What should I be asking for salary?

Hello all,

I figured I'd poll the crowd and see what I get. I'm curious about those of us who work in the software industry. How do you come up with a figure to ask for when looking for a job? How do you negotiate getting a higher salary than what they offer? Do you research salary sites? Do you find those sites to be reliable? Is it natural to ask for more money when moving to a job from another company? What are you thoughts?

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First off, don't be the first to name a number if at all possible. If asked for your requirements up front, the answer is "I'd prefer to negotiate salary after we've mutually decided I'm the best fit for the position".

Websites are useful to determine whether you're being lowballed; I like glassdoor. See what the title you're interviewing for pays in your area (or generally, if remote). Treat the figures you get from them more as a guideline than an infallible rule -- if you're offered slightly lower salary it may not be because they're trying to screw you over, but having the approximate figure to hand is excellent negotiating leverage.

Switching jobs is a time-honored way to get a raise, especially if you're at a company that isn't good about doling them out. Some especially brave or mercenary souls play "salary chicken" where they interview, get an offer for a higher rate, and hand it to their boss to give them a chance to meet it. Bluffs do get called sometimes though, so if you try this do be prepared to jump for real.

Hi Dian. I have a question regarding,

don't be the first to name a number if at all possible

What if an interviewee didn't give the number
and the interviewer suggests a low amount.

How should one turn it around for a higher salary?

There are many ways to negotiate away from an initial low ball offer.

One of the things I like to do - and note that I this is not job offer experience but sales experience - is to let them know that it's "mildy surprisingly" via body language, and act hesitant to mention it, but say that it seems lower than you expected. Then the most important part... pause.

Give them a curious but expectant body signal. Wait to see if they will offer a step up.

Wait until they feel compelled to fill the silence. Most of the time in negotiation, the first offer is thrown out there to see if they can get away with it. The second offer is probably a better gauge of what they want to get you for. The difference between the two tells you how much of a range they have. In most cases, you can take that difference, and get an extra 20-30% of that difference more, if you can prove you're worth it.

But this is a long shot tactic translated from negotiations in sales, not hiring. As always, you risk coming across wrong, given the nature of the setting. In sales, you are seldom being evaluated as a person, you can focus on the product. In an interview, you ARE the product and you have to be careful. There are many ways it can go wrong.

Certainly NOT a guarantee.

I would say if you want to try this, practice the pausing in other areas of life first. Train yourself to be more comfortable with long pauses than those around you. Try to listen more than you talk and watch to see when people start to get uncomfortable. Learn the body signals that tell you if they're going to end the conversation or dig deeper.

Make sure you know what the going rate in the area is and what you're worth first. You should always have a target price, but never be the first to name it. But it's better to be the first to name a price than to end an interview on a bad note. If they're more patient than you, it may be that you'll have to do that. Make sure your request is reasonable, and preface it with the reasons you think you're worth it.

The phases of an interview are similar to sales. The first step is qualification, understanding the needs of the customer, the employer. Once you know their needs, you need to make sure that you can meet those needs, then explain to them how you can and have in the past. Don't get too detailed, but don't avoid specifics, as long as they're short and relevant.

If they don't bring up the topic of salary, I don't either. But make sure you do get a way to contact them if you think of any other questions afterward. This also works as a way to negotiate for salary of HR lowballs you. HR will hide behind people with no authority til the cows come home, but if you can go back directly to the hiring manager and tell them you'd really love to work there, and wondered if they might help you work with HR to find a way to make it work, you might find a way to fight past the HR wall. HR will try to act like a formula determined your offer, and that might be true, but the manager can often make an exception or place more value on a good fit.

But again, YMMV.

& if you aren't especially comfortable staring the hiring manager down in realtime, "I'll have to think about it" is a perfectly legitimate thing to say. Signing on with a new company is a pretty major thing to have happen, so it only makes sense to consider an offer carefully. You can always call or email them back to accept, it doesn't have to happen immediately.

