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Are Websites that Publish Salary Information Reliable?

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Are Websites that Publish Salary Information Reliable?

The topic of compensation comes up on must recruiting calls.  I’ve experienced the “joys” of many awkward compensation discussions.  Compensation discussions leads to defining salary expectations which build to negotiating an offer.  When it comes time to negotiating a real offer, a relatively new variable enters the process: salary reporting websites.

Is salary data posted online reliable?  Who fact checks the information?  Can we trust people to report highly personal information accurately?

I’ve been a contract recruiter for years and have kept track of compensation data from my recruiting efforts.  Hundreds, perhaps thousands of recruiting calls has yielded lots of compensation data.  My curiosity about the accuracy of salary websites kicked in a while ago and and I spot checked my information against their ranges.   The results were entirely inconclusive.  Sometimes my data matched the website’s data perfectly, and other times the reported wages were much higher than my data.  How is this helpful? Well…

My data shows that salary reporting websites are unreliable. My caution to employers and job seekers is to protect yourself from making important decisions based on salary data in the public domain.  Data posted on website’s cannot be proven or disproven conclusively; Therefore, it should be secondary to trustworthy data like a real offer.

I worked with a candidate who received an offer from a company within a new industry.  The offer came in below a range listed on a website for that title, industry, location and experience level.  He rightly felt “insulted” and turned down the opportunity.  Sadly, this candidate made an important life decision based on unreliable information.  This example should serve as a warning.

How do I know if I’m being underpaid?
*You are probably underpaid if you receive a REAL job offer for more money. On average, candidates see a 5% – 10% increase in compensation when they make a job change. If you receive an offer real offer that is higher than your current compensation, then it is likely that you are underpaid.

Some people fudge compensation details on interviews, so it seems a little absurd to me to believe that people would be totally accurate and truthful when they fill out an online form that does not list them by name.

-Dan DeHaan

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