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Why do I need a Salary Negotiation script?
Negotiating your salary for a new job can be pretty intimidating. As a result, many people opt to conduct salary negotiations over email, which can be detrimental to the outcome, as discussed in one of our previous articles. If you are dreading an upcoming negotiation, scripts are an excellent tool to calm your nerves and increase your confidence (as well as your salary). Well designed scripts can cover almost all scenarios that arise while negotiating. They can help you both avoid saying the wrong things at the wrong time and ensure your core points land when you negotiate your salary.
Even if you don't usually get nervous during these conversations, it is still a good idea to create scripts. Our senior clients (engineering directors, heads of product, etc.) tend to be confident and well-spoken, but we frequently get feedback on how big of an impact our scripts had on their performance during negotiations. One reason for this is that companies are quite bureaucratic. Tech giants like Google and Facebook run negotiations based on a quantifiable set of rules (a series of inputs and associated outputs). Small missteps such as mentioning that your competing offer is a private company or located in a different city can completely derail a negotiation, and it's easy to get tripped up when a recruiter is firing off questions. Your goal should always be to only share information that benefits you, while of course being honest throughout the negotiation, and scripts are the best way to do that.
Example Salary Negotiation Scripts
Below we’ve included a screenshot from a section of our negotiation scripts. This is an example flow after sharing your compensation request with a company.
Types of conversations that require scripts
There are two main types of scripts. First is the "general” category of scripts. It is used for situations that arise for nearly everyone when engaging in a negotiation (e.g. receiving job offer call