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Job Doc

Rely on data, not desire, to get competitive salary offer

By Elaine Varelas
Globe Correspondent / October 9, 2011

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Q.I am relocating to Boston from a small town out of state. Prospective employers are asking what salary I was making and using that as a basis for what they will offer. This is comparing apples to oranges. I do not see the relevance of what I was making in a small town versus a large metropolitan area. How can I politely ask what they are offering?

A. Salary comparisons set the tone for what an organization might offer.

For many years organizations bought proprietary research relating to salary surveys in a variety of industries. The government provided information comparing the cost of living in various areas. Companies used these tools and others to make competitive offers and provide equal standards of living to relocating employees.

But now job hunters have access to these tools and research through websites like Anticipate questions about salary, prepare for them, and develop answers that work in your favor.

When you are asked about your previous compensation, your answer would include: “At my previous firm, I was making in the high $XXX’s, which was the top of that salary band. My research suggests that this geographic area carries a 25 to 30 percent higher cost of living, with a matching increase in competitive pay for a role with these responsibilities and someone with my level of experience. What is the compensation range you have for this role?’’

This statement needs to be made in one breath, with confidence. You may be asked where you got your research, which you can discuss. By engaging interviewers this way, you’ll learn how they see the role and its value.

The company will also get a clear view of what you see as a competitive offer based in data, and not just desire.

Other sites with salary information include, which offers “inside information about jobs and companies.’’

Make sure to compare Web data with other sources like placement professionals and former employees you may find through LinkedIn.

Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston.