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Potential job - advice on pay negotiation?


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#1 InsaneBoarder234   Members   -  Reputation: 174

Posted 23 May 2011 - 02:18 PM

Hey all, I've been contacted through LinkedIn about a potential job and I wanted to ask some advice! It's not a game development job but this is the only programming related forum I really use and I figured I'd be able to get some advice here regardless :)

The information I have so far is that a factory has machinery running on Visual Basic 6 (which I have listed on my LinkedIn profile and is the reason for them contacting me) and the original developers are banned from the site due to "business politics". They're looking for someone to come in and get their head around the old VB code with a view to improve and optimise it and put in some modifications on a go forward basis.

They've asked if I'm free to pop to the factory later this week and the only mention of pay was "we'll take it from there with regard to rates etc". Looking at a 'salary watch' website the average salary for a VB developer in the UK is ~£27k and for a consultant it is ~£32k. I'm about to graduate from university and I'm aiming for a ~£25-27k salary so I'd probably ask for £27k if the position is permanent but if it's a temporary position I'm unsure how to go about negotiating pay. The £27k works out somewhere around £100 per day (based on 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year) but this seems really low for a temporary work contract in software development. Also it seems like a more specialised role than your bog standard Java developer role where everybody learns Java at university, or web development which everybody and his mum seems to do these days! Do I push for more if the position is temporary? How much more?

Any help or advice would be hugely appreciated!
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#2 BeanDog   Members   -  Reputation: 1063

Posted 23 May 2011 - 03:04 PM

Show up wearing slightly better clothing than everyone else, have good posture, speak clearly and carefully, and ask for about double that as your "standard rate." Seriously. My last contract was significantly more than double that hourly rate, which I got by confidently asking for it. YMMV :-)

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#3 tstrimple   Prime Members   -  Reputation: 1718

Posted 23 May 2011 - 03:05 PM

Show up wearing slightly better clothing than everyone else, have good posture, speak clearly and carefully, and ask for about double that as your "standard rate." Seriously. My last contract was significantly more than double that hourly rate, which I got by confidently asking for it. YMMV :-)


Plus, it's legacy VB6. They damn well better pay you a nice salary for having to deal with that crap.

#4 Khaiy   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1342

Posted 23 May 2011 - 03:24 PM

EDIT: Went back to edit, and the editor turned everything into one solid block. My advice was not worth the editing, as it wasn't great.

Full disclosure: I do not do anything with programming for a living, but...

Remember that they are willing to hire someone entry level if they are pulling someone straight from university, and that tends to mean cheap. Even if VB6 is a big hassle to work with, and relatively uncommon, they will likely have a decent pool of potential hires to draw from, many of whom will have more experience. Definitely present yourself well, and try to evaluate what the specific work they want you to do is actually worth. When you offer your bid, be ready to move down if they really want to negotiate because your perceived lower cost is likely a major edge for you.

As long as you are willing to walk away if they offer you less than the job is worth, I would think that you can arrive at a number that will work for you.



#5 Nanoha   Members   -  Reputation: 296

Posted 23 May 2011 - 03:45 PM

Jobs aren't common right now, don't get greedy particulally if your just finishing university. Excellent chance for you to get your foot in the door, be careful not to waste it. The fact that they activly approached you is good.

#6 Katie   Members   -  Reputation: 1244

Posted 23 May 2011 - 04:07 PM

"the original developers are banned from the site due to "business politics"."

That's always a worrying sign, that one. Worrying in the "take the gig if you need the money, but don't stop looking elsewhere" type worrying.

#7 Nytegard   Members   -  Reputation: 820

Posted 23 May 2011 - 04:33 PM

Jobs aren't common right now, don't get greedy particulally if your just finishing university. Excellent chance for you to get your foot in the door, be careful not to waste it. The fact that they activly approached you is good.



I'd probably go along with this. It's much easier to negotiate salary when you have alternatives. With the way the economy is now, and the fact that you don't have a job, the company is in the driver's seat honestly when it comes to salary negotiation, and asking for too much won't work in your advantage. And they know that. At the very best, I would go up 5%, but you'll need to verify why. Maybe it's too expensive around there, or you have other bills you need to pay, etc. Just don't push for too much.

*EDIT*

As another person stated, remember, you're entry level. So you'll need to look at average entry level salaries. And even still, I find many of those sites suspect at best. For some reason, they always seem to give siginificantly higher salaries.

#8 loom_weaver   Members   -  Reputation: 325

Posted 23 May 2011 - 05:10 PM

Remember that at any interview you're also interviewing the company too.

