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There are two major companies I am considering: A and B. I applied to both for a senior manager role. Both have given me verbal offers to join their companies, however in different circumstances. Both are private tech companies with about 300 employees each and are in SF.

I began my search expecting to be paid $x in total comp.

A is my dream company. However, they said that they have fixed ranges for salary and equity, and told me my range is tops out at x-10k. I asked for x+8k, slightly above x, as a negotiation tactic. However this request seemed to freak out the COO and the finance teams. My direct manager (who has been fighting for my offer) said that they have been going back and forth for 7 days. This really concerns me, since most companies have taken 24-48 hours to come back with a written offer after a verbal offer. I still have not received the written offer, but I get daily notes from my recruiter that it is in progress and that I will get my written offer soon.

B is a less preferred company. However they have given me a written offer with x+25k, far higher than I would have expected. I never really thought I would get this much in this job search.

I decided to share this x+25k figure with company A in the hopes that it would accelerate their written offer. I also told them that I would be fine in them making up the difference with a sign on bonus, since that might be easier for the finance and COO folks to deal with. I realize this puts me in a slightly worse position, but I think they cannot bend their salary band 25k outside their target.

I am concerned that company A will not believe my offer from company B, since it sounds too good to be true and out of market range. I don't want them to call my bluff, because I actually want to work at A. Should I share my offer letter? I understand that this can be unprofessional. The offer from B may have also come at a bad time, when A already is having trouble giving me a x+8k offer.

What should I share to make company A believe my competing offer and soothe over tensions? The recruiter sounds frustrated and tired at this point, and I'm concerned these negotiations are impacting my reputation at A before I even begin my job.

My ideal outcome is to make A take the offer from B seriously, find an exception to their salary band or give me a large sign on bonus, and allow me to accept that position at A.

One final question: the behavior of A throughout this process is making my question their professionalism and timeliness. The recruiter and manager have failed to deliver and follow up on their emails quickly, and this makes me question if A is really my dream company after all. Do you think is this a bad sign? Or is HR often a slow-moving and unresponsive beast, and I might see a better picture once I'm on the inside?

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    If you like discussions, continue with A. However if you prefer working go with B for a year, and if you decide you don’t like it recheck A then. – Solar Mike Jun 19 at 4:03
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    What makes you think they didn't take your request seriously? You say so because they did not answer as quickly as you dreamt? – Paolo Jun 19 at 5:17
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    The danger with holding auctions is that you may end up not selling the product at all, particularly if you're bluffing. Whats so special about you that you think you can leverage nearly 40k more than they usually pay? – Kilisi Jun 19 at 5:58
  • What's your y that makes you indifferent between working at B for x+25k and working at A for x-y? – nicola Jun 19 at 6:35
  • @Kilisi I honestly dont know what is so special about me to B – Coder Jun 20 at 7:29
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In my experience, it’s really difficult to up your pay grade beyond the standard yearly/twice-a-year time frame once you move in to a firm.

Is money a major factor for you? Or working at A? You said you told x+8 to A already and are trying to figure how to get from A what B offered you - the optics seem greedy, but remember that you play for yourself. If money is a focus, you should be willing to lose an opportunity to work with A because your new ask is more than what they’ve already been told by you to consider. You could let them know that this is the offer on the table, and you like A and are willing to take an offer if they match or up it, but a lesser offer is not acceptable.

Both are big tech firms. Both have 300 employees. Both are in SF. If negotiation with A doesn’t work out, you should consider joining B with the +25, check out the experience for an year or so, and still if A’s got a soft spot in your heart, give it a shot again.

Time is of essence when you’re holding a response to B and negotiating with A again. Speed up the process to the best possible.

Wish you the best.

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    thanks for your thoughts. One question -- why is time of the essence here? Both have given me verbal offers, and both have given me plenty of time to consider the offers. There are no exploding 48 hour time-bomb offers, so I don't necessarily feel time-pressured. – Coder Jun 19 at 0:18
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    @Coder except that you never know what will happen tomorrow, maybe someone better and cheaper than you will walk through the door and snap the job on the spot, right from under your nose. – Tymoteusz Paul Jun 20 at 7:34
  • The key is you have not signed and submitted B's offer. An unsigned offer is NON BINDING (obviously). As far as B is concerned, they have no obligation to honor that contract if it is unsigned. They can turn around and extend offer to another candidate and retract your offer, and it'll be too late. They have no obligation to keep the offer around so you can go negotiate with A. – Nelson Jun 20 at 8:42
  • @Nelson I mean a signed offer is also non binding isn't it? They could also do this after I have signed their offer. – Coder Jun 20 at 15:10
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    @Coder A signed contract has actual legal weight and you can sue them. You can't do jack if you signed nothing or you waited so long that they retracted. – Nelson Jun 20 at 16:14
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This is going to come off as extremely cynical and crass, but so be it.

The fact of the matter is that companies play by their own rules, and you should too. If you mess up at work or you don't fit into the company politics or whatever, the company won't hesitate to fire you for whatever reason (especially in SF which is in a right-to-work state where there is no such thing as severance or notice period except inasmuch as the company decides to be generous). Cynical as it may seem, the company is not loyal to you. They would not think twice if the roles were reversed and they had to terminate you or someone else, for any reason whatsoever. In fact, as a previous employee of a FAANGUML company (I'll let you guess which one; if you look through my SE history you can probably find it), I was terminated from my position and I was paid hush money in the amount of roughly $20,000 to sign an indemnification letter on their behalf; that's how far those companies will go to not have to play by the normal rules.

