P`s Blog


Salary negotiation tips for Software Engineers

May 14, 2021 • ☕️ 6 min read

This is Part 2 of my post about salary negotiation. This post summarises the 3 mistakes to avoid and tips to ace at your next salary negotiation.

The previous post summarised the following:

  • Why I got paid less at my previous job
  • How to close the gender pay gap in tech
  • Useful resources for tech salaries
  • Knowing what to negotiate

3 mistakes to avoid during salary negotiations

Most of the advice on salary negotiations asks you not to give a number first. But sometimes you are put in a situation where you will have to at least give an initial number. These (link above) articles shared in my previous post have nice examples and scripts on how you can answer better when you are forced to give a number.

Do not specify a salary range

Like anything else, salary negotiation is also an art and gets better with practice. But until you have mastered the art of negotiation or are comfortable in asking for a raise, avoid specifying a range when you are forced to give a number. Example: 50k-55k. When you do this the recruiter often pitches to you with 50k and there is no point in getting 55k. Instead, specify 55k directly which is on the higher end, or specify a little higher from your initial expectations so that when the final negotiations are done you might most likely get a figure that would match your expectations.

Specify a number that corresponds to the higher end of your desired salary range.

When the given position is competitive, then specifying a higher number that does not correspond to the job’s salary range might also easily disqualify you from further interview rounds. So this one needs to be approached tactically and hence the best advice here is not to specify a number and instead wait for the company to give you an offer and then be ready to negotiate.

In my hiring experience, given we have a fixed budget and defined salary pay bands for different levels, I like it when candidates give me an initial number upfront so that I can be honest to them and let them know that what they are asking is within our scope or not. This will save both of us time.

Ask for the salary range from the company

Asking a company’s salary range, for a particular job role that you are interviewing for before you specify your number works too. I have not tried, or none whom I have hired asked me this question, so I don’t know how this works. But if someone were to ask me what is the salary range I am to offer them, then I would be honest about this and let them know what is within the scope of our company. So it’s worth checking from the other side how much are they ready to offer you.

In this twitter thread, I have found 2 job advertisements with transparent salary information.

Do not assume that your employer will notice your hard work and offer a salary raise

This one is a classic example. People who have accepted job offers without negotiating will be able to relate to this. When I accepted my first international job offer I didn’t negotiate and believed that my work would be noticed and I would get a salary that matched my worth. But alas, this did not happen.

Also what happens is that when there are defined pay bands, it is very unlikely that you get a salary raise unless you switch jobs or jump to another level internally. Internal job switching also depends on organizational policies and does not seem easy. When I was frustrated about being underpaid and wanted to fix my pay gap, I did apply and qualify for a job that was in another team at a higher pay band. But the company policy didn’t let me get a pay raise. The irony was that I would have easily qualified for the higher pay if I had applied as an external to the same job post. I left the company and the job to a better place and money where I am now working currently.

Do not prepare at the last minute

Interviews are best performed when you are not under stress. You need to add the salary negotiation as a top priority into your interview preparation checklist to be able to do well.

Tips for negotiating a better salary

Nothing is perfect; no job or a company is. What is most important or the best tip that I can offer you is to make sure you are happy with your job and can maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Have goals and data to back your negotiation offer

For salary negotiations have a clear idea of what you want to do and where you want to get; set a short-term and a long-term goal. Try to see where these goals fit into your next job. Keep a journal of day-to-day achievements which you can then draft into your performance appraisal document to strengthen your demand for your higher salary. This will help both internally as well as when applying for your next job.

If you want to continue within your same organization, make sure to align your goals and understand the hierarchy within your organization, and learn which level you want to get next and how. Align this with the performance review in place and talk to your manager to make sure they help you achieve your goal.

Take it in writing

Whatever your manager or recruiter says, take it in writing. People get replaced all the time so don’t go with mere words or promises not written on paper. This was the lesson I learned the hard way. My recruiter told me that she could not give me the salary I wanted but said that I would have a feedback review cycle in 6 months. This and the myth that my employer would notice my hard work got me carried away. I didn’t have any of this in writing. And for the next 2.5 years, I was still a junior at that company with no salary raise.

There is nothing to lose when you negotiate

If you have been extended an offer then you have nothing to lose when you extend a counteroffer and negotiate to a higher value. Negotiation talks can be uncomfortable, but you can practice getting better at this. If you want more money then this is dependent on how good of a negotiator you are.

Dear reader, if you identify as a person from an underrepresented group in tech and are preparing for an interview, then you can DM me on Twitter to book a free salary negotiation session with me.

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