Are you being paid what you’re worth? That is a question many wonder throughout their working lifetimes. How do you know? It is not a simple calculation, and ultimately there are market forces that help determine this. Thousands of employees and job candidates use online salary guides as a way to try to figure this out. But how accurate are they?
From personal experience, I’ve found these to pick more fights than they solve. Here are three reasons to be wary of relying on these tools too heavily.
- They are guides, not gospel. Too many people choose to use these as an absolute, rather than a reference point. Collecting accurate and up-to-date salary information is not an exact science. Many organizations don’t publicly share their employees’ salary information, and open positions that post ranges can vary greatly or even prove to be disingenuous.
- Every company is unique. So many factors can figure into the salary a company will offer. A candidate’s experience, education, age, personality, and even competition for the job seeker can make a difference. Location, flexibility, travel, expected number of hours worked, and current economic conditions all play a factor. Additionally, corporate vs. non-profit status and the type of benefits offered such as insurance, vacation, retirement, and others can offset what a company may offer in salary. Without taking into account all of these factors, a salary guide’s usefulness is limited.
- Each worker is unique. Illusory superiority, often referred to as the “above average effect,” is a cognitive bias that causes people to overestimate their positive qualities and abilities and to underestimate their negative qualities, relative to others. Because of this, it is hard for a person to be objective about themselves when looking at the ranges in salary guides. However, successful companies correctly assess their workers’ values and pay them accordingly. While most organizations look to prune out below average performers, many will still gladly keep the middle of the road workers in addition to the high performers.
Instead of depending on salary guides, I’d recommend doing your own investigation using personal networking to help you better determine salary expectations. Speaking with experienced recruiters who know your local market and skill set can be invaluable in acquiring real-time hiring trends. Also, meeting with peers in your field to discuss salary information can also be a good strategy for setting proper expectations.