Using Web Sites to Find Your Salary Range

Web sites can help job seekers find their salary range.

In a tough job market the dreaded “what’s your salary range” question becomes even more difficult to navigate. Give a number too low and you could lose out on thousands of dollars. Answer too high and you could price yourself out of the running.

There are a number of salary calculators and online Web sites, but many offer just an aggregated or best-guess figure. A few sites, however, offer more.

One site creating a lot of buzz is It takes a unique approach by asking people to state their salary. That’s the key to admission. Posters remain anonymous but are required to give a detailed description about what it’s really like to work at a specific company. After entering that information, the site allows visitors to find out what jobs pay at different companies.

The anonymous comments are divided into pros and cons about specific employers. For example, one anonymous poster said he’s working at a “good company” while a manager at the same company admonished job seekers to “think twice about joining.”

Another useful salary site is PayScale is clunkier to navigate than some other sites. Users need to fill out a multi-page survey about how long they’ve been on the job, degrees held, and work experience before getting to the actual salary figures. But it does offer a few nice features. Thanks to a recent partnership with Yahoo, PayScale offers more calculators and nifty gadgets. For example, job hunters can add or change information such as location or size of the company and get updated pay ranges. And, as with Glassdoor, its anonymous profiles detail benefits workers receive, which could help fine tune a salary range and give insight into perks that may be open to negotiation.

Salary Site Shortcomings

While popular with job hunters, salary sites drew both praise and criticism from recruiters. They are good for some baseline information. But you should consider taking your research a step further and use salary surveys done by professional associations. Also, seekers should be wary about salary calculators because they can be “very misleading.

Salaries are dictated by factors that include region, size of organization, range and scope of responsibility, level of experience and industry. More often than not, free salary calculators offer ranges that represent an across-the-board average. It’s also prudent to keep in mind that salaries are entered by anonymous insiders.

The Nonprofit Sector

If you’re interested in working in the nonprofit sector, you should look at Guidestar posts nonprofit IRS filings, known as a Form 990 or a 990-EZ. These contain the salaries of an organization’s top officers. At a major nonprofit, where top managers make significantly more than rank-and-file workers, the salaries given might not be that useful. But for smaller nonprofits, the salary information is wonderful.

If you’re applying for a director or manager position, there’s a good chance the organization already has someone with that job title, so you’ll get a very accurate idea of how much you can expect to be paid – or what to ask for – for a similar position. The only drawback is that Guidestar only shows a company’s last full tax year, not the current fiscal year.

Guidestar offers an annual subscription but you can conduct a free search from the home page as often as you want. Once you find the nonprofit you’re interested in, click on “view report” and scroll down to the Form 990 section to see the details. You’ll see the completed IRS tax form. Salary information is listed in Part V-A – Current Officers, Directors, Trustees, and Key Employees. That lists the full salaries for the top people.

Answering the Salary Question at Your Job Interview

So, after you’ve done your due diligence and consulted several salary sites, how’s a job hunter supposed to respond to the dreaded salary question? That old rule of thumb, “whoever speaks first, loses” still applies, worldwide.

Job hunters should memorize several answers that will fit the most demanding probes. She said one basic but effective answer to the salary question is, “I would prefer to find out more about the position, the responsibilities and expectations before getting into any salary discussions.” Another is: “I would be more comfortable coming back to you to discuss this after I am able to provide you with a clearer picture of what I can offer.”

If the interviewer becomes insistent, then you could respond with: “I have researched the salaries for this level of position, with the market value of the total compensation package being within X range.”

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