Congratulations. You’re getting ready to negotiate your first job offer. As a developer, you can look forward to varied and interesting projects with a higher-than-average pay compared to other careers. Yet many entry-level developers miss out on some benefits due to a lack of negotiating skills.
There are so many considerations to make when assessing your first offer. Understanding what is negotiable and what isn’t, and planning on how to steer the discussion, can impact your whole career. Here’s what every developer needs to know before accepting their first job offer.
Match Skills to Role
A developer’s job depends on the needs of the organization they’re working with. When mulling over a job offer, first assess whether your skills match the job description.
Some teams will want a developer who can create apps that perform specific tasks on cellphones and other gadgets. Other teams may need a developer to run and maintain network systems. Others still will want a full-stack developer who can run both the back end and front end of software development. Others may need a developer with some persuasion and influencing training to liaise with the business side.
Target your skills to the role you’re applying for to give yourself the best chance of passing the interview. Though each employer is different, there are skills likely to give you an edge and establish you as a strong candidate. Aside from formal qualifications and ability to write functional code, some skills to highlight include:
- Knowledge of the latest computer systems.
- Strong interest and membership in developer forums.
- Ability to learn new technologies fast.
- Ability to communicate complex codes to non-tech colleagues.
- Business and commercial awareness.
- Solid written and verbal communication skills.
- Attention to detail and the patience to probe deeper through complex data.
Research Your Counteroffer
When negotiating your first offer, you don’t want to just ask for a higher salary or more perks. You want to make a strong case for why the employer should increase their perception of your value. Negotiation training can boost your preparedness in creating a counteroffer the company would find difficult to say no to.
Before walking into the interview or salary negotiations, research everything you can about the role and the company. Reach out to your fellow alumni and professional networks. Browse sites such as LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and Payscale. Some information you want to gather includes:
- What’s the standard salary range for the position on offer?
- What are the hiring company’s top challenges?
- Are there any renowned team members with notable reputations in the industry?
- Are your qualifications and training well above their usual hires?
Consider the Full Package
Your compensation package goes beyond salary. Consider flexible hours, paid vacations, and other perks and benefits. In most cases, new graduates may not hold much leverage with salary. Yet they still have opportunities to negotiate factors that could help grow their careers.
For example, a developer can negotiate for the kind of online support they receive in performing their duties. Other possible perks and benefits to consider include:
- The quality of resources to perform their jobs.
- A travel expense account if the job requires travel.
- Flexible work hours and remote working.
Prepare for Objections
When new to negotiating salaries, facing your potential employer can seem intimidating. At such moments, a “no” could mean an end to negotiations and signal a take-it-or-leave-it standoff. Yet, if you prepare for objections, you are likely to transform a “no” to the start of a fresh negotiation.
Prepare well in advance, thinking of how far you’ll be willing to go. For example, say you ask for a higher salary. What if they respond that that’s their standard rate? Plus, they add that they don’t have a budget to accommodate your figure. You can instead negotiate for company-paid training. Ask about access to mentorship from a developer you admire in the organization.
Being new in the job market means you probably don’t have much exposure to negotiating employment contracts. If you have a friend that’s already in the industry, ask them to help you prepare. You can take turns role-playing interviewer and interviewee roles. You may also practice on your own, e.g. in front of a mirror.
In these sessions, practice giving information and asking for information. Get comfortable talking about your achievements and expectations. Practice builds your confidence. The sessions may also reveal any blind spots you can cover before meeting your prospective employers.
Be Ready to Walk Away
It’s easy to get giddy with excitement on receiving your first job offer as a developer. Yet, it’s critical that you consider any red flags that may come up. If the offer doesn’t sit right with you, be ready to decline the job. Some things developers need to watch out for are:
- You’re far too overqualified for the position.
- No company training or career-building opportunities.
- Rushed hiring. If the company is in a rush to fill the position, it may signal there’s high staff turnover.
- Unclear job description. Are they hiding something?
- Poor company culture. What are the company’s vision, systems, norms, and assumptions?
- What’s the company’s approach to trade secrets and the use of open-source software?
Starting a career in software development can spell exciting times. Yet negotiating the job offer may require preparation and some finesse. Match your developer skills to sell you as a strong candidate for the role. Prepare a well-researched counteroffer with a deep assessment of the complete pay package.
With practice, you can build the confidence to reject a poor offer. Practice also makes it easier to anticipate and respond to objections in a way that strengthens your bargaining position.