The Compensation Conversation Part 1 of 3: How To Know Your Worth As A Candidate

With Pay Transparency and Wage Gap conversations happening all around the internet, it seems as though every job seeker in today’s market should be a pro at talking about their worth as an employee.  But the truth is, most candidates are uncomfortable with that compensation conversation. 

CLT Recruiters is passionate about helping candidates cross that hurdle, which is why we’re posting this 3-part series dedicated to helping you make sense of it all.  In part 1, we’ll take some of the mystery out of those salary conversations by looking at the factors that determine value and worth as an employee.  Part 2 will take the topic further, focusing on setting realistic salary expectations for yourself and your future employer (and then, naturally, helping you meet them) and finally, Part 3 is where we’ll get to the real heart of the matter—making sure you’re hunting in the right place for that dream job.

Step 1: Understanding Worth Vs. Value

Let’s face it—understanding our real value is a challenge, and talking about it is even worse.  Even before the NY Times advised us all to tell our co-workers how much money we make, compensation conversations have been making people nervous.  At the core of the issue for many candidates may be the question of, “How do I really know what I’m worth so I don’t leave money on the table or scare them off by asking too much?”

One important step towards solving that challenge is understanding the difference between worth and value.  In his essay Worth vs. Value in Job Negotiations, professional development specialist Michael Matrone does a good job of laying out the issue, pointing out that though the terms are often used interchangeably, they are in reality quite different—particularly as they relate to your job. 

Worth can be defined as the amount of money or total compensation you’d expect to receive for your level of training and experience in one particular job.  Said more simply, worth is the salary range listed alongside the position.  It can be somewhat subjective and vary widely because of factors such as location, company type and current market conditions; but the end result is a dollar figure that can be verified as “reasonable” with some simple research. 

Value is harder to quantify (but should actually be easier for most people to talk about) because it is rooted in what each individual candidate brings to the table in terms of soft skills, hard skills, work experience, education and training— the contribution you as a candidate are going to bring to your new position and the organization as a whole.  It’s the concept behind the term “human capital”, and it’s what makes a good employee profitable to their company.  Your value is what sets you apart as a candidate because it’s unique to you, the asset that only you can bring.  If you want to get paid what you’re worth, talk about your value.

Step 2: Let’s Get Specific: How Much Are You Worth?

If we’re honest, it’s the question that bugs us all.  How much am I worth?  To help “simplify” this challenge the internet has literally thousands of varied opinions, from articles that provide advice from the perspective of hostage negotiations to articles featuring complex mathematical formulas potentially requiring a degree in accounting in order to fully understand.  How do you know which model is the best? 

Higher level math aside, CLT Recruiters believes the real answer is simple and widely available.  Look for tools which are free, easy to use, and regularly updated—and none fit that profile better than the salary calculators published by the large temp placement agencies.  Industry giant Glassdoor features a personalized salary calculator called Know Your Worth, fueled by literally millions of salaries and current job openings.  Big data company PayScale features the Payscale Salary Survey that solves the same challenge from a different angle.  Both feature specifically relevant data on the construction industry and are great places to begin the process of figuring out what a potential hiring company may be willing to pay you. 

Step 3:  Shifting The Conversation From Worth To Value

Once you have a good figure in mind with data to back it up, learning how to have that conversation confidently and successfully relies upon shifting the focus from worth to value.  This part relies upon accurate self-assessment prior to beginning your job search.  Ask yourself some questions—What do you bring to the table?  Does your resume (combined with a rock solid project list) tell the story or does it need a tune-up?  Do you fully understand how your contributions—hard and soft skills combined—have made you stand out in your previous assignments (and can you talk about it)?   Getting ready for that compensation conversation can seem like a daunting task, but partnering with a good recruiter can help you become more confident in your assessment and laser-focused in your hunt for that perfect position.

At CLT Recruiters, we’re passionate about helping you understand and communicate your value—and making sure your value matches up to the industry and position you’re pursuing.  If you want to work with someone who knows this industry and can have a meaningful conversation with you about worth and value, fueled by data drawn from what we’re seeing in the industry today, we invite you to contact us for a free salary review and career consultation. Turning dreams to reality begins with a conversation—contact us today!


Melissa Hindle