Professional Resume Writer, Career Writer and Career Coach
What are your salary expectations? Do you know? Establishing a salary that compensates you fairly and keeps you happy at work can feel like taking a shot in the dark. And employers sure don’t make learning budgets easy!
A vital part of your job search is learning how to find the salary range for a job. Without it, you could waste time and effort on roles that don’t meet your needs. Here are a few ways to job search responsibly and ensure you get paid what you’re worth.
What Does Salary Range Mean?
Before posting on a job board, every job function is assigned a salary range- the range of pay employers will pay employees for a job. The range is established by employers and determined by factors like market pay rates of people doing similar work in the region, location, and the experience level needed to do the job well.
For example, an entry-level position might have a pay range of $45,000 to $55,000, while an executive-level role might range from $120,000 to $150,000.
How Does the Salary Range Work?
The salary range has a minimum and maximum pay rate as well as several mid-range opportunities they reserve for promotions, career development, and general pay raises. During the interview process, you can leverage the salary range to estimate your compensation and negotiate for a higher salary if your experience and qualifications warrant it.
Employers leverage a salary range to attract highly qualified candidates (if they advertise it) or reject candidates with higher salary expectations than their budget allows.
As a candidate, you can leverage the salary range to weed out positions below your target range before taking the time to apply and interview. In fact, employers in many states are now required by law to post salary ranges in their job ads — an effort to encourage pay equity and transparency.
What Factors Affect Salary Range?
Reputable companies will invest lots of time and effort into defining a fair salary range for each position. Many employers participate in market surveys to help gather data and market rates or use salary calculators. In addition, they’ll consider factors such as location, experience, and the state of the job market when determining a competitive range.
Here are the common factors that affect the salary range:
- Company budget
- Economic conditions and the state of the job market
- Years of experience required to perform the job successfully
- Managerial or supervisory requirements
- Size of the company
- Geographic location
- Relevant and/or high-demand skills and expertise
- Common pay rates within the industry or market
You should consider the same factors when establishing your own target range: your experience level, special skills, education, location, and common pay rates.
Establish Salary Range in Effective Ways
Asking about a position’s salary range can be awkward — especially without an interview invitation in hand to ease your mind. However, there are ways to get to scoop while remaining professional to the company and fair to yourself.
Research Your Job Position
Pay transparency laws aren’t universal, but it is becoming more common for employers to post a salary range for each role. If one job ad doesn’t advertise it, look for active roles with similar job titles to see what competitive companies are posting. Just make sure to compare apples to apples — a senior sales manager’s budget is often higher than a sales assistant’s.
Ask the Hiring Manager Professionally
If you want to know the answer, just ask. This might feel scary or forward, but you should always feel empowered to take charge of your career. Hiring managers are a great place to start — search for them on LinkedIn or contact the job poster.
Include a Note on Cover Letter About Salary
If you’re taking the time to customize your cover letter for each role, why not also include a note listing your desired salary range? If you have a specific range in mind — and you should! — your note will help you avoid roles with budgets less than your expectations.
With this approach, your letter does two things: explains why you think you deserve compensation based on your skills and experience and separates you from other candidates in the field.
Use Different Salary Tools to Match Competition
Use online salary tools to find market data and compensation estimates. We’ve listed eight of the best tools for salary research below. Going into a job search with this information will help ensure you negotiate for a number appropriate for your skills and experience (and pass on roles offering less than what you’re worth).
For example, LinkedIn’s salary insights feature shows estimated or expected salaries based on data from their members and employer-provided information, which can be a great place to start.
Research the Company Culture
Many salary tools list company trends as well as role-specific information. Search for the company you’re applying to and try to uncover information about previous positions similar to the open one. You can also study their company culture, public financial records, or profit/loss statements to gauge how competitive they might be with their budgets.
Quick Response to Interview
Respond to a recruiter’s interview request with information about your target rate (see our response templates below for help). If the employer didn’t post the salary range in their job ad, it’s perfectly fine to inquire about it before accepting an interview request. Communicate promptly, so someone else with a faster response doesn’t move forward.
Find Out the Salary Range In a Structural Way
We’d encourage you not to invest too much time interviewing for a role without knowing whether the compensation is right for you first. Yes, you absolutely should inquire about the salary range during your initial chats.
The key to inquiring about salary ranges is to remain professional. Tactless or curt responses won’t do much to build a relationship with the recruiter or encourage transparent conversations. In fact, most hiring managers will appreciate your upfront transparency because it helps them move forward with the most interested candidates within their budget (and yours).
Suggested Tools to Find Out Salary Range
Luckily you don’t have to guess what a fair and competitive salary range is for your industry. Countless salary calculators are available to help you earn what you’re worth. Here are eight top salary tools to explore.
- Payscale: Considers your title, years of experience, industry, and more to find your salary range.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics: Backed by the labor department, a comprehensive resource and database with information about regional job outlooks, median salaries, U.S. employment trends, occupation profiles, and demographic information.
- The Salary Project: Helps educate women on compensation based on real salaries from women working in your current (or dream) location, industry, role, and more.
- Glassdoor Know Your Worth: A salary calculator by position, plus a personalized calculator offering a custom or potential estimate based on several qualifying factors.
- Salary.com: Aside from payment data, this tool also compares benefits, average time off, bonus amounts, and cost-of-living calculators.
- Robert Half: Publishes annual salary reports that discuss hiring trends (like remote work) plus projected starting salaries and employment trends for common professions.
- LinkedIn Salary: Gathers insights from its +800 million users to generate regional salary ranges based on title, location, and additional compensation benefits like bonuses and stock options.
- Salary Expert: Pulls data from the Economic Research Institute, which has salary data from more than 1,100 industries and nearly 12,000 jobs.
How to Find Out Salary Range (Examples)
Armed with the tips and tricks for uncovering salary ranges, it might help if we give you some examples of how to ask companies about their budgets. Here are three ways to ask about the salary range.
Listing in Your Cover Letter
Include this verbiage at the end of your cover letter:
With these skills and achievements in mind, I am targeting content manager and community engagement opportunities in the $X to $Y range. If [company’s] budget for the [role] and my compensation expectations are a match, I’d love to chat further about how I can be of value to the team.
I look forward to hearing from you,
Responding to an Interview Request
Wow, what a lovely email to wake up to! Thank you for the opportunity to meet and discuss this role with you. My availability is X, Y, and Z.
Just so we’re on the same page, I’m currently entertaining opportunities in the $X to $Y range and want to ensure I respect the hiring manager’s time (and yours!) by moving forward. Is my desired range match what you’ve budgeted for the role?
Thanks again for the invitation. Looking forward to hearing from you,
Responding to Recruiter Outreach
Thank you for reaching out. I’m very interested in this role and have attached my most recent resume and cover letter for you to pass along. A few things that might help us work together:
- Could you please share the salary range budgeted for this position? I’m currently entertaining opportunities in the $X to $Y range and want to ensure I respect the hiring manager’s time (and yours!) by applying.
- I’m targeting mid-level content marketing and community engagement roles, specifically in technology or healthcare. If you’ve got any leads you feel I’m suited for, let’s chat!
Thank you. I look forward to learning more about this role and (potentially) others,
It’s important to understand how companies calculate salary range so you can plan accordingly. Of course, job titles vary widely, and job ads are notoriously vague. Use these tips and tricks to define a salary range that works for you and target roles that meet your needs. Once you do, you can focus on bringing your best self to the interview. So, go on now — it’s time for you to get paid!