiple sites and run searches with different criteria to develop a complete picture and focus on the median ranges since this represents what most people like you are making. Develop a “target” range based on your earning history, market information, and cost of living differences (if relocating). Be honest and realistic.

2. Know the Variables
Some companies simply pay better than others. Some offer stellar benefits and bonus programs while others are very lean. At some point, all companies experience internal compression issues (when outside talent salaries exceed those of current employees in similar roles). These are all unknowns to external candidates, so look at the big picture when reviewing an offer. Consider the overall package, company culture, long-term opportunity, work/life balance, and fit for your lifestyle.

3. Know What to Say
Whether your salary history is legally off-limits or not, you should have and communicate a clear set of salary expectations based on current market research and personal needs. Understand that where you fall within a position’s compensation range is primarily determined by how closely your experience aligns with the job description, not your years of experience or market trends. Be transparent about expectations with recruiters and hiring authorities. It will save your time and theirs.

4. Know Your Fit
Some will argue that employers should assign pay ranges to jobs, not individuals. Here’s the thing: no one ever hired a job. Companies hire people, and a candidate’s fit level for a specific job largely determines potential compensation level within a predefined range. That’s right. Every position has a maximum value within a company. Period.

5. Know Your Rights
Salary history legislation is active and ongoing with bans activating at state, county, and city levels. Stay current on the changing laws, both locally and in your target relocation areas. Real-time updates can be found here.