April 25, 2007 4:00 AM PDT

Take this job, and compare the pay online

Ever wonder how your pay compares with that of people doing the same job across the street, or even across the country?

That information, previously available only through word-of-mouth or expensive surveys of human resources managers supplied to your employer, is now readily available at your fingertips.

Launched five years ago, PayScale is growing fast as more and more curious workers go to the site and provide details on their job, anonymously of course, in exchange for free information on pay and other compensation for people doing comparable work. The database has been doubling every year since 2004 and now contains more than 7 million profiles and gets more than 1.5 million unique visitors a month, according to the Seattle-based company.

PayScale supplies data to job sites including CareerBuilder, Jobster, Simply Hired and human resources firms, as well as more than 3,000 business customers who subscribe. It also includes data on international salaries and represents about 2 percent of the U.S. work force.

"Any recruiter wants you to feel like you are being undervalued where you are, and your own HR department and supervisors want you to be happy, but they're looking to control costs too."
--Louis Griffel, physician

On Wednesday, the company is set to announce a new Syndication Center that will allow Web publishers to embed salary data on their sites, such as tools that indicate market rates by geography for listed jobs, a salary calculator and a job listing calculator. A nursing Web site, for example, could include salary information about different types of jobs in various cities.

"Our original vision was to provide transparency to employees and employers alike," said PayScale founder Joe Giordano. "For the first time, people can get salary data that matches real people just like them."

PayScale helped A.J. Cestero, who works remotely from his home in the Rio Grande Valley in southern Texas, get information he needed to realize that he was underpaid at his former company and to become motivated to look for a higher-paying job. He still telecommutes, but for a company based in New York City instead of Austin, Texas.

"I got a salary increase, about 13 percent, but in terms of responsibilities I took a decrease," Cestero said, now a technical account manager for a maker of enterprise feedback management software. "I was working 14-hour days and was completely responsible for the data that was being brought in and processed...I wouldn't have had the impetus to switch and wouldn't have realized by what percentage I was being undervalued" if not for PayScale.

The same type of information convinced Louis Griffel, a physician working at a big pharmaceutical company in New Jersey, that he should stay put in his job.

"A colleague recently changed jobs and said he got a good raise, and I wanted to see where I stood," Griffel said. "After looking into it more with PayScale, it looked like I was actually doing a little bit better than the mean for someone with my level of job experience and title. Overall it made me comfortable that I was being treated fairly."

Griffel had also consulted Salary.com, another site that provides salary information but which is based on corporate human resource surveys. But he said PayScale was easier to use and appeared to be more accurate because it solicits more information from workers who create job profiles. There is no real incentive for people to lie or exaggerate, he added.

"It's very hard to find unbiased sources of this type of information," Griffel said. "Any recruiter wants you to feel like you are being undervalued where you are, and your own HR department and supervisors want you to be happy, but they're looking to control costs too."

CONTINUED: Will companies pay heed?…
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5 comments

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Useful
I used information on Salary.com to negotiate a significant raise.
Posted by nmcphers (261 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I wonder how much information they have in here
They list DBAs in Sacramento making ~50k a year.

I don't think so.
Posted by optionjay (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Don't forget
Some of those DBAs might be underpaid. In Sacramento I'm sure they know full well that they are and may have contributed their data to deter others from getting shafted.
Posted by ReVeLaTeD (755 comments )
Link Flag
www.salarybase.com
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.salarybase.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.salarybase.com</a> worked like a charm for me - looks like more realistic figures
Posted by shellyle (25 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Inflammatory and misleading
These services suffer from several profound defects:

1) No verification of data.
2) Impossibly broad job categories / no standard rule for job descriptions.
3) (Seemingly) no control to set up standard deviations, so that a couple of overly high or overly low salaries in a group lead to improperly skewed data.

The end result is that in many cases either employees will think they're underpaid or employers will think they're overpaying, or both. And as a bonus, neither will really know if they're right, leading to needlessly disgruntled employees and unrealistic employers, which is good for neither.

The post above mentioned the DBAs in Sacramento being listed at bargain basement wages (thus unfairly biasing employers to pay them less everywhere, but especially in Sacramento)...we've looked at these services when hiring a senior manager and seen ranges from $85k to $600k+(!) for the EXACT same title, years of experience, etc. because somewhere they're being underpaid (or they have the wrong title -- COO of a 5 person company might have the same duties as a sales manager in a 500 person company) and somewhere else they're being overpaid ("Sales Manager" of a 5 person company might also actually be a co-owner).

Don't get me wrong -- all of these services are on the right track in terms of what they're *trying* to do, but the fact that people are relying on them for salary negotiations and/or compensation models is scary.

Look -- I've got a coin jar on my desk for loose change. It's mostly quarters. If the coin jar on your desk is mostly dimes, or is a bigger or smaller jar, or if one of us also throws one dollar bills in as "change" and then we post data about what the relative value of a coin jar is, what happens? Everybody starts thinking that something's amiss with their coin jar, right?
Posted by rlaw68 (21 comments )
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