When you are asking for a raise, or applying for a new job, it's often helpful to know the typical pay rate for your job function and geographic location. Some employers choose to pay a bit above or below the "going rate", but it's helpful to have a base line. Salary.com has done a nice job branding themselves as a good resources for job seekers, but can you rely on it?
Going in to negotiate with HR using information they distrust is never a good plan, and most of the free salary websites that accept user generated input are not viewed as credible by HR. You see, HR folks trust salary surveys where the input comes from payroll systems, not self-reported salaries. I spend quite a bit of time with HR professionals and am part of a few communities that share information with each other. Yesterday someone posted a question about which online salary surveys they found credible. About 20 people answered, and uniformly they picked Payscale over Salary.com. (Personally, I never look at either site).
My point in writing this post is simple. Know how credible your data is before you negotiate with it.
The reality is that few HR people use online surveys. Most larger organizations simply pay for a professionally administered survey ... there is too much at stake when you get salaries wrong. Unless you have a friend who works in compensation, or you are willing to pay big bucks, you typically will not be able to get your hands on one of the professional surveys.
I am not endorsing any site, or being compensated by anyone to write this blog post.
I understand quite a bit about salary negotiations, but do not consider myself a compensation expert. That's why this post is about negotiating strategy, not compensation.