All this is to say, you should have exactly as much loyalty to your company as your company has to you, which is none. Should you show company A your offer letter from company B? That depends; if company A comes back to you and says "we max out at $140k, take it or leave it", will you take it because you really want company A, or will you leave it? Given the fact that company A will not compensate you for the $35k you are leaving on the table over company B, and that company A has no loyalty to you (because no company has loyalty to any employee), will you leave that money on the table and show loyalty to company A? I wouldn't, but you can choose for yourself. If you don't want to leave that money on the table, then I see no reason to not show company A your offer from company B, or at least notify them it exists.

As for the unresponsiveness, for a company with a lot of red tape and a huge HR department with many levels of approval (such as a FAANGUML), I would say it's normal. For an SF startup with 300 employees, not normal. Someone is dicking someone around, and I think you're the recipient. This is most definitely a red flag to me, especially if your potential future hiring manager is in on it. This shows how much loyalty they have to you, as I said before, which is none. If you're having this much trouble trying to get them to hire you, when they've already expressed an offer, imagine how much trouble it will be when it's the reverse, when YOU need THEM. This is most definitely a red flag to me.

In my opinion, it must be the case where the only reason you haven't told company A to take a hike is because you believe the work is significantly more interesting there, and that the career progression at company A is significantly better than company B. Without knowing who these companies are, I can't weight those details. However, based on money and professionalism, just take the offer from B and be done with it.

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    And subconsciously, you'll keep thinking about that "missing" 35k, while company A won't give a rat's tail about what you "gave up" for them. Take this seriously; companies are not loyal to you. When you fail to generate the value that they paid for, you go out the door. – Nelson Jun 20 at 8:54
  • @Ertai87 can you describe in more detail why you were terminated from your position? I'd love to learn as much as you are comfortable sharing. Sounds like a horrible experience. – Coder Jun 20 at 23:51
  • @Coder Unfortunately I can't do so properly in the character limit of these comments. The tl;dr is that, officially speaking, I was terminated without cause for incompetence (I had made some novice mistakes which IMO were not out of the ordinary from a junior dev, which I was a the time). However, when I was terminated, they offered me something like $21k severance if I signed an indemnification, but I had to sign the indemnification within like 1 business week or something, and if I failed to do so then my severance would drop to like $4k or something (I forgot the exact numbers). (1/2) – Ertai87 Jun 22 at 14:32
  • (2/2) so then I failed to sign the indemnification, and then when the time limit was up, rather than saying "sorry, you missed the deadline", they said "ok, we'll give you an extension". It was kind of like they really were afraid of my taking legal action against them (I had indeed been collecting evidence to use against them, although not sure if they knew this) and wanted to pay me off. – Ertai87 Jun 22 at 14:47
  • @Ertai87 I wouldn't read it as "fear" but as bookkeeping. If they can settle the issue for 21k, then they go for it. You suing them is a variable cost, but don't take it to mean that they're "afraid" of you. You'll be in for a real fight if you decide to sue them, and at that point you need a lawyer to say whether it is a good idea or not; if you lose you'll have to pay the lawyer fees, which can be financially catastrophic. – Nelson Jun 23 at 5:56
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Company A says their range would be 120 to 140, so you can expect 130. Company B offers 175. That's a huge difference. But then A is your "dream company".

Think very hard about what makes them your "dream company". One third more salary would make B my dream company in a heartbeat.

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Should I share my offer letter?

If these companies were one of the FAANGUMLs then sharing the offer letter would be fine because these companies are used to competing with each other over talent, however since these are both smaller companies, I would not suggest sharing the offer letter with company A. The valley is small, people know each other, especially folks that work for smaller companies. I think it could put you in a strange position if Company B finds out that you are shopping their offer around and/or find out that Company A can barely offer you x+8k. They may wonder why they are paying x+25k for the same talent since you started that x+25k is out of market range for your position.

Rethinking Company A

A company's hiring process can be indicative of their internal culture and processes, however in small companies finances may be an issue and there may be a lot of stakeholders who have opinions in this offer. Additionally, since we're in an odd period with the Covid situation, offers are taking a bit longer than normal. With many working from home especially in the SF area, its not very easy to just grab folks and get approvals. It is not great that they have left you hanging for so long but you might want to think about:

  • In 10 days, 10 months, and 10 years, where could each company take your career?
  • Why is Company B paying you so much more? Does the role have tremendously more scope? Do people in that position have a high turn over rate?
  • What excites you at Company A? Can you have the same or similar experiences at Company B?

With lots of people looking for work right now, I would request an ETA from Company A, if they can't respond or at minimum give you an update by X, then you will unfortunately need to take the other offer since you haven't heard back which wouldn't be unreasonable.

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  • How do I convince A that the offer is real and to take it seriously without sending the offer letter? I'm getting the sense that they think I'm exaggerating. – Coder Jun 19 at 3:01
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    @Coder I'm not sure sending them the letter would help, it'd be easy to fake or doctor an offer letter. Convincing then may make no difference regardless. Either they're able and willing to match the offer or they're not. Sounds like they're probably not. – Kat Jun 19 at 5:42
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    @Coder I don't think you need to convince them that the offer is real, they know pay varies from company to company. Company A may have under-leveled you which created the difference in pay bands. Personally I'm not sure I would have told Company A what Company B's offer was since Company A is already struggling to get to your $158k number. – Spotted_Flamingo Jun 19 at 12:00

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