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9 expert-approved secrets to negotiating a higher salary in the tech world

Hack Reactor

By Brittany Anas for Hack Reactor

Software engineers and data scientists are in high demand and, because of this, they have the ability to nab solid six-figure salaries after graduating from a coding bootcamp. But, to reach your fullest salary potential, it helps to go into interviews with a game plan and be equipped with some savvy negotiating skills. 

To help, we asked hiring managers and career experts to share their best tips and tricks for negotiating higher salaries in the tech world. Whether you’re negotiating a salary at an entry-level job or gunning for a raise after developing new skills, here are some strategies that will help you get the paycheck you deserve.

1. Know when you’re in high demand

When you’re interviewing with companies, look for data and information that can give you leverage, suggests Lauren Hasson, founder of DevelopHer, an award-winning platform that helps women in tech get ahead and stand out.

For example, if hiring managers mention they’ve been searching for months to fill the role, or the job listing has been posted for several weeks, that tells you there are not a lot of qualified candidates for the role, Hasson says. “If you then get an offer, this means you have leverage to negotiate a great salary because they don’t have multiple candidates lined up behind you in case you turn them down,” she says. “In other words, you have leverage because they need you to say yes. In data science and software engineering, this frequently happens due to skills shortage and unique skill sets.”

2. Always negotiate

Always negotiate your offer, says Hasson, even if you’re asking for an extra $5,000 right out of the gate. (She offers a salary negotiation course tailored to techies). Keep this in mind: Every negotiation counts and will help you continually leverage bigger salaries, especially as you build your skills and experience. Be prepared for some counter-negotiation and tough questions. “If you’re asking for the right amount, you are guaranteed to get pushback,” she says.

3. Do your research

Levels.fyi/ is a good place to start when seeking information about your salary range, says Reuben Yonatan, the founder and CEO of Get VoIP. “Push for a bit more than you think others are being paid so you have room to negotiate,” he suggests. 

4. Don’t rush to accept the offer

The company or recruiter wants you to accept outright and immediately—but don't do it, Yonatan says. Buy yourself a little time when you’re weighing an offer. Yonatan likes this script: "This offer sounds reasonable. I just need 48 hours to digest all this info and I'll get back to you." If the offer is good then you can accept after some consideration. If you come back and say it's too low, they'll likely already have a counter offer they've prepared in the interim.

5. Offers from other companies give you some negotiating power

If you have offers from other companies, then you stand a better chance of negotiating, Yonatan says. “It is far more cost-effective for the company to keep you on with a raise than it is for them to hire someone new, even at your current salary,” he explains.

6. Don’t show your cards too soon

One of the biggest mistakes is telling a hiring manager your salary expectations too early in the recruitment process, says Brian Dechesare, founder of Breaking Into Wall Street, who has a background in computer science and coaches his clients on how to break into new industries. 

“Though most ask early on, tell the hiring manager you’d like to hear more about the role and expectations before you can give an accurate number,” Dechesare suggests.

7. Know your advantages as a new graduate

Tech is a fast-evolving field, Dechesare points out, so having an up-to-date education can be quite advantageous. Market your recent education, and focus on the hard and soft skills you learned, he suggests.

8. Think beyond your salary

In addition to salary, think about your ideal job parameters, says Mason McSpadden, vice president of WELD Recruiting, a direct-hire recruiting firm that specializes in IT positions. This could include things like remote work, job title, how big of a team you want to manage, retirement plans, paid time off, and more. “These are all ‘forms of currency’ that you must consider when negotiating for a higher salary,” Mason says. Once you identify your parameters, rank them in order of priority so that you can negotiate with your employer.

9. Understand that tech compensation packages are different

Don’t rely too heavily on sites like Payscale, Glassdoor, and Comparably in getting the average compensation for your technical level, cautions David Bitton, the Co-Founder and CMO of DoorLoop, which provides rental property management software. Equity in the company is an important part of tech compensation, and these sites do not include this when they compute the average compensation package. You can rely on AngelList and Triplebyte for a general idea on starting base salaries, but note that compensation is usually lower for startups or companies with no IPO, Bitton says.

For more up-to-date information, you can ask third-party recruiters to inquire about salary ranges. Also, signing bonuses are often common in large tech companies and tend to be highly negotiable, Bitton points out.