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Cover image for Salary: Why "Do Your Own Research" is terrible advice

Salary: Why "Do Your Own Research" is terrible advice

Article was originally called

What's the Most Accurate Salary Survey in your Country or Industry?

I renamed it because, as we will see, this is not the real question you should ask yourself.

Why "do your own research is terrible advice"

I have heard this answer too much and it makes my bool blood boil

Friend with an important question: I've been contacted by $company, what do you think I should ask?
Quick and unhelpful answer: Just do your own research. Just look on Glassdoor.

I'm sure some people have found Glassdoor useful. It probably works well for "Web Developer in San Francisco" because that's like 42% of the city population. Does that mean it universally applies, that the data isn't shit or useless elsewhere? Not in my experience.

Do you remember that after hearing the tip "just do your own research" for the first time, you knew exactly what to do? Well good for you, but many developers I know are not like that.

Your friend is asking an important question, she is at risk of being underpaid for many years in her life. And that sucks.

We can do better than that right?

Update: we can do better than salary surveys

Terrific response from Sandor Dargo in the comments, don't miss it.

Sorry, but that survey is BS. Most of my friend are leaving for much higher salaries than that. I work in France and they don't go for less than 80k/Y for senior dev positions.

All these methodical analysis are to keep you in the dark and to find a way to promote the positions with low salaries they offer...

Read this.

What advice to give? Subscribe to that newsletter I shared just now, at least for a month, check the resources it offers to find a good paying job and go for it. It will pay off soon.

And to be clear and don't take surveys from talent.io, hired.com, ... at face value. Always ask a friend whether the values sound actually fair.

Top comments (24)

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄ Author • Edited on

Here is a salary survey I got about France.
silkhom.com/salaire-informatique-e...

The survey

  • covers a large number of IT professions: Webdev, Mobile, DevOps, Python, UI/UX designer .Net, Data Engineer, CTO, ...
  • methodology looks sound. It's done by a recruiting company who add thousands of candidates and many clients over the last three years, and their numbers are based on that.
  • They give numbers by 3 levels of seniority and 3 areas where the cost of life differs: Paris vs Big Cities vs Rest of France.
  • I can confirm that the numbers I do know are more or less reliable
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sandordargo profile image
Sandor Dargo

Sorry, but that survey is BS. Most of my friend are leaving for much higher salaries than that. I work in France and they don't go for less than 80k/Y for senior dev positions.

All these methodical analysis are to keep you in the dark and to find a way to promote the positions with low salaries they offer...

Read this.

What advice to give? Subscribe to that newsletter I shared just now, at least for a month, check the resources it offers to find a good paying job and go for it. It will pay off soon.

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄ Author • Edited on

What advice to give? Read this!
The Trimodal Nature of Software Engineering Salaries in the Netherlands and Europe - The Pragmatic Engineer

Thanks a lot!

And don't be sorry, not only did I want to share what I had, I was also planning to leverage the magic of Cunningham's Law

Named after the inventor of the wiki, the law states that "the best way to get the right answer on the internet is not to ask a question; it's to post the wrong answer."
Cunningham's Law can be considered the Internet equivalent of the French saying "prΓͺcher le faux pour savoir le vrai" ("preach the falsehood to know the truth"). Sherlock Holmes has been known to use the principle as well.

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sandordargo profile image
Sandor Dargo

The problem is that your "wrong" answer is considered good by many employers.

A few months ago I decided to look around, partially because of the article I shared. I registered to one of the sites offering some "great salary benchmarks" and I put a salary expectation that was 70% above my current salary and also above their benchmars. They soon contacted me that oh, wow, it's probably too much you're asking for and you won't have many contacts...

Even some of their clients contacted me, but it's true that it's better not relying on these sites...

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄ Author

The problem is that your "wrong" answer is considered good by many employers.

Oh absolutely!

That's why I can't stand people using the "do your own research" bad advice.

The useful "wrong" answer I was referring too is when you get a number from an unreliable benchmark or an offer, and then you ask your friends - or your blog readers - whether that's actually true.

That's where you learn a lot, like I just did today thanks to you.

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄ Author • Edited on

@sandordargo I updated the article to clarify the intent.
Question is too important for ambiguity, thanks for your response.

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sandordargo profile image
Sandor Dargo

Thanks for the update! Indeed, it's so important. With a few months of toil you can literally double your total compensation, sometimes even your base salary.

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etienneburdet profile image
Etienne Burdet

The trimodal effect @sandordargo linked has been having weird consquences on our hiring recently.

We pay a bit/quite above the survey you mention. Yet we have people who ask for way moreβ€”I mean beyond the negociable. One effect is that they hear "income" from remote jobs for big tech in the US (the third mode in the article), that 1/ are gross income, not salaries (your basically your own company in this situation), 2/ They don't qualify for (there a reason it's the long tail…), "senior" can mean a lot of things.

