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In job search, salary information often requires digging a little deeper

-- Talk to people who already hold the job you want. "Don't be a researcher. Be a networker," Rowson said. Connect with them on LinkedIn or through professional associations. Ask for career advice and insights -- including salary ranges.

Keary agreed that people are a great source -- if handled gingerly. "People are interested in the subject" of salaries, she said, though many would rather discuss them in third-person generalities. Ask about a fair salary for someone with 10 years of experience in that field. "Make it clear that you're not prying into their personal business," she said.

You also may want to find out how the organization treats its staff. "You'll hear the horror stories first," she said, including tales of those who went years without a raise. Dig deeper and ask a variety of people about compensation history and practices.

Most jobs have established pay ranges, and government jobs have pay grades that can be found online. Ranges may be broad, especially for management jobs. It's tricky to determine where you would fall within a stated pay range. Among the factors are years of experience, technical prowess and standout abilities. "You've got to be conservative. You can't overestimate your worth" or you may get kicked out of the running, Rowson said.

Many experts suggest you hold off on discussing pay and benefits until late in the hiring process, after a job has been offered or you're at least a finalist.

Candidates may want to have three figures in mind -- or stashed as a note on their mobile phones -- as they begin to discuss pay, said Mary E. Hayward, director of career services for the SIT Graduate Institute in Brattleboro, Vt.

The first number is the market salary for the job you want. The second is your highest expectation of what you could earn. And the third is the lowest pay you would accept.

Try to be collaborative in salary discussions. "Don't accept the first offer," Hayward said, since it's probably a low-ball offer.

Employers will be more likely to negotiate a higher salary or better benefits if you have demonstrated your qualifications and any extras you bring to the position, Hayward said. She recommends developing a list of bargaining points ahead of time. "What this gets down to is you're marketing a product," she said. "And the product is you."

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