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I read all of these: Is "this offer is lower than what your company usually pays" a reasonable argument in salary negotiation?, How to counter-offer (negotiate salary) for a job I'm pretty sure I don't want?, How to negotiate a higher salary for temp to hire position where I'm being hired full time from being a temp?, How can I negotiate a bonus in to a base salary raise?. But not exactly the same.

This question is probably going to get down-voted or closed, but here goes:

I had three job offers. I took the one with the highest package - lower base but higher RSUs, and highest overall package because it is a better opportunity. I'm an Information Security professional and compensation is comparable to software engineers. I one I accepted has the best career projection, not necessarily the best compensation because a huge chunk is offered as RSUs and this is a private company.

During my emails with the HR rep to schedule the interview, I mentioned to him that I have other on-site interviews (as smoothly as I could).

This is how the conversation went the day after the on-site interview (Friday):

HR Rep calls: We're very pleased to extend an offer. We can talk numbers later.

On Tuesday, he sends an email and insists on doing this over the phone rather than email. My first mistake was answering that call. I read this here: http://www.kalzumeus.com/2012/01/23/salary-negotiation/

HR: We're very close to the last stage. Can you tell me what you make currently and we can go from there.

Me (after having read many blogs on negotiation): No.

HR: I need a number otherwise I don't know how to base it.

Me: (Another version of) No

HR: (Another version of) I need a number otherwise I don't know how to base it.

Me: (Another version of) No

HR: (Another version of) I need a number otherwise I don't know how to base it.

Me: Okay, I did some research and I think x,000 to (x+5),000 is good.

HR: Great! But I think x,000 is pretty high for what we offer here at this company. I'll talk to the hiring manager and see what I can do.

Based on my research, average salary for my experience is around (x-5),000

Next day, Wednesday:

(obviously) comes back with a base of x,000 + bonus + RSUs 40% over what is usually offered at the company.

Me: I think (x+5),000 is a better offer.

HR: Show me data to prove that.

Over that week, I tried to drag the conversation out as much as I possibly could, talking about other perks, RSUs, etc. to allow other companies to come back with their offers.

Few days later, (Monday of next week):

Me: I'm expecting the offer from the other companies any day now. What about Signon?

HR: I can offer REALLY_TINY sign on. If you 100% accept right now, then I can promise you that and x,000 in base.

Me: I'm 90% sure.

HR: I can't go back unless I have 100% confirmation. It won't look good to the manager. BTW offer expires day-after. Some other HR BS.

Next day (Tuesday):

Me: Let's do (x+3),000 and sign-on and I'll sign the offer letter right now.

Meanwhile, I was talking to the other two companies to speed up their offers. Both the companies made an offer when I told them that I need to decide. One of the companies offered (x+15),000 above what the original company was offering.

Next day (Wednesday):

Me: Here is the data, I think my original ask of (x+5),000 and signon is valid. What is the best you can do? (I didn't explicitly ask for 15k extra because I'd already asked for only 5k earlier.)

HR: Okay, I'll really appreciate it if you can wait while I talk to my HR leader and get a sign on approved. Please take your time to think over the offers. Offer no longer expires today.

Next day (Thursday):

HR: We can offer (x+5),000 and REALLY_TINY signon bonus.

At this point, I accepted. In this entire time, I spoke with the hiring manager twice to make sure that the job duties are what I think they are, and he was available on short notice. I also talked to a finance rep of the company about the RSUs and other aspects of the job offer. This is all to say that it seemed like they were genuinely trying to make everything happen so that I will join.

This is a company that is one of the "unicorn" start-ups. I asked for very small increase and was met with a lot of push back until I could produce another offer.

Note that:

  1. The other company is also fantastic and is always mentioned in every employee satisfaction survey. Even that was a major step-up from my current situation.

  2. The offer of (x+5),000 is a strong offer. I'm not being low balled.

My questions are these:

  1. How can one better use an offer in hand to negotiate without risking a rescind?
  2. I see some obvious negotiation tactics here like asking me to get on the phone, saying that the lower of what I'm asking for is "higher" than they can provide etc. What other negotiation tactics do HR use and how can they be side stepped?
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    Not sure it's intentional or not but in the "next day (Tuesday) section, you say "(X+15),000" - want to be sure that's what you mean, and it shouldn't be 5. – Catija Jun 14 '17 at 21:07
  • One of the companies offered (x+15),000 above what the original company was offering. -> Is this what you're referring to? In that case, yes it is "(x+15),000" – Jo Bennet Jun 14 '17 at 21:11
  • OK! Wanted to double check because that sounds like a lot! :D Glad to know it's not a typo. – Catija Jun 14 '17 at 21:12
  • The other company was offering less RSUs, so they made it up in the base. :) – Jo Bennet Jun 14 '17 at 21:14
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    First, you sound like you are looking for critique of your specific negotiating strategy. That's too specific for this site. Second, what do you mean by 'better'? You sound like you got a position you like at a company you like with a salary you think is good. That sounds like a win. – DJClayworth Jun 14 '17 at 21:14
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To answer your questions:

The best way to leverage an offer in hand is to communicate it, politely.