While in this economy you shouldn't turn down any reasonable offer, also trust your gut and if you see tons of red flags then sometimes it isn't worth it to go into a really bad situation.

#9 Antheus   Members   -  Reputation: 2389

Posted 23 May 2011 - 05:33 PM

The £27k works out somewhere around £100 per day (based on 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year) but this seems really low for a temporary work contract in software development.


You are in for a rude awakening.

The information I have so far is that a factory has machinery running on Visual Basic 6 (which I have listed on my LinkedIn profile and is the reason for them contacting me) and the original developers are banned from the site due to "business politics". They're looking for someone to come in and get their head around the old VB code with a view to improve and optimise it and put in some modifications on a go forward basis.


And hero comes to save the day....

Think about this for a second. They have industrial machinery (things that can reduce volume of a person by a factor of 10) - and rather than hiring people from the industry, they choose random undergrad without a finished degree from Teh Internetz?

Then again - what is your industrial automation experience? Maybe that is indeed crucial to their line of business? Maybe you worked on same machinery. Siemens?

Also it seems like a more specialised role than your bog standard Java developer role where everybody learns Java at university


Java developers are typically certified. Not in Java - in actual industry, such as J2EE, Oracle, Cisco, ...

What industrial automation certifications do you have?

#10 gavco98   Members   -  Reputation: 372

Posted 24 May 2011 - 02:09 AM

I work for a company that specialises in Industrial Automation, and provides software solutions for firms just like the one you mention. We would be looking to charge around £50/hr for a job of this type, and this is the kind of figure a company like this should be expecting to pay. However, instead of hiring experienced programmers they seem to be looking at college grads in the hope of getting it done on the cheap.

As you state, the average wage for a programmer is probably around £27k a year, however bear in mind this is probably for experienced programmers, as an entry level programmer, you can expect to earn a lot less than this - probably around £20k a year until you prove yourself.

Now, depending on whether they want you as a salaried employee or a contractor, is going to change things a fair bit. Contractors can command a much higher wage, as their employment is not guaranteed, and they do not recieve the benefits of a staffie.

So there are two figures that you need to bear in mind - a fair price that this company should be paying for work of this type - £50/hr, and a fair price for your skills based on experience - £20k a year based on staff, maybe 30k for contract. I'm guessing if they are even asking you, then they arent willing to pay the £50/hr...

One piece of advice though - if they do take you on as a contractor, make sure you have a decent contract in place and some pretty good insurance cover... one wrong move will bring the whole factory to a standstil.. and as soon as you do they will be looking straight at you and will be expecting compensation. Make sure your contract states you are not liable, and have plenty of cover incase they decide to sue anyway.
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#11 gavco98   Members   -  Reputation: 372

Posted 24 May 2011 - 02:13 AM

the original developers are banned from the site due to "business politics".


one more thing - "business politics" is probably code for "the programmers expected us to pay the agreed price... but we changed our minds and decided to pay much less". So again, make sure you have a watertight contract in place, and be prepared to fight for it!
Gavin Coates
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#12 donkey breath   Members   -  Reputation: 206

Posted 24 May 2011 - 02:23 AM

If they ask how much you want, don't give a figure. let them make the first move and negotiate from there. If they ask what you want reply "what are your offering?" or "what is the going rate?" or "what did you pay the last programmer?". Beware that this might be a low figure as they realise you are both in negotiation, but with a starting offer you are in a position to negotiate. If you give the first figure then you are on the back foot as they will either want to negotiate down or think you are too expensive and turn you down.

For a graduate £100/day is a good rate for a first job. I'd ask if they have a lot of work or would consider you as a long term contractor.

#13 d000hg   Members   -  Reputation: 688

Posted 24 May 2011 - 02:41 AM

It sounds like this will be a temporary contract role, where abouts in the country? As a contractor £100/day is a joke rate, roles that level are usually specifically targeting overseas (Indian) workers on ICT visas. You have tax and other faff to deal with, possibly IR35.

To an extent, charging more makes you look more serious however if you're a fresh graduate then it's a question of balance. £200/day is more realistic and I would start off at £250 (or £30/hr) and see. Unless it' London, in which case start at £300.

Take a look at this site: http://www.itjobswatch.co.uk/contract.aspx?page=1&sortby=0&orderby=0&q=vb6&id=0&lid=2618

Also, you might come and join us on http://forums.contractoruk.com/ but be prepared to be ragged a bit first :)

#14 donkey breath   Members   -  Reputation: 206

Posted 24 May 2011 - 05:28 AM

Probably 2 important questions:-

Why was the last developer no longer on the project (if it is a suspicious reason they won't tell the full truth but you can read thier reaction)?

