When you get an offer, you’ve made it through the hardest part: You now have a job, if you want it. However, the game isn’t over yet. You’re looking for a job because you need to make money; how you play the end game largely determines how much you get.
When your recruiter or hiring manager makes you an offer, he or she may also tell you how much the company is planning to pay you. Perhaps a more-common practice, though, is for the recruiter or hiring manager to tell you that the company would like to hire you and ask you how much you want to make. Answering this question is covered in detail in Chapter 15, “Nontechnical Questions.”
Once you’ve been given a specific offer that includes details about salary, signing bonus, and stock options, you need to decide whether you’re satisfied with it. This shouldn’t be a snap decision - never accept an offer on the spot. Always spend at least a day thinking about important decisions like this; it’s surprising how much can change in a day.
Recruiters often employ a variety of high-pressure tactics to get you to accept offers quickly. They may tell you that you must accept the offer within a few days if you want the job, or they may offer you an exploding signing bonus, a signing bonus that decreases by a fixed amount each day. Don’t let this bullying rush your decision. If the company really wants you (and it probably does if it made you an offer), then these limits and terms are negotiable, even when a recruiter claims they aren’t. You may have to go over the recruiter’s head and talk to your hiring manager if the recruiter refuses to be flexible. If these conditions really are non-negotiable, you probably don’t want to work for a rigid company full of bullies anyway.
If, after careful consideration, the offer meets or exceeds your expectations, you’re all set. On the other hand, if you’re not completely happy with your offer, you should try to negotiate. All too often, applicants assume that offers are non-negotiable and reject offers without negotiation or accept offers they’re not pleased with. In fact, almost every offer is negotiable to some extent.
You should never reject an offer for monetary reasons without trying to negotiate. When you’re negotiating an offer that you would otherwise reject, you hold the ultimate high card. You’re ready to walk, so you have nothing to lose.
Even when an offer is in the range you were expecting, it’s often worthwhile to try negotiating. As long as you are respectful and truthful in your negotiations and your requests are reasonable, you’ll never lose an offer just because you tried to negotiate it. In the worst case, the company refuses to change the offer and you’re no worse off than before you tried to negotiate.
In determining what is reasonable, the authors frequently apply the maxim “Pigs get fat, but hogs get slaughtered.”
If you decide to negotiate your compensation package, here’s how you do it:
Figure out exactly what you want. You may want a signing bonus, better pay, or more stock options.
Arrange a phone call with the appropriate negotiator. Your negotiator is usually the same person who gave you the terms of your offer. Don’t call the negotiator blind because you may catch him or her at an inconvenient time.
Explain your case. Say you appreciate receiving the offer and explain why you’re not completely happy with it. For example, you could say, “I’m very pleased to have received the offer, but I’m having a hard time accepting it because it’s not competitive with my other offers.” Or you could say, “Thank you again for the offer, but I’m having trouble accepting it because I know from discussions with my peers and from talking with other companies that this offer is below market rates.” If the negotiator asks you to go into greater detail about which other companies have offered you more money and how much, or where your peers work, you’re under no obligation to do so. You can easily say, “I keep all my offers confidential, including yours, and feel that it’s unprofessional to give out that sort of information.”
Thank the negotiator for his time and help and say that you’re looking forward to hearing from him again. Negotiators rarely change an offer on the spot. The company’s negotiator may ask you what you had in mind or, conversely, tell you that the offer is non-negotiable. Claiming that the offer is non-negotiable is often merely a hardball negotiation tactic, so in either case you should respond by politely and respectfully spelling out exactly what you expect in an offer and giving the negotiator a chance to consider what you’ve said.
Many people find negotiation uncomfortable, especially when dealing with professional recruiters who do it every day. It’s not uncommon for someone to accept an offer as close enough just to avoid having to negotiate. If you feel this way about negotiation, try looking at it this way: You rarely have anything to lose, and even modest success in negotiation can be very rewarding. If it takes you a 30-minute phone call to get your offer increased by $3,000, you’ve made $6,000 per hour. Even lawyers aren’t paid that much.
At some point, your negotiations will be complete, and you will be ready to accept an offer. After you inform a company you’re accepting its offer, be sure to keep in touch to coordinate start dates and paperwork.
It’s also important to be professional about declining your other offers. Contacts are very important, especially in the computer business where people change jobs frequently. You’ve no doubt built contacts at all the companies that made you offers. It’s foolish to squander your contacts at other companies by failing to inform them of your decision. If you had a recruiter at the company, you should e-mail him or her with your decision. (Don’t expect them to be overjoyed, however.) You should also personally call the hiring managers who made you an offer to thank them and let them know what you decided. For example, you can say, “I want to thank you again for extending me the offer. I was very impressed with your company, but I’ve decided it’s not the best choice for me right now. Thank you again, and I appreciate your confidence in me.” Besides simply being classy, this approach will often get a response such as, “I was pleased to meet you, and I’m sorry that you won’t be joining us. If things don’t work out at that company, give me a call and maybe we can work something out. Best of luck.”
This gives you a great place to start the next time you need to play the game.