Whether you’re finishing up at a university or graduating from self-taught tinkerer to full-time software engineer, landing your first tech job is an achievement you should be excited about. It’s a huge accomplishment, but don’t go into it starry-eyed. You deserve the job, but you also deserve to be paid appropriately. Here’s what to do before you accept the offer.
Many who want to work in tech jump at the first opportunity, no matter how shoddy the actual job offer may be. The chance to ‘get your foot in the door’ is enticing. We get it. But this is the sort of eagerness that recruiters and companies bank on. You’ll want to temper your enthusiasm.
There’s a fine line between cocky and confident, and you’ll have to learn to walk it in salary negotiations. Being totally green in the industry won’t help your case, and by the time you’re interviewing for a tech job, nobody really cares where you went to school (sorry, new grads).
Here’s how you negotiate a respectable salary for your first tech job.
Before You Do Anything, Stop Talking
It’s real-talk time: you don’t know what you’re worth, or what you’re looking for. So don’t say anything.
At some point, a recruiter or hiring manager will ask for your desired salary range. Your best bet is to play dumb, because – well, you are. Sorry, but it’s true. You don’t really have an idea of what’s normal or acceptable for the role you’ll fill or the work you’ll be doing. So when they ask, simply say: “I’m really open right now, and if we get to the offer stage I’m sure we can work something out that’s fair for both of us.”
You’ve positioned yourself well! Now the recruiter knows you’ll have an idea of what ‘fair’ is, but you’re not some angsty new grad who will want $500,000 per year and a Maserati (but don’t turn that down if it’s offered!).
Know What They’re Going to Say
After your series of interviews, you’ll likely get a feeling the company wants to make you a job offer. Before they say anything, you should know what they’re going to offer.
But how? Research! Here are the sites you’ll want to check before you ever see a job offer (and how to use them):
This site allows you to compare job roles at many major tech companies, and identify the hierarchy at those firms. If the company offering you a job isn’t listed, we suggest finding others in the area which may be; you can use them for comparative data.
While levels.fyi has salary info, Glassdoor is far more comprehensive. Both lean into crowdsourced data, and Glassdoor has much more data to comb through. You can search companies and roles to see exactly what someone in your role says they make. It’s also a good site for learning how current employees feel about a particular company.
The app-based Blind is a newer hit for tech pros, so it can be limited at times. It’s most useful for Silicon Valley tech pros and firms, though you’ll find people grousing about a ton of different companies. Its search function is very good, and allows you to search for your job title, company, and something like ’job offer’ to see what others were pitched. And if you don’t find any data, you can always ask the community what they think is a fair offer.
Consult Your Consultants
Okay, you’ve checked out Levels, Glassdoor, and Blind for the commentary. You’ve done your diligence and poked through the data in the Dice Salary Predictor. You now have a really strong concept of what you should be earning. The company offers you a job, and the salary is actually pretty awesome. You really want to take it.
But you shouldn’t accept immediately. When a great offer lands, tell the recruiter you’ll have to discuss it with people close to you. If you have family and friends you can talk to about the offer, you should. Whenever possible, you should get some outside input on major life decisions such as a new job. People in your periphery likely have points of view you hadn’t considered.
We also suggest taking a look beyond the salary. Did someone on Blind say they were offered stock options? If the office is in a major metro area, is the parking paid for? Do the perks include a gym membership? Money is the driving force for any job, but you shouldn’t settle for just money, especially if other employees enjoy certain perks or benefits not offered as part of your initial package.
And if the offer is less than desirable, you can respond fairly quickly because you’ve done your research. If the offer is made via a phone call, explain you’d like to see it in writing. If you push back, a good recruiter will ask what salary you’re expecting; give them a range, and see what they say. Sometimes they know they’ve low-balled you, and will come back with a higher offer after talking it over internally.
However things play out, give it a day or two to sink in before accepting or rejecting an offer. And if the offer is low, and the company won’t negotiate, don’t feel as though you have to accept it. Experience is a plus, but accepting a poor offer frames you as a person they can walk all over. If you really want the experience, even if you hate the pay, you can mentally plan your exit in a year or two.