Land That Dream Product Job - Negotiation
Resumes -> Applications -> Interviews -> Negotiations -> Decisions
"Congratulations! The feedback from the team was all positive so we're definitely moving forward with an offer!"
You've worked so hard over the last few weeks/months to ultimately nail all the product interviews for this company, and now at last, here comes to good news you've been longing for.
So the long fight is officially over and here comes the best reward! Well, ALMOST. There's one last battle you have to fight - negotiation, to get the best possible final outcome for yourself.
In this next episode of the "Land That Dream Product Jobs" series, I'm going to talk specifically about the negotiation tips after you've passed the interviews.
What to Negotiate?
How to Negotiate?
What to Negotiate
Salary, of course, right? Yes it is the most important and the most negotiable. But many overlooked the fact that many other things you might care about, are negotiable as well. Among them, there's job level, job title, start date, work model, and even vacation.
Obviously what's negotiable or not depends on the company and the team, or even how desperate the they are to hire and close you as a candidate at the time. Which are mostly out of your control. But what's in your control is that the more the team wants you and the more skilled you are in negotiation, the more likely you'll have these all in your favor.
I'll focus mostly on salary but will touch upon these are parts too.
How to Negotiate
It's a huge question, but as always let me start from some principles.
Relationship matters: keep in mind that as a fundamental negotiation principle, negotiating as a friend for win-win is always better than as an enemy in a zero-sum. You want to fight for what you deserve, but make sure you don't spoil the relationship in the process. Be genuine, polite and professional throughout. What do you lose you don't manage the relationship well? A lot: the job offer at hand and future relationship with this recruiter or this specific company.
Data is your friend: you need the insights into what's possible, what's a stretch, and what's definitely impossible before you negotiate. Jump into asking what's impossible is a sure way to ruin the negotiation (and the relationship). For salary, anonymous based platforms like Blind or Levels.fyi are good sources for major tech companies data points. For others, Blind might be where you can inquire and get some casual answers, but make sure to also try to get the information directly from the hiring team members even during the interviews.
Optionality is power: Optionality means both competing offers and your current job. I know for many the current job is almost not an option as you might have hated it so much or you want to do everything to transition out of it. If it is not the case, stress that you don't have to leave your current job and there are parts you like about it. This is also just a reminder that if you decide to step into the interviews and in order to optimize for the best outcome, you should be prepared to be in talk with multiple companies and ideally land multiple offers. Yes, even if you're eyeing on this one and only dream company of yours. The unfortunately truth is that your dream company's recruiters likely know it's your (and many others') dream company, and they will take advantage of it. I know this is time/effort consuming. But this is how the game is played. Also, like I mentioned earlier in interview prep, multiple interviews will help you with more field experience and be more prepared anyway.
Be specific and clear: Negotiation conversations can be very uncomfortable for many, myself included. But do your best to prepare head, clearly know and express what you want exactly and why, concisely, based on your research, data points, and competing options. Sometimes people don't get what they want, not really because recruiters/companies can't give. It was because it's not communicated well enough.
More on Salary Negotiation
Again, salary negotiation is the most frequent type of negotiation at offer stage. It's probably also the most complex. So let me share a few more reminders / tips:
Understand the Compensation Structure: every company structures they overall compensation a bit differently. Even with the common components, it can be different percentage and different rules. Don't just listen to the recruiters only. Collect the offer details, do your own math, ask clarifying questions, and try compare apple-to-apple between offers. The common components include:
Base salary: This is the most straightforward component. What's your annual base bay in coming in paychecks (monthly, biweekly, or twice a months).
Target annual bonus: A percentage of your annual base salary paid out once a year. This usually factors in either your personal performance or company performance or both. Meaning you can get less or more than the target. For performance driven companies, expect "multipliers" if you beat performance expectation. Likewise, expect much less or 0 if you under perform. Also know that this is usually prorated as well based on % time you served the company in a year. E.g. if you join middle of the year, you'll get only 50% targeted annual bonus.
Equity: It can be in RSU (restricted stock unit) or options. The exact rules for both are out of the scope of this article. Basically for public tech companies, RSUs are usually a major part of the overall compensation and depending on the grant and vesting schedule, it can function very much like a base salary, just provided to you in the form of company stocks.
Sign-on bonus: A one time cash amount when you officially join. Read the details in the offer letter. You might have to give it back if you depart within a year. Some companies provide one time sign-on RSU too.
2. Negotiate total AND each component: The fact that the compensation is complex actually allows even more flexibility for negotiation. Some companies are really strict and rigid about base salary for instance, but might have more room to increase for RSU and sign-on.
3. Understand the "band" of your target level: Make sure you know exactly what level you're targeted, and then figure out the band - the usual salary range for that band, based on the information you could find online. Then understand your "negotiation power" - a combination of how well you perform in the interviews, how many/strong competing offers do you have, how hot is the market, and how motivated the teams appear to want to close you etc., for you to know what to target. If you think you have high negotiation power, try at least near top of band, and if you have out of band competing offers, shoot for that too. Also, negotiating a level up is not impossible either. Again, depending on your negotiation power and company status.
4. Avoid "on the spot" numbers response: Resist the temptation to give a number on the call with the recruiter. Because first of all, you need the time to process and do your homework. Secondly, a number without clear data points and rationale to back it up comes across as weak. Third, if that number is actually lower than your actual worth, you lost your chance to negotiate further.
We just talked about salaries and a bit about leveling. Before the deal is formally sealed, remember to think about some other dimensions too - e.g. when would you like to start, when to take a well deserved break, what would be the ideal work arrangements, etc. Not simply for the sake of negotiation, but more for you do comfortably and confidently onboard and perform your best. Which obviously, aligns with hiring manager's goals too.
Start Date: think about how much time you need to give current employer notice, how much break do you need between the jobs, and what would be the optimal time of the year to join (e.g. before/after the holidays, eligibility for bonus/salary review at year end etc.)
Vacation: It's not necessarily about how many days a year that's defined already in company's policy. Often what's negotiable might be whether you onboard first and then take a well-deserved break (even when you're still brand new). Some teams do want you to be officially onboard as early as possible (to secure you as a candidate + get you to start ramping up / being introduced to the teams sooner), and so they're willing to provide you the flexibility/luxury.
Work Arrangement: E.g. how many days do you work from home vs work from the office, what's your core hours (e.g. 9-5, 10-6, etc.) based on your personal / child care / etc. needs. These are more negotiable now vs many years ago partly because of COVID, partly because more and more companies now are performance/responsibility driven vs hours driven. Basically, as long as you perform well, they care less how you prefer to work. How do they know you will perform well before you even join? Well, you just knocked interviews out of the park didn't you? :)
Negotiation is also art and science, arguably more art than science. Like product interviews, few are naturally good at it, and most feel uncomfortable about it. I hope the high level guide above helps you feel more confident going into it. After all,
It gives you what you deserve
Recruiters expect you to negotiate too
This is a good problem to have! (vs if you don't get the offer)
Best of luck! Let me know how I can be helpful (or let me know if you're interested in personal product coaching)
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