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Andy Brice
Successful Software

Doug Nebeker ("Doug")

Jonathan Matthews
Creator of DeepTrawl, CloudTrawl, and LeapDoc

Nicholas Hebb
BreezeTree Software

Bob Walsh
host, Startup Success Podcast author of The Web Startup Success Guide and Micro-ISV: From Vision To Reality

Patrick McKenzie
Bingo Card Creator

How to state a salary range

I have never placed a classified job ad or run one at monster.com for an engineer. I don't hire that way at all. For the people in the office, I have always recruited by word of mouth. Move to an area and there are plenty of people that want you to interview them or their friend. And that's fine for jobs where you can take anyone who is literate, pleasant and moderately bright, just the sort of people you need for customer service. Or honest fastidious people for cleaning.

Qualified engineers with capabilities to excel in specialist domains are much more rare though and are not likely to be found idling about in some random neighborhood, unless you're in the Bay Area.

That's not a problem though since qualified engineers make themselves known.

This is why we _recruit_ them, as opposed to calling up ManPower for temps, or running a classified ad.

I found the guy that runs our web development team a long time ago when he was in school. He lived in eastern europe at the time. I've always paid him well, and he does a good job in that I simply don't have to think about it. He comes up with his own ideas and implements them. He has some other people working for him doing graphic design as needed. I transfer money to him, there are no taxes or labor regulations involved since he is overseas and independent. He is no longer in eastern europe. As far as I know he spends 6 out of 7 days now on a beach in south east asia, and a one or two days working for me. Maybe he has other clients now, I don't care. I now pay him $110,000 for this.

It took me a long time and was much harder to find someone able to do the real time math stuff for our video software. I have always handled it. My first hire was poached from Adobe when ADobe had a bunch of lay offs. I paid him $350k and it was worth it. When I moved out of the US he wanted to move on and he didn't want to work remotely or relocate, so that relationship ended amicably.

People are getting better at hacking and math it seems these days as I now have three developers working the engine and doing plugin development. All are experienced and enthusiastic, but not as good as the Adobe guy. Pay ranges from $200,000 to $280,000.

The customer service people make between $15,000 and $25,000 which is a very good salary for people here. The janitor makes $10,000, also good for him.

If I approach you requesting an interview, I probably know in advance whether I would hire you. The real question is whether you want to move to another country, or leave your job. That's a tough decision. Stating the salary you're likely to get should you receive that offer is simply not a problem. Why should it be? It is no secret, and making it a secret is counterproductive and part of the infantile power games that poorly run companies like to play to assert power.
Scott Send private email
Sunday, July 21, 2013
Scott, do me one favour on your deathbed: post a link to your business on BoS.

The curiosity is killing me and I'm not even a cat.
Bring back anon Send private email
Sunday, July 21, 2013
OK, I will leave directions in my will.

But on this topic, the near unanimous call for salary ranges to be some sort of huge secret, and the dishonest tactics of trying to spin that into claims that what is being asked for is pre-interview guarantees of employment and offer, is crazy and a case of mass hysteria or hypnosis or blindness. It's like a religious belief.

"I've a fan of your work, if you ever are looking for a change, please contact me and let's do an interview."

"Before traveling overseas for an interview, can you tell me what's the pay like? I am currently making $160k."

"You'll be happy, if you're a good match, you would start well above that level. Also, the cost of living here is fairly low so you'll be able to afford a pretty nice estate, and a full time household staff."
Scott Send private email
Sunday, July 21, 2013
Also, if we can "cut through the shit" for a moment, it's completely obvious that all the people who are screaming opposition to openness about something basic like this are doing so because their company pays below market rate and is unable to compete for talent. They are losers, so they push this idea that it's unreasonable and unprofessional to ask for the range, which is just total bullshit and they know it.

There is no shortage of talent. The only people claiming that either don't know how to evaluate talent when they see it, and/or they pay below market rate, and/or their company has a reputation of being a lousy place to work. Amazon for example is all 3 of these.
Scott Send private email
Sunday, July 21, 2013
"There is no shortage of talent"
I agree, but most good employees are reluctant to change jobs, so there is no such thing as a liquid talent market.  Good employers will work harder to keep and develop the talent they already have on staff.  However, over time you will lose talent, even if you are a good employer, because life circumstances change enough to force job changes.  So, you either seduce other companies' talent to get them on your team, or you try to find a needle of talent in a haystack of job seekers. 

Seducing strangers is pretty risky business.  Stranger or old flame, I expect my seduction target to evaluate my financial attractiveness in more subtle ways than asking upfront how much I'm willing to pay.  When I'm winnowing out job applicants, anyone who can't be bothered to research what my employees and customers think of me, and won't go any further without seeing my money, is wasting my time AND is so likely to be a poor hiring choice that I would be nuts to consider that person as an employee.
Howard Ness Send private email
Sunday, July 21, 2013
If I may offer up my own perspective as a software engineer and occasional job seeker:

Employers always want to know your previous salary either as part of your application or (more often) during their initial phone screen.  These days, I'm paid above market (actually, looking back, the only exception was probably my very first programming job), so I don't mind giving it as most recruiters balk (especially ones calling from bay-area companies, which I find strange given the higher COL in that area), which is fine as it prevents me from having any more of my time wasted. 

