Job postings can be a great source of information for anyone in the job market, detailing aspects of the role’s responsibilities, reporting structure, and, if you’re lucky, compensation. Others are a total enigma, providing little to no information on the expected salary range for the position. This is a frustrating position to be in as a job seeker, and trying to make an educated guess based on the position title isn’t always a reliable method. If the listing doesn’t reveal much information on compensation, there are a number of research tools to explore and other details within the job description to provide clues.
First, mine the job posting for as much information as possible. Some companies use job bands or grades, which will provide pretty clear parameters for where the position falls. Even simply identifying what the company’s highest band is and what the lowest band is will give a general idea of organizational compensation—if the highest band is only slightly above what you want to be making and the role isn’t an executive position, you might rethink the suitability of the organization for your career goals.
Recruiters can also provide invaluable information about organizations that typically offer salaries at the top of the industry pay range and which are generally lower payers. Multiple websites, like Glassdoor.com or Salary.com, provide reviews as well as salary information—uploaded by current and former employees—for specific titles and organizations. Titles aren’t always as standard or uniform across organizations, so, depending on the position, finding a directly comparable role on Glassdoor might prove challenging. Do your best to find the closest approximation to what you’re looking for. The most effective approach is to talk to people who currently or previously worked at the organization to get a handle on what the compensation range of the position might look like.
Another option, which should be approached carefully, would be to seek information in conversations with either the hiring manager or Human Resources by talking about what you’re looking for in terms of compensation. Since they can no longer ask what your compensation history is, you might do some probing. You might say, “I’m very excited about what you have told me about this opportunity and I’m looking forward to meeting the organization. I want to make sure we are talking about opportunities at the right level—can you tell me the compensation range for this position?” They may want to hold back and talk about the compensation being negotiable. Many people want to tell people what they were making early on, but this option poses risk to future salary negotiations. The ideal is to make sure you use all other tools available to you before using taking this tactic.
As a general rule, job applicants should not be the one to bring up salary first in early interview conversations. Approach it obliquely. Asking who the position reports to, how many people report to the position, or what level it is considered can give you clues to the compensation. Think about the position’s predecessor, too—how many years were they in the role? If you can find out the person’s name, check out their LinkedIn page for education, years of experience, and previous roles or titles, which can all help provide context for potential compensation.
Paying attention to how you ask the compensation question when interviewing is crucial. Not knowing the compensation range for a position that you think could be a great fit is frustrating, but you ultimately want to show your interest in the role and company—not just your interest in the money. The nature of job hunting inherently involves some risk, as job searchers won’t always have full details on things like culture, the true nature of the role, or even the compensation. Luckily, a little research and strategic questioning can provide answers to your salary questions.