Job search tips and tricks: knowing your worth and negotiating your salary

by Laurent Meyer

It’s time to talk about numbers. The subject can come up at any time, but most likely when it does it’s a sign that you’ve made it far into the interview process. If you haven’t read how we got to this point, go back first to how it all started then continued all the way to here: CV, Cover Letter, LinkedIn, job search strategy, and the interview

Here’s the dilemma: you don’t want to leave money on the table, but you also cannot come up with a number that exceeds the employer’s range for negotiation. You cannot let the salary negotiation kill your chance at a great opportunity.

As always, there’s a catch. Get this into your head: it’s not all about the money. Sure, getting paid is important, but you have to look at the bigger picture. The salary is just a marker; above it is what the company and the job have to offer (the so-called “intangibles”). In today’s job market, employees also care about recognition, flexible hours, remote work possibilities, ping-pong tables, … and employers are trying hard to create an environment to accommodate these new must-haves. The salary negotiation process should shed light on all these perks, and for this reason, you have to get it right.

1. Know your worth on the market

Determining your true worth on the market may seem like something obvious, especially for those with many years of work experience, but it can be hard for younger workers and career changers. In an ideal world, the company would just list the salary on the job ad. Unfortunately, not enough of them do, hence this blog post!

To find salary ranges that correspond to your title and years of experience, there are websites like Indeed and Glassdoor who can help give you a range. I also recommend asking around at Meetups or speaking to recruiters. You’ll soon get a range to give you a basic estimate.
Constructor Academy students get this information for entry-level software developer and data scientist jobs thanks to information collected from 350+ alumni.

salary negotiation salary level

Referring to the second point on this slide, no good employer wants to hire a money-obsessed future colleague. What they will see is that after they have invested considerable resources and time in you, you will be jumping ship for a better offer at the first temptation. 

Salary negotiation is your opportunity to be sincere and show it, because it’s what’s going to get you the job. You know the market rate and can refer to it if necessary, but the most important is that you’re there to contribute. Obviously, you want to learn, but this word has negative connotations. Their fear, again, is the nightmare scenario for the company: you learn, they pay you in the process, you get more skills, and you’re gone. Companies want to select the right people, train them, and have them stay as long as possible. So you have to speak their language, including the magic word: “long-term”. You’d better be sincere about such intentions; otherwise it may work once, but the experience section in your CV, showing incessant job changes, will make you no longer credible.

2. Know the context

You have spent a lot of time researching the company, from the very first moment you prepared the application . Now you are talking to that company about a position with them and the associated salary. Many interviewees  get that discussion wrong because they forget to take the following into consideration:

salary negotiation company profile

They just have one salary range in mind and do not think of adapting it to circumstances. It’s simple math. Different kinds of companies offer different modes of working, different careers, different perks – and different salaries. At one end of the spectrum, startups pay 10-20% less than most companies; at the other end, cash rich companies pay that much more.

Expect differences too for the time you can expect them to get back to you:

salary negotiation timeframe

3. Know the intangible benefits

I highly recommend that you think in terms of actual salary = money that hits your account + intangible benefits. Assessing these intangibles depends on many personal factors such as what stage in your career you’re at, but helps you get realistic view of every situation:

salary negotiation learning

For many of Constructor Academy’s students, learning is the most important intangible, and it has an important impact on how they should negotiate their salaries. One step back, two steps forward. None of this means you should back down and drift far below the market rate. Do not undersell yourself; but do not overlook, the many additional non-monetary positives that you may get as part of the package.

Those further advanced in their careers may naturally find money more important. Lifestyles change and so do roles. It’s less about learning and more about mentoring. The range of intangibles becomes more limited. That’s how careers evolve.

I hope that this series has been of great use for you. As I’ve already stated many times before, our students benefit from such advice on a much greater scale with lots more tips, slides, and graphs. They also get access to my colleagues and me on a real-time basis, something we pride ourselves on here at Constructor Academy. I’m not a self-professed guru, but what you are reading are simply suggestions based on years of experience. Questions/comments? Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn

Interested in reading more about Constructor Academy and tech related topics? Then check out our other blog posts.

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