You Are the Master of Your Own Salary

How can an employer decide what you’re worth?

It’s a question with both practical and philosophical implications.

I started thinking about the practical side while using‘s Salary Wizard tool. It’s probably the most widely used and relied-upon salary calculator out there. and HotJobs use as their preferred salary info provider. Newspaper websites refer job seekers to, too (and get a bit of compensation for anyone who buys a report through referral, no doubt).

But here’s what I started wondering: Where does get their information? And how as a job seeker, or someone thinking about a career change, can you trust this data to guide your search and inform your salary negotiations?

So I took a peek behind the curtain at their methodology, and I highly recommend you do the same.

And when you get there, you’ll see options to look at the details of Client Data, Corporate Data, and Salary Wizard data. It’s worth the 15-minute investment to read all three. Here’s an excerpt from the Corporate Data info: purchases hundreds of salary surveys each year, and applies the best practices originally developed by the American Compensation Association (now WorldatWork).’s team of Certified Compensation Professionals match jobs by their job description (job title matching and surveys that used job title matching are not used). Data is aged to a common date and outliers are removed. Finally the data may be sliced or adjusted to reflect the conditions prevalent in a particular location, size of employer, and industry. also offers executive compensation data derived from searching and matching corporate proxy filings and from surveys of incentive pay practices.

Now, I’m not about to audit their results, but it looks about as reliable as you can get, especially if you dig deeper into the certification process offered by WorldatWork. And that wraps up the practical side of the employee worth question for this post.

As for the philosophical side of the question, just remember this – it’s up to you, and no one else, to decide what you’re worth to a company.

When you know the value you can deliver to a company, it’s much easier to make the right decision about any position you choose to pursue. Keep that firmly in mind before you start playing with salary wizards, okay?

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