All this ends up in the situation where some people turn down offers that are higher than their current salaries and in a position they prefer… only to be either without a job or in their old position 6 months later. All of that because of an imginary salary range. It's a bit sad. You should push for high, but not unrealistic either.

It's tempting to think you're in the "next harmonic", but it's harmful to overestimate your range too much. Helas, the internet it's pretty good at make you thinking you're in the 5x.

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sandordargo profile image
Sandor Dargo

Just to clarify, I do understand that US salaries are not a reality in Europe. Besides many forget that here you don't get a heart attack if you need an ambulance... But French salaries for senior levels seem tragically low compared to other countries. Seemingly seniority is not really valued. That's is changing as these tech companies realize how much potential there is on the French market.

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄ Author • Edited on

But French salaries for senior levels seem tragically low compared to other countries

Can you put a monetary value on this?
That could be quite powerful given how little transparency there is on the subject.
I would definitely be interested
Maybe an idea for a blog post :P

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sandordargo profile image
Sandor Dargo

If you look around on levels.fyi, or if you check for example UK job postings with salaries, you'll see that between different levels there is around 30% difference - that's how they value knowledge and experience.

In France, in my surroundings, I barely heard any promotion with a double digit increase.

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etienneburdet profile image
Etienne Burdet • Edited on

I do understand that US salaries are not a reality in Europe

Overall because "end salary" is different than "end purchase power". In France you get about half the salary in your hands, but because you give a lot to social security, jobs etc. and everything is free (wether you like or not is another topic). But still, for same life, your salary will be around 40% lower (rough estimate done with mates, based on World Bank PPP).

Now you must be right to some extent, because for companies with officies in the two countries, it costs less to hire in France. Not 40%/50% less (as the whole salary does because of the aforementionned effect), but still substantially less that companies favor employing in their French office.

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄ Author • Edited on

The numbers are hard yes.

But they are necessary because you can't have a conversation if different people think that the difference is more like 5%, 15%, 25%, 45% or even 125%

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄ Author • Edited on

I think the structural mistake is that people don't give a lot of thoughts of what kind of people they want to work in, on their values, their interests, who they want to be in ten years, ...

Instead they spend their early careers going to awful companies - I have been there, I know - and they they overreact and focus on "top companies" not realizing it means nothing.

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sandordargo profile image
Sandor Dargo

As a job seeker you have to understand your worth and value. By value I mean what you can offer. And you must increase your value and prepare if you want to get such a high paying job. Preparing for such jobs takes a lot of personal time.

You have to prove that worth your money.

But it's simple (not easy, but simple) to get the right knowledge and even at European companies you can easily have 60-100% more base salary (not to mention that total income you also referred to) than at tier 1 companies.

If I consider my case, I was kind of happy with my actual employer and I wouldn't have changed for a 10-15% raise. It's simply not worth taking the risk - for me. But for a much higher increase I was happy to invest a lot of my time and take a risk.

This also means that I outright rejected doing any interviews with companies not offering those much higher salary bands. Why to waste each others time?

Therefore, these days, I consider extremely important to set the expectations from both sides quite in the beginning.

And no, those ranges are not imaginary. Even in Europe. There are companies who make enough money per employee to pay higher wages.

I have many colleagues who used to work for around 50-55k/Y and left for 80-100k/Y (base salary) and stayed in France with a French contract. Sometimes they even "stepped back" from staff/principal roles to senior engineers.

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄ Author

I don't disagree with you. Not at all.
I am trying to add that once you know your business value, and realize that you could be happy with only 70% of that or something, you can have a negotiation on multiple factors, most notably for me having time to all the other things I'm interested in. And since I'm like a 5 years old who want to know everything, time is important.

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sandordargo profile image
Sandor Dargo

I agree, that's exactly why I wouldn't have taken a risk for ending up with less personal time for 10-15% extra. And to be fair, I rejected to interview with a company who is offering 2.5x my actual salary, because I researched them and I found frightening details about the WLB there.

Money is a very important factor, but not the only one.

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄ Author

Amen

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄ Author

Ah yes in that case I can see why that works: remote companies tend to be transparent and for the US there is a lot of data. Thanks.

 
jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄ Author

I agree, at the same time I know many devs who think they know nobody that could possibly help them.

What do you do then?

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mikkergimenez profile image
mikkergimenez

I suspect this idea of "Do your own research" is bad advice for anything that is contentious or non-factual, unless you're willing to go deeper than the publicly available information. In this case, I'd say the salary data is a bit of both, as well as very timely and hard to keep in date.

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