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Negotiating your Offer

November 21, 2023

Congrats - you’ve made it through all the stages of the interview process!  

Our first recommendation is to follow up with your interviewers and to send a short email.

  • What to say: Craft thoughtful, but short follow-up messages. Mention that you appreciated their time meeting with you and you look forward to hearing about next steps.
  • If you want, you can mention a couple specific things that came up during the interview: Remind the interviewers of a few key bullet points about you and why you’d be a great fit for the role. Remember - keep this about how the company can benefit from your skillset, not why the role is a great fit for you personally.

Now, let’s say you receive a call or an email letting you know you have an offer - congrats! Here’s a few things you want to understand before you start negotiating:

How equity works, if you’ve been offered equity

  • Often, equity is presented to employees as RSUs. An RSU, or Rested Stock Unit, refers to units of stock an employee receives the right to purchase after a certain period of time. Typically, an employee must remain at a company for a year (known as a cliff) before accessing the right to any stock options. After that, stock units “vest” - meaning, over time, an employee is able to access more and more of their options. Most vesting schedules last a few years, and often equity is vested on a monthly basis.
  • The number of RSUs an employee is granted can vary depending on role, years of experience, or company size. Joining an earlier stage seed company can often mean more options than joining a company that’s raised many more rounds of funding.
  • Additionally - some employers offer candidates options like higher cash compensation with fewer stock units, or lower compensation with higher stock units. Understanding how your equity works during the interview process, and definitely before you accept an offer, will help you make sure you accept an offer that’s right for you.
  • Check out General Assembly’s guide for more info on startup compensation.

How other benefits you’ve been offered may work

  • Many companies offer great benefits in addition to healthcare and PTO, that are often unique and based on employee feedback. Computer or work-from-home equipment, travel stipends, fitness stipends, financial wellness, free or discounted products depending on their business are some examples.
  • Many employees find these types of benefits more useful than traditional benefits. Regarding PTO, many startups offer unlimited time off so employees can take personal time as needed - with some even starting to require time off so employees aren’t afraid to take vacations while the rest of their team is working.

What to know before you negotiate

Before you start to negotiate a job offer, there are a few main forms of compensation you should be aware of. These include:  

  • Base Compensation (this is often your salary)
  • Stock Options (common in the case of startups)
  • Sign-on Bonus
  • Other bonuses, for example, performance bonuses (more on this in a bit!)

Before you start to negotiate, make sure you understand all the compensation types presented in your offer. You may find that you’re happy with your offer and it meets your expectations if you consider all the additional forms of compensation that come in addition to your base, as well as the bonus structure.

How to negotiate an offer

If you want to negotiate an offer, consider the following tips when beginning your negotiation:

Don’t rush. Take your time in considering the offer, and don’t feel like you need to send off an email right away. It’s definitely in your best interest to be prompt when responding to your offer - but if you rush into sending a reply you may regret it later.

Be confident, not confrontational. Avoid using phrases that sound confrontational or demanding. Even if your offer is much lower than expected - don’t spend time dwelling on your disappointment, or express frustration.

Do your research. You’ve likely already done this, but always research salary ranges in advance. You want to understand how professionals are paid in your. Non-salary compensation - like stock options and equity - are especially important here. If your offer is with a startup, you’ll need to keep in mind that your total compensation comes in these other forms.

Highlight your value. Emphasize your achievements and skills and how these align with company goals if you want higher compensation. Remember, in order to find the appropriate offer amount, recruiters take into account years of experience, role scope, education, and how successful they think a candidate will be in the new role. When asking for higher compensation, highlight what you’ll bring to your new company and connect this to how you’ll help the company reach their goals. Think of specific responsibilities that came up during your interview, and highlight how your specific skills will help the company more so than other candidates.

Want some good resources for negotiation? Check out this cheat sheet from Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss, and how LinkedIn’s Head of Recruiting approaches salary negotiations, from the perspective of a recruiter.

Questions to ask before accepting an offer

If you’re still unclear about certain aspects of your offer - definitely ask some questions about this! Some questions we often see candidates ask include:

Details on bonuses if this is part of your offer. For example, you may want to ask - are bonuses in a third category of compensations or are they lumped in with stock options or base? What percentage of base salary are bonuses?

Confirming the rest of your benefits. What benefits are offered in addition to healthcare, retirement plans, or other perks? Throughout the interview process, it’s likely that you’ve covered the basics of benefits - but if there’s other benefits that need explanation, asking during the negotiation stage is a great time.

Confirm your start date. It may seem obvious, but you want to make sure that your start date works for all parties involved

Confirm any obligations you have within the first couple months of starting your new role. Do you have a can’t-miss trip coming out, or another period of time when you’ll be unavailable? It may be worth a mention when accepting the offer vs. a week or two after you’ve started - and people are expecting you to be available in future months.

Questions NOT to ask before accepting an offer

While it’s rare for an offer to be revoked during the negotiation process, there are definitely some questions that are best avoided, such as:

Negative or overly critical questions. Don't inquire about past employee conflicts, controversies, or negative press - unless you can frame this constructively. For example, if the company was recently acquired and the acquisition received some negative press, it’s okay to ask if the acquisition will impact you  if you believe there’s a chance it might. Remember, there’s always a way to positively frame questions so they don’t come across as critical - just that you’re genuinely curious!

Questions that have already been answered. This may seem obvious, but avoid asking questions that are clearly addressed in the job offer, employment contract, the company’s website, or accompanying documents - especially in front of the hiring manager. This may indicate a lack of attention to detail, and that you’re not spending time seriously reviewing their offer.

Overly personal questions. Avoid asking overly personal questions, like about coverage for specific medical conditions, needing a leave of absence, or. If you review your company’s medical benefits before you accept a role (which they should be able to provide details on) it’s likely you won’t ever need to ask the company these questions!

Questions about severance or exiting a company. It’s understandable that layoffs are top of mind for many people, especially with the amount of press coverage they receive. But i you’re seriously concerned about your ability to effectively complete the tasks of your new job - decline the role.

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