Ten Rules for Negotiating a Job Offer

Haseeb Qureshi
Jul 19, 2016 · 20 min read

What it means to “get a job”

In our culture we call entering the employment market “trying to get a job.” This is an unfortunate turn of phrase. “Getting a job” implies that jobs are a resource out in the world, and you’re attempting to secure one of these resources. But that’s completely backwards. What you are actually doing is selling your labor, and a company is bidding for it.

The role of negotiation

Negotiating is a natural and expected part of the process of trying to make a deal. It’s also a signal of competence and seriousness. Companies generally respect candidates who negotiate, and most highly attractive candidates negotiate (if for no other reason, because they often have too many options to choose from).

The ten rules of negotiating

I’ve tried to boil down negotiation to ten rules. The rules, in order of appearance, are:

  1. Always keep the door open
  2. Information is power
  3. Always be positive
  4. Don’t be the decision maker
  5. Have alternatives
  6. Proclaim reasons for everything
  7. Be motivated by more than just money
  8. Understand what they value
  9. Be winnable

The offer conversation

You’ve just received the phone call: your interview went well, and after much deliberation they decided they like you. They want to make you an offer. Congratulations!

Protecting information

There’s an uncomfortable silence by now, and their “what do you think?” is hanging in the air.

The importance of positivity

Staying positive is rule #4 of negotiation. Even if the offer sucks, it’s extremely important to remain positive and excited about the company. This is because your excitement is one of your most valuable assets in a negotiation.

Don’t be the decision-maker

You can wrap up the conversation now by saying:

Getting other offers

Turns out, it doesn’t matter that much where your first offer is from, or even how much they’re offering you. Just having an offer in hand will get the engine running.

Why companies care about other offers

When I wrote about the story of my own job search, I mentioned how having an offer from Google made companies turn around and expedite me through their funnels. Many commentators lamented at the capriciousness of these companies. If Uber or Twitch only talked to me because of Google and until then weren’t willing to look at me, what did that say about their hiring processes? What legitimately are they evaluating, if anything at all?

Some advice on timing

You want to be strategic about the timing of your offers. Generally, you should try to start interviewing at larger companies earlier. Their processes are slower and their offer windows are wider (meaning they allow you more time to decide). Startups are the other way around.

How to approach exploding offers

Hoo boy.

The Negotiating Mindset

Before we enter into the actual back-and-forth, I want to examine the mindset you should have as a negotiator. This applies not just to how you approach the conversation, but also to how you think about the company.


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Haseeb Qureshi

Written by

Investor. Formerly Metastable, @Airbnb, @earndotcom. Instructor @BradfieldCS. Writer. Effective Altruist. Former poker pro. One always finds one's burden again.


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