Sometimes the vocabulary of job searching all seems to blend together into a confusing jumble. Have you seen the phrasing “competitive salary,” and not been quite sure what it means? Let us help. Competitive salary simply means that the salary they’ll offer will be equal to or more than the industry standard for similar jobs in the same geographical area. That makes it easy to estimate if you do a bit of field research.
It also means this company might be more open to salary negotiations. Or that they keep their salary information confidential to protect their employees; i.e. you’ll find out when you’re hired. It also might mean that the company is trying to weed out candidates who are only in it for the money. You might also see the terms “negotiable salary” or “market rate.” Those terms usually mean the same thing.
It’s Not All in the Numbers
Remember: in places where supply is lower than demand, the going rate, or “competitive salary” will be higher. And also keep in mind that there are other forms of compensation in a package, like benefits. One company might offer a lower salary than another, but more than make up for that in the benefits they are willing to provide.
Determine Your Goals
If you’re looking for a job, the most important things to consider are what you need to support your life. Do your research into the going market rate in your region. Then figure out what the minimum is you’d need to make. Don’t forget to consider things like benefits. What would insurance cost in your state if not subsidized by your employer? How much paid time off would you want in a given year—and how much would that be worth, given the rates? Will this company contribute significantly to a 401k?
Once you know what you need, or want, you’ll reach an appropriate moment to bring this up with your potential employer—usually not before the second interview, or when an offer is made at the latest. One option is to wait and see whether the employer brings it up first and saves you the awkwardness of finding a way to steer the conversation in that direction. Once you find your moment, inquire about the compensation.
Once you have your answer, and it’s not quite enough, realize you might not get what you ask for. But don’t walk away! Use what you’ve learned about the “market rate” to gently and respectfully see if they are willing to negotiate. If you’re the candidate they want, chances are that if they can, they’ll try.
Remember: Don’t sell yourself short if you don’t absolutely have to. Stay strong and get your needs met—that way you won’t resent your employer down the line.