For What It’s Worth: Using Salary Surveys

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In today’s job market, your company wants to attract the people with the talent, skills, and attitudes you need. Naturally, your initial salary offering needs to be high enough to attract and keep potential employees without draining the company budget. But how can you make cutting edge offers that keep your applicants from going to the competition? That’s where salary surveys come in. Every year, many companies and organizations publish salary surveys, a summary report of salary information in an industry. The salary data listed is usually a calculated average for a particular position based on a certain factors, such as location, benefits, etc. For employers (and applicants), salary surveys provide an instant snapshot of the job market. Naturally, when it comes to hiring, salary surveys are a tool no one should be without. Finding Salary Surveys The first step to using a salary survey is finding the best ones for your hiring purposes. Thankfully, these reports are easy to find. Most newspapers often have a career section that gives weekly salary statistics for a handful of jobs. Many magazines and periodicals also distribute an annual special issue on career trends which includes a comprehensive salary survey. In their yearly career guide, for example, U.S. News publishes a salary survey for 300 of the most popular careers. Job search and career advice web sites are also an excellent resource for finding salary surveys. These sites will often post a large selection of career salaries and let you narrow down information based on experience, geographic location and other factors. Most are regularly posted and frequently updated. For specific positions, trade and professional associations often distribute salary surveys to their members. These surveys focus on one to a handful of positions, often showing a low to high range of salaries. Trade and professional magazines are also excellent resources for salary surveys. Some universities, colleges, and their related institutions publish salary surveys of entry level applicants and the state of the job market. The National Association of Colleges and Employers yearly reports hiring and salary trends for recent grads, in addition to printing a salary survey for entry-level jobs. Making the Most of a Salary Survey So once you have a survey, how do you use it? The first thing you should do is compare it to your internal salary surveys, which your company should produce every few years. The comparison insures that your corporation is not overpaying employees or losing valuable people to competing, higher paying companies. It also lets management monitor how the duties and responsibilities of a particular position are evolving with technology and other job trends. Once the contrast is completed, a company can decide if they will adjust current salary levels and make room for new positions. Before you use a survey figure to make an offer, however, you should know that there are many factors used to calculate external surveys. Salaries can be based on an employee’s level of education, skills set, and experience in the field. Benefits, retirement plans, and other perks may also be averaged into salary figures. Other details, such as living in an area with a high cost of living or that attracts people of similar professions, can also significantly affect the outcome of a survey. Using Salary Surveys in a Hire Before interviewing, most applicants are using the results of salary surveys themselves as a research tool before interviewing. It helps them to know their worth on the marketplace before they even receive an employer’s invitation for an interview. The more detailed the survey is, the more an applicant knows which special skills, responsibilities, past achievements and other information they can use to negotiate a higher offer. Like your applicants, you should research salary surveys before negotiating an offer. When researching, compare the results of several different surveys before you interview. That way, you won’t offer a salary that’s too high or low. Also, find out what information a particular survey uses to average its results. Reviewing previous years’ surveys is one way to make the most of your salary survey information. These let you track salary trends for a particular position over time. Most importantly, the salary surveys you use for research should be specific to your needs. If your company division in Salem, Oregon has an entry level developer position open, you should be looking at salary surveys in that area for recent graduates and positions with under three years experience. Salary surveys will continue to be the definitive research and negotiation tool that no hiring team will be without. Making the most of the salary surveys you find and use is the simplest answer to interest potential applicants and keep you ahead of the competition.
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