Salary Negotiation
May 8, 2023
Brian Liou
Founder & CEO of Rora; 500+ negotiations completed

The 5 Lies That Too Many People Believe About Negotiating a Job Offer

Recently, I tried to help an engineer negotiate a job offer from a FAANG company. Even though the offer included the max base salary for his compensation band, it was abundantly clear that he was leaving hundreds of thousands of dollars in equity on the table. He didn’t believe me and accepted the offer without negotiating.

A year later, his colleague confirmed my assessment – he was being significantly underpaid. Even worse, he found out that his manager couldn’t grant him more than a 3% standard raise without giving him a promotion – which he wasn’t entitled to having worked at the company for under a year.. 

It would be easy to criticize someone for not negotiating more at the outset, but these stories are far more common than you’d think. Professionals of all levels let fear and anxiety dictate how they approach the negotiating table.

This fear is perpetuated by a few key myths about the process of negotiating and what’s required to be successful. Below I’ll walk you through the 5 most common misunderstandings we see our clients have about negotiating – in the hopes that they’re helping for you in your next negotiation.

The 5 Lies:

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Lie #1 - You need market data

Candidates tend to overstate the importance of data in negotiating. This is especially true among technical candidates, whose professions often require them to mine for data. 

Data can certainly help you understand how your offer compares to the rest of the hiring markets, but there’s a more important variable in your control: Your emotional attachment to the offer.

The table below illustrates how much of an impact a candidate’s emotional attachment has on their ability to negotiate effectively.

I once worked with a Harvard Law graduate, who served on the board of a tech accelerator in Silicon Valley and had over 20 years of experience in the industry. In spite of this, he accepted an offer that he knew was significantly below his market value because he was lured by the opportunity to join a “rocketship” startup. His high emotional attachment to the offer and the company rendered him ineffective at negotiating his offer. 

Conversely, we’ve seen companies like Google increase an offer beyond market data or without a counter offer just to close a deal with a top candidate who was hesitant to relocate to the Bay Area. 

Our emotions have a much larger impact on negotiation outcomes than data. The reality is that all employment offers are deals in the labor market, and they should be negotiated like any other deal would be. The value of the deal is subjectively defined based on your future performance and value to the organization, not on what today’s data suggests you should be paid

Lie #2 - You’re negotiating with the recruiter

All too often candidates allow recruiters to end salary negotiations when recruiters utter the words, “It’s out of my control.”

Most recruiters aren’t lying when they say that, but they’re also not being fully transparent. While they don’t have much power or influence over how much a hiring manager might budge, they’re also not incentivized to be your advocate in these discussions. Their goals are simple: find great candidates and get them to sign as quickly as possible.

That’s why you should be negotiating directly with the hiring manager. There are a few key points you can and should negotiate with a potential manager, including:

  • The level of your offer, which directly impacts your compensation
  • Your career scope and future development
  • Possibilities of out-of-band compensation
  • Offer deadlines

Let me make one thing abundantly clear: recruiters don’t understand the value you’ll bring to the business. And, their job is to influence candidates to accept offers that are best for the company – rather than the offer that’s in the candidate’s best interest. 

The easiest way to avoid this is to communicate directly with the person you’ll be working for.

Lie #3 - Negotiating is greedy

Some candidates and businesses tend to approach negotiations in a way where one party wins and the other loses. The reality is that this win-lose paradigm is really more of a lose-lose situation. Work relationships that begin after a contentious negotiation – where one party gets more at the expense of another – usually lead to short tenures. 

Approaching the other party as an adversary makes it difficult for companies to retain talent—and it makes it even more difficult for employees to develop loyalty for their employer. 

Rather than thinking of your manager as the adversary blocking you from getting a higher salary, think about how you can create a mutually beneficial deal. When you can make the case that increasing your offer benefits the manager in terms of the impact you’ll have on their team, the conversation around compensation becomes much easier.  

In addition to advocating for a higher salary based on your previous experience, take the time to convey your ability to achieve expectations and tackle tough challenges on a daily basis. By illustrating how you’ll make your manager’s job easier, you’re much more likely to then get what you ask for.