Delaying a response also gives you time to organize your thoughts. Lowballs are a way of gambling on your expectations and your composure, and since the necessity of employment to survival makes the conversation decidedly unequal from the word go, it's important to keep what advantages you can. They don't know the status of your job search unless you tell them (some will ask; only tell them if you stand to gain from it. You can make friends later, but negotiation is an information game), so time you're sitting on an offer is time you might be getting other offers.

In general, keep in mind that the offer stage is the one where the balance of power between you and the company is most in your favor.

This is an uncertain science. There are a few things to consider:

  • is it simply on the low side of average, or is it insultingly low? This is where sites like Glassdoor etc come in handy: you know how much that title commands in the area (or near the employer/in Silicon Valley if remote) and can react accordingly.
  • how much leverage do you have? If it's a senior position or if you have a particularly specialized and relevant skillset, you have a lot more ability to write your own ticket. If you don't have experience or a portfolio to showcase, don't expect to move mountains.
  • are you excited enough about the role, the company, or the industry & your future career prospects in it to be willing to work at a below-market rate? If the initial offer is really low, negotiation could bring it up to par, but if you negotiate you need to accept that you may not be able to squeeze the entire difference out of them.

There have been entire books written about salary negotiation; more than that, there's a whole industry churning those same books out. What I've found works well is a combination of assertiveness and empathy (if the position's been open for any length of time, the people doing the interviewing are just as sick of the process as you are!). In my job hunt earlier this year, I went into compensation discussions knowing what my skills and experience are worth, and actually turned down my current employer's first offer -- with the understanding that it was strictly about the numbers in play, and that otherwise I'd be excited to work with them. Suffice to say, things have turned out alright :)

The number I'm pretty sure isn't valid advice. Anchoring effects can be effective when used properly. So I always give the first number and I pad it by 20-30% of what I think the market rate is.

Anchoring is abusable only if the other party is coming to the discussion without a number in mind already. That's why planning poker works: everyone's starting from the same position, has heard the same things about what they're "bidding" on, and is only bringing their own inclinations and ideas about a still-fairly-abstract quantity to the table. If someone were to bid first, their assessment would naturally affect subsequent bids.

That doesn't describe salary negotiation in the slightest. The hiring manager knows what their budget looks like; they have a number already and their hope is that you'll come in well under it. Anchoring effects are irrelevant. Make them tip their hand.

Where did you hear the budget is fixed?

I didn't say it is. I said the hiring manager knows what they want to offer you ahead of time. By asking you for a number without divulging what theirs is, they're hoping you'll save them a little or a lot by naming something lower. If you pad it sufficiently, the odds you're leaving money on the table drop (although they're never zero), but you're still surrendering a possible advantage by giving your number first. Like I said elsewhere, it's an information game.

Woh, lots of question in thereGeorge; but here opinions:

Q) How do you come up with a figure to ask for when looking for a job?

A) It takes current + 10% before I even talk to a anyone about a new position. From that point I check the roles average salary for my area then increase if I am well experiences or decrease if not so experiences in the stated role.

Q) How do you negotiate getting a higher salary than what they offer?

A) Justify it. What will you bring that no one else can? Will you be able to increase the business value of the organization? Do you have any secondary skill sets that can contribute? However, do no go the route of 'Im a rockstar programmer, I can do 10x the work of anyone else'. That is a lie to yourself and the organizations. It will end in frustration. Leverage who you are and what unique advantages you bring.

Q) Do you research salary sites?

A) Constantly.

Q) Do you find those sites to be reliable?

A) Generally, especially sites where the data is reported by current / prior employees. It might be slightly dated but it you can glen if the organization tries to stay on the going rate or low-ball it's employees

Q) Is it natural to ask for more money when moving to a job from another company? What are you thoughts?

A) 10% is my base increase before even scheduling the first round of negotiations. Often times I will position for 25% and let them talk me down to between 12% and 17%. This works well when applying the 'I can bring X value to your organization. I also have experience Y and Z that pair well with the position to be filled.'

