23 Feb 2021
6 min read
Negotiating a better salary is a challenging task for many people interviewing for a new job.
This article provides a few tips and tricks to help you negotiate great compensation at the discussion stage with a company once you have completed the interview process.
Typically a compensation negotiation will be with a recruiter, your future manager (potentially the “hiring manager”), or someone high up at the company (a founder, or VP, or head of a department).
It may be that this is prompted on-site, at the end of the interview process, on the phone after an interview process, or by an email that includes offer terms.
I typically recommend that you discuss the details of an offer on a call, rather than by email. This allows for nuance and a bit of back and forth.
Often a negotiation discussion can be very short, maybe a couple of minutes.
If you receive an email that includes offer terms, and you would like to negotiate the offer, you can use the following template:
Thank you very much for sending me the offer.
I thoroughly enjoyed meeting the team and I am excited to join your company. When would be a good time to have a call to discuss the offer, I am free from … to …,
Thank you, Adam
There are multiple things that can be negotiated for. The order of negotiation should be in order of the most important. For example, if you care primarily about the base salary, and then the next most important is the signing bonus, discuss the base salary until that conversation is complete, and then bring up a signing bonus.
Other benefits such as:
Choosing the minimum that you would accept is the first step in determining your negotiation strategy. The inputs to this include:
Your current compensation
Your market value
Determined by either research or other offers. Research may include Glassdoor, speaking with peers, or speaking with recruiters.
If this is your dream job, you may be more willing to join for a lower offer. This may be a stepping-stone job and therefore justify a lower minimum.
Candidates are often asked what their current salary is. This is usually so that the company can determine what is the least they can get away. It is also used to level the candidate.
Some people may choose to say a higher base salary than they are truly on. While others say something like “My current contract does not allow me to disclose my salary”.
If you are making a career move which does not expect a salary increase, such as a move to a smaller company, or to a role with less responsibility, it may be sensible to disclose your current salary. For example, “I am currently earning $XXX but I understand…”.
The most effective “vibe” is a positive one. Show that you are excited to join and that you want to be compensated fairly.
You could say things like:
Appreciate that the person that you are speaking to may value their equity highly, and you should respect that. If you do not highly value the equity, do not prioritize it in a negotiation, but do not say that it does not matter (much) to you.
If the person you are speaking to tries to stop discussion about the base salary, and turn the discussion to equity, you might say “Right now, base salary is important to me for family reasons” for example.
Equity can be negotiated within the following parameters:
Signing bonuses are typically given after 6 or 12 months at a company as a one-off payment. Companies give signing bonuses for multiple reasons, including:
For high-end software engineering jobs in San Francisco for example, a signing bonus may be in the region of $20-25k.
We don’t do signing bonuses
The offer comes with a $Xk signing bonus or What were you thinking of?
Where have you got that from?
Attempt to find their range
If they give a range that is acceptable, go for the top of the range
If they do not give you a range or their range is not acceptable to you, give your range
(Optional) Justify your range, for example:
Use the “Key phrases” to get to the highest verbal offer for a base salary.
Consider other negotiations, such as signing bonuses and equity.
An initial offer may be verbal or written. It will likely fall within one of the following categories:
Also, they may refuse to give an initial offer before you tell them what you are looking for.
If they push for a number:
Use the appropriate “key phrases” but let them know politely that this is not going to work.
“Thank you for that offer, I would love to join, but unfortunately that is below what I could accept”
If they push to find your minimum: “The minimum I would take is $
Use the key phrases, but set the tone as appropriate. Be careful not to signal that you are rejecting this offer. Instead, your goal is to get across that you are happy, but would be more likely to join if the offer were higher. The most positive tone being:
“That is a great offer, but I was hoping for something more in the $
Typically, you will choose a counteroffer that is within 20% of their initial offer.
If they push you to decide on the spot, you can defer this with:
I'm Adam, an experienced software engineer and a professional interviewer. For over two years, I have been working with candidates in the software industry and other industries to improve their chances of landing a great offer. If you need help with your next interview make sure to contact me.
See other articles by Adam
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