Importance of Participating in Surveys

If you were asked to prepare a budget for purchasing widgets, would you feel comfortable relying on a widget catalog that was two or three years old? Probably not. So why would you want to rely on salary data that wasn't current?

Unfortunately, unlike products, obtaining competitive salary data requires obtaining salary surveys. You can't just order a salary catalog. Sometimes the price is just monetary, and sometimes the price also involves time. There is kind of a Catch-22 that goes along with salary surveys - you can't have a survey if you don't have data, and nobody likes to input data because, well, it's another one of those nasty, time-consuming and ill-appreciated jobs!

But it's important to provide data - where it makes sense - in order to get quality results. Of course, the number of surveys out there will far outweigh your capacity, even in the best of times. So how should you evaluate which surveys to participate in? Here are some things you should look for:

.....> How many positions can you match? For "generic" surveys, even 10-20 can be appropriate. For custom surveys, even a few may be helpful.
.....> How is the data collected? If the survey only asks for an average, how is the data being screened, and what statistics are being promised? (Hint: if only averages are collected, medians and percentiles should not be reported. Some surveys collect only averages but report a "median average" - this is very misleading, because it is not the same thing as the median!)
.....>What other companies are in the survey? Are there any that are an appropriate comparison for you, either in terms of industry, geography, size, or other factors?
.....>What input format is required? Are there alternate methods of providing data?
.....> What data breakdowns will be provided?
.....> Who is conducting the survey? Is it an established third-party firm? What specific experience do they have conducting surveys?

If you're still unsure, ask to talk to past participants - they'll undoubtedly be the best resource to determine the quality of the results! Again, be very cautious of compensation surveys that won't list participants, or of on-line "compensation databases" and market pricing services that won't divulge the surveys they use!