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How to work out what your desired salary should be

8 Jul 2020

Hays’ Nick Deligiannis shares his advice on figuring out what you should be earning based on your skills, qualifications and experience.

As you are probably well aware, one of the main reasons people choose to change jobs is because they want a little more money. Along with increased responsibility, more flexibility, a greater sense of purpose or a more suitable organisational culture, salary is usually a key factor in our decision-making when it comes to changing jobs.

Often, employees feel they’re not being paid fairly in their current role, and therefore decide that the time has come for their combined skills, experience and qualifications to command the higher salary they think they deserve.

In a previous article, I spoke about how it doesn’t pay to inflate your salary too much when speaking to a recruiter or hiring manager during the initial stages of your job search. It’s simply counterproductive to add extra income to your salary, as your elevated figure can then price you out of the market, lead the recruiter or hiring manager to assume you are over-qualified, or make you look dishonest and untrustworthy.

So, as a positive alternative, I suggested that instead of answering the question ‘What’s your current salary?’ with an inflated figure, you should focus your response on what your ‘desired’ salary is. But how can you determine what this figure should be?

Do your research

First of all, a reasonable desired salary is what someone with your combination of skills, experience and qualifications can fairly and realistically hope to earn – this is what you should be aiming for.

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When job searching and discussing salary with a recruiter or employer, it’s essential that the desired salary you share is an accurate and realistic reflection of the market rate for the types of roles you’re interested in.

However, determining what your desired salary should be isn’t always straightforward. To help determine yours, you’ll need to do some research.

1. Refer to salary guides

Your first port of call should be consulting an up-to-date salary guide. Here at Hays, we publish annual salary guides for the majority of the countries in which we operate. These guides are carefully designed and updated annually to give you an insight into typical salaries for your role, specific to location and industry.

2. Speak to a recruitment consultant

A specialist recruiter who focuses on your area of expertise will have an in-depth knowledge of salaries in your industry. As it’s their job to speak to both employers and candidates on a daily basis, they will be able to provide an accurate barometer of what you can hope to earn based on your skills, experience and relevant qualifications.

3. Ask your network

Ask yourself who you already know in a similar role who you also know well enough to ask about current compensation trends. You may find a great deal of advice and experience is only a phone call, friendly chat or LinkedIn private message away.

4. Research salaries on job boards

You can also compare similar roles and salaries by reviewing advertisements on job boards.

Fringe benefits

It’s important to remember that whenever you’re considering a job offer or determining your desired salary, there are a number of other important factors to take into account. For instance, employee benefits, pension contributions, subsidised travel options and other non-financial incentives are all important considerations in an overall package.

In fact, depending on your personal circumstances, it might even be more sensible to forgo some of the headline salary for a better benefits package.

Yes, money is vital, but subsidised food and drink, dental care, wellness programmes or the keys to a company car can add greatly to the value of your total package.

So, when considering an offer and comparing it to your desired salary, estimate the value of the benefits proposed and add these to the base salary. It could be that the figure you desire can be achieved as part of a total compensation package.

It’s also important to remember that the exact details of the benefits you are offered may not be clear during the application process. So, ask your recruitment consultant to clarify the benefits that a prospective employer is offering.

The value of knowing your worth

Ultimately, what we all want from our career is a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work. When we don’t feel that’s what we’re getting, the temptation can be to look elsewhere, especially if we feel we have developed the skills, knowledge and experience to take on a more challenging role.

However, being paid fairly for what you do isn’t only achievable by changing jobs. If you’re otherwise happy with your role, have a discussion with your manager and put forward the case for a pay rise.

Finally, be realistic in your approach at all times, whether that means having a quiet chat with your current manager or finding other resources to assist you.

If you can make good use of the information available to you and remain sensible in your expectations, you are far less likely to overinflate the salary you can realistically command – and more likely to apply for the roles that can actually deliver what you’re worth.

By Nick Deligiannis

Nick Deligiannis is managing director of Hays Australia & New Zealand. A version of this article previously appeared on the Hays Viewpoint blog.

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