Salary Negotiation Tips: Winning after a job offer

Salary negotiation after you get a job offer can be intimidating and uncomfortable. Grae, Head of Education at Thinkful, dives into common reasons why people don’t negotiate, and explains why you should always negotiate your salary.

As Head of Education at Thinkful, I’ve hired a lot of people and I’ve helped a lot of people get hired, and today we’re going to talk about negotiation. Negotiation is one of our most popular topics with students, but in my experience hiring employees and coaching job seekers, most people just take the first offer. Why is that? You can’t improve your job offer if you don’t negotiate in the first place, so this post is about understanding why we are afraid to negotiate and overcoming our misconceptions. Here are the specific reasons I’ve seen first-hand.

Your biggest fear might be of losing the job offer. Job searches aren’t fun and you don’t want to put this offer at risk after all of your hard work. Now, the good news is that companies don’t rescind offers, it just doesn’t happen. I’ve seen a company rescind an offer exactly once, but it was a sketchy company and the candidate would never have accepted such a bad offer. I’ve heard of one other company rescinding an offer, but that company was in a bad financial spot and negotiation was just a pretext for the fact that they were out of money. In the extremely unlikely event that you lose an offer because you negotiated, count yourself lucky for dodging a bullet. Maybe you feel like you’re in a weak negotiating position and you don’t have any leverage. What do you bring into the table and why would a company consider giving you more?

Well, the company has invested a lot more into the hiring process than you might think. When I hire for a position at Thinkful, I typically review about 100 applications and reject 80 of those, advance 20 on to the final screening. Of those we’ll schedule in person interviews with multiple people for about eight candidates, and then bring four candidates onto the final. Arriving at the end, hopefully with two candidates we’re very excited about, a top candidate and then a fallback that we’d still be excited to hire. Now, once I’ve run a hiring process, I really don’t want to go back and start over. It’s not fun rejecting 98% of the people who want to work with you, and think about how much money and employee time goes into this process. The hiring process is shockingly expensive and the company has already sunk a lot of effort into bringing you on, so you can bet they want you to accept their offer.

Now, there’s also the social stigma against negotiation in our culture, right? You might expect to negotiate your house or your car, but not your groceries, not day to day items. That’s what people in developing countries do; here in America negotiating everyday is not a thing. But actually that’s not true. We rarely negotiate in the consumer context, but in the business context we negotiate everything. We negotiate wholesale prices when we’re signing deals, we negotiate delivery terms and payment terms. Every business to business transaction is negotiated, so choosing to negotiate actually marks you as a professional, as somebody who understands a little bit about business and treats this like a professional process.

Maybe you’re afraid of seeming greedy, of offending someone or creating conflict. You just want to get along with your future boss and you don’t want to start off on the wrong foot. Trust me when I say that you aren’t going to offend anybody when you negotiate. In fact, I’ve had students tell me that the company thanked them for negotiating, because it proved to the company that the candidate was committed to the opportunity and in it for the long haul.

Finally, maybe you don’t know the norms of negotiating. Are there rules? What’s expected? How do I actually do the negotiating and what do I ask for? This last point about negotiation tactics and norms is deep, and we’ll cover that in future videos. For now, know that you aren’t going to lose the offer and that the company is invested in you and it wants you to accept. Know that choosing to negotiate marks you as a professional and signals to the company that you’re committed for the long haul. If there’s one single negotiating tip that you remember when you’re on the spot, let it be this: You don’t need to be afraid and you can confidently treat the offer as a starting point.