You want to keep your job, but you don't want to be a bargain, either. How do you know whether you're making what you're worth?
When Hanna first interviewed at a Seattle IT consulting firm, there’d been no discussion during the process about money, and Hanna — a German citizen with a newly minted green card — was too intimidated to ask.
“I got the offer and said, ‘OK, this is my first job in the U.S., and I won’t say no,’ ” she says.
Six months later, Hanna (not her real name) was feeling comfortable and more confident at work, so she started polling her co-workers about salary, suspecting hers was too low. No one got specific, she says, but “everyone was in the same boat.”
At her one-year anniversary, Hanna made a case for a raise to her boss, citing her stellar performance. It took six weeks, but she got an increase — a hefty 20 percent bump in her annual pay.
Maybe you’re like Hanna, and you didn’t negotiate your starting salary. Or maybe you’ve been on the job for several years but your pay increases have stagnated. You want to keep your job, but you don’t want to be a bargain, either. How do you know whether you’re making what you’re worth?
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Companies tend to discourage the “ask around” method Hanna used — too much sharing can cause resentment. But “the reality is that employees do talk to each other about salaries,” says Karen Walker, compensation manager at RealNetworks. “I’ve never met an employee in my life who believes that they’re overpaid.”
Companies typically set salaries by referencing confidential, third-party compensation surveys, says Walker, and most will consider a range right around the middle to be competitive. If a job requires hard-to-find or in-demand skills, the company may need to offer more to attract good candidates.
In the old days, employees and job seekers had to rely on salary surveys from professional organizations and the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics to find out whether their salary was competitive. These are still good resources, but there’s so much information online that job seekers can arm themselves before heading in to negotiate. Three websites to check out include Salary.com, PayScale and Glassdoor.
The sites all offer variations on the same theme: Type in your position and your city, and you’ll get a salary range for that position. What’s different is how the sites obtain their data. Salary.com, a partner of NWjobs, buys salary surveys from HR folks at 5,000 companies. Its numbers are closer to what hiring managers expect to pay, says Salary.com general manager Abby Euler.
Glassdoor and Seattle-based PayScale, on the other hand, are crowdsourced, powered by anonymous, user-submitted content. At Glassdoor, new users get unlimited access to the site’s salary information, company reviews and interview details for 10 days. After that, you’ll need to sign up and supply some of your own details, such as current and past positions and salary.
PayScale operates much the same way, though its database is much larger, with about 40 million user-submitted salaries to Glassdoor’s 3 million. But at PayScale, you’ll have to answer a series of questions before you get your free salary report — your position, salary, size of your company, even your commute time to work. PayScale also has a method for identifying outliers and ensuring that the data is on par, says Lydia Frank, the company’s marketing director.
Having salary data can help you negotiate a pay raise, but if you’re a top performer, that goes a long way, too. “It’s one thing to see how your role compares to the market, but also how you compare to your role,” Walker says. “Managers want to pay for value, and I do believe that most also want their employees to be paid fairly.”