Employers love to be vague about the salary they’re prepared to offer for any given position. You’ll often see “Commensurate with Experience” or “Dependent on Experience,” or other similar wordings. Basically, what you're offered will depend on where you came from and what you've worked on.
You may look at such a job posting and count up all your innumerable years of experience and think: gee, I have a ton of experience. I’m going to make bank. But the calculations can be on the fickle side.
Experience ≠ Years Worked
The major takeaway is this: the salary such an employer is prepared to offer you will depend upon a range of factors—including but not limited to your experience. Even if the job description asks for a specific number of years experience in a specific role, if you have more—or more targeted—experience, you might be eligible to make slightly more than an incoming hire or candidate with just the minimum.
Be careful to make sure what you’re calling “experience” is the kind of experience the employer has in mind. You might have five years experience managing a team of employees at a boutique company, but they might be looking for someone who oversaw multiple teams at multiple locations across a much larger company. In that case, your “experience” wouldn’t make for a massive salary bump. Before you go into an interview boasting what you think is an impressive history (and it very well might be!), make sure it will be impressive to your interviewer. In this specific case, he or she has the only opinion that matters.
Your Former Stats Matter
An employer will also take into account your previous salary history, your level of education (and sometimes even the “level” of your institution). They’ll also measure your geographical location and the cost of living there, so two positions in suburban Ohio and New York City, respectively, would be compensated differently.
You're Working Within a Window
Usually, most employers have a salary range in mind. Where you fall on that predetermined range will be decided based on all these factors we just mentioned. So “commensurate with experience” in this case doesn’t mean “sky’s the limit” if you happen to be super experienced. It might, however, mean you’ll make more than the slightly less experienced new hire with your same job description. Or less than the slightly more experienced one.
That said, whenever you see the phrase “commensurate with experience,” or something like it, be prepared to negotiate, at least a little. That salary is not set in stone. You might not have much leverage, but it’s at least a crack in the window for you to give it a try. Make sure to do your homework about the cost of living in your area, what other people at your level seem to be making, what the range of salaries at that company appears to be, etc. And remember to take extra care when detailing your work history in your application—both on your resume and in your cover letter. Figure out your strengths as precisely and as powerfully as you can, knowing they’ll be scrutinized when deciding where you’ll fall on the salary spectrum once you’re hired.
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