Although Salt Lake City is among the top cities for tech-job growth, Utah’s wage growth has lagged the rising cost of living. Worse, Utah women earn 71 cents on the dollar compared to men, and some tech pros end up leaving because they can’t seem to get ahead financially.
Local experts say that understanding the nuances of the culture and the priorities of business owners is the key to negotiating a higher salary. “Many local tech pros take the wrong approach or attitude,” explained Larry Stevenson, author, speaker and local career coach. “They aren’t communicating their ROI and they aren’t conveying the right message to owners of first-degree companies that are positioning for a sale or IPO.”
However, with demand for qualified tech professionals beginning to exceed supply across the country, there may never be a better time to make your case for a pay bump. Here are three strategies for negotiating a higher salary or compensation in Salt Lake City.
Communicate Your ROI to the Business
The local economy is dominated by family-owned companies and lean tech startups where the owners are interested in building value for themselves by keeping costs down, explained Blake Warner, a local business owner and former tech recruiter. This is often an agenda that you need to keep in mind.
Since your “extra” salary will probably come directly from the owner’s pocketbook (research shows that nearly 72 percent of Salt Lake City companies are bootstrapped), you need to clearly establish the ROI you intend to deliver well before the negotiation phase. Bring code samples to interviews or proof of repeatable successes, such as the ability to improve software quality or drive user engagement.
Monetize your upcoming contributions and compare the expected benefits with the added salary costs. Focusing on improvements that build value for the company can help establish why you’re worth the extra money.
“Unlike companies in other cities that are willing to pay more for top talent based on market demand, SLC employers don’t like to take chances,” Warner noted.
It’s up to you to show how that risk can be reduced or eliminated by proving what you’re truly worth.
Follow Local Etiquette When Leveraging a Competing Offer
Tech job hunters definitely need to interview with several companies, including large, established firms, in the hopes of leveraging multiple offers. But you need to be very careful about how you present the information to a Salt Lake City hiring manager, or it may backfire. While the area’s economy is changing, Warner describes the business climate as “ultra conservative.”
For example, most owners and founders value loyalty and commitment, so they will summarily reject candidates who come across as self-centered or “only in it for the money.”
And quite frankly, they haven’t needed to engage in bidding wars, because up until recently, the state’s colleges have been able to supply plenty of trained professionals who were more than willing to stay home and work for lower wages.
Don’t play one employer against the other, Stevenson advised. Instead, emphasize your desire to help your first-choice company achieve its goals, then explain that you have been courted by other employers who have indicated that your market value is significantly higher. Then ask the hiring manager for his or her advice. In other words, present evidence, but don’t issue an ultimatum.
“Many [Salt Lake City] business owners are prideful; a bidding war may turn them off,” Warner noted. “As long as your interest seems sincere, simply dropping the name of a major competitor may give you a decisive edge in negotiations.”
Shoot for Vested Stock Options and Guaranteed Performance Bonuses
If the hiring manager still won’t budge on salary, try to negotiate stock options that vest every year, or guaranteed bonuses for meeting certain performance or productivity goals. Or ask for quarterly reviews and salary increases based on meeting milestones or performance goals. Just be sure to get everything in writing and ask for guarantees.