Is this a long term project? If it is ask for them to draw up a contract for you to sign. Don't mention pay rates until they bring it up, if it hasn't been mentioned by the end of the interview then ask then. I really don't think £100/day is a bad rate for a first job after graduation in the current climate, depends on the contract structure (e.g. duration, remote working?, etc).

Have the contract structured so that you can leave at any time(or 1-5 days notice), that way if you get a better offer you can either re-negotiate or take the improved offer.

#15 d000hg   Members   -  Reputation: 688

Posted 24 May 2011 - 05:52 AM

£100/day indicates you are pretty hapless, there aren't many gigs at such low rates... it depends if this isa formal contract or freelancing at home hacking their code though.

rule-of-thumb says to compare permie/contract rates, multiply hourly rate x1000 or day-rate by 100. This takes into account tax, fees (accountant or umbrella), lack of holiday/sick pay, and the fact you have absolutely no security at all.

As a new worker, £100/day can sound pretty great if you just multiply it by number of working days in a year but it's not that simple. Even £200/day is very cheap for a developer, realistically you see several at the £175-200 rate but for pretty low-level stuff.

Even if you'd take £100/day, quoting £200-250 is not outlandish for the market... you can easily drop down but offering £100 and finding this is half what they expected later would be a PITA.

#16 Khaiy   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1342

Posted 24 May 2011 - 08:10 AM

If they ask how much you want, don't give a figure. let them make the first move and negotiate from there. If they ask what you want reply "what are your offering?" or "what is the going rate?" or "what did you pay the last programmer?". Beware that this might be a low figure as they realise you are both in negotiation, but with a starting offer you are in a position to negotiate. If you give the first figure then you are on the back foot as they will either want to negotiate down or think you are too expensive and turn you down.


I don't recommend letting them offer the first number, especially with a question like "what's the going rate?" or asking what they paid the last programmer. What the last programmer made is irrelevent to you because that person no long works there (for suspicious reasons, no less). Asking about the going rate makes you seem ignorant of the industry.

The person who offers the first number is in the driver's seat of negotiating. It's way easier to negotiate down to 150 pounds/day from 200 than up from 100 (sorry, I don't know how to make my keyboard do pounds). If they offer a number then you'll know the minimum you can get and have to dance around that., but you want to be aiming at the maximum.

It's true that they can choose to pass on someone who offers an exorbitant bid, but your defense against that is to offer a reasonable bid. Your presentation and bearing affect how high a reasonable bid can be. Your initial number should be buttressed by references to the complexity of the project and your skills, which together will put a value on your labor. But as has been mentioned, they are clearly looking for cheap labor and you are a new worker. So don't get carried away with daydreams of high pay and interesting negotiations. You are unlikely to have much room to alter the number that the hiring person already has in mind.

#17 Antheus   Members   -  Reputation: 2389

Posted 24 May 2011 - 08:39 AM

Something else needs to be pointed out.

VisualBasic 6 reached end of life in 2008.

This is support for legacy technology. Hiring new people for something like this makes no sense. Choosing something like this (as VB6 programmer) as first job is effectively a career suicide. A company that is recruiting for this better be one of the biggest and have a proven track record of career advancement.

It would be different if the job were for industrial automation - but OP claims they made contact because of VB skills.

Think about it - would you go work for some business solutions vendor and integrator that works on COBOL as your first job? In the age where Ruby, .Net and JEE are the baseline and pay handsomely. Where node, cloud computing and social are "hot". The only time this might be appropriate is if it were some big vendor, perhaps IBM, that offers long term career tracks. Anywhere else and you are sealing your fate.

Imagine 2 years from now, your references will say "2 years VB6". 5 years ago VB6 programmers were considered obsolete, but the trend started in 2000 where the exodus began. So unless this job will bring you extensive industry experience, then the wage fits.

Those that have a choice will avoid such jobs by a mile. Too many interesting opportunities and challenges to be met.
Experts that have proven track records will command their own pay and terms (likely the ones that left).
Everyone else is in no position to negotiate and can take what is offered, since there's plenty of supply.

roles that level are usually specifically targeting overseas (Indian) workers on ICT visas.

Of course. Nobody else would touch something like this. It's a dead end and career suicide.


When it comes to legacy technologies, price increases fast. Since most companies cannot match this, they either fall to the bottom of the barrel, scrapping together leftovers or they upgrade the tech to be able to get more employees, preferably requiring skills matching recent graduates.

From career perspective, the bigger issues is collateral damage. Such places do not attract best-and-brightest. You will not develop connections, have on-the-job experience with new technologies, methodologies or other wage-increasing aspects.

