Now that more and more states are requiring companies to advertise salary ranges for open roles, you might assume that the range is the range and you can’t negotiate more.
While the new pay transparency laws mean you will have more information about what an employer is willing to pay, the ranges advertised are unlikely to give you an accurate picture of what you may be paid for the actual role you apply for. So unless you do your own research, ask questions and then negotiate, you may be shortchanging yourself.
“I’ve seen people put off negotiating because they think [the advertised pay range] is carved in stone. We haven’t found that to be the case, says Brandon Bramley, founder of The Salary Negotiator, which offers one-on-one consultation for people looking to improve their salary packages and online salary negotiation courses.
Here are three reasons why a published salary range is unlikely to be the whole story:
1. The area may not be the entire area: Some employers only publish ranges between, say, the 25th and 75th percentiles of what they pay for a given position, said Lulu Seikaly, senior attorney and salary transparency expert at Payscale. “Many organizations will not post the full selection. It just has to be a good faith estimate.”
Also, Seikaly added, even if an employer publishes the entire selection for a job, employers are legally allowed to pay more to the right candidate.
“There is always flexibility to offer more than the top of the range,” she said.
2. The published selection can be very broad: It’s not hard to find advertised salary ranges so wide you could drive a truck through them. Consider yawning gaps of $100,000 or more between the minimum and maximum.
Some employers may do so because they use one advertisement to attract applicants to a few roles under the same general function – for example, a software engineer. But each role is suitable for people at different levels of experience (for example, a junior engineer, a mid-level engineer or a senior), Seikaly noted.
Similarly, an employer can publish the same broad selection for each of several jobs with different areas of responsibility.
And sometimes it is not clear what an employer is thinking. Companies are in the trial-and-error stage of compliance since pay transparency laws are fairly new and vary from location to location. The oldest on the books, in Colorado, has only been in place for two years. California and Washington state wage transparency laws went into effect on January 1. And employers in New York City only began announcing wages three months ago, while employers in the rest of New York state don’t have to do so until September.
When a range is ridiculously wide — Seikaly cited a post that included a range of $90,000 to $900,000 — she believes the company is making “a very big branding mistake” because it looks like they’re not offering a good-faith estimate and potential applicants Might as well be on guard. “It’s a big red flag that they don’t value employees,” she said.
3. The range usually reflects only base salary: There is much more to your compensation than your regular paycheck.
The published range for an open role usually only reflects your base salary, not bonuses, equity and annual increases.
And all of those pieces are often negotiable for the candidate a company wants most, even if a hiring manager or recruiter claims they’re not, Bramley said.
Additionally, there are other negotiable parts of compensation that can enhance your pay package, such as tuition reimbursement, a home office stipend, and additional paid time off.
Don’t take advertised sites as gospel. Instead:
Do your own compensation research: Bramley recommends getting salary averages from three salary data aggregators such as Payscale and Comparably.
In this way, you will be able to measure whether the employer’s published selection is within reasonable limits for the role you are applying for.
Get more information about the employer’s published range: If you are considering applying for a job with a wide salary range, ask the recruiter what specific role the employer would like to place you in and what the specific salary range is for that role. Then ask what skills and experience justify them offering a graduate salary at the top of the range.
Some companies may most typically offer to pay candidates in the middle of the range unless the candidate is more junior or senior, said talent hiring manager Rachel Levine.
An employer may choose to pay a candidate above the top of the advertised range if someone brings additional value to the role or an exceptional skill set beyond what current employees in that role have, Levine said.
Avoid sharing your salary expectations too early: Many states and localities prohibit organizations from asking job applicants what they are currently doing. So instead, recruiters will ask you early on what your salary expectations are.
“You get a lot of pressure to share,” Bramley said. The risk is that you will offer a figure below what an employer is actually willing to pay the right candidate, thereby limiting what you can get in the end.
“Flip the script when you’re asked about your salary expectations,” suggested Bramley. “Ask what range they had in mind for the best qualified.” Or, he added, you could say, “To be honest, my expectations might be near the top [of the advertised range]. But it’s hard to say right now because I want to learn more about the company, the role and its compensation structure.”
It pays to ask for more: Once you have an offer in hand, you’ll be in the strongest position to negotiate more because you know they want you, and more often than not, you can secure something extra, Bramley said. But even if you can’t, he’s never seen an offer retracted because someone tried. “The worst part is they say no,” Bramley said.