How to Negotiate Salary (and Benefits) with a Tech Recruiter

When looking for a new job in tech, your first point of contact will almost always be a recruiter. At some point, probably during the first call, they’ll want to talk salary. You might be nervous, but here’s how to navigate that conversation.

First, know what you’re worth. Take the time to plug your current title, location, and skillset into the Dice Salary Predictor to discover what you’re worth in the job market.

We also advise checking out Glassdoor and Blind. Both offer crowdsourced fodder that may help you understand how the interview process at a particular company works. We especially like Blind because it’s anonymous, and often full of posted questions about companies and what they offer for certain job titles.

Salary & the First Chat

In addition to “Tell me a bit about yourself” and a review of your work history, the first chat with your recruiter will likely touch on salary. They might end the chat by asking about your availability for follow-up interviews, as well as your current salary.

Never tell a recruiter what you make. Tell them what you want to make. Be reasonable (again, arm yourself with salary knowledge, as described above), but don’t undersell your worth.

We also advise you provide a recruiter with a salary range. Position your desired salary in the middle or lower end of that range. This will come in handy later.

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A Hiccup

Recruiters will sometimes tell you that your desired range is a bit high for their company or client. This may be true, but it might also be a negotiation tactic.

Either way, it’s a way for the recruiter to frame a pending offer. Consider this gamesmanship a good sign; they’re interested, but trying to get you at a bargain.

So how do you seize the opportunity? Ask what their range for the position is. If it’s just outside of your desired spectrum, now is a good time to up-sell your skillset and accomplishments. Remember, you can play the game… and recruiters expect you to.

If their range is wildly off, it’s a good time to politely decline further interviews, or ask if the company has an opening better suited to your experience and skillset. Remember: always relate your desired salary to the skills you posses.

Job Offers & Your Salary

If you’ve navigated the interview process successfully, a recruiter will come back to you with an offer. This is where the proverbial rubber meets the road, and it’s go time.

The best-case scenario is a recruiter offering a salary within the range you asked for. You now have two options: accept, or continue the game.

Even with an acceptable offer, there’s still room to negotiate. Larger companies may have very strict rules regarding your salary, but will likely have some wiggle room. If it’s no better than your existing pay, tell them as much. Explain you’ve got some tenure with your current job, and would need a reason to leave (read: you want me, you’re gonna have to pay).

If the offer is low, tell your recruiter. Keep in mind that these earliest salary negotiations frame your future relationships. A recruiter will discuss you with your potential managers, so remember to keep things civil and respectful at all times.

The worst-case scenario is you get a low offer and the company refuses to negotiate; the dreaded lowball take-it-or-leave-it proposition. Consider how you’re being treated, and what your needs are. Do you want to work at a company that rigidly refuses to negotiate? If so, how long do you think you can tolerate that sort of culture? Such negotiations are often indicative of the company culture.

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Don’t Forget Benefits

Even with a good salary, never forget your benefits. Stock options, time off, remote work – all these factor into your happiness with a job, so don’t overlook them for the sake of money.

If the job offer is less than expected, it may still be worth it if you can work from home full-time or the workload is lighter than your current position. Your office may allow a lot of time for side projects. Also, keep in mind that there could be a really good reason they don’t pay well (again, this is where sites with anonymous crowd-sourced info come in handy).

There’s no formula for the right or wrong job offer; it’s entirely up to you what to accept or decline. If lower-than-expected pay is a fair tradeoff for a lot more paid vacation, we say go for it. If you’d rather earn top dollar and push yourself through the corporate grind every day, that’s fine too. Whatever you choose, take some time during the process and before replying to a job offer to decide what’s right for you.

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