14 votes

Salary negotiation for software engineers

13 comments

  1. soks_n_sandals
    Link
    This article has a lot of truth to it if you're interviewing for a company that actually wants to bring you on board. Below is my personal recent hiring story as a Mech. E. at a software company....

    This article has a lot of truth to it if you're interviewing for a company that actually wants to bring you on board. Below is my personal recent hiring story as a Mech. E. at a software company.

    I recently got a job offer where I was offered a salary that was about 90% of what I anticipated. During the interview, they asked for my salary number, so I asked what their typical number was. Since it was lower than what I wanted, I said what range I was anticipating. I was hesitant to counter but my partner made the good point: "It isn't their money. Just ask." We ended the interview and they came back the next day to say couldn't get out of the salary band, so they offered a signing bonus. Combined with relocation, it was more than I anticipated for the first year, and we agreed to revisit the salary in the coming months so that compensation in the future lined up with what I anticipated.

    Further on this, I had to push my start date back and I was nervous about telling HR. I reached out to my manager first, and we talked a few days later. My father, a business owner, told me it would be fine since they wanted me to work there, and as addressed in the article, finding my replacement would take many months. When I spoke with my manager, they were desperate to have me come on ASAP and we negotiated a date that worked. It was fine. Everyone was happy.

    Point is, I built these negotiations up as things that were needy or were putting the company out. That was flat out wrong. A few thousand dollars, or a starting a couple weeks later meant nothing in the grand scheme of things. Everything was fine and both the company and I came out with a good deal.

    13 votes
  2. [3]
    Omnicrola
    Link
    Ok, story time. I have a good friend that I met at my first dev job. We hung out frequently outside work, carpooled almost every day, and I have since officiated his wedding. We both started...

    Ok, story time. I have a good friend that I met at my first dev job. We hung out frequently outside work, carpooled almost every day, and I have since officiated his wedding. We both started looking for our next job at around the same time, and amusingly found this out when we asked the other if we could use them as a reference.
    "Hey would you mind if I use you as a job reference?"
    "Sure that's fine, hey while we're on the topic..."

    So we immediately discovered that we where talking to the same recruiter at the same staffing company, about the same job. Fortunately there where multiple positions, so we weren't competing against each other.

    We told the recruiter we where aware of the other and it was fine, and they where amused/confused when we starting conference calling them together to answer questions and get updates. We ended up carpooling to our interviews, which we had scheduled back to back. Which the interviewer also found very weird.

    Less than an hour after that interview, while we're both still in the car on the way home, the recruiter calls us, so we put them on car speaker. They had called to let us know that the company wanted to make each of us an offer. They then offered to call each of us back and discuss the individual offers and salary.

    My friend and I exchange glances, and we both knew immediately that we wanted to compare salaries to make sure they where fair. Which is not a common thing here in the US btw. Talking about your compensation with coworkers is an unspoken taboo, though it is getting better. However my friend and I had discussed these things before, and agreed that it was idiotic.

    I should also mention that my friend has a BA CS degree (I do not have a college degree), and 3 more years of experience than I do. So when the recruiter told us what our individual offers where, and mine was (and I swear I'm not exaggerating) $20,000/yr higher, our jaws dropped to the floor of the car.

    I immediately pointed out to the recruiter the reasons why this difference in salary didn't make sense, and told them to go back to the company and tell them they needed to alter their offer. Either we should be paid equally, or my friend should be paid more than me.

    The recruiter was dumbstruck. Apparently nobody had ever made such a request, but they agreed to go back and negotiate. An hour later they called back to say the company agreed and where offering us both the same higher salary.

    So ya, that was a fairly unique scenario, where they where clearly very very interested in recruiting us, and I had the context needed to point out the huge discrepancy. But I think this has lessons that are more broadly applicable. Always be aware of what salary is possible, and never be afraid to ask for more.

    9 votes
    1. [2]
      Greg
      Link Parent
      That's a great example of how much employers can benefit from information asymmetry - as soon as the employees get talking, the negotiating position changes completely! Did you ever figure out why...

      That's a great example of how much employers can benefit from information asymmetry - as soon as the employees get talking, the negotiating position changes completely!

      Did you ever figure out why the disparity went in your favour the first time round? Seems like it must have been something fairly subjective, going on what you've said about the difference in qualifications/experience - I'd be interested to know what you think it was.

      5 votes
      1. Omnicrola
        Link Parent
        So we never found out for sure, but we speculated about it many times since. Our current theory is based on the initial recruitment emails. When the recruiting agency was shotgunning emails trying...

