Advice For Researching Your Pay

If there’s something I wish I’d known earlier, it’s about researching your pay. During the dot com bubble, I was laid off like everyone else. I was working at my dream job. I was making great money. Then I got that letter and poof, it was all gone. The job. The team. The money. Oh, my lease ended right around that time, too. So home, also gone. 

Knowing I had nowhere to live, I decided to move to Boston. When I did my searches, there were a lot more social media jobs there. I was sure I would find a job quickly. What I found were a lot of interviews and very low paying jobs. I’m talking half of what I was making in DC. 

After turning down those first few offers, I remember sitting in the living room with my laptop open, refreshing my inbox. Praying that another interview would come in. I needed a job. My funds were running low and I needed healthcare. A few days later, an offer came from an interview I had a few months before. I felt so much relief. Knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t have been so relieved.

An Attempt At Equity: Salary Transparency Laws 

I was 6 weeks into that process and just finding out how much money I would make. Let me be clear – that’s ridiculous. But at the time, I couldn’t say no. I needed work. There I was, 6 months in, still broke but now I was working my ass off. Not all offers are good ones and I took this in a moment of desperation. I also knew I couldn’t quit. I didn’t want to be a job hopper

Salary transparency requirements on job postings are developed with the hope that we can create some equity and transparency from day 1 because let’s face it: no one can take a job without knowing how much money they make. The reality is that what’s happening now isn’t going to do the trick. Some companies make numbers up. The one that really gets me are these ridiculous ranges. Just to be clear, $0 – $200,000 is not a range. 

While these companies are doing whatever they can to be in compliance, they’re also sending a clear message to candidates: we don’t know shit about compensation and you probably won’t be paid fairly. Proof that all the regulation isn’t going to regulate bad behavior. 

Researching Your Pay

It also puts candidates at a disadvantage wondering where they fall in these huge ranges and how to negotiate. That’s why you as a candidate need to know a few things about reading a range and how to research your own pay. 

  1. First of all, remember that a range should be a reasonable amount. If they know what they’re doing, that range typically has less than a $75k gap between the top and bottom. If it’s more than that, these are likely two different jobs marketed as one role and you may want to opt out of applying. 
  2. The recruiter and hiring manager have to be able to distinguish between what skills align with the top of the pay range and what skills every person that gets this job must have. Ask them bluntly: “What skills align with the top of the pay range? What do I need to know to be at the top of this salary range?” 
  3. Research the salaries. That probably seems obvious, but too many companies pick a number from nowhere or base pay on that last employee’s salary (that was also made up). You can research using a few different tools to get a general idea: traditional pay tools like, ask ChatGPT about average pay ranges in your area, or look at job boards to see what salary range others are posting. 

Researching your pay by taking these 3 steps to be more educated on your salary range will help you make more money and negotiate for what you need. Plus, companies can stop paying the best negotiators and start paying the people with the most talent, like you. Be sure to take these steps to assure you get paid the salary you deserve. 

Job Search Advice

Kat Kibben View All →

Kat Kibben [they/them] is a keynote speaker, writing expert, and LGBTQIA+ advocate who teaches hiring teams how to write inclusive job postings that will get the right person to apply faster.

Before founding Three Ears Media, Katrina was a CMO, Technical Copywriter, and Managing Editor for leading companies like Monster,, and Randstad Worldwide. With 15+ years of recruitment marketing and training experience, Katrina knows how to turn talented recruiting teams into talented writers who write for people, not about work.

Today, Katrina is frequently featured as an HR and recruiting expert in publications like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Forbes. They’ve been named to numerous lists, including LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Job Search & Careers. When not speaking, writing, or training, you’ll find Katrina traveling the country in their van or spending some much needed downtime with the dogs that inspired the name Three Ears Media.

1 Comment Leave a comment

  1. As a comp analyst, It’s important to know your industry and also your total comp package. So many people fixate on the salary number alone, not all the other benefits offered including flexibility, remote work, PTO, etc. And different industries pay differently. And if the recruiter says you need to have XYZ to be at the top of the advertised range and you don’t have it – don’t expect a top of the range salary.

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