Of course, there are exceptions.

----


Also, advice to OP. Once you are in this for a while, you will learn that this type of offers are frequent precisely for reasons listed above. Every week I get 5 offers for this type of work simply because somewhere in some database there is a keyword I used to reference my work in 2000, but it involves industries and technologies I haven't even heard about in over 10 years.

Recruiters just like to fish so they cast wide nets.

You simply aren't going to be offered premium CTO position at fortune 50 like this. So what's left?

#18 donkey breath   Members   -  Reputation: 206

Posted 24 May 2011 - 09:01 AM

I would most certainly never show my cards first in a salary scenario. If you say £500 and the guy say he was looking at £200 you have left yourself open to 2 things (1 he will tell you to go away or you will have to come much closer to his evaluation 2.He knows you will be on the lookout for higher paying work). It's like playing cards, show your hand first and you are almost always on the backfoot.

It's way easier to negotiate down to 150 pounds/day from 200 than up from 100

What if he says £100, you can then say £200 and then it is much easier to agree at the middle £150. You also know that if you are expecting £500 and he says £100 you can then just let him know that you are not in his price bracket and exit the negotiations, not wasting his or your time. Or you can turn it around agree with his fee and state you want a payment on completion. Letting him make the first move allows you much more room to get what you want.

There's an element of playing it as you see it. If you think you need to make the first move and the situation dictates it then make the first move. Generally I'd never recommend it and I have been involved in large project negotiations/strategy.

#19 Khaiy   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1342

Posted 24 May 2011 - 11:54 AM

I would most certainly never show my cards first in a salary scenario. If you say £500 and the guy say he was looking at £200 you have left yourself open to 2 things (1 he will tell you to go away or you will have to come much closer to his evaluation 2.He knows you will be on the lookout for higher paying work). It's like playing cards, show your hand first and you are almost always on the backfoot.


What? What do you mean by cards? The factors involved here are the amount/difficulty of the work required (which the hiring person should already know), the skill of the potential hire (which that potential hire should play up), the alternatives to the potential hire that the hiring person has available, and how much those alternatives will demand for compensation. A compensation number links these together.

Starting with a high bid tells the hiring person that you are a valuable worker, and that you are confident enough in your assessment of the work to be done and your own skill to command a high price. You bring to the table a sense of value for the hiring person to maybe be able to grab. You can present yourself as a particularly good prospect who can bestow your singular talents for effects that the hirer won't be able to achieve with other applicants. You can negotiate from a position of strength, where the operative question is whether or not they are willing to pay for you-- not how little they can get away with paying. The potential employer will have to justify why you are worth less than you say to get you to agree to a much lower number.

Letting the hirer offer a number forces them to estimate your value as an applicant based on little information, which is therefore not especially likely to be fair or accurate, especially since the hirer will prefer a cheap deal in this case. Then, you immediately disagree with the number the hirer offers, which is pretty bad if the hirer was making a fair offer (in his or her own view). It increases the sentiment that the applicant is one of many cogs to be chosen from a sea of similar options. The only distinction such a cog can offer is how little they'll accept. A person negotiating from here will have to justify why they are worth anything more than the employer's lowest estimate that they think might work-- that's a weak position. And they'll be starting from the lowest possible starting point, therefore having to climb farther to any result.

Besides, you're assuming that the hirer is not very flexible in what they're willing to offer. If they'll offer $200 to start the discussion, but would be willing to pay up to $800, you'll have a hard time getting there starting at their offer, even though they will accept a higher bid. But if your initial offer is $800, the employer might counter with $400, which is a much better floor to work with than the $200 they might have offered cold.

But anyone can offer fantasy numbers and situations that will support their own position. My point is that I don't see how a potential employee is better off negotiating up from the absolute floor as opposed to down from a higher number, unless that employee offers a ridiculous number that the hirer won't accept even as a ceiling that will be countered immediately. And in this latter situation, the potential employee clearly can't estimate the value of the work properly, and so is not likely to be an effective negotiator in any event.

This is a situation where I think that analogies and metaphors are particularly dangerous. Negotiating isn't like playing cards, where there is an external factor that has a fixed statistical likelihood of being a winning scenario for each party, which all sides bluff around. In that situation, going last is preferrable because you can assess that factor based on the behavior of other players. And if the game happens to be blackjack, that's a pretty thin advantage.

