October 27, 2022

Salary data sucks and that’s ok.


Partner at Hirewell. #3 Ranked Sarcastic Commenter on LinkedIn.

People are not stocks.

Salary data is never accurate. And that’s ok.

I love data. I love making decisions with data. I love using data to win stupid arguments with friends. (And Internet randos, it’s the troll in me.)

But data has shortcomings. Some is bad/biased/corrupt. And some doesn’t tell you what you think it does.

Yesterday a friend asked if we have data for skill set availability by geography and salary ranges by skill set.

Yes on the first (Sourcewell is great.) On that second point…it’s complicated.

Yes, we track our own data (offer amounts by skill set.) And we subscribe to a few of the usual suspects for salary guidance.

But a funny thing happens, regularly: sometimes that data is accurate. Sometimes it is wildly off.

3 reasons for this:

1. Salary data is historic. Backward looking. Not predictive or real time.

Looking at last quarter’s salary averages (what data providers give you) is like looking up stocks, but instead of getting today’s quote, getting an average range of June through September. Absurdly outdated.

Markets move. Real world example: Software engineer salaries (our numbers, based upon offers, all levels combined) were flat from Q4 2021 to Q1 2022.

Then jumped 10% in Q2 2022.

You’re either right on the nose. Or wildly off. Depending on timing.

2. Salary data doesn’t always take meaningful specifics into account.

Ever hire for a position that was slightly outside the norm?

A required piece of niche technology for a dev. A narrow industry focus for a salesperson. Dare I say 100% onsite with lots of remote options now.

Those things blow up aggregate salary data. Every provider will claim their numbers are the accurate, up to date, and relevant. But it’s only as good as how specific they got when they collected it.

And the people doing these surveys know less about these skill sets than you, your recruiter, or anyone you want to hire.

3. People are not commodities. Everyone has different expectations.

Back to the stock example. Every share of Apple trades for the same amount. The ‘ask’ fluctuates constantly, but every share trades the same.

People are not. Every candidate you meet will have a different ask. They do not care what other candidates are ‘trading’ for. And they certainly don’t care what a bunch of people said 3 months ago.

And that brings me to the real point:

????The only accurate salary data is what is being collected right now. In market. On your search.

What are unique people saying they want to do for your unique job? This is the only real actionable data you’ll ever get.

Your takeaways for today:

????Salary data is a useful guide to understand trends and set high level expectations of what you may need to pay. But not what you will have to pay.

Don’t conflate the two.

????A good recruiter’s job to is provide real time data based on conversations they’re having in market.

Right now. On your search. So you can make decisions based on real numbers.

Shameless plug: that’s what we do on every search. If you’re struggling with this, hit me up.

Partner at Hirewell. #3 Ranked Sarcastic Commenter on LinkedIn.

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