How to negotiate your tech salary
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How to negotiate your tech salary

People say that women make less than men, in fact in the US women make 82 cents for every one dollar earned by men, even in 2021.

When people do find out when they're being paid less than their colleagues 40% of them actually start looking for a new job. Not that money is everything, but these experiences taint our perception of how we are being valued at work.
Not only that if you don't fix it now lower pay can follow you for the rest of your career because it builds upon your previous payment history.

So negotiations actually begin way before you get an offer

Let's just say that you're on the initial phone screen with the recruiter, but the key thing here is to information gather the heck out of the company and learn what their level structure and their comp stance are and try to see what level they're slating before.

Questions to ask

Can you walk through how levels work at the company?
What level is this for?
Is a level flexible?
How does the team differentiate this level from the next level?
Can you break down how the compensation package is structured?

Compensation package in a nutshell

This is way more complicated than you might think just to talk about how tech compensation works. For now, the basic components are

  • base salary number
  • equity number
  • maybe a performance bonus
  • maybe a sign-on bonus

If you asked about your salary expectations in the very beginning?

On this topic they will for sure ask what are your expectations around compensation then you say “I don't have a number in mind right now and would need some time to think about it. What's the budget your team is working with for this role?”

If they don't tell you can google, how does this level or role map to a level at Google or Facebook, because FAANG has very very public stats, that you can use as comparables for this role.

Now let's just say you go through the interview process, you really crush it and now you're at the offer stage, this is where the bulk of your negotiations take place.
Anyways when you get to the offer call you will be asked what your timeline looks like, whether you're talking to other companies, and maybe what your comp expectations are again, but here's what you need to know.

Tip number one Let them give the first number

But be prepared to take the hit if the number didn't feel like a low ball and it seemed higher than you expected. Just know that that number is a number they give out to anyone who does not negotiate to. Remember that 45% of women negotiate their salary, while 68 men negotiate theirs.
Specifically within tech women still negotiate less often than men do, even when they do they ask for lower salaries than men, do even when they try and men still succeed more often than women do in negotiating the number that they want.

Tip two Be prepared with three numbers going into this conversation

Number one your anchor, this is the first amount that you're gonna throw out. How to define anchor high? When the number starts feeling crazy you know you're in the right range.

Number two Do research

Your due diligence number goes on Glassdoor, Blind, Candor, etc, and figure out all the comp stats for anyone who's in the same jobs as well as the same levels and in the one above so, you know what your max is the band is kind of looks like.
This way you'll know if recruiters are lying to you if they say something like “Oh our offers are non-negotiable, we don't offer equity right now, we don't offer sign-on bonuses” and all of that is not true, it's a scam.

Number three The amount that you'll actually be happy switching at

You might squeeze every penny in every deal, but at the end of the day, you do want both sides to be happy. You're eventually going to work with these people and your reputation precedes you also there's always going to be a higher amount, so just know what you're going to be happy with.

Tip Three Tackle the comp package in components

Tackle salary first you can begin by addressing the elephant in the room and establishing a tone of collaboration
“I'm really pumped for this role but I want to recognize that this is a very challenging conversation and this will be the only time you and I will be on the opposite sides of the table I assure you thought our goal is the same.
So I hope we can make this work out I'm surprised because the starting offer is pretty low given where I'm at in the stage of my career and my expertise. What can we do to close this gap?”
They'll probably ask what comp you're expecting now and this is where you drop your anchor and do so in a range not a specific number and make sure the lower end of the anchor is higher than what you actually want and say it with conviction.

Let's say you get an offer for 110k and then you hit them with an anchor for 150 to 175k, the psychology here is that you will bend their reality to thinking that 150k is so much lower than 175k that if they just hit your bottom bracket they're getting a deal from you.
They'll go back to work with the team discuss some numbers and then come back with a slightly higher offer maybe 125k, don't be impressed, just yet they expect to negotiate with you and they were incentivized to get you to sign.
They have already allocated the wiggle room to make you feel like you're winning but remember you were lowballed, to begin with.

“I want to make this work, but the numbers just don’t seem to make sense right now”.
“I’m sorry, there is a still big gap”.
“I want this to be fair, so we both feel good about the decision”. “I feel like a jerk saying these numbers, but..”

These are things you can say to keep doing this back and forth eventually your counterpart will come back to you and say the team had a very thorough discussion and the best we can do is 145k which leads to

Tip 4 ask calibrated questions to really understand their rationale frame

Your questions in a way to find out what's really blocking them from moving the needle” I really appreciate your help, but I'm sorry there's still a big gap”

What are the questions the team's thinking through?
What can make the team more comfortable?
How can we make this work?
How can close this gap?

Tip 5 Don't say anything, use tactical pauses

All the people pleasers out there will try to jump in and accommodate, but don't.
Hold your breath count to 10 and let the other person suggest ideas because they will feel so much better if the idea came from them, they might say we couldn't go any higher because of the market and your experience level.

Tip 6 Mirrors and label

Mirroring is where you repeat the last three critical words of what someone else says you respond with my experience level pause, let them elaborate and reveal their strategy.

They might say the team was looking for someone with more direct experience, label their underlying emotion to bring it out you can disguise it as rephrasing, but ultimately you want to start with
It seems like…
It looks like…
It sounds like... T

The team feels unsure about whether someone with my background can succeed in this role. Your counterpart may then try to clarify and ultimately reveal what the actual blocker is addressed, the underlying reason, and ask “What can we do to make the team feel better about this decision?”
There are lots of paths forward here you can hop on more interview loops for the team to gain a better signal on a specific skill set, you can also suggest providing references to speak on behalf of your capabilities.

No deal is better than a bad deal really a bad deal is you making a lateral or lower move because you just hate your current job and are trying to run away from it.
Changing companies is tiring, the problems you see at your current company likely exist everywhere else, and the very least you can do for yourself is to get a better offer.

People are afraid of negotiating because they might lose the deal and it's true, you can, but part of negotiating is knowing your worth and then articulating it.
And if the company couldn't even value you at this stage, how can you have the confidence to know that they're going to treat you any better moving forward when they actually have you in their back pocket? You don't so value yourself, please.

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