If you're offered $15k higher than this company is willing to offer you, let them know that and what the amount is, and let them know that you're inclined to go with that offer instead. They'll work to find out what options they have to retain your candidacy.

Another HR tactic that's commonly used is the 1-day offer expiration. They want to restrict the amount of time you have to 'think about it' as much as possible, so this gives the candidate the impression that they don't have a lot of time to negotiate - they've got a day to get back to the recruiter, who may be the only person they have contact information for, and who may push back strongly on anything they ask for.

In your case, as soon as you pushed back hard on the offer, they said to ignore the 1-day expiration. They're obviously still interested in hiring you, the 1-day expiration is just used as a way to make candidates think they need to 'take it or leave it' in that time period.

  • a great point... – Fattie Jun 14 '17 at 22:08
  • @Fattie saw your answer after posting, you had a good set of points as well. – schizoid04 Jun 14 '17 at 22:09
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    Just need to point out that sometimes when a company puts a deadline on an offer, they mean it. – DJClayworth Jun 14 '17 at 22:52
  • You do have a point; some companies do legitimately need to fill a position by a deadline. – schizoid04 Jun 15 '17 at 3:12
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    Even if they dont have to fill a position asap, its a matter of principle. Its much more acceptable and understandable instead of disrespecting their word, if you reply back to them " I dont think I ll be able to produce a positive answer in 24hours, but you WILL have a final answer from me until X day at most". Unless they indeed have a deadline to fill a position or are that hellbent on strong-arming you(in which case you wouldnt want to work for them anyway), then you have yourself an extension of time in a respectable manner. – Leon Jun 15 '17 at 7:26
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Sounds like you did great? Purely FWIW some thoughts since you're asking,

We're very pleased to extend an offer.

You're supposed to be stating to them, what you want.

They can either take you on or not. Getting "offers" is not ideal.

If you were selling oranges, and some joker came over and "offered" you $1, you'd say "what? the price is $1.80, buster." Don't take "offers", just set a price and get that.

(Note, in most negotiations, you don't want to "say a price first". However, happily this is not so relevant to the situation at hand. Say you find out, after a couple of months, you could have got more. If so, then just politely state at that time "I've realized I should be being paid X more based on the role." If they politely decline, politely leave.)

Can you tell me what you make currently and we can go from there.

This shouldn't ideally come up because of point 1 above. Sometimes, without telling white lies, you can obfuscate things a bit. A good example: For programmers, you inevitably have plenty of other little bits of income coming in (from past contracts, freelance, shares, patents, bonuses, apps or whatever). So you can say something like: "as I said I took home about 900,000 the last 12 months, and while I'd love to work for you because it's the world's first VR CRM product, I'd be looking for 950,000 to commit to you. As I already said." You know?

RSUs

I dunno. So often it amounts to nothing. It's pretty much like getting a lottery ticket you know? Of course if it works out you're a hero and you can finally buy that Porsche some years from now. Fantastic. But you really have to worry about the now.

other offer

I couldn't follow the whole story (no attention span!) But you actually got, and told them about, another offer? You used it as leverage to get a better deal? If so - fantastic. An only thought would be: again, without in any way telling white lies, you can "suggest" even more. So the other offer is $700,000. But it looks like they're known to pay $6,000 of travel benefits. And then there's the healthcare for your seven kids. They're known for education allowances. Or you could just say that your offer "so far" from the other guys is X.

Should you push too far? Of course not. But you're essentially asking "how to push a bit more"; some thoughts above.

And as always...

The one and only way to negotiate is to be able to walk. It's AAA+ fantastic that you had another offer. But, imagine if you had 3, or 4, companies all ready to hire you. Your position would be incredibly strong.

Your story is a "success story" based on the dictum, "The one and only way to negotiate is to be able to walk". After your nice success, you'll probably be telling people that having even more counterops would be even better again. Enjoy!


But I'm looking for suggestions that I can implement next time .. Yes, the salary is good, but can it be better; and how?

You have your answer: if you say: "Flat question, how could I have got 10k more?" There is only one answer. You would have had to have more counteropportunities on the table; you would have had to have dug around even harder for other job leads and worked even harder to have more and more near offers on the table. Great!

--

Also...

Just to be clear. This pst is about how to be a smarty-pants "tough negotiator". So, that is to say - there's only one rule in negotiating: you can't negotiate until you can walk.

It goes without saying, but let's say it: to make more money, offer more. What is the skill - some specific API expertise, computer science discipline, some demo you can make of something extraordinary you have done, a proven skill - what is the actual "thing" you can offer that means you will create more money for the enterprise? Of course, it's fun to discuss, "how to negotiate!" The basis though is - fundamentally - how much money you can make for the enterprise. So, every job you have, is a "PhD" where you achieve some incredible skill, you will use at the next role or job. If you do not have this, you won't be able to brassily "demand that next 10k".