        So we never found out for sure, but we speculated about it many times since. Our current theory is based on the initial recruitment emails.

        When the recruiting agency was shotgunning emails trying to get bites, my friend got a slightly different email than I did. Both of them had the job description, played up how it was for one of the major auto manufacturers, big new opportunity, blah blah. However in my email, one of the banners at the top of the email was "earn up to $120k". In my friend's email, there was no mention of any salary. So early in the process when we hadn't started talking with each other yet, we got the standard question of "so what kind of salary are you looking for to move away from your current position?". Naturally, I said "as close to that $120k as you can get me". He said $90k (our existing salaries where both around $75k). So that's pretty much how it played out. His offer was for $90k, mine was for $110k.

        Also worth noting that about a year on the job, we both got a raise since they where really desperate to keep talent. About 6 months after that he got converted from contractor to a full-time employee. However they have a blanket policy that they don't hire developers without 4yr degrees, so they said "pass" when I attempted the same conversion. So I applied to a job that I feel has more meaning, took a 50% pay cut, and am much happier for it (pandemics non-withstanding).

        5 votes
  3. tindall
    Link
    An interesting article mentioned in this week's Soft Skills Engineering on how software engineers fail to negotiate, and how they can do a better job. Talks in interesting ways about the hiring...

    An interesting article mentioned in this week's Soft Skills Engineering on how software engineers fail to negotiate, and how they can do a better job. Talks in interesting ways about the hiring process and the incentives involved.

    5 votes
  4. [7]
    tan
    Link
    I really like the approach this article takes in relating the advice to regular engineers. I think the assumptions he makes about the on-fire labor market might be a little less applicable now due...

    I really like the approach this article takes in relating the advice to regular engineers. I think the assumptions he makes about the on-fire labor market might be a little less applicable now due to *gestures vaguely*, though.

    4 votes
    1. [6]
      stu2b50
      Link Parent
      The tech job market is still on fire. In fact, it seems to be burning hotter. I know people with 3 YoE getting 300k, 400k offers, whereas that would normally be a 5 YoE thing. The company the...

      The tech job market is still on fire. In fact, it seems to be burning hotter. I know people with 3 YoE getting 300k, 400k offers, whereas that would normally be a 5 YoE thing.

      The company the blog's author works for offers their newgrad hires a standard 250k/yr package, for instance.

      4 votes
      1. [2]
        just_a_salmon
        Link Parent
        That’s nuts. Are these offers in extremely high cost of living areas, or candidates with niche skill sets? I’m asking because I’m making ~100k in a mid CoL area with 5YoE :)

        That’s nuts. Are these offers in extremely high cost of living areas, or candidates with niche skill sets?

        I’m asking because I’m making ~100k in a mid CoL area with 5YoE :)

        4 votes
        1. stu2b50
          Link Parent
          Usually HCOL, I mostly know people in the bay or seattle. Although I would note that CoL is a fairly complicated thing to capture (all the online calculators just linearly interpolate). Some...

          Usually HCOL, I mostly know people in the bay or seattle.

          Although I would note that CoL is a fairly complicated thing to capture (all the online calculators just linearly interpolate). Some things scale forever (houses, for instance), other things don't (groceries only cost so much).

          5 votes
      2. [3]
        teaearlgraycold
        Link Parent
        I must be doing something wrong. I make $160k in the bay area with 3 years of job experience.

        I must be doing something wrong. I make $160k in the bay area with 3 years of job experience.

        1 vote
        1. [2]
          snazz
          Link Parent
          Where do you work? How often have you switched jobs? If you're working for FAANG, that's definitely a low salary (considering that new grads can make nearly $190k).

          Where do you work? How often have you switched jobs? If you're working for FAANG, that's definitely a low salary (considering that new grads can make nearly $190k).

          2 votes
          1. teaearlgraycold
            Link Parent
            I work for a startup. Haven’t switched jobs yet.

            I work for a startup. Haven’t switched jobs yet.

  5. bkimmel
    (edited )
    Link
    One thing I remember seeing mentioned in another article of this sort that has been helpful to me us to keep in mind is the "asymmetry of incentives" for both sides. The person you're up against...

    One thing I remember seeing mentioned in another article of this sort that has been helpful to me us to keep in mind is the "asymmetry of incentives" for both sides. The person you're up against gets maybe a steak dinner if they beat you... Maybe. You get 8 or 10 grand. Take the ten K and give the other person an Outback gift certificate if it makes you feel less guilty.

    3 votes