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Paying Double Salary

I am thinking of hiring some coders some time in the future, having just read "Whaddaya Mean, You Can't Find Programmers?" (

I am thinking that it might be worthwhile to pay around double the normal salary. My thinking is that I will then get the pick of the best programmers as everyone will apply, and I will retain them for longer as most companies will only pay them half of what I am.

I would like to hear your thoughts on this.

Matthew Lock
Monday, January 28, 2002

One more point is that it's been shown that the best programmers outperform the worst by 10 to 1, so I should get a good return in paying only twice as much for the worst programmer to get 10 times the output/quality.

Matthew Lock
Monday, January 28, 2002

Perhaps it isn't necessary, and it may be counterproductive.

There is no guarantee you will get a "10" programmer simply by offering double the normal salary.

There is no guarantee that you will get the "1" programmers through paying a normal salary, either.

Do you need a team of superstars, or just one or two?

I wonder how you tell the superstars from the "pretty good" programmers.  I think many qualities which define the best developers/team players might only become apparent during the coding process.

Monday, January 28, 2002

Managing the best, takes the best. 

Are you good enough?
Will you trust them?
Will you listen to them?
And can you sell them the deal?

Simon Lucy
Monday, January 28, 2002

I would say: do not offer twice as much money. Do offer a good payment, yes, but especially spend money on creating a comfortable working environment, spend money on the best tools available, be flexible for individual needs and desires in your employees (like longer holidays, working from home etc.) Take care of health and other insurances. Make your employees feel that you care for them. Make them feel secure!

It is my impression that most programmers who change their job are not necessarily looking for better payment (even though that is often one factor out of many), but they are frustrated with things that go wrong in their current position.

Most of all: make your employees feel appreciated. Every one of them, from the top notch programmer down to the secretary (I should not write "down" here),  should get the feeling that he or she does an important job in a team that plays to win.

Building up a good company spirit is much more difficult than just paying more money, but it results in very motivated and loyal employees. IMO motivation plays a major role in the whole good programmer/average programmer business.

Have fun,

Jutta Jordans
Monday, January 28, 2002

This "paying double salary" idea is actually quite common, and it works well.  It is also known as "hiring consultants".

Matthew Cromer
Monday, January 28, 2002

I find this method very direct. :-)  As a programmer, I think I am well-paid, but I am always looking for ways to reduce my salary if they just let me work the way I wish!

Another thing you can do is start a website where you talk about things programmers like hearing.

And ITA is a bunch of Lisp guys who take out ads on Slashdot with programming puzzlers, just to hire people.

But hey, there are a lot of knobs to pull, and paying double salary is no doubt one of them, if you have the resources.  All depends on what resource is least scarce for you.  Just hope that you don't skimp on the intangibles, because keeping morale great is just as important as getting these people in the first place.  It's no good to grab them, and make them feel guilty about getting so much money while still feeling so unhappy.

Frank N.
Monday, January 28, 2002

If you can afford it, by all means pay your developers well. But double the going rate is a bit much. To be honest, if I went for a job interview and was offered double my current salary I would be a bit suspicious of the situation. Particularly in this market, that looks too good to be true. Besides, as one's salary increases, the marginal value of additional money decreases. If I have to choose between two jobs that both pay "plenty", non-salary considerations (like hours, location, opportunities for advancement and skill development, interest in the work) are likely to be as influential as salary.

As others have mentioned, if you've got money to throw around then it's important to spend some of it on non-salary things that make your developers' lives better.  A training budget that enables you to send developers for courses or conferences is a good example of that kind of benefit. In my current situation (good salary, no training budget), I'd take $5000 for training over a $5000 raise.

Also, consider what you really need from your developers. If you've got a project that has to be cranked out fast, hiring superstar programmers might be your best bet. If you're more focused on long-term growth, hire a mix of superstars, good mentors (not the same thing as a superstar programmer) and smart people who're looking to gain experience.

Beth Linker
Monday, January 28, 2002

I remember reading somewhere on Phil Greenspun's site about motivating/keeping the best staff.

One of the el cheapo (relatively) method AFAIR was offering the star players free ferraris.

The company paid a few grand a year in leasing/rental, but the programmer's street cred went through the roof.

