Software Developer Career Tips: Do Your Preliminary Research

Date: 2020-01-13

Time to Read: 3 Minutes



Photo By: Martin Bjork

Let’s hypothetically say that you’ve passed the softer introductory portion of the hiring process, commonly known as the “Phone Screen” though it can take many forms and it can also be technically challenging as well depending on the interviewer or the method. I ignored the technical aspect in the previous post and focused mainly on the softer questions; I’ll turn my attention to the technical aspects in later posts.

But first, if you’re about to enter the gauntlet of interviews that will ultimately determine your offer status, you should do some preliminary research such as.

Your Salary Expectations

This question will sometimes appear at the beginning of the hiring process during the phone screen, but usually it becomes more concrete and real toward the end of the interview process. It’s a tough question and can often feel like a stand-off or somewhat like a faux-car dealership negotiation as both you and the interviewer attempt to avoid disclosing an exact number. The best approach to handling this situation is to come prepared with the following information:

  • The position’s median salary in that specific location.
  • The position’s median salary at that specific company at the specific location.
  • How that salary translates to your current salary at your current location (if you’re moving) via an online cost-of-living calculator.

Based off this, I would create the following three ranges.

  • Take It Immediately (I would start your negotiations in this range if prompted)

    • This would be the range of salaries that would prompt you to take the job immediately.
    • How to determine this?

      • Perhaps it’s the 95th percentile or higher of reported salaries for that position at that company. However, even then, it’s also best to compare it to the estimated “raise” you would be receiving in relationship to your previous job’s salary.
      • To put a number to it as an example: Possibly, if it would be a 50% or greater increase in your salary?
  • Think About It

    • This would be the range that would require further thought depending on your personal situation. This could be the median salary for that position or a little less or even significantly less if it still translates to a decent raise from your previous position. This, of course, is based on the cost-of-living differences if you’re moving.
    • You really want to take the current intangibles into considerations:

      • Flexibility at your current job.
      • Commute times.
      • Benefits.
      • Relocation
  • Reject It Outright

    • This would be the classic “low ball” offer, though the interviewer may not believe it to be such. And it might be in line with their typical compensation packages. However, it simply wouldn’t be worth the drastic change in your life situation (see the previous list of ‘intangibles’).

The above ranges make some obvious assumptions about your life situation. It assumes that you have a current job that you can compare your offer against. If you don’t, your leverage in these negotiations is significantly less but at the same time, you have less to consider when reviewing the offer’s base compensation. Note, I said base compensation, a lot of compensation packages will include stock options and possible bonuses but these are variable (and often require a vestment period to acquire). Also, don’t allow yourself to be lured into an inflated total compensation number by a company including the monetized value of their benefits (vacation days, sick days, health care).

Your concern is the base compensation, primarily. So before you set foot in that final negotiations room; I would recommend estimating a range for each of the above. If you’re in a situation where the interviewer immediately discloses a number, I would still try to negotiate up and then evaluate the final number based on whatever range it falls within accordingly.

Some other helpful information that you might want to know beforehand are certain details about the location itself such as the public school systems and employment opportunities for your children and spouse (if you have any) as well as the possible commute times and recommended neighborhoods to live in. There is also more company specific information such as information about the people you will or may meet or may be involved with in the interview process itself from a professional background perspective (if you share a common experience then you have a talking point that could work in your favor). You may also want to review the information on the company’s career website for any useful information that you may have overlooked when you were quickly searching for open positions to apply to.

Additionally, you may want to review others’ experiences with the interview process including problems that they were asked. You may never share the same experience or be asked the same questions, but having those answers available is helpful in case you are asked similar questions. Some companies include additional resources on their website to help candidates prepare for this next process so utilize it.

Software Developer Career Tips

12 February, 2020
A collection of posts detailing much of the information that I've learned in recent years when considering a significant career move.
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Blake Adams is a writer, software developer, technical consultant, and financial independence enthusiast living in Oxford, MS.

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