However, I've never encountered an employer that would be up-front with me on salary (and any salary numbers listed in job ads tend to be bogus anyway).  If I ask for a number, the result is usually a polite-sounding non-answer followed by an awkward back-and-forth that ends with me stating "Look, I make $X right now."  About half the time, that ends the conversation :)

Now, it's happened once or twice, that I arrived at what I thought was an understanding with a potential employer on salary only to get to the end of an arduous, drawn-out interview process (usually involving travel) and be offered substantially less than what had been discussed during our first few conversations.  I don't know if that's some kind of tactic -- make the person feel invested in the process by dragging things out, then offer a low salary, and maybe it works on some people.  Not I...

All that said... if someone contacted me out of the blue promising the kind of salary that Scott apparently pays (or if I saw such a salary in a job listing), I'd be *very* skeptical, to the point I might just dismiss it out of hand as a scam attempt, or perhaps assume you have a workplace that's so utterly horrible that you have to throw money at people to get them to work there.  That's not just above market... that's *well* above market.  I'd suspect it may be better to divulge that number after you've had a conversation or two with the person -- sell them on how cool/interesting/challenging the work itself is first (and gauge their interest), while assuring them that salary won't be an issue (especially if they tell you their current salary).  Though, some people (especially if they're jaded) you might have to tell early on to keep them interested.  Maybe I wouldn't advertise the salary range -- other than to say "excellent pay" or something similar, if you must.
James A. Send private email
Monday, July 22, 2013
I assume you had no problem with the support staff, site webmaster, and janitorial salaries. You only have a problem with the math coding right?

It's actually not above market for what I am hiring for at all, which is extremely specialized capabilities in math, low latency real time programming, and highly efficient code including being able to write in assembly, target vector processors, DSP coprocessor boards, and low level graphics board programming.

Consider the salaries of quants on Wall Street. $500,000 annual bonuses are not uncommon. This is because they have similar skills involving math and low latency.
Scott Send private email
Monday, July 22, 2013
Oh, I don't have anything against software engineers (or anyone else for that matter) earning that kind of money, it's just that those sorts of salaries are extremely rare (but yes, I'm aware they exist for some *highly* specialized domains).   

My point I suppose is that folks at that level of salary already have the first few levels of Maslow's hierarchy of needs taken care of, so you're not going to tempt them away from their current jobs with  money :)
James A. Send private email
Monday, July 22, 2013
110k for a webmaster is something I haven't ever seen

I think that in Italy you can top 70k gross (and you need to pay 47% taxes) but you need to be very good and lucky!
fp615 Send private email
Monday, July 22, 2013
That's not the point though, I apologize that this is not clear, this is a continuation of a sub-point from a previous thread.

This is not about the amount I specifically pay, that has nothing to do with it. The issue is about being willing to let the candidate know the range that is available for the position, or that the company itself considers to be market rate.

It's true qualified engineers look at more than money, certainly it is unpleasant to take a big salary jump and find work at a 12 hr a day 6 day a week start up that will fail within 10 months run by a narcissist. But it's extremely relevant if a company's compensation is below market rate and below what you're making now, possibly adjusted for living costs of the area.

It is a waste of time for a engineer to fly across country, or to another country, take several vacation days, undergo 3 days of rigorous interviews, and then be offered 30% less than he is making now. Or even 20%. Or even 1%, for some people.

The VAST number of companies out there are wanting to pay far less than market rate. You might argue that that is market rate since that's what they are offering. Wrong. They can't hire people because they are paying below market rate. Market rate is what you pay and have no problem with people refusing offers because the pay is too low. Qualified people don't have unlimited free time and vacation days to fly around and deal with BS from loser companies that are incapable of understanding supply and demand. So they aren't going to come on some costly interview not knowing whether or not the company is intended to offer good candidates market rate for their skills, or vastly below market rate because they are a bunch of idiots.

Stating the range is simple. I titled this "How to state a salary range" and then I SHOWED "How to state a salary range" by  simply stating it. That's how it's done. You state it. You don't say "Oh, that information is private." It's extremely relevant and if you can't bother telling candidates what the range is before they invest a week of their time flying out and going through interviews, then you simply don't deserve to hire qualified candidates, and that's all there is to it.
Scott Send private email
Monday, July 22, 2013
"110k for a webmaster is something I haven't ever seen"

Last I saw, 90k is the average starting salary nationally in the US for new college graduates in computer science with no experience at all. It's presumably higher for metro areas and for people with experience and skills, don't you agree? For example, 140-180k is pretty normal for the Bay area. How much do you have to earn to live a modest middle class lifestyle in the Bay or Manhattan, without having to have a long commute of more than 20 minutes? You have to make a lot more than that when considering the cost of real estate.
Scott Send private email
Monday, July 22, 2013
"I think that in Italy you can top 70k gross (and you need to pay 47% taxes) but you need to be very good and lucky!"