At Rora, every client creates a document called an “Impact Roadmap” that outlines the expectations and outcomes for the role, which they collaborate on with their manager once they receive an offer and before they start negotiating compensation. We have found this is a critical communication step to getting your manager as an ally in the negotiation.

Lie #4 - Asking hard questions could hurt you

The reality is that you should be interviewing the company as much as the company is interviewing you. The best time to do this in order to improve your negotiating leverage is once the company gives you an offer. 

Contrary to popular belief, asking hard questions is another way you can showcase your experience and talent. You should interview your future team, manager, cross-functional teammates, skip-level manager, and executive-level leadership if you have the opportunity to do so. The goal of the interviews should be to figure out how you can have an impact and help the business. If you have this intention and a potential employer is denying you the opportunity to meet with your future colleagues, that’s a huge red flag that you should take seriously.

Here are a few practical questions you should feel empowered to ask, all of which will give you more clarity about your ability to thrive in this role. More importantly, the answers will give you additional context to understand whether or not the offer is fair:

  • Why did this role open up? 
  • Who previously held this position? Can I speak to that person?
  • What is the company's financial performance (revenue, growth, retention, runway, etc.)
  • What are the three biggest challenges the project/team are facing right now?
  • Why does leadership care about the project and/or team?

By asking hard questions to help your manager, you’re managing upwards, a critical skill for any successful negotiation at the offer stage of any interview process. Asking hard questions also shows that you’re a critical thinker, and that you take ownership and agency over everything you do—both of which are sound reasons for any company to increase your offer.

Lie #5 - The offer deadline is real

The most common tactic company’s use to out-negotiate candidates is deadlines. At many large tech companies (Google, Meta, Amazon, etc.) many candidates are not even aware that their interview feedback lasts for one year, so if they reject the offer they could still join the company within a year without interviewing again.

Deadlines can be real. You don’t have an infinite amount of time to accept. Ultimately it depends on the hiring manager’s perception, how many people are being hired, and if the company has any candidates at offer stage. In most cases candidates have more time than they realize to take time to make a thoughtful decision.

A manager who is not willing to give you the time to thoughtfully decide if the offer is a fit for you and your career is a red flag. The more a manager wants a hire, the more patient and open they will be. If the manager is giving you a 24-hour deadline, they are basically saying I need a butt in a seat and I don’t care who.

Bonus Lie #6 - You’re on an equal playing field with the company

Companies leverage several internal and external teams to hire talent and negotiate job offers as a unified front. There are sourcers, recruiters, compensation analysts, HR business partners, managers, and lawyers. They also partner with headhunters and spend billions of dollars on recruiting tools to optimize employment packages that work best for the company. 

This is a lot for any candidate to go up against on their own. Why should you have to do it on your own?

At Rora, we walk hand-in-hand with candidates to navigate the offer negotiation process – leveraging our insights from helping more than 1000 candidates negotiate in tech. We're happy to talk through your specific situation -- just schedule a time with us below.

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Brian Liou
Founder & CEO of Rora; 500+ negotiations completed

Brian is the founder and CEO of Rora. He's spent his career in education - first building Leada, a Y-Combinator backed ed-tech startup that was Codecademy for Data Science.

Brian founded Rora in 2018 with a mission to shift power to candidates and employees and has helped hundreds of people negotiate for fairer pay, better roles, and more power at work.

Brian is a graduate of UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business.

Over 1000 individuals have used Rora to negotiate more than $10M in pay increases at companies like Amazon, Google, Meta, hundreds of startups, as well as consulting firms such as Vanguard, Cornerstone, BCG, Bain, and McKinsey. Their work has been featured in Forbes, ABC News, The TODAY Show, and theSkimm.

1:1 Salary Negotiation Support

Negotiation strategy

Step 1 is defining the strategy, which often starts by helping you create leverage for your negotiation (e.g. setting up conversations with FAANG recruiters).

Negotiation anchor number

Step 2 we decide on anchor numbers and target numbers with the goal of securing a top of band offer, based on our internal verified data sets.

Negotiation execution plan

Step 3 we create custom scripts for each of your calls, practice multiple 1:1 mock negotiations, and join your recruiter calls to guide you via chat.

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