How to Research If Your Salary Expectations Are Realistic

Your Current Salary

After you determined your worth and how you can benefit the company, it’s time to check if your salary expectations for the position are actually realistic and appropriate. You might be aiming too high or too low, so you better do some research before sharing your expectations with the employer.

Google Is Your Friend

It’s important to check the average salary in the industry that you’re applying for. Different industries have different salary levels. I worked in a marketing agency before moving into a pharmaceutical company.

These are two different industries with very different salary levels. If I hadn’t done a bit of research before changing, I would have been quite a bit underpaid if I had relied on my previous salary. So google the average salary for the position in the respective industry.

salary research

Try to find out the average for your industry by using a salary comparison website. Once you found out the average salary, consider also the size of the company. A bigger company might be ready to pay more than a smaller one.

It might also make a difference whether the company is in a city or rural area or there might be salaried differences within the same country depending on location. In Austria for example, salaries are generally higher in the east than in the west, while the opposite is true in Germany for example.

Collective Labor Agreements

Some European countries have collective labor agreements (or collective bargaining agreements) that regulate the average salary for a position within a certain industry. This is the case for example in Finland, Sweden, Germany, Austria, and the UK.

If you’re applying in one of these countries, check which salary the labor agreement suggests for the position you’re applying for. The collective labor agreement might also give you a general indication of how much overpayment you can expect based on your education and the amount of work experience.

Austria went even further and passed a law that every employer needs to mention the bare minimum salary for the position in the job ad. This law was passed to enable women to get a feeling of the minimum salary for the position. As a hiring manager, I noticed however that women don’t really make good use of that information.

minimum salary

My personal experience as a hiring manager is that many women seem to take this as the salary that the company is willing to pay. So when they go into the negotiations, women ask for a maximum of 10% more than the absolute minimum salary for the position – no matter if they have one year of experience or five.

I saw women with 5+ years of relevant work experience just asking for 10% more while I saw men with a maximum of 2 years of relevant work experience asking for 15-20% more. Can you feel the difference between women’s and men’s salaries?

It’s important to know that this is only the minimum required salary for a position. The actual amount that the company is prepared or able to spend can differ wildly from that number.

If a company is looking for someone without work experience, it might be hard to get more than the minimum salary, but if they are looking for someone with several years of experience, they are prepared to pay much more. They actually have to pay more if they are bound to a collective labor agreement. And it’s good to know that there is usually a little room to negotiate on top of that.

Insider Knowledge Is Gold

If you know someone who works or worked in the company you’re applying for, ask them for advice. They will be able to give you a general idea of whether the company pays well for the industry or not.

More importantly, you can also find out a lot of other relevant information for determining your salary expectations:

  • Are there additional benefits, such as private health insurance, company car, subsidized meals at the canteen, pension plan, gym, etc.?
  • Is there only a base salary or also a performance bonus?
  • How is the performance bonus calculated?
  • Does the percentage of the performance bonus tend to be smaller than what the company tells you in the interview?
  • Is the performance bonus only based on your performance or also on the entire company?
  • Is it a company where you can negotiate for a better salary later on, or will your later salary increases be solely based on your starting salary?

Such information is crucial to know before you share your salary expectations. If you don’t know someone who is or was at the company, at least check the company website. In some cases, you might be able to find out more about their remuneration policy.

Ask a Man

man tells about salary

I have the feeling that someone is going to chop off my head for suggesting this, but it can be really eye-opening! It certainly was for me.

I always thought my husband was just telling me I should ask for more because he’s my husband and likes me. But then I asked other men and realized that I’d have asked for 10-15% less than they would! 15% – can you believe that? That’s an incredible difference.

I felt like a complete imposter asking for that salary but I went ahead and did it. I prepared my case, stood my ground and it worked. I got a salary that I wouldn’t even have considered at first.

So be bold and listen to your husbands, boyfriends, and other male friends around you. They might have good tips for your salary negotiations – just like I have in my next post, so stay tuned for the next one.