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I currently work in a state where my salary is quite comfortable and the Cost of Living Index is quite low. However, if I move to another state, especially anywhere Silicon Valley, I'll need about twice the pay to have the same comfort level.

Are hiring managers respectful and knowledgeable of this situation, or when they hear "I make $40K in the Midwest United States" will they figure I'm worth only $40K everywhere else?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 26 down vote accepted

In my experience, hiring managers are acutely aware of this. When recruiting from out of state, hiring managers and recruiters in an expensive area will be prepared for this topic to come up.

Worth

Essentially, "worth" is defined by the success or failure of their previous recruiting efforts:

  • If a business can get good employees in your field from your area for $40K, then they'd probably still consider your worth to be similar, no matter what you think.
  • If a business has only had success getting employees to move from your area to theirs at a minimum of $60K, then your worth is probably more like that.
  • In the end, the maximum worth is going to be what they can get similar-level employees for in their own area (or else they wouldn't be looking).

Specifically speaking, hiring managers in Silicon Valley know it's expensive to live there and salaries are, on average, higher than many other areas to account for it.

Your responsibility

That being said, the recruiter is not going to just give away money that they don't feel they need to, as with any negotiation.

They will be prepared to have the discussion — if you say you currently make $40K in a cheaper area, they'll be prepared to hear that you need a significant "cost of living increase" — but you must be prepared to ask and hold up your end of the negotation with real numbers.

You should know your relative worth in your area

  • Are you on the low, middle, or high-end of the pay scale?
  • If you are considering a new job, can you justify moving up the ladder in addition to a cost-of-living increase?
  • Some areas pay more (relative to that area's broader average salary) for certain jobs due to demand. Are you in high-demand or low-demand in your area?

You should have a good idea of the relative cost of living of the new area

You can find out relative salary differences by searching for your job title in the Bay Area on glassdoor.com or on a salary comparison tool like indeed.com - Silicon Valley vs. Nebraska (Nebraska is for example of "Midwest").

It's still a negotiation

For your own sake, you should be in the drivers seat of any salary negotiation discussions. You should be aware of the cost-of-living differences, the demand for your position in the new area, and you should be prepared to cite numbers and justify them when asked (and potentially without being asked, to avoid wasting their time or yours).

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Make it painfully clear to any hiring manager that the 40K you make is in a very low cost-of-living area. To really drive the point home possibly mention the rent you pay.

Or better yet, don't mention you're current salary at all; it shouldn't be relevant. The hiring manager should be asking you what target salary you're looking for, and that should be that.

Regardless though, if they're working in Silicon Valley, then they should certainly know that salaries are going to be higher than they are in the Midwest.

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8  
+1 for "don't mention your salary." The first to mention a salary number loses. –  Scott Wilson Apr 10 '12 at 20:07
3  
Absolutely don't mention your current salary. If they ask tell them that's confidential per your employment agreement (which is often true!). Research the cost of living in the area you're moving to, determine what salary range you can accept there, see what you're offered, and negotiate. –  voretaq7 Apr 12 '12 at 22:55

Ideally you aren't revealing your current salary to hiring managers anyway, but if you have to, then furthermore you should probably be seeking to work for companies who aren't going to bust your salary down as a result of where you live, especially if you are intending to move to work on location.

A good employer is not going to lower your salary because of where you come from. They might use your previous salary as a reference frame... and of course you may feel compelled to point out to them what the cost of living index is, etc.

I don't work in the valley, but I have to assume that they realize that the valley is $texas compared to many other places.

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