Hacker Career Advice

Negotiation Starts With Preparation

Last week, my friend Sally got a job offer and successfully negotiated both a higher salary and a more desirable start date. 🙌

Here’s how she did it:

0. When the hiring manager called her about the offer, Sally asked for it in writing, via email.

1. At the same time, she scheduled another call, 2–3 days later to discuss it, so she’d have enough time to review and prepare for her negotiation.

2. After reading the offer thoroughly, Sally made a list of questions & clarifications. What’s the vacation policy? How are bonuses calculated? What’s the work from home policy? What’s the vesting schedule?

3. She emailed the hiring manager her questions in advance, so she could identify gaps in the offer and what to negotiate.

4. Based on her research, Sally determined the offered salary was on the low side. She wanted an additional 10% in salary and 3 times the equity grants.

To be clear, she was primarily interested in the increased salary. The added equity was a tradeable issue that gave Sally some room to improve her total compensation in case the firm couldn’t give her the entire 10%.

At early stage companies, even well funded ones, equity can often be “cheaper” than cash compensation.

And in order to give the firm more flexibility and some room for negotiation, she decided to ask for MORE than the minimum amount she was willing to accept.

5. The night before her second call, Sally wrote herself a script—nothing too formal—where she outlined what she’d ask for, how she’d do it, and how she’d respond to various ways the hiring manager could respond. This took her about an hour.

6. When she got on the call, Sally stuck to her guns and said something like this:

“Thanks for answering my earlier questions. I have had time to review the offer you presented and I’m really excited to join the team.

Two adjustments that would make me feel comfortable accepting the offer, would be to settle on a base salary of $XXX, along with YYY options, and I’d like to start on ZZZ.

I feel this reflects the importance and expectations of this role and my professional experience.”

7. After that, she stopped talking and waited for the hiring manager to respond. She didn’t argue against herself or try to justify her numbers any further.

Sally expected one of three responses: Yes, No, or I’ll have to get back to you. In this case, the hiring manager said he’d check & call her back later that day.

8. The next morning, she received the call. The hiring manager said he couldn’t offer more equity, but was happy to increase the salary by 10% and move her start date as requested!

9. Sally thanked the hiring manager, asked for an updated offer letter, and said she’d sign and return it ASAP. Then she texted me this story.

Obviously, this is one person’s experience, but it illustrates how important it is to prepare for and communicate clearly in a negotiation.

Consider multiple scenarios, do your math, and stick to your script.

Remember, an offer means they want to hire you, work with you, and see you succeed!