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The Salary Dilemma

“Sue” was on the administrative ladder and was growing impatient. When she was urged to apply for a position at the next level, she jumped at the opportunity. A month or so later, she was called in for an interview. The institution was growing, and the spirit on the campus was positive. The interview itself went very well, and a few days later she received an offer.

The offer was disappointing. The salary was for about 75 percent of what she was making at her current position. The cost of living in the new location was higher. She was particularly frustrated because when she had inquired about the salary in the interview process, she was told, “Oh, it will be a competitive offer.”

As she thought about it, she became even more frustrated when she factored in that her own salary was a matter of public record: Officials at the interviewing institution should have known how much she made and that their budgeted salary was well below that amount. In the end, she declined the position and decided to wait for another opportunity to come along. The experience left a somewhat bitter taste in the mouths of officials at the hiring institution as well.

As an administrator and frequent search participant, I will admit to scouting salaries for applicants, even for faculty positions when they are a matter of public record. Public institutions in most states publish salaries in searchable databases. At least for administrative positions, private institutions must disclose some salaries on their tax forms. Other salary surveys might also be helpful, including the ones published by The Chronicle.

For applicants, those data sets can provide information about positions at possible employers. For applicants who are looking to move forward administratively and to avoid misunderstandings, this information should be a critical part of the search.

What advice do you have to offer about either locating salary information or using that information to inform a search?

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