by Cameron Macht

In a labor force assessment conducted in Central and Southwest Minnesota, respondents were asked their primary consideration for choosing a job. Not surprisingly, the most important factor reported was pay. Other factors were also important, like better benefits (health insurance, life insurance, 401k or retirement plans), better utilization of skills, more job security, or a better working environment.


Despite the importance of pay in choosing a job, job seekers often find money to be a difficult subject to talk about with a prospective employer. Job seekers often struggle when asked to put salary requirements on an application or cover letter, for fear of putting too high or too low a number and being overlooked or underpaid, depending on the employer’s view.


Job seekers can be even more uncomfortable negotiating salary with their potential employers at a job interview, for the same reasons. Ask for too much, and the employer might move on; ask for too little, and the jobseeker might be locked into a lower than market-value wage for the remainder of their career. 


Despite the discomfort of openly talking about salaries, the conversation  will occur at some point during the hiring process. Job seekers can remove some of the tension from the situation by doing some research in advance, focusing on common salary questions. A job seeker may also need to evaluate a benefits plan, if it’s included in a compensation package.  And, of course, be sure to research the typical wages for an occupation prior to the interview.


For new job seekers, it may be important to identify your own salary needs according to your household budget. The Reality Check Tool can help you assess how much you need to earn to support your or your family’s budget. Money may not be the only reason for choosing a job, but it is important.


Want more information on occupational wages? Check out What Does Your Job Pay?, the second article in this series.


Cameron Macht is a labor market analyst for the Central and Southwest Minnesota regions at the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.