Look, I am really not trying to be insulting or anything, but this sort of stuff is why all the guys that know what they are doing get out of those countries and emigrate if they can't find anything that pays decently locally.
Scott Send private email
Monday, July 22, 2013
But look, this is not about the amounts, it's about the employer, me, STATING THE RANGE when asked so that the candidate doesn't waste his time.

Please don't bother going insane over the fact that I pay reasonable and modest market rate salaries, that is irrelevant. The relevant point is that I have no problem telling people what the range is.

Hell, let's say I am instead not willing to pay a dime over $14k for my top developers. Don't you think that candidates have a RIGHT TO KNOW that tidbit before I waste precious days of their vacation time with tedious interviews?
Scott Send private email
Monday, July 22, 2013
I am a subscriber of ILI newsgroup Italy Lavoro (work) Informatica (It) and discussion about how job posts should be done starts every few weeks.

Everybody agrees that pay range should be shown in the job posts but almost nobody does in Italy. This can be seen on job sites.
The tipical is "pay will be proportional to candidate capabilities".

Italian market labor has big problems now and it will take a long post to explain. A friend of mine teaches IT at university and the top students can earn a lot of money, but only moving abroad.
At the university they have a course on GPU programming (not specifically for graphics)... can they send a couple of curricula?
fp615 Send private email
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Are those American (US) $$ or Hong Kong  $$ ? Just wondering if this might be a source of confusion.
Koziolek Matolek Send private email
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
"ast I saw, 90k is the average starting salary nationally in the US for new college graduates in computer science with no experience at all. "

In my experience this is absolutely false.  In a large metro area (not California), starting computer science salaries are closer to $55-60K.  I would absolutely laugh someone out of the office if they asked for the salary you suggest.

However, it is the "me" generation - so they'd probably still ask.
Intellectually Stimulating Vocation Send private email
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Maybe you are right, I was going from memory on that. Let's see what the 2013 numbers are.


Computer Engineering: $71,700
Computer Science: $64,800

OK, that's starting salaries for new grads, you're right, I had that off.

(This one is interesting though: Petroleum Engineering: $93,500 Worth a look if you're 18 and starting college.)

Now those are of course the average numbers for average students from average schools and living in average areas. Not for hot shots from Stanford or MIT working in the Bay.

This article has somewhat different numbers:


"The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that software developers earned an average of $100,000 per year in 2011. This figure, however, accounts for both developers and engineers, regardless of experience or skills. For 2012, starting salaries for a software engineer ranged from $78,000 to $120,000, predicts Robert Half Technology, one of the leading providers of IT professionals."

I don't know what they mean by starting salary though in their article, if just out of college or not.

This has some median and 10th percentile salaries for various engineering fields, from US BLS, apparently 2011 numbers:


That's presumably not starting salaries but average overall. For CE they have $86k median nationally and $132k for the 10th percentile.

Obviously if you think you are hiring rockstars and are not in the 10th percentile of pay you should reconsider what you are doing.

I'd try to post direct US BLS stats, but everytime I try to use that site I want to tear my hair out.

OK, so update: average starting salary for all college engineering grads is NOT 90k unless you're in petroleum engineering.

Maybe I was looking at Stanford stats or something. I see that quora has a link containing info of  2011 survey of 2009-2010 CS and EE grads at Stanford which found the average starting salary they got $80,000. quora is behind a sign in wall though but if you paste this link into google and use the google link you can see it. http://www.quora.com/What-is-the-average-starting-salary-for-an-undergrad-CS-major-from-Stanford

It says that on top of salaries there, 70% received stock options, 80% received signing bonuses from $5k to $25k, and 60% were offered relocation. So looking at first year compensation, for Stanford you starting point is actually around $90k. That might have been the data I had seen. It's a bit higher than the average including all the podunk schools of course.
Scott Send private email
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
"I would absolutely laugh someone out of the office if they asked for the salary you suggest."

If you are really offering $55k it's unlikely you're getting good people, but you probably don't need good people. Most companies don't and get by just fine. That's not a problem though.
Scott Send private email
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
There are pretty much never shortages of talent in any field. When some one says that ask how many more applications they got when they raised the pay 50%. If software developers started routinely pulling in 300k/yr you would find a lot more people in the field in short order and those people would be good.

Frankly I have no clue what the issue is.  I would imagine the big issue is overseas (the number of people willing to work overseas is a fraction of the market) more than money. For the money ask their salary and say yeah we will have no problem beating that.  If you try and undercut later, you have just wasted everyones time.
Foobar Send private email
Monday, August 05, 2013

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