The typical process for a candidate applying to data science positions starts with an application, then moves into a phone screen with a recruiter where they ask mainly behavioral questions. The next step is usually a technical assessment – either a challenge or interview. Finally, the candidate is brought onsite for a mix of technical and behavioral interviews.
If you are successful in these stages, you will receive an offer, which is the goal of the whole process! But first, you need to address the elephant in the room – the actual offer. We have worked with hundreds of job-seekers to land great jobs with salaries that are more than $12k above industry standards, so we wanted to lay out tips to help you go into this stage with confidence and maintain a positive impression with the company.
Negotiation actually starts from the first interaction you have with the company. Sometimes that is a written application and other times it is a phone screen with the recruiter. Both of these might include a question about expected salary. This is the first “gotcha” moment because people often think they need to answer it, but you don’t. If you come across this, don’t stress out. A good response to the recruiter is: “I would like to do more research on the industry standards before giving a number.” You could also say, “Negotiable, within reason” on the written application.
In the meantime, do that research to get a sense of the industry standards. According to Glassdoor, average compensation for data scientists is $117k. Data analysts, which is a position that requires a less extensive background, has an average salary of $67k. On AngelList, the average salary for a data scientist is $101k. This is likely a more well-rounded salary average because it includes startups.
Now that you have these numbers in mind, you can get a better sense of what to expect. But, you still should not share anything with the recruiter, even when you get your offer. Be polite, say thank you and you will get back to them. We typically recommend moving the negotiation conversation to email because that way you can remain calm, think about your responses, and even ask friends or mentors for help with your negotiations.
When you are preparing to negotiate, remember that compensation is more than just salary – it also includes equity, bonuses, and other benefits (like PTO). Big tech companies like Facebook, Google, and Amazon are known for offering high salaries and good benefits, so they might not move the needle much on actual salary.You might have better results with your equity, signing bonuses, and other benefits.
With smaller startups, the first offer might be a lower salary, so you should try to negotiate that up unless they explicitly mention they can’t go higher. In that case, ask about more bonuses, equity, and benefits, which all go into increasing your total compensation. When negotiating, you can make use of this email template, which we annotated, so that you hit the right points and highlight your value to the company.
You can use also make use of your research into what other companies are paying for these roles and of websites like Glassdoor and Paysa to this leverage your negotiations. Here is a template a Pathrise job-seeker used recently to receive a $25k increase in salary by showcasing what he could have made at a different company in the same type of position
Hi [recruiter name],
I wanted to thank you again for the offer, I’m very excited for the chance to join [Company X], especially after getting to know the team! I took some time to talk about the offer with my family, and after doing some reflection I’d like to ask a few questions.
I would love to know if there is any flexibility on the base salary to ease my mind about the decision — my goal is to be at my next company for a long time, so it’s important to me to make sure that I’m set up for success. I’m also about to finish up the interview process with [Company Y] for a similar position (on the same type of team), which starts at $95,000 per year with a $24,000 signing bonus. I am much more excited to join [Company X], but the difference in pay is a significant barrier for me at the moment. Is it possible to increase the base pay to come as close as possible to $95,000, or perhaps offer a significant sign-on bonus to help mitigate the difference? If so, I would have no hesitation signing the offer right away.
Again, I want to reiterate my excitement and interest in working at [Company X] — I’ve really enjoyed getting to know everyone I’ve spoken with, and from what it sounds like the team is working on some really great things that I know I can contribute to.
Thank you again for this offer, please let me know your thoughts when you have a moment.
With this background knowledge and tips, you should be able to go into the offer stage for data science positions knowing what to expect and how to increase your salary above the average.
Pathrise is a career accelerator that works with students and professionals 1-on-1 so they can land their dream job in tech. With these tips and guidance, we’ve seen a 5-20% increase in salary from our job-seekers in the program.
If you want to work with any of our mentors 1-on-1 to get help with negotiation or with any other aspect of the job search, join Pathrise.