  • "You should be telling them what you want" plus "you don't want to say a price first" is just contradictory. "I couldn't follow the whole story" does not inspire confidence. Having more offers will NOT tell you whether they would have gone $10k higher. They don't care about your other offers, only whether they can get you for a price they want to pay. – DJClayworth Jun 14 '17 at 22:51
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    If you're in a strong position (strong job market, other opportunities), I think stating the salary and/or package you want is definitely the way to go. Set your expectations immediately. If they're not willing or able to meet them, then unless you discover some other valuable trait about the company, the conversation is over. Also by doing so, you're not having to say what you earn now. You're stating what you would need to be offered to even consider the position. – fubar Jun 14 '17 at 23:53
  • I think you are missing some subtleties of the negotiating process – DJClayworth Jun 15 '17 at 1:14
  • I'm confident you are correct, DJC! – Fattie Jun 15 '17 at 1:20
  • As @fubar said,its all about negotiating from a position of power. If they know they have competing offers and they like the assets you offer, they ll be more than willing to go above & beyond to get you. – Leon Jun 15 '17 at 7:31
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On the other hand...

I respectfully disagree about sharing your outside offers with a prospective employer.

Ideally, your prospective employer should never know you have competing offers at all. All they need is your asking price and whether they believe it is in their own best interest to provide it for you. Everything else is in your head.

Sure, the competing offers make you feel in control, but that is about you, not your desired employer. Unless you are going to show them your offer letter you don't have to have one in hand. What the offer gives you, on the other hand, is the confidence to negotiate from a position of (apparent) strength.

This can all be accomplished with the mindset of

"I'd really like to come work for you, but I'm going to need 'x' to be able to do so."

Or something like

"While I'd prefer to work for your company, the market suggests 'x'. I would need at least 'x-y' to come aboard."

You can convey the same level of confidence and willingness-to-walk-away without any other actual offers. It really is all about your self-beliefs and confidence, not what some other arbitrary companies believe you are worth. Oh, and see 'The market' below.

The only time I can imagine actually mentioning another offer would be late into the negotiations, if I got another offer for >15% more, I might use that as a way to bump the offer on the table. But, if you think they'd go for it, you probably didn't do a good job negotiating in the first place. ;-)

Example

I had been billing $85/hr as a contract programmer for 3 years. We delivered the product and the contract was winding down so I started looking for other opportunities.

I found a W-2 position with a company in a similar industry, but their stated range was $60-$80k/yr. I explained that, while I would like to work for their company, I would find it difficult to make my monthly nut on $80k/yr. I countered with $100k/yr and they balked. They said they could only ever do $85k/yr for this position, but then I'd have no room for raises.

I explained that I was far more interested in current cash-flow and could forego future raises for a while, but that I could probably make it work if they could kick in a $30k signing bonus. After a couple days, I got the offer of what I'd asked for including the $30k, which was structured as a retention bonus for a 2-year commitment.

I didn't need a competing offer in hand, I just needed to know that my ask was not unreasonable for the skills provided.

The market

All of the above is predicated on you understanding your market and what it will bear. There are several resources available for this information (glassdoor.com, etc.) which will give you insight into the ranges of compensation for various jobs at various companies.

Startups

A technique I've had success with, especially with startups, is negotiating a 'total package value' with some minimum in salary and the rest in per diem, guaranteed bonuses, stock options, RSUs or other forms of non-salary compensation.

Additionally

In my opinion, mentioning a different offer explicitly, suggests you don't know your own value and need to rely on other, tangible evidence of your worth. Again, just my opinion based on my feelings. FWIW, I've mostly been a contract programmer/engineer for over 30 years and have had a LOT of experience negotiating rates / salaries -- and not always very well, especially at first.

In my first 5 years in IT, I went from $6.50/hr to $45/hr mostly while staying at the same company! I did this by paying attention to the market and demonstrating my value.

They did not offer these increases, I had to negotiate them, one at a time.

  • "prospective employer should never know you have competing offers at all." Wrong IMO. There's nothing wrong with that, they know you're talking with other companies, you might as-well tell them what they have to do to get your service instead of some others if it comes to the point where you have an offer in hand, at least allow them to get a chance to offer better, it's foolish to not let them know, you throw away the chance of a better offer. Sure, they should just be offering more in the first place but sometimes that's not an option. – Jonast92 Jul 14 '17 at 13:44
  • I understand that from a logical standpoint it should simply be enough to say that you need more and don't tell them exactly why, you can say that your price tag got higher and not tell them why, but some employers need a valid reach such as an existing offer that they need to beat, to push the salary number higher. Supply and demand has a huge impact on the market, this one too. – Jonast92 Jul 14 '17 at 13:45
  • There is one thing to know your value -- but someone might be willing to give you an offer above what you value yourself. Are you going to accept that offer blindly or give the other company a chance to counter? – Jonast92 Jul 14 '17 at 14:38
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    @Jonast92 - I've moved most relevant information from my comments into the body of my answer. I'll likely remove my comments after a little while. Thanks for the lively discussion and thoughtful feedback! – MrWonderful Jul 14 '17 at 17:39
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    Great answer, but I disagree with the last paragraph. I think mentioning another offer does not automatically indicate a lack of awareness, but it can be simply used as a negotiation tactic by putting pressure on the companies. – NoBackingDown Jul 20 '17 at 10:01

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