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Thursday
Apr052012

Salaries for Entry-Level Software Developers

You are deep into your final projects, graduation is just around the corner, and before you know it, you’ll be receiving that coveted piece of parchment that quietly suggests you make your way into adulthood. In no time at all, (if you’re not already) you will be going on interviews, and trying to make the most educated decisions about your first “real” job after college.

Aside from trying to find the best opportunity for technical and career growth, you’re also probably thinking dollar signs, and dreaming about rolling in gold coins- Scrooge McDuck style. Perhaps this is overstated, but the truth is that most recent college graduates simply don’t know what they are worth in today’s job market. They are also not quite sure how to find out, and they’ve probably never had to negotiate salary. Additionally, it can’t help when you keep hearing stories about that guy who graduated from your program last year, and was hired as an iOS/Rails/big data/cloud engineer at your dream employer, for $100k, plus equity and a signing bonus. It’s easy to see how you might over- or under-value your skill set.

While every individual offer is going to vary, there are some trends that have been prevailing in 2011-2012. I recently came across an article on CIO.com, titled “10 Cities Where IT Professionals Earn the Most”. The author pulled data from a few different sources to create a top ten salary list for all levels of IT employees. I decided to do research of my own to find out specifically what entry-level tech professionals are making.

After surveying my colleagues from across the country, I found that the CIO results are pretty spot-on, regardless of your time in the workforce. Silicon Valley seems to be the undisputed high roller, with San Francisco and New York City not far behind. My findings come from IT recruiting managers working in fields ranging from software and web engineering, systems administration, and embedded development, with the focus being on entry-level positions-- i.e. recent college grads with little-to-no professional experience.

Entry-Level IT Salary Ranges

City Salary Range
Silicon Valley $60 - $100k
San Francisco $50 - $90k
Los Angeles / Orange County $50 - $85k
New York $42 - $80k
Boston $44 - $70k
Philadelphia $35 - $60k
Chicago $35 - $60k
Washington, DC $32 - $63k

Obviously, a multitude of factors can create hiring advantages, such as notable internships, project contributions, university reputation, awards, etc., but as with senior positions, the west coast and New York City seem to be the cities that pay the best. (It is fitting to note that NYC, SF, and SJ also have some of the highest costs-of- living.) However, there are exceptions to the rule and great companies in all cities. Instead on trying to move cross-country, you should be focused on finding a company where you can make an impact, as well as learn and grow. After all, you’re only going to be entry-level for so long.

Friday
Mar232012

Not All Recruiters Instantly Reject Resumes

I recently read an article entitled “Seven Reasons Why IT Recruiters Instantly Reject Resumes.” The gist of the article was that the role of the recruiter is to act as an aggressive screener for his client, and that only an ideal candidate with a well-cultivated job history and resume, should expect to receive a recruiter’s phone call.

When I think of my team’s approach, I see an almost opposite mentality to that of the author.

We’re looking for reasons to call as many candidates as possible, especially in the present high-demand market. We wait to make a judgment call after a personal conversation about what that person is looking for, and what he or she has done in his career thus far. I make assumptions during my first look at the resume, like most, but I’ve been happy to be wrong so many times that I need to have that initial personal conversation as the jumping-off point.

Otherwise, it becomes difficult to look past the analytical side, and leaves no room for culture/personality, which we know is probably important to a culture-oriented engineering team. More often than not, personality is at least as important as a laundry list of tools employees may or may not have had a chance to work with in production.

While we all make judgments of the fly, it’s important to remember that what distinguishes human beings from a piece of resume-parsing software is our ability to go past the paper and bring a more complete picture to the table.

Similarly, we have to remember that although this is part of our daily routine as recruiters, taking a new job probably doesn’t happen very often for the job seeker. It may have been awhile since they’ve had to write a resume, or figure out how to highlight their most relevant, marketable assets. It’s in helping them that I think we can make a big impact on removing the US vs. THEM stigma that pervades the tech recruitment industry.

While everyone makes a judgment on first glance (often a company’s own HR and even hiring manager are the toughest critics), as technical recruiters we’re in a unique position to exercise empathy. We should strive to create an environment where, whether or not we can help the candidate land his/her next job, the advice we give does ultimately guide them toward finding the job that suits them best.

