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U.S. workers have wasted millions of hours applying to jobs with the wrong salary—how to avoid it

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New York City is the latest city to require employers to list salary ranges on their job postings, joining states like Colorado and California, and cities like Cincinnati and Toledo, Ohio, that have passed or enacted similar laws. However, the majority of states do not have such laws, and as the call for pay transparency continues, legions of job seekers are rejecting what they consider to be sub-par offers.

More than half (54%) of job seekers have flat-out declined a job offer after they found out the salary, according to Adzuna, a job search engine, which recently surveyed 2,000 U.S. adults who have looked for a job at least once over the last five years.

Furthermore, Adzuna found that job seekers wasted ample time applying for roles that ended up not meeting their salary goals.

"Our survey showed that over the last five years alone, U.S. workers have wasted over 480 million hours applying for jobs with the wrong salary," says Paul Lewis, chief marketing officer at Adzuna. 

Here's how you can better navigate job postings to meet your needs and advocate for yourself during the interview process.

Do your research

If you're a job seeker vying for a role where the salary range isn't public, Lewis advises that you do your research and find the base pay for the job before talking to the hiring manager. This helps you have a realistic expectation of what your salary could be.

"Learn about the role first so you've got a good understanding of what should be on the table before stepping into that conversation about pay," Lewis explains. "The more information you have, the more knowledge you can carry into a conversation, then you're not going to be blindsided or lead the conversation in the wrong way."

Websites like Glassdoor, Indeed, and Payscale can help you find accurate salary ranges for roles at specific companies or in a certain area. Looking at job listings in areas that have established pay transparency laws can also be helpful during your search.

Have the tough conversations

According to Lewis, conversations about pay can be hard, but they're necessary.

People must ask themselves, "How can we move the conversation to be able to openly discuss salary and change it from a taboo to a norm? And that shouldn't be a difficult conversation," Lewis says. "It should just be two adults having an open discussion about something that matters on both sides."

When approaching the conversation about compensation, BetterUp, a virtual career and leadership coaching platform, suggests candidates keep these 5 things in mind:

  1. Be straightforward
  2. Be ready to counter-offer
  3. Know how much money you want
  4. Ask yourself: Is this the job you want?
  5. Be polite

Filter your job search

Thirteen percent of job seekers waste 10 hours on lengthy interview processes for roles that don't meet their pay expectations, according to Adzuna's report. This number could drastically decrease if applicants filtered their search to better meet their needs.

Job platforms like LinkedIn and Indeed allow you to filter job postings by categories like experience level, company, job type, salary and location. Curating your search can save you a huge amount of time, and help decrease the burnout that comes with combing through postings for a prolonged period.

If you come across a role that doesn't have a salary range stated, Lewis says it may be best to steer clear of it.

"Twenty-eight percent of U.S. job seekers' biggest frustration is not seeing a salary or lack of clarity about salary in a job description. So I'd recommend job seekers focus on opportunities that visibly show the salary. That way job seekers can make sure that a company is not biased and they can ease any mistrust they may have [about the company]."

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