An Old Guide To Negotiation

Still relevant though!

This article has also been posted on Medium.


[the 1980s office aesthetic]


In 2016, I was invited to talk on a panel about negotiation for a Women in Technology club and compiled a document of research to questions they were asking. Recently, I was talking to a friend about negotiation for her full-time offer and looked back at the notes/research I did for the panel. I found this information to still be quite useful and up to date, so I’ve condensed my notes into this comprehensive article to share it with you. 

Do you need multiple offers to negotiate?

100% NO!

How do I prepare to negotiate an offer? What if the initial offer is significantly less than what you have been paid in the past / would expect?

There’s this term - BATNA. It stands for your “Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement”. These alternatives have strengths, and they’re not limited to other job offers. For example, do you want to get a higher education (Bachelors, Masters, MBA, PhD)? Your recruiter may think these are awesome things to do - and they raise the stakes of your offer. Always be sure to emphasize the pro’s of your BATNA not the cons. You do not need competing job offers to negotiate.

Say you don’t have a BATNA - be sure to do your research before hand. Knowledge is power. If you’re a new grad, check to see if your school has a job survey or if the average salary from someone graduating with your degree is known. Out side of education, talk with your peers in similar roles to see what they’re earning. Posting in online communities to learn more about average salaries of what your peers earn (in that job or in similar roles) can lead to a world of knowledge. Additionally, there are websites online dedicated to tracking salaries, like levels.fyi. There are always tools out there to give you the backing you need to make a better argument. Use the knowledge you know you have access too.

If you have another offer, use that offer as leverage. But remember - it’s not always necessary. If you do have multiple offers, it’s advised to not start a bidding war. Instead, try to leverage your alternative offers only once in the discussion period. Anything beyond that sends negative vibes.


Do not fail the vibe check


Special Alert: California

States have laws to protect potential employees. California passed a law - AB168 - which states that employers are barred from asking about a candidate’s salary history. Under AB168, it is a misdemeanor for interviewers/potential employers to ask prospective candidates anything about current or past compensation, whether in writing (including email) or orally. The only question they can ask is what are the candidate’s pay expectations for the role. Upon request, the employer must (read: legally obligated to) provide the candidate a pay range for the prospective role. If you’re not seeking employment in California, research what rights you have to protect yourself during the interview process for the relevant state.

How do you initiate negotiations?

Sometimes it’s hard to breach the subject - the word negotiation is scary! Here are a couple of phrases I’ve learned that are useful in the initiation process:

  • “Can we discuss the terms of the offer?” breaches the subject of negotiation without directly saying the word
  • “Is this a flexible number?” allows you to open up the conversation about salary
  • “Can we do a bit better on the salary?” forces the recruiter to set the bottom bar. You can only go up in negotiations from there.

As a reminder, be friendly. Recruiters are people to, and they’re your advocate. They’ve been with you along your hiring journey, and are invested in making sure you get the best terms.

Some areas’ cost of living are higher than the others, how should we take that into consideration when you negotiate for salary?

As said before, knowledge is power in the world of negotiation. When entering negotiations, enter with a goal number in the back of your mind. Definitely know what is a competitive offer in the area. Having a base idea of what the general salary in the area is will help you understand for what number you should aim.

I’m interested in a competitive salary for an entry-level developer living in the Bay Area

If you’re interested in comparing cost of living, I’d check out Numbeo’s cost of living calculator.

Do you negotiate other benefits in the compensation package as well?

100% yes. Whether they give you the “your salary is non-negotiable” response or are open to discussions, you should also be invested in getting more with your benefits. If you’re literally moving across the country, you need more compensation for this type of move. These things are discussable. Packaging your negotiations is a great strategy - when you negotiate, bundle your salary, PTO, title, signing bonus, options, etc. Negotiation is a two way street, so giving up in one area can give you more leeway in another.

Don’t be afraid to ask for things that aren’t in your compensation package. A great example of this is when I interned at a company in LA. When going through the interview/hiring process, I asked for a housing stipend and was given one. Halfway through the summer, I learned none of my peers asked for one and were not offered any housing stipend. They ended up getting one retroactively at a significantly lower amount than the one I was receiving.

Say they’re not budging on anything - check to see if there’s a way to schedule an evaluation for a raise.

Can it be written into my contract that after 6 months, I will be evaluated/reviewed for a raise?

What are some mistakes we should try to avoid when negotiating salary?

Do not NOT negotiate. Always negotiate.

Never start off telling them an exact number and terms. You should know the number you’re aiming for, but realize that they might be able to go above that. Giving them an exact number at the start tells them exactly what they need to do to make you want to work there. Once you start negotiating and you see some leeway, give the number and terms. It might be higher/better than the one you have in your mind.

Don’t sell yourself short. Reasons for negotiations differ from person to person. If you’re scared that it might affect your relationship with the company think about it this way: you miss out on the chance get compensated for what you’re actually worth and what your peers are actually being paid. Don’t sell yourself short.

Be prepared to walk away. If you fear losing the job offer due to an attempt to negotiate, do you really want to work for a company that would do that anyway? The answer to this question is one you must discuss with yourself.

What’s Important

In the end of the day, know your worth. Be prepared with facts and evidence to back up your worth. 

Remember, there’s more to your future role than just money. What is the mentorship like? Where will you learn the most? Do you know generally what you’ll be doing? What is the work culture like? What size is the company?What is the employer doing to retain employees? What does the company do to promote employee education? Can you attend conferences? Is there a professional growth budget? If you have more than one offer, which is more technically challenging? Be sure to have comprehensive answers to these questions when evaluating job offers to make sure that you find the best job for you.


Earn what you deserve


Thank you Angelo Saraceno, Prince Wilson, Jonathan Haas, and Andrew Moran for reviewing this article!


Bonus Video


What really happens during a software engineering interview