International Tech Hiring – A Salary Guide

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At VanHack, we’ve spent the last 5 years working hard to bring tech talent to new countries and have helped more than 800 tech professionals get hired in Canada, Europe and remotely. 

Over the years, one of the most common questions I get about hiring international tech talent is about salary. What salary should a company pay a tech professional who is joining the Canadian market from abroad? Market rate? More? Less? What is normal and what is out of bounds? All of these questions are completely normal and my answer is the famous “It depends”. 

There are many factors that come into play when thinking about how much to pay a new hire. On the other hand, how much should a candidate trying to break into the Canadian market ask for? Let’s start with the company point of view and then I’ll discuss what candidates should keep in mind next, and then finish with my overall thoughts on the subject. 

Employer Point of View

When speaking with companies who are thinking of hiring from abroad for the first time, one of the key things I say is that it is not necessarily cheaper! You have to keep in mind that these are highly talented, skilled workers who are able to be employed in many countries around the world and are by no means desperate for a job abroad. 

Most of them earn great salaries in their home countries and have 5-10 years of professional experience. Usually they are married and often they have children, so expecting them to work for below average salaries is not realistic. This being said, I have seen candidates be more flexible in the salary negotiation part of the job interview. Many of them (not all!) are OK making a bit less than market for the first year in order to prove themselves and then expect to get a raise afterwards. Again, this is not always the case and companies should be aware that if they are hiring someone below market rate that they can easily move to another company if they are not happy in a few short months. 

One tactic to get over the fear of hiring from abroad and losing valuable resources is to do a remote trial for 2-3 months as a contractor. This way you can get to know the new hire during a real work process and determine whether they are a good fit for your team. Also, it’s important to note that in Canada, employers must pay at least the median wage for the NOC Code (National Occupation Classification Code) in their city. 

Our amazing Canadian Immigration Consultant, Karan, has created the table below for Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary. 

In Germany, the minimum salary is €42,000 per year no matter the city or skill level. I have to say I prefer this approach as it’s much more clear. You gotta love that the Germans are also efficient when it comes to visa processes for tech talent! 

In countries where the cost of living is lower, such as Spain and Portugal, salaries tend to be lower also. The we’ve seen salaries in the €24,000-€35,000 range here.Employers should also consider the fact that candidates may get other offers from companies from other countries such as Germany, Holland, Ireland, Canada, Australia and others. 

If a candidate is really great, they won’t be on the market long and employers should not think that they’re doing a candidate a “favour” by hiring them from abroad. Often it’s actually the opposite, the new international hire ends up adding a great deal of value to the organization and stays longer than most local candidates.  

Candidate Point of View

For candidates looking to get hired abroad the question of expected salary can be a daunting one. You want to ask for a fair salary, but are afraid of asking for too much to scare employers away and too little to make it seem like you don’t know your worth. At VanHack, we help each of our candidates personally with this conversation and have also added an “Expected Salary” field on your VanHack profile. You’re welcome 🙂 

There are some great cost of living and salary sites such as Numbeo and Angel list. Simple Tax has a great tax calculator page for Canada. The most common mistake I see new VanHackers make is asking for a salary that is too low in hopes that this will make them more attractive to employers. While this might be good if you want to work at an early stage startup and think that things will get better and you’ll get a raise quickly, it can be seen as a Red Flag. Also, larger companies are slower to promote and give raises so make sure you keep that in mind. The last thing you want is to move to a new country and not have enough funds to pay your bills. 

We’ve seen salaries range from $60,000 to $150,000 in Canada and €24,000 to €65,000 in Europe. It all depends on your skill level, experience, city you’re moving to and type of company that hires you.  

Closing thoughts. 

Hiring from abroad and getting hired abroad can be a tricky experience. There are many factors that go into making a great hire and finding your dream job. Salary shouldn’t be one of the factors that stops either side from making it happen. I would approach the conversation the way you would approach hiring a local candidate or getting hired in your city. Be fair, flexible and up front to avoid any surprises. 

As an employer the best part is that when hiring international tech talent salary is, in my opinion, a much smaller factor than usual. You’re helping change the life of a family forever by giving them the chance to relocate to a new country where they will live for potentially many generations to come. As a candidate, the best part is that you’re getting a chance to prove yourself in a new market and take the next step in your career. Make the most of it!

And VanHack is here to help connect you to your next great tech hire and your new job abroad. Let’s get some more VanHackers hired (at great salaries!!) 

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