What Salary Should I Ask For? 3 Tips for Knowing What You’re Worth

January 20, 2022
By Sheri Pepper

​Have you ever felt hesitant, anxious, or maybe full of dread answering the job interview question: What are your salary expectations?


If so … join the crowd!


For many people, talking money in any situation is challenging—and stating your pay requirements during the interview process can be especially nerve-wracking. And with good reason: If you’re way off on your number, either too high or too low, you might unwittingly take yourself out of the running. So you need to be careful when navigating compensation, but most importantly, you need to be informed. ​


Do Your Homework


Although you likely won’t be able to sleuth out the employer’s upper limit before starting a pay rate negotiation, you can take some simple steps to become well-informed. And here’s a hint: you should start planning for the salary question the moment you apply for a role. With preparation and good intel, you can discuss compensation confidently with a win-win approach that will not only keep you in the game but may also land you a paycheck that meets or exceeds your expectations.


Let’s take a look at how to know what you’re worth:


1. Find out what the job pays.


This sounds obvious, but you might be surprised at how many people don’t use the many tools available to determine pay for the job title they’re applying for. For starters, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics offers comprehensive compensation data that you can slice and dice by occupation, geographic area, level of education, and much more.


Professional and trade associations often publish up-to-date salary information for specific fields of work, but you may need to be a member to access the data. You can also use platforms such as payscale.com, salary.com, Glassdoor, and others to figure out what pay to expect for certain job titles. ​


And don’t forget about staffing and recruiting organizations. For example, Nelson’s 2022 Salary Guide provides detailed salary ranges for over 200 jobs across multiple California locations. We also provide a salary key so you can gauge pay rates in other U.S. metro markets. What’s more, our staffing and recruiting experts negotiate salaries every single day, so they understand the dynamics impacting local pay trends. By working with us, you’ll have a staffing pro on your side who knows the ropes and can help you enter an interview prepared to answer the pay question. And in case you’re wondering … our services our always no-cost to job seekers.


​Talk with a Nelson job specialist today.


2. Understand the nuances of compensation calculations.


Another tip is to school yourself on the numerous issues impacting employers when they build compensation plans. Below are a just a few topics you can research to be mindful of the employers’ approach to salaries:

  • Basic pay differs in different kinds of organization. Large companies frequently have established (and less flexible) salary benchmarks, whereas startups might offer lower starting salaries but have the potential for substantial bonuses or equity options.

  • Where you live and where the employer is located impacts pay rates. Many employers consider cost-of-living criteria when determining salaries for teams working in different locations. Learn more our article on pay localization for remote workers.

  • Employers may reward different credentials. Find out if the employer might be inclined to boost your pay if you have additional academic degrees or extra training.

  • Be realistic about pay in your line of work. Companies adjust pay strategies depending on candidate availability and the urgency to hire for hard-to-fill roles. Therefore, it’s important to be realistic about pay potential for your line of work. If your role is not in high demand or is easily filled by other qualified candidates, you may not have much room to negotiate beyond the set pay rate. On the flip side, if your particular skill sets are scarce or in high demand, employers are likely willing to pay above the budgeted pay scale.

3. Be clear on your bottom line.


When working the salary puzzle, be sure you’re armed with a critical piece of information: your absolute bottom line. Be crystal clear about your financial needs so you can evaluate if not just the pay rate but the total compensation package works for you. ​

  • First and foremost, calculate your take home pay so you’ll know if the offer on the table will clear your bottom line. Once an offer is made (and before you accept), many companies’ human resources departments can help you determine your take home pay based on the companies’ deduction options. You can also find online tools to figure take-home pay, but they are more generic than specific. ​

  • Evaluate the monetary impact of the employer’s benefits package. Is the company’s contribution to medical coverage significant enough to offset a slightly lower pay rate and still allow you to meet your bottom line? Will they contribute to a retirement account? Do they provide a commute allowance, pay for parking, or reimburse for internet or home office supplies? All of these offerings equate to real money that you can minus from your monthly bottom line requirement if you’d otherwise have to pay for them. ​

  • Does the company reimburse for tuition or provide on the job training? If the offer on the table meets your minimum needs, consider the value of training or educational perks. Job training can have financial bearing that might give you greater earning potential without an extra outlay of cash on your part.

In the end, remember that the salary a company pays you is a business transaction. Once you know the fundamentals and what extra value you bring to the role, don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. If the employer has invested a lot of time in the candidate search and are ready to bring you on board, they won’t want to lose you over salary. Be informed, stay positive, and bring all your confidence to the table. Good luck!


If you’re looking for a new role or want to introduce yourself to one of our recruiters for down the road, contact us today. We’d love to get to know you!

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