My take is, use your imagination. It needn't cost twice the normal salary.

Monday, January 28, 2002

Don't do it. Money doesn't compensate for a lousy work environment, mind-numbing projects, or a dead-end career path.

There are any number of surveys to review before you consider something as superficial (and costly) as double salary:


While you might be able to attract people, the money won't be much good for rentention. I'd work six months for you, then quit, knowing I'd already "earned" my salary for the year. Then I'd get half a year to do what *I* wanted to do, instead of working for the man.

Robert K. Brown
Monday, January 28, 2002

Never mind all this. When do you start interviewing? :)

Tuesday, January 29, 2002

I agree with most posters in that this is a rather strange idea, plus it looks a bit simple-minded. It is not simply "pay more to get better quality", almost no market in the world works this way any more. You will risk attracting greedy folks that are good at pretending to have skills. Plus as a programmer I would suspect that your company does not know how to spend money in a rational way, which interferes with having a safe job.

I think the better alternative, as others already posted, is to rework your interviewing and aquiring strategies. Depending on your market, you might want to observe programmers resources on the net for fresh brain cells, etc.

Martin Dittus
Tuesday, January 29, 2002

If this person were being hired into my group -- not as a lead archictect or Big Dog or some other position that was twice as difficult or unpleasant -- I'd wonder why I was being paid half the salary to do the same kind of work.  Typical consequences of demoralization to follow.


Tuesday, January 29, 2002

Paying enourmous salaries is a big no-no. Instead, give them _very_ nice offices, with luxury chairs, windows, and a super fast PC with a giant, ultra plain monitor. A resting room with a DVD and a PS2 and a home theather would be tempting, too. Plus free beverages and snacks, and that's pretty much all you need to get top-notch programmers willing to work with you.

I know because I would work for peanuts in a environment like that.

Leonardo Herrera
Tuesday, January 29, 2002

Oh, and don't forget: give them something interesting to work on.

Wednesday, January 30, 2002

Getting the best means _investing_ in the best!
I'm a competant programmer, I've been involved in running and designing projects, I work hard, I am eager to learn and eager to please... so, why won't you be hiring me?

Because I haven't got "2 - 3 years experience in a commercial environment".  Yup, that's right, I haven't graduated from university yet.

Everywhere I go I read about the IT skills shortage, yet everywhere I go doesn't want people fresh out of college and eager to work for a living.

Why not offer a good starting salary and get in young and competant coders chock full of good ideas?  You can even mould them in your own image.

Sorry... do I come across as bitter? ;-)

Terry Eden
Wednesday, January 30, 2002

Personally, I think that the "IT Shortage" is a myth propagated by companies that want more H1B visas so they can undercut salaries.

I *do* have experience in industry - over ten years, in fact. Nobody's beating down my door to hire me either.

I think times just plain suck right now.

Chris Tavares
Wednesday, January 30, 2002

well, i have 3-4 years commercial industry experience, but i don't have a degree.  most job listings require a BS in CS, and even though they say "or equivalent experience" they must equate 1 year schooling to 2.5 years experience. 

Thursday, January 31, 2002

A lot of companies do a 2 year experience = 1 year education (i.e. you need 8 ys exp to equal a degree).  The reason for this is that one of the things college is supposed to do is to expose you to lots of different ideas. Most jobs tend to repeat the same year of experience over and over and over.

I've interviewed many applicants who have 10 years of job experience listed but I find out in the interview that it's really 1 year of experience that they repeated 10 times...

Jeff Pleimling
Thursday, January 31, 2002

If you've got that kind of money to throw at programmers, try paying a normal salary with *overtime pay.*  It's one of the best incentives to manage projects properly and not treat your staff like galley slaves, since bad managment ends up being measured in $$$.

D. Holloway
Thursday, January 31, 2002

You can't just have superstars.  A proper team has Jr, Mid, AND sr. level people.    If you have only $250k superstars, no one will do the shit work.  Testing, documentation, weekends, etc  Too many cooks. 

Sunday, February 03, 2002

I am a developer and I would jump on a $300K salary.
Who cares about luxury chairs ?    -This is business,
don't make it into something it's not.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

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