Non-Negotiable Job Offers

I only make non-negotiable job offers.

A non-negotiable job offer is exactly what the name suggests: when I extend a job offer to a successful candidate, the compensation package (salary, stock options, etc.) attached to that offer cannot be negotiated by either party.

I didn’t always do this, but over the last six years, as a startup founder and employer, I’ve learned that doing so helps me build a strong team and sets a positive tone for the type of company I want to create.

I’ve also learned that this approach is somewhat unique (especially for an early stage tech startup) so I’ve made a habit of discussing it with job applicants early on in the hiring process. Here’s what we talk about…

First, by making all job offers non-negotiable, I can promise you the following:

  1. Nobody will ever be compensated more than you because they negotiated and you didn’t. When I was an employee this was a major concern of mine and a source of anxiety and stress. It’s incredibly important to me to build an organization that doesn’t reward (or punish) anyone based on confidence, social skills, or privilege.
  2. You’re getting our best offer upfront. I’m only interested in hiring great people. I’m not interested in saving money at an employee’s expense, deploying negotiation tactics, or playing any such games. Accepting a job offer requires two-way trust, and in order to earn yours, I’m committed to putting all our cards on the table right away.

Second, as an employer, we’re heavily incentivized to act in a way that benefits everyone:

  1. We’re driven to understand the job market before we hire. If we don’t make competitive offers, then great candidates will turn us down. We carefully build compensation outlines that are included in every job posting, and we work hard to make them reasonable, fair, and competitive. Sometimes we fail at this — fortunately, there’s a tight feedback loop and we learn from our mistakes quickly.
  2. We never consider past compensation. We understand the job market and create fair compensation packages before we hire. This means your current (or past) salary doesn’t impact our offer. We care about how capable you are for the position, and whether or not our compensation package matches your expectations.

I hope that this can become a standard practice in our industry. I believe it’s served my teams well, and is one of the reasons I’ve had the opportunity to work with some really, really great people.

It’s also started impacting the surrounding startup community. I live in a small city on Canada’s west coast, where startup compensation packages tend to be low. Since adopting this strategy, other companies have started doing the same thing, helping the entire community become more competitive on a national scale. I think this benefits everyone and our community is stronger as a result.

(I realize my experience is limited to teams of 50 people or less and this might not scale to a larger company for reasons I don’t yet understand. I’m still going to try though.)

Thanks to Noah Warder for pushing me to write about this publicly, and Aileen O’Brien, Brandon Brown, and Veronica Best for reading early versions.

Proud dad, husband, programmer, DM, and Canadian. Building a wonderfully unique developer community.