Tuesday
Mar202012

Job Offers: Looking Beyond the Numbers

We all want to get the most competitive job offer. When thinking about an offer, the first thing that naturally comes to mind is annual base salary. Earning a high base salary is a universal desire because it is guaranteed, it affects your weekly paycheck, and you’ll be able to smile when asked, “How much money do you make?” In addition to benefits and perks, there are some other ways to get creative when negotiating your compensation package that could actually put you far above your financial target.

Bonuses: Effective Motivational Tools or False Promises?

There are various factors that go into deciding a new employee’s salary or compensation. Just because you are interviewing at a billion dollar company with more than enough money to spend, does not mean they have the ability to pay you whatever you wish. Internal equity is always a big factor. They will not pay the new guy more than the team lead; you have to prove yourself! This particularly applies if you are transitioning into an unfamiliar role or learning a new skill. Just because you made X amount at your last job doesn’t mean the new company is going to pay you five percent more, especially if they have to spend the first three months teaching you a new trade. However, if this is the job that you want, prove your worth, and you can earn your prize once the company benefits from your talents.

Companies will often offer their employees a base salary plus a bonus, which is either paid out annually or quarterly, and can be a percentage or a fixed rate. Sometimes the bonus depends on the company’s performance, other times it depends on your performance. Most often, it’s a combination of both factors. Consider why companies prefer to offer a bonus structure over higher base salaries. Typically, the purpose is to motivate employees. Most people work harder when working towards a goal, versus doing the same job day in and day out for the same exact weekly amount. Why stay the extra hour or above and beyond what is expected if you know that your tax return is going to read the same number as your offer letter?

Sometimes smaller companies with lower budgets are also fans of the bonus structure. Small companies are usually aware that they do not make the highest job offers, but they are looking for someone who will add value and grow along with them, and who isn’t all about the money. They might even have the budget for what you are targeting, but they need to be careful about how they spend it. If they pay you more than allocated, they are most likely passively looking for someone cheaper to replace you, or you risk getting laid off if you are not generating more revenue than what you are being paid. However, if you have a bonus to work towards, then both you and the company can feel more confident about your compensation, since by review time you will have used your skillset to generate the company more business or revenue.

Reviews/Bonuses

Reviews and opportunities for growth are things you should be aware of when presented a job offer. This is supremely important for entry or junior-level candidates. If you shop around for job offers, waiting for the highest one, you could be missing out big time! (This is also the case for what Salary.com or your friend says you should be making) If a job offer from a great company comes out to five thousand less than you wanted, but they are offering a ninety day review, then go in there and prove that you are worth that extra 5K! If you are just waiting for the magic number, then you risk missing out on your dream job. You are also likely to spend more time and money going on extra interviews, relocating, and commuting- just waiting for a number. You could have more efficiently spent that time training, learning, getting paid, and working your way up to a raise or a bonus.

Reviews and bonuses can also be used to attract candidates for the long term. Hiring is expensive, and turnover is rarely a good thing. If you convince a company to dish out ten grand more per year than they planned, how do they know you won’t start looking around again in six months just to get something higher? If you know a bonus or salary review is on the way after your big project release, you are more likely to work harder to get it, which promotes company loyalty.

Bottom Line

Be creative, be flexible, ask early, and be understanding. By no means are we suggesting that you work for a company that won’t pay you fairly, but don’t pass up a great opportunity with excellent growth potential just because the base pay isn’t exactly what you hoped. Think about the situation from the company’s point of view. When they are hiring a new candidate who they haven’t spent more than a few hours interviewing, it can be hard to dish out a lot of cash, or stake in the company, without seeing you in action first. Understand the reasons behind their compensation package and what the future looks like for you. Be upfront about your expenses, current situation, and future goals, and see if you can work something out will make both of you happy. You have nothing to lose by asking for some financial wiggle room, but when you get too picky, you may come off as greedy and your potential employer can easily lose interest. This may cause them to question your motivation, work ethic, morals, and how long you plan to stay with the company. Be careful to not burn any bridges before build them.

