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Advice / Job Search / Job Offer

Get the Salary You Deserve: 4 Steps to Figuring Out What You're Really Worth


According to Manpower’s 2015 Talent Shortage Survey, the global rate of employers struggling to fill jobs is at a seven year high, with 38% reporting an inability to staff open roles. This talent shortage translates into a major advantage for job seekers, particularly those in booming industries (like tech).

However, despite having the upper hand in the hiring process, most individuals fail to negotiate the best deal possible—and there’s a reason for that. People rarely know their worth in the marketplace.

So how can you determine your worth? And more importantly, how do you go from knowing it to actually receiving it? Do you play competing offers off one another? Opt for equity over salary? Negotiate more vacation time?

I’ve talked to a lot of candidates and companies over the years, so here are my best tips for securing a job with a compensation package that fairly reflects your skill set and experience in a competitive landscape.

1. Do Your Research

Value in the hiring market is defined by a combination of experience, skills, and market demand—and to get what you deserve, you need to know what price you could put on each of these pieces.

Start with a salary calculator. Choose one that takes into account your position, years of experience, skill set, and location (or desired location). PayScale, LiveCareer, and are three options I like. Also, keep in mind that many professional organizations also publish detailed annual salary guides for specific job verticals, so you can see the going rates for your industry.

If you go in knowing what someone in your role should be making, you’ll know if you’re being low-balled, and you’ll have the facts handy to back up why you should make more.

2. Be Transparent

It’s important to be upfront about your goals during a hiring process. You may have heard the age-old advice not to mention a number until the very end—and definitely not before the company names its price first. But I believe that advice is outdated.

If you’re honest about your salary goal from the get go, you’ll eliminate potentially difficult negotiations and disappointment down the road. Going through an extensive interview process is time-consuming—and takes energy away from applying to other opportunities. So, if a company’s salary limitations are too low for you to make it work, it’s best to find that out before either side has made a major investment of time.

Additionally, transparency extends to sharing where you are in your process with other companies. It may go against everything you were taught, but times have changed and informing companies about other interviews and offers encourages the hiring manager to act quicker and make a more attractive offer. (Hint: Just be sure you phrase it correctly.)

3. Ask the Right Questions

To get the best deal, you need as much information as possible. There are three categories of questions to ask. The first group include questions you’d ask in any role to get a sense of how the company will judge your performance and what additional opportunities exist (such as bonuses and raises).

  • What are the expectations for this role?
  • What is the growth trajectory for this role?
  • What does the benefits package look like?
  • Is this a base-only offer?
  • Will there be a sign-on bonus?
  • How often do performance reviews take place, and will raises be contingent on those reviews?

The second category of questions applies to job seekers in talks with a startup, as you’ll want to explore equity offerings. This alternate form of compensation enables employees to take partial ownership in the company through stock options. Some basic questions to ask your potential employer include:

  • How many options will I be offered and how many shares are currently outstanding?
  • What is the strike price on my options?
  • What’s the preferred price that investors paid in the last round of financing?
  • What is the standard range for equity at the company? Is there a sliding scale?
  • How long do I have to exercise my stock options if I leave the company? Is early exercise available?

The third category consists of questions to ask yourself. You want to get clear on what you need in order to say yes:

  • How long do I plan to be with the company if I accept the offer?
  • How much risk am I willing to take on?
  • What do the company’s exit prospects look like?
  • What kind of equity/salary ratio works for me?

4. Negotiate Like a Pro

You want the job, but the salary isn’t quite where you’d like it to be. If you have multiple offers, consider leveraging one against the other by letting your first choice know that they’re your first choice, but option B came in $20K higher.

If there’s no other offer (or no wiggle room on numbers), but the job meets your other needs and includes room for growth, determine what is most important to you before taking the time to learn what else they can do. Will the company let you work from home? Will the HR department boost your benefits package? Offer a signing bonus or add an extra week of vacation? Explore all options before walking away. (And, because I know negotiation’s hard, here’s an email template for negotating when the salary’s low.)

It’s certainly a daunting task to determine your worth, and even more so to push for it when the company comes to you with a low salary offer. But you are worth it. Considering the amount of time you’ll dedicate to your job, you want to feel like it’s time well spent. Negotiating and confirming your worth to a company is crucial to both parties’ ultimate success.