This isn't the case with compensation negotiations. You lose nothing and gain a lot by demonstrating that you are valuable, which you do both with your CV and the value that you place on your labor. There are no objective external factors that enforce results on the negotiation, only how far each side can make the other go. The ultimate card for either side to play is to walk away, which will force the other side to adjust dramatically in order to salvage a deal.

If the goal is to land the job at any price, taking a weaker position where the other side sets the starting number and barely moving around it will be more effective. But if you're looking to be reasonably compensated (in your own judgement), the hiring person's lowest possible is irrelevant. If they won't budge but you still think that the work is worth that pay, then that's where you'll end up. If the final offer is less than you think that the work is worth, you should walk away, unless you're desperate.

The idea that the employer will think that you're looking for higher pay elsewhere is irrelevant as well; if the applicant takes the job, they'll be under contract and unable to move away. But the idea that the applicant can get better pay elsewhere is the major factor that can drive their compensation up.

It's way easier to negotiate down to 150 pounds/day from 200 than up from 100

What if he says £100, you can then say £200 and then it is much easier to agree at the middle £150. You also know that if you are expecting £500 and he says £100 you can then just let him know that you are not in his price bracket and exit the negotiations, not wasting his or your time. Or you can turn it around agree with his fee and state you want a payment on completion. Letting him make the first move allows you much more room to get what you want.

There's an element of playing it as you see it. If you think you need to make the first move and the situation dictates it then make the first move. Generally I'd never recommend it and I have been involved in large project negotiations/strategy.


Why would a hiring person necessarily be unwilling to move up to $500? Or at least closer to that than $100? If you don't negotiate it, you'll never know. If you do try to get a better rate, you still have the option of walking away if the offer doesn't go high enough-- but you very well might end up with a job at a level of compensation you find acceptable.

You are correct that different situations will call for different strategies. Letting the hirer make the first move lets you see what they think the very lowest pay that someone might accept is (or even a bit below that), which can be useful information. But I'm having a hard time seeing why that is generally a superior approach to making a reasonable estimation of your own worth and then leveraging that worth against the employer's needs and means. I don't know what you do with negotiation, what the stakes have been, the skill of yourself or the opposing groups, or how good the results you obtained were compared with the maximum you might have received, so I'm not in a position to judge your negotiating ability, regardless of your role or experience in such matters.

As has already been mentioned, the OP is at a disadvantage in several areas already: a new graduate with little/no industry experience, applying to a place that mysteriously let go their previous workers, a poor job market, and an offer of career experience with material that is nearly obsolete. A reasonable offer for the OP to make is not going to be especially high, particularly as the employer is obviously looking for budget work rather than a high-end expert. The OP will likely have similarly attractive options in the future, as mentioned by Antheus, which makes the value of this particular job even lower. There's little for the OP to gain from this job other than some money in the near term, and even then it could easily be a bad bargain for him unless it's a solid amount. There's no reason to cede the ability to set the terms of the negotiation by default, because the risk of not getting this position is not so serious.

#20 d000hg   Members   -  Reputation: 688

Posted 24 May 2011 - 04:01 PM

Something else needs to be pointed out.

VisualBasic 6 reached end of life in 2008.

This is support for legacy technology. Hiring new people for something like this makes no sense. Choosing something like this (as VB6 programmer) as first job is effectively a career suicide.

As an employee, sure. For some contract work you can write off as "some work straight out of uni", less so. Agreed you don't want to be known as a VB6 guy but let's say you get the role and ugrade several apps to VB.net. Now you can get VB.net work and though it, .NET work. You can also be a BV6 guy which will one day be a valuable niche skill for all the legacy systems, like COBOL guys now.


I would most certainly never show my cards first in a salary scenario. If you say £500 and the guy say he was looking at £200 you have left yourself open to 2 things (1 he will tell you to go away or you will have to come much closer to his evaluation 2.He knows you will be on the lookout for higher paying work). It's like playing cards, show your hand first and you are almost always on the backfoot.

It's way easier to negotiate down to 150 pounds/day from 200 than up from 100

What if he says £100, you can then say £200 and then it is much easier to agree at the middle £150. You also know that if you are expecting £500 and he says £100 you can then just let him know that you are not in his price bracket and exit the negotiations, not wasting his or your time. Or you can turn it around agree with his fee and state you want a payment on completion. Letting him make the first move allows you much more room to get what you want.

There's an element of playing it as you see it. If you think you need to make the first move and the situation dictates it then make the first move. Generally I'd never recommend it and I have been involved in large project negotiations/strategy.

That's thinking like an employee playing employment games. As a contractor/freelancer you're selling a service and you have a rate you charge... customers can decide if they like it or wish to negotiate. You don't go into a shop and they refuse to tell you the list price.




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