Tuesday
Mar202012

Can You Work in a Startup Environment?

With the tech market growing, tech start-ups are popping up all over major markets. And this creates hard decisions for many job seekers: to work in a larger, time-proven company or take a risk on a start-up. Why would someone take this sort of risk? Well, for one thing, the majority of candidates who accept jobs from start-ups have already shown enthusiasm for the start-up environment. It’s an environment that might include longer hours, smaller teams, and the risk of poor organization. Not to mention funding issues, if we are talking early-stage companies. But with great risk comes the chance of great reward. So the candidate is in more of a tricky scenario. When interviewing with hiring managers, they are being cyphered down one at a time to find the right environmental fit; can you go out for a beer after work with your CTO?

Now, this is not the case all of the time. Many younger companies focus their search primarily on strong technical abilities with a lesser emphasis on personality fit. In tech markets like that of New York City, where nearly 75% of hiring occurs in younger, less proven start-up companies, there is a greater chance that the interviewing process will focus on environmental and personality fit.

Let's take a look at some of the positives and negatives in the old start-up market. You'd like working in a start-up if:

  • Team morale on a creative and technical standpoint ranks high on your priority list.
  • You don't want to do the majority of your work alone and if having colleagues take notice in your development and outcome is something you don't mind.
  • Being part of the creative process; a chance for your voice to be heard,

You would probably hate a start-up if:

  • You are coming out of a career in a large corporate or finance environment… and enjoyed it.
  • The paycheck is the most important part of work for you and the creative side of development is a backstory.
  • Being in a younger environment is not the ideal setting for you; the top level of management with these companies could range anywhere from 25-40... not exact numbers but there is a risk of having a younger boss.
  • In a strong marketplace for jobs in the technical scene, the line is becoming thinner between the two types of candidates out there: start-up and corporate. There are solid reasons to be on either side of the fence, but personality seems to be a higher factor for start-ups. Bottom line, if you’re personality fits with more of a risk-taking development and business model perspective, a start-up could be a great way to further your career.

You need to decide for yourself, or talk to someone on the hiring side of things about your expectations. Quite frankly, there are too many jobs opportunities out there for you to spend time going on countless interviews. If you are honest with what you truly want, it should only take about 10 well-thought-out interviews before you are offered a position that you really, truly want. Imagine this marketplace as the blackjack table; you need to strengthen your odds to the best of your capabilities. It's not always best to take that next hit.

Monday
Mar052012

Enhance Your Job Search with Effective Job Interview Follow-up

We've all seen the cringe-inducing scene from the movie "Swingers" where poor, desperate Mikey overdoes it with the follow-up voicemail messages to his girlfriend after the first date.

Many job seekers can relate to this situation. Your interview went really well and you definitely like the job. The manager gave you a positive vibe and said "you'll be hearing from us". You're excited! But a day turns into a week which turns into two weeks and you still haven't heard anything back from the manager. You leave a voicemail message. A few days later, you leave another. Then you send an email. Then you call the company and ask the receptionist if maybe he's been out of town or on vacation. She says "no" and asks if you want to leave another message. You do.

This is a common scenario and too easy to fall into. Before you know it, a perfectly normal, rational job seeker becomes poor "Mikey" with too many desperate attempts to reach the hiring manager. And just like in this movie, you can bet you'll get the same reaction he got from his girlfriend...rejection.

Listen, we get why you do this. The job market can be very competitive and if you are lucky enough to find a job that you actually like, you feel compelled to be aggressive to get what you want. You're probably thinking:

  • "If I can just get the hiring manager on the phone, I'll get another window to sell myself into this job."
  • "Why isn't he calling me back? He said he liked me!"
  • "Did he change his mind about me? If so, I want to know why. Maybe he misunderstood something I said."

The problem is that if you follow-up too soon or too often, it can come off as pushy and/or desperate. It's very similar to the dating scene. So follow the same general advice and don't overdo it. Understand that the hiring manager has a lot going on in their universe and is under a lot of pressure. There could be many logical reasons for a delayed response that have nothing to do with you personally. So don't always assume that no immediate reaction to you is a blow off and go on the defensive. Instead, execute the perfect follow up strategy after an interview.

