Money can’t buy happiness…but it certainly helps. And it comes as no surprise that salary can play a major role in how happy you are at work. In fact, engineers who feel satisfied with their job earn an average of $14K more than engineers who are dissatisfied. This extra money is likely one of the key reasons behind that happiness.
While you know that factors like years of experience, negotiating and job title affect salary, there are some things you might not think about. Below, we talk about some of the surprising factors that do (and don’t) affect tech salaries. Plus, how to get paid more at work. Spoiler alert: Your interview performance matters more than you might think.
What will help you get a higher salary offer?
It’s not just factors outside of your control—like market pay rates, job title and years of experience—that determine your salary. There are lots of factors you can actually control. With that being said, let’s take a look at what else affects tech salaries so you can land a high-paying position.
Showing off your tech skills in your interview
Doing well in the technical skills portion of your interview (e.g., take-home coding challenges, whiteboard interviews, pair programming) doesn’t just mean you have a better chance of landing the job. It can also mean higher compensation.
Based on a study of 494 engineers by interviewing.io, scoring a single point better in your tech interview could be worth $10K+. It can also boost your bonuses, tacking on an additional $10K to bring your total salary increase to $20K per year. In fact, the study found that interviewees with an “amazing” tech skill performance make an average of over 22% more than people who performed “poorly.”
These results don’t necessarily mean that high-performers have better tech skills—it might just mean that they know how to show them off more effectively during an interview.
So what does this mean for you? No matter what your skill or experience level is, make it a point to study algorithms and data structures you haven’t used in a while. Practice solving hands-on coding challenges on like HackerRank and Interview Cake. By brushing up on the tech skills you already have, you’ll be better prepared to show them off—and land a higher salary while you’re at it.
Proving that you’re a good communicator
While it’s true that demonstrating your tech skills is more important than anything else during your interview, being a strong communicator still matters when it comes to salary. According to interviewing.io’s study, engineers who received top marks for communication skills make nearly $11,000 more per year than those who received the lowest marks.
Why is communication one of the keys to unlocking higher compensation? Companies value employees who can work together with a team to accomplish lofty goals, and that requires excellent cross-functional collaboration. In a world where tech workers are often stereotyped as socially awkward, having strong communication skills makes you stand out.
To effectively show off your communication skills, practice explaining your coding solutions out loud prior to the interview. Use a whiteboard at home to write out easily readable solutions and get comfortable walking both technical and non-technical people through your code.
During the interview, make it easy for your interviewers to follow along and don’t be afraid to ask clarifying questions. This will show that you know how to communicate your ideas clearly and that you have what it takes to work with other dev teams, interact with clients and solve problems in a transparent and collaborative way.
The size of the company
Beyond interviewing, another factor that matters when it comes to getting a high salary tech job is the size of the company you’re interviewing at (and its revenue). There’s a simple equation you need to know: More employees + More revenue = More compensation.
Startups and micro-companies with fewer than 20 employees pay their tech workers the least, at $98,450 on average. At large organizations with 10,000+ employees, tech workers can expect to earn an average of $122,575 per year. This means a difference of about $25,000 in your paycheck based on company size alone.
According to a 2018 survey of 3,000+ tech professionals, 63% of tech pros who work for organizations with over $2 billion in annual revenue (think Facebook, Netflix and Spotify) earn more than $100,000 per year. Only 29% of people who work at organizations with less than $50 million in annual revenue (think startups and small businesses) make more than $100,000 per year.
Keep in mind, though, that these salaries don’t take into account things like stock options, bonuses and other benefits. For instance, what startups and smaller companies can’t pay in salary, they might be able to make up for in perks, like extra vacation days or commuter benefits.
What doesn’t affect salary (as much as you might think)
Now that we’ve looked at some of the factors that have a surprisingly big impact on tech salaries, let’s look at some things that may seem like they have an effect, but actually don’t—at least not as much as you might think.
Overconfidence and imposter syndrome
After walking out of your tech interview you might feel on top of the moon because you think you nailed it. Or you might feel deflated because you think you completely failed. Does your perception of how you performed in your interview affect how hard you negotiate your salary offer?
You might guess that being overly confident makes you better at salary negotiations. Similarly, it makes sense to conclude that people suffering from imposter syndrome won’t put in a lot of effort to negotiate because they don’t think they’re worth as much.
To see if this holds true, interviewing.io looked at engineers who rated their own tech interview performance higher than their actual interview score. Surprisingly, they found that overconfident engineers didn’t have significantly different salaries than other engineers in the study. This may mean that how you perceive your tech interview performance (whether you’re overly confident or suffer from imposter syndrome) doesn’t actually matter when it comes to your compensation.
Making money your #1 priority
Salary is not always the most important consideration when choosing a job. But for some people, it’s what they value the most. Does this affect how much a person is willing to fight for a bigger paycheck?
interviewing.io found that 32% of its survey respondents said salary matters the most. However, these money-motivated tech pros don’t actually get paid more than engineers who said salary matters the least.
What this means is that even if money is your main driver, other factors outside your control (e.g., location, job title, years of experience) can make you lose negotiating power—even if you pride yourself on your negotiating chops.
It’s a common misconception that managers always make more many than the people they oversee. But that’s not always the case—at least not in the tech industry. In fact, the wage gap between individual contributors (e.g., software developers, systems admins, DevOps engineers, software architects) and their bosses has narrowed significantly in recent years.
In the United States, the most commonly reported salary band for managers is $100,000 to $125,000. That’s the same salary range as the largest number of individual contributors, meaning that many individual contributor salaries actually match (or even exceed) manager salaries.
Why is this the case? A lot of individual contributors are experts in their field, and some may even have more experience than a manager. Plus, some companies have dual career tracks that allow their employees to level up as either an individual contributor or manager. These employees often get paid equivalent salaries because they both contribute at a high level. It’s possible for a highly skilled senior developer, for example, to make as much as their boss.
When it comes down to it, having management responsibilities does affect salaries (how could it not?), but not as much as you might expect and not every time.
What does this all mean for you?
While you might think some of the strongest salary negotiators are overconfident engineers who value money over everything else, the data shows that these workers don’t have a significantly higher salary than other engineers.
In fact, negotiating your salary may not even have as big of an impact as you might think. Fortunately, there are other ways to get a higher salary offer. By showing off your tech and communication skills during your interview, and taking into consideration factors like company size, you’ll be well on your way to a high salary tech job.