Hope this help George, good luck out there.

It takes current + 10% before I even talk to a anyone about a new position.

I'd take current minus a percentage for a job I really liked, provided it was enough for me to live on. It's not all about the monies.

I found this post on negotiating job offers pretty enlightening.

As far as checking market value, I like the Stack Overflow Salary Calculator and then sanity-check it with other sites like glass door.

One of the points that the first link makes is that not all compensation is about money, and sometimes you have to focus on other aspects that are important to you. For example, in a bootstrapped (as opposed to VC) startup there probably is not much money to be had and devs are huge overhead. (In that, it might take a while to launch the product and realize value from devs.) They may not be able to pay market value, but they might have a product you believe in, might let you work from home full time, pick your dev tools, bring your pet to work, etc. But in an established enterprise environment, you might get paid pretty close to market, but you probably won't get those other benefits and you must use X Y Z W and Q tools. Every time. Even when it doesn't make sense. You also will probably have to chase non-sense metrics to give executives the false sense of security they crave or another data point to justify what they were going to do anyway.

Point is, salary may be the most important point, but it is not the only aspect of compensation to think about. Compare it to what you believe is market value and weight the total compensation vs the job environment.

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I know where I kind of am. However as I've only been doing this professionally for a little while. I'm curious what others who have been at this a lot longer think. For me, I have a set number that I need to start with to be able to pay all my bills and stay above my debt. From there I just try to take into account the job and the company. I'd imagine larger companies can hire at higher rates than smaller ones. I do a bit of research on indeed and salary.com to see what the averages. However I am a little skeptical about the accuracy of those sites.

Ask your co-workers in similar roles what they make. Or, reach out to people you trust at other companies. I won't post what I make here, as that could limit the range of future negotiations, but I'd be happy to tell you what I make in a private conversation on email or Twitter.

For software developers in Utah, USA, starting salary is $40k-$60k, growing toward $80k-$100k within 5 years and usually peaking at $120k-$140k a few years later. It's always changing, though, and certain skill sets or backgrounds can command a higher salary.

For my first real software gig I ask for what I thought was on the high end for someone with no real job experience. I felt like being on the high end was beneficial for me but also my likelihood to get the job. I feel like it demonstrated quality through price. I asked for $60k and they gave me the job.

Less than two years later I interviewed for another job and was offered 120k plus like 30k signing bonus. I didn't wind up taking the job (and still don't make that much because entrepreneur) but that was good validation.

No long time ago I was looking for a new job, and an interviewer asked about how much I was asking for. I tried to avoid it as much as possible, but at the end the person said to me: just ask for a number that makes you feel comfortable.

And I did. I have to say that I was rejected by that one, but I did find some other willing to pay for my time the amount that I feel comfortable with.

I applied for a job that had a salary listed and ended up getting and getting the requested amount on my first offer. I didn't request much more than what they had listed(but I listed my price just to see if they would wiggle some). Sure enough I get my offer sheet and ended up getting the offer I wanted. Others have touched on some very important facts. It never hurts to negotiate, I have interviewed for other jobs and they say no to my offer and offer me somewhere in the middle of what I asked and what they offered.

From the experiences of a couple friends of mine, sleeping on it has gotten the company to raise the offer.

Another thought on how to approach it comes from Stephanie Hurlburt's tweets:

I look at glassdoor, my current salary, and then do some extrapolation based on what the job titles were on glassdoor.

Why not ask for $150,000? Shoot high for where you are and see if they will offer. The worst anyone can tell you is "no".

the problem with shooting too high but still wanting to take the job is that sometimes the hiring manager says no and you can't negotiate less because they've already offered a job to someone else in the meantime, unless you're their best candidate (but you don't know that)

The difficulty is finding the sweet spot between asking more and appearing just plain greedy.

It's a valid strategy if you, as a candidate, have nothing to lose, it might not work for every situation.

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