Step 1: Once you begin your search, ALWAYS entertain offers that are potential UNTIL you have signed on the dotted line for your new position. I made this mistake during my last round: I got an offer that I liked a lot and was leaning towards, and so any other interview inquiries that came in I would politely decline even if it was tempting and potentially equally good. I figured 1. I already have a good offer and since the other offer is about the same it isn’t worth the time and effort to get it and 2. I felt bad to make the new company spend time and resources interviewing me when I already had an offer and the chance of taking them was low. This is the WRONG mindset: you never know who you’re going to work for until you sign the contract.
Step 2: If you have two offers that are similar, then you can’t go wrong: MAKE THEM BID AGAINST EACH OTHER. I used to feel disdain towards this practice and would want to protest against it by not participating, but I have since learned that you lose way more by not participating than you could possibly gain by protesting. Protest smart–you are in a better position to make an impact on the system if you have more resources at your disposal, so negotiate and get more and then use your resources to protest. Negotiating is the law of the land: do it. If you have two equally good offers, then you know you’re worth at least that much. Find out if you’re worth more. The only way you can find out is by asking for more. The RISK associated with asking for more is SIGNIFICANTLY higher if you have no other offers on the table compared with if you do have other equally good offers on the table. The risk negotiating with your only offer is you lose your only offer. The risk negotiating with two good offers is losing one but still getting the other–your worst case is MUCH better in this second case. So until you make your final decision, if a new offer comes in that is worth considering: CONSIDER IT. Then leverage it for more.
Step 3: Remember to think holistically about your compensation package and not just about one thing or another: sick days, vacation days, projects you want to work on, responsibilities you want, career development/mentorship you want, pay for college classes/conventions, compensation, bonus, 401k, medical and life insurance, other perks (food, parking, transportation, equipment, etc.), WFH options, location, work/life balance.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask for future re-assessments of salary based on performance. Ask what you can do to exceed expectations and then agree upon them with your manager. Then, in 6 months, when you’ve achieved them, you have a solid argument for why you deserve a raise.
(Skip this paragraph if you believe in negotiating) I used to be against negotiating because I used to think that if you’re honest and skilled and you’re dealing with people who are equally honest and skilled, you will get what is fair. This is wrong because how can anyone know what is fair for work that hasn’t been done yet? If we’re talking about material things like manufacturing 10,000 units of something, then it’s easier to measure, but if we’re talking about creative work over the course of several projects that will evolve over time, how much you actually contribute is a hard question to answer in the beginning. Therefore if you don’t negotiate, you are likely to get a lowball conservative offer from the company rather than one which matches your skills if you can out perform the bottom percentiles. Also, I used to think that it wasn’t possible to negotiate much anyway so it wouldn’t be worth the effort. This is only true if you try and are unable to succeed. But you can never know until you try so you must always try in order to find out–don’t rob yourself of finding out! I used to think that the system was bad and I didn’t want to participate in a bad system, but I have since learned that sometimes you have to make it to the next day, and you should pick your battles and sometimes choosing the rebellious option is not the right choice at the time even if it is the right choice in a timeless context.
(Context: Software Engineering position in San Francisco, CA) Sometimes a company will invite you over to lunch AFTER they have given you an offer. I went to this lunch expecting this to be a negotiation lunch over compensation. I made the terrible mistake of not TAKING THE CONVERSATION THERE. I was looking for an opportunity from THEM to jump into it, but it never came, and then I realized: They had NO idea I had competing offers and therefore I needed to set the context by revealing that information and I needed to start that conversation. The lesson here is: If you have an objective for a meeting, and the meeting doesn’t get there organically: TAKE CONTROL and DIRECT it there. This is true for meetings in general, and interviews in general too. In my interview post I will talk about how it’s important to have KEY POINTS you want to convey REGARDLESS of what questions they ask you–force their questions into the prepared answers you have so that they don’t end the interview without you having been able to make YOUR SALES PITCH, which is the objective of the interview, or the lunch doesn’t end without you making your NEGOTIATION ARGUMENT if that is the purpose from your point of view.
As for the employer’s reasons for inviting you to lunch: 1. get to know you better and evaluate you behaviorally, 2. answer any questions and concerns and sell you and convince you of joining the company.
Resources I used for this:
This post is part of AttemptedLiving’s Life Education Curriculum, a collection of core knowledge everyone should have.
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