Knowing your worth: How to set your $alary expectations


Planned Resources recruit across the niche markets of planning, engineering, architecture and design, property, and government support. We operate​ across private and public sectors in Melbourne, Victoria, and Australia. Here, our Senior Engineering Consultant Alan Pratt, gives some tips on how to set your salary expectations.

As a recruiter one of the questions I get asked most is, “What’s the going rate (benchmark salary) for my job?” Believe it or not many recruiters, both agency and internal, ask themselves and their peers the same question.

From my perspective there’s a number of ways to answer this question for all professions, especially as we live in an ever changing and evolving world of macro and micro factors such as industry trends, performance, demand for services, economics, and more recently the cost of living and inflation. I think it’s fair to say there will never be a black and white rule for setting your salary expectation.

In my view, simply looking at one of the many online salary surveys for your chosen profession and plonking yourself in the medium to upper quartile of the salary is a flawed way to set your expectations. But there are 4 questions you can ask yourself at least on a private level, to help set some real expectations.

Consider where you rank for each question below – be honest with yourself – and take a note of the points assigned.

For each of the following questions, is your answer in the:

Lower range: 1 point

Medium range: 2 points

High range: 3 points

Q1: How do I rate my performance against colleagues who do the same job and those who work for competitors?

Q2: How do I rate my future energy levels? For example, how energetic do you feel about hitting goals, delivering good quality work, and meeting deadlines? To compete strongly against your competitors?

Q3: How do I rate my ability to keep improving and adapting to the demands of my role against competitors?

Q4: How do I rate the current demand, sustainability, and profitability for the role that I do?

 Use your score as a base to help guide your expectations:

  • If you score 9 – 12 points: you should aim to earn towards the top end of the salary for your profession and level.
  • If you score 6 – 8  points: aim towards the medium range of salary for your profession and level.
  • If you score 4 – 5 points: aim to earn towards the lower range of salary for your profession.

And remember, your score on any question will fluctuate significantly over time, so nothing here is permanent and can be improved.

Good luck

Keep these questions in mind the next time you’re considering your benchmark salary. By being aware of what you can reasonably ask for, you’ll be prepared and confident to negotiate a fair salary – and good luck at your next salary review or negotiation!


Written by: Alan Pratt, Senior Consultant

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