Sending a thank you note

Send one note after every interview (not just the first interview) and make sure it arrives within 24-36 hours of the interview. Keep the message brief and to the point. Thank you letters are intended to express appreciation, so that's all you should do. Don't provide overly-detailed interview feedback, a long pitch on why you are the best candidate, or raise a question or concern you have about the job. Control that urge to "wax on" and use the next scheduled interview discussion to address these points more thoroughly.

Send these notes to everyone you met with to include other managers, members of the interview team or Human Resources personnel. You don't want to blow anyone off. This gesture to acknowledge everyone you met with goes a long way to build positive consensus. You can either write individual customized thank you notes to each or send a group thank you note and copy them all.

Try not to use a standard letter. Using a Thank You letter guide is great, but take the time to personalize it so that your message comes off as sincere. Try using the A-I-M approach to thank you notes. First, express your Appreciation for the time they spent in meeting with you and for the opportunity to learn about the role/organization. Next, express your strong Interest in the job. And finally, explain why you like it by briefly highlighting the Match between the needs of the role and your qualifications and interests.

And finally, SPELL CHECK your thank you note. Misspellings are the ultimate kiss of death. Also, consider showing it to someone else before sending it.

Calling the hiring manager

Only call if the manager explicitly communicated you'd be hearing from them about next steps. Otherwise, this unsolicited call will be seen as pushy. Also, only call after a full week has gone by without hearing from them. Give them some space and time to respond. It could also end up being an imposition if the hiring manager doesn't have any specifics to discuss with you yet.

Your voicemail should just be a quick and friendly reminder to contact you, not a detailed summary of the interview: "Hi Bob, It's Susan Miller. I just wanted to quickly follow up to tell you how much I enjoyed our meeting last Monday. I'm extremely interested in this position and was glad to hear that you thought there was a match as well. I look forward to hearing about the next steps. Feel free to give me a call or shoot me an email when you get a chance to let me know where things stand. Thanks again and speak soon!"

Don't leave more than one voicemail. They got your first message! Leaving multiple voicemails will hurt more than help.

Golden rule: If you wouldn't communicate with someone after a first date this way, then don't do it with the hiring manager. You'll get the same reaction in either instance.

Wednesday
Sep282011

Be Prepared for Your Interview

Going in for an interview with a company that you really want to work at? Make sure you are doing a few things beforehand to ensure success:

Google the company

Check their web site's About Us tab and make sure you know what they do and who their clients/partners are. Also, see if you can find any articles or news about the company to gather some good small talk material for the interview. For example, “I saw that you guys recently announced plans to do [project]. How will that affect this position, team, department, etc.?” Look into the management team and get a feel for who is leading the company and where they come from. Nine times out of ten, someone in the interview will ask, “What do you know about us?” Impress them with your answer and get the interview started on the right foot.

Check out the interviewer’s LinkedIn connections

Look up the people you are scheduled to interview with. Check to see if you share any work experience, connections, former colleagues, clubs, interests, etc. For example, “I looked up your profile on LinkedIn and saw that you used to work at [company]. Did you work on [person you know]’s team?” The goal is to make the interview more conversational.

Check out their posts and followers on social media

If you know who you’re meeting with, follow them on Twitter and/or scan their blog. Perhaps they tweeted about an event you recently attended, or commented on a band or sporting event that you like. Doing things like this shows that you are thorough, “plugged-in,” and can create the personality/culture connection that is very important in the interview process.

Get there early…but not too early

If you are unsure how long it will take to get to the interview, make sure you allot some extra time for traffic, getting lost, tie-straightening, etc. If you are more than 15 minutes early, grab some coffee or run through some practice questions and answers. If you show up too early, it can be an inconvenience to the manager.

Have questions ready

Show that you have put some thought into the company. I have interviewed hundreds of candidates for internal positions with my company and I will always wrap up the interview by asking: “What questions do you have for me?” If someone gives me a blank stare and has no questions, I assume they are either not interested or not able to synthesize the information in the interview to come up with a question.

