Salary discussions with a prospective employer are at best uncomfortable, so I am going to talk about how to maintain the advantage in these interactions. Since this is fairly complex, I am breaking this into 2 posts. One to discuss how to prepare, and the other to help you through the actual discussion.
Ken from Massachusetts asks how to respond when an potential employer asks what compensation he is looking for. He was thinking his default would be 5% over what he is making now, but would that be selling himself short since he is grossly underpaid for what he does now?
Ken, the first things you have to do before even uttering any numbers are:
1. Commit to paper exactly what you would minimally accept for any positions offered, and what non-cash benefits are paramount for your situation. This means if it is a dream job, what can you survive on because there is long term career growth, and are you doing something you love? Also, factor in EVERYTHING. If the salary is great but the company offers no stock options (ugh!), profit sharing, or will only contribute a pittance to your health insurance costs, it may not be as super an opportunity as you think.
2. After that, do as much research as you can on the position and what the market is paying – in your geography, with your experience. If the job posted a salary range, that helps but don’t assume it is gospel. Scour the job boards to find similar jobs and what they are paying in your area. If it is a sales role or one that most of your income is performance-based, research the company to see if their OTE projections are realistic. OTE = On Target or Track earning, meaning we expect our sales person to get a 50K base, and with the quota we give them they earn 100% of base at 100% quota attainment.
You can also google your role and the company, there are a few sites that post messages from current and former employees with valuable information as far as what type of place it is/was to work, if the pay and benefits were good, etc. Vault.com is a good one. If you belong to any type of group or society of folks who do what you do, get their feedback.
Finally, to get a good general overview you can go to salary.com. They have a freebie and a pay service, and of course the freebie is much less comprehensive, but it will give you some decent general parameters.
I know that it seems like a lot of work in addition to the other mandatory prep you need to do for an interview, but if you want to get a job that maximizes your value, it is totally worth it.
OK, so do your homework and next time we will talk about the actual discussion and taking the stress out of it.