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How to Approach Salary With Graduate Developers

Hiring Developers

Whether you specialize in university recruitment or it’s simply one part of the patchwork that is your job, you’ll know that talking salary with graduate developers is a whole other ball game. 

While it’s not wise to generalize, the workforce is changing, and graduates today have different priorities to graduates in the past. 

Below are our top tips for approaching salary with fresh-on-the-market developers. 

✋ Want answers to more compensation-related questions? We’ve released a free ebook on how to pay developers in 2023Get it here (no contact information required!).

1. Embrace open communication

The market is tight and graduate developers are well aware of their value. They’re likely to want to know about your compensation package as a whole and won’t shy away from asking questions. Take the time to have an open, honest and holistic two-way conversation about benefits.

“I’m not prepared to make a blanket statement about whether graduates are asking for “too much” or “not enough” during the job-search process. What I can say is that this new group of professionals is more comfortable asking about compensation than its predecessors.”

Chelsea Williams, Founder and CEO of Reimagine Talent Co.

Candidates won’t appreciate you side-stepping questions or withholding information. In fact, 85% of upcoming and recent grads say they’re less likely to apply for a job if the company does not disclose the salary range in the job posting.

Welcome their questions and listen to their expectations. Level with them, they’ll appreciate your realness.

2. Do your research

The new generation of developers is better informed, and more comfortable negotiating compensation. They’ll likely come prepared, having done their research on industry rates, your company values, your technical stack, your non-monetary benefits, etc.

“We were told how much the previous classes earned, on average, at their first job after graduation. As for salary negotiations, they told us to know our worth and encouraged us to talk openly to employers. Today, I talk about my salary without taboo.”

Sebastian Morris, 2022 graduate, Software Engineer at EDF Renewables

You should do your homework too. Make sure to look into what comparable companies are offering to junior developers. A benchmarking tool (ERI or iMercer, for example) will give you an average wage to work with. 

Note: although several tools promote themselves as international, we recommend looking for a tool that applies to your country. If you’re in France, for example, a french tool like DataRecrutement or will be more precise than an international tool.

3. Approach compensation as a whole

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. Salary is important to developers (especially graduate developers seeking financial independence and stability, after years of living the student life), but it’s not all that matters.  

More than a third (37%) of candidates say they’d be willing to accept a lower salary offer for a chance to learn new skills, and slightly over half (51%) would forgo higher salaries for more flexibility.

“When it comes to what we have to offer, besides salary, I make sure to get into the specifics of anti-micro management, employee empowerment, work-life balance and objective-based management.

What will strike a cord with developers depends dramatically on the candidate, but more and more care about remote flexibility, that’s one I see come up commonly.”

Nathan Sutter, Global VP Engineering at CoderPad

Also, bear in mind that many graduates value diversity, social impact, pay transparency and growth opportunities. This can be seen in the increasing number of influencers and advocates for these subjects on social media

What’s more, Deloitte’s 2022 Gen Z and Millennials survey revealed that close to two in five say they have rejected a job or assignment because it did not align with their values. Meanwhile, those who are satisfied with their employers’ societal and environmental impact, and their efforts to create a diverse and inclusive culture, are more likely to want to stay with their employer for more than five years. 

Make sure you present a holistic view of compensation, benefits, values and culture at your company. You never know what will grab a young developer’s attention.

“When I set out to find my first job, I had a minimum amount in mind. I wasn’t ready to accept just any job offer. However, salary wasn’t the only thing that mattered to me. I was looking for a job that I would enjoy and was willing to sacrifice a bit on salary to get that.”

Sebastian Morris, 2022 graduate, Software Engineer at EDF Renewables