How to Negotiate Your Job Offer Like a Boss

Rebecca Andersen
May 14, 2019 · 7 min read

I’ve worked with countless professionals in negotiating offers with tech companies. What follows below are the notes I send to help coach individuals through this process — enjoy!

First thing: the purpose of negotiation is to match your compensation to your value. This means your goal is NOT to get the most money possible. Your goal is to get a compensation package that allows you to support yourself (let’s be real!) and values your skills, experience, and education fairly in the context of the industry, domain, and company size/maturity.

The thing people often forget in negotiation is that you and the employer have (or should have) a shared objective! You both want fair compensation, a package that you each value and will retain you as an employee. Particularly in the tech market, it is hard to hire and retain good talent — trust me when I say they want you to stick around.

Receive the offer with enthusiasm

Receiving an offer

At the moment you receive an offer, your only goals (usually) are to convey enthusiasm for the role, express appreciation, and get an offer in writing. Once it is in writing (usually via email), it’s gone through all the approvals and you can be assured that the position has been established and that they want you in the role. Basically, a written offer is more concrete and easier to review in detail.

The most important thing to remember about receiving an offer is that you do NOT want to negotiate during this initial conversation. The employer is coming in with all of the information and you’re learning it for the first time! Never go into a negotiation from this disadvantaged position.

Action: Be gracious, express enthusiasm for the role/ team/ company/ opportunity, thank them for their effort, let them know you look forward to getting the written offer so you can review. Why express enthusiasm?

What if they ask “What do you think?” In this case, you can say something like “I’m really excited about the possibility of joining the team” — basically something positive but not related to the offer. I’m a huge fan of honesty in negotiations (for obvious reasons), so it’s fair to also add: “I did some research on what I was thinking for in terms of an offer, but I really need to look this over in detail. Can we connect next week — I’m sure I’ll have questions and a better sense of how this fits with what I’m thinking. I’m sure I can make a decision really soon!” (or whatever else feels honest)

Do not express feelings/thoughts about the offer itself — unless:

Your other action when receiving the offer is to ask questions. You’ll have more opportunities to ask questions — but it’s still good to try to get some clarity right away.

Determining your value (and what you value)

This may be the most critical part of the negotiation — and the part people tend to skip over. It’s common to determine your value as “as much base compensation as I can possibly get!” There are two things wrong with this valuation.

Here are a few steps to get started on determining your value and what you value:

My advice on salaries:

Know your worth

Justifying your value

Let’s start with a common assumption: people think you need to have a competing offer in hand — you don’t. The only reason to have that is if the company is like Google (which pretty much requires a competing offer for them to negotiation) or if you need CONFIDENCE in your worth.

“But what if the company says NO or pulls the offer?? What will I do then? Don’t I need a BATNA or something?”

Unless you are a complete jerk (don’t be), the company isn’t going to pull the offer. So, worst case scenario — you accept what they offer in the first place with the assurance that it’s the best you could get — that IS the “Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement.”

My advice is to do your research and go in with reasonable and fact-based rationales for requests. Never voice a request, or give a number, in isolation. It should be coupled with logical justification, such as:

The actual conversation

In the negotiation, you want to state your request and rationale and then follow-up with an open-ended question (one they cannot answer with a yes or no). For example:

“What are your thoughts around this salary?”

“Do you have any thoughts or ideas on how we can close the gap between the initial offer and market value?”

After you ask the open-ended question comes the MAGIC part: silence. This sounds simple, but it’s very important. You want to ask the question and then be silent. Give them time to respond! People tend to fill the silence, and you want them to actually consider and respond to your request.

If they say “this is the salary, and that’s it!” or something similar, you can:

Final note: You can generally ask for more money twice (they give an offer, you ask for more, they say no, you ask again) and then you have to either take it or leave it. Otherwise, it’s considered greedy/bad form.

Take it or leave it—you do the best thing for you at this moment and call it a win

Above all….

Do not feel like you are trapped in any decision. Love the company but the salary is low…and you still want to take the job? I say go for it — for most of my career, I’ve been paid peanuts and I’m super happy. Want to walk away? You got one job, you can get another! Feel like you got trapped into a low salary and you’ll be stuck there forever? People go up and down in salaries all the time in the tech market — don’t worry about it! Be sure you can support yourself, but beyond that — our value and success aren’t measured in dollars. You do the best thing for you at this moment and call it a win.

Thank you to:
Holly Schroth, Ph.D. whose workshops on negotiation were foundational to my understanding of the practice.
The late Denise Brouillette whose workshops geared towards women in leadership and negotiation changed the lives of so many people (including my own).


Voices from the UC Berkeley School of Information

Rebecca Andersen

Written by

I build engaged communities and help people connect to meaningful work. Certified Design Your Life Career Coach, UC Berkeley Educator, and Soccer Mom.


Voices from the UC Berkeley School of Information

Rebecca Andersen

Written by

I build engaged communities and help people connect to meaningful work. Certified Design Your Life Career Coach, UC Berkeley Educator, and Soccer Mom.


Voices from the UC Berkeley School of Information

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