Wednesday
Aug242011

Six Simple Tips for a Better Resume

Here are a few simple tips for making your resume a much stronger weapon in your job-search arsenal. These are the basics, things that all of us could use a reminder of from time to time.

Keep your resume recent and relevant

To make your skills seem current (and avoid potential ageism), limit your work history to the last 10 years or so – unless that previous experience is particularly relevant. If there is a gap between the dates you received a degree and your job history, don’t include the date you graduated.

Limit resume length to a page, maybe two

Concise, bullet-pointed resumes that highlight relevant skills and experience are all you need. I immediately discard any resume that is 4-5+ pages. Trust me on this one.

Customize your resume to the job you're seeking

Read through the job description of the position you are applying for. Update your resume to highlight where you have had relevant experience. This will be particularly helpful for companies that use software to screen resumes. It is important not to embellish, however, as there is a good chance you will be asked about said skills once you start interviewing, not being able to articulate the skills listed on your resume is a good way to be taken out of consideration.

Your resume is no place for fancy fonts

Stick to traditional fonts (Times New Roman, Arial, etc). Keep formatting simple (avoid tables, inserts, and headers/footers) so your resume will display cleanly on a variety of machines, from iPads to PCs. Or save it as a PDF, which will look the same on every device.

Incorporate your online presence into your resume

Include hyperlinks to your work, but use a service like bitly.com to shorten the string. List your LinkedIn profile, sure, but add your Twitter ID only if your posts there are professional in nature.

Clean up your lines of communication

Make sure your voicemail message is pleasant, clear and upbeat. Make sure your contact email is appropriate (studmuffin83@gmail is not the best way for a potential employer to contact you). I suggest keeping a Gmail account that is specific to your search where you can manage everything in one place.

Monday
Aug012011

Close The Loop First...Then Celebrate Your New Job!

Time to celebrate getting your new job!! Not yet. First you need to cut cord with all your other job search activity to avoid sending the wrong message to your new employer. Plus...closing the loop the right way will also save you the headaches that will come with leaving yourself "active" on the market.

Closing the door on any aspect of your job search may not make total sense. But if you don't do this and the information falls into the hands of your new boss that you just accepted with, it will send off a red flag. Take these simple steps to clean up the trail of your job search.  And, oh yeah, one more thing...if you don't feel comfortable shutting these options down because you still want to interview, then think twice about formally accepting the job! Don't be "that" guy that goes back on his word.

Remove Profile From All Job Boards

Take your resume off all the job boards. If you leave this profile up and active, it indicates to the new employer that you may still be looking. If you do want to keep it posted, that's fine. But at least make it confidential. If you do leave your profile up, just keep in mind that you will continue to solicit emails and phone calls from recruiters (this can be a royal pain in the neck if you aren't truly looking).

Deactivate With Recruiting Agencies

Send an e-mail to all the agencies assisting you to inform them that you have accepted a new position.  Email is always easier then an actual phone call. Remember that recruiters are sales people. If you are a strong candidate, don't expect the agency to let you go so easily. An email may make this exchange go more smoothly. It is your choice as to whether or not you want to inform them of where you are going to work. The upside is that they'll know how to reach you (which could also be the downside depending on whether or not you liked working with them!). Also, time this discussion carefully because the second you tell a recruiter that you took a new job, this recruiter will likely contact both your new and old employer to solicit business from them...the old employer may be looking to replace you and the new employer may be doing more hiring. Recognize that this will happen and factor this into your decision to divulge any data.

Shut Down Other Interview Activity

Similarly, you'll need to email the companies you were in process with to express your appreciation for their interest in your background and to tell them that you have accepted a new job. Do this out of courtesy to them so that they aren't still keeping you in the mix. The Hiring Manager will thank you greatly for giving them the heads up and...who knows...this goodwill may come back to benefit you in the long run.

None of this may seem like a big deal to you, but put yourself in the Hiring Manager's shoes. If they just hired you and your resume is still up on Monster will seem a bit off-putting. Not taking these formal steps to clarify that you are "taken" is like forgetting your wedding ring when you go to the bar. Not cool!