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Tech workers have the edge in hiring, for now

Ed Park, cofounder and chief executive officer of Devoted Health, a Boston-area unicorn that is hiring rapidly.Devoted Health

In Boston’s technology hiring scene, it’s an employee’s market.

The pandemic has thrown labor relations for a loop, putting salaries, benefits, and associated perks up for negotiation across industries. Locally, it’s caused a shift in power, with workers more able to demand higher pay, more flexibility, and increased equity in companies.

White-collar tech salaries in Greater Boston have risen slightly over the past year, averaging around $147,000, while they fell in New York and San Francisco, a recent Hired survey shows. Over the past half-decade, local tech salaries have grown roughly 30 to 40 percent, according to tech recruiters based in Massachusetts.


None of this should come as a surprise. The city’s unicorns — like Whoop, Snyk, and Devoted Health, all with multibillion-dollar valuations — are raising record levels of funding and growing their headcount at a blistering pace. More established companies are seeing “The Great Resignation” of 2021 increase turnover. And the shift toward remote work is drawing more software talent to cheaper cities.

It is no longer the case, tech recruiting experts said, that the local offices of giants like Facebook, Google, or Amazon can hire the best talent away with high-salaried offers. Some startups are now able to match compensation, and in many cases, are offering an attractive proposition: higher equity stakes at a company that is growing, and increasing in value, fast.

Another trend: culture fit. Often, tech workers are fielding multiple interviews with similar salary ranges. That’s leading them to examine more deeply the mission of a potential employer, the work they would do, and the people they would work with, rather than just the brand name.

“It’s almost like dating,” said Joshua Drew, a regional vice president for recruiting firm Robert Half. “When the cards are on the table, early on, candidates feel like they can be open and honest ... You just kind of cut through the fat a little quicker.”


Add the growing ability to request remote work arrangements, along with perks like free dog-sitting, commuter shuttles, and in-office lactation rooms, and workers seem to have more control over their work experience than ever before.

Going forward, employers will continue to face some hard decisions.

As the pandemic waxes and wanes, how strictly will companies require in-person work for everyone? If California companies offer employees Silicon Valley pay, but allow them to live anywhere, can companies in Boston and elsewhere afford to compete? If new employees come in at higher salaries, how do employers make it fair for existing workers?

And for blue-collar employees, like Amazon warehouse workers who start at around $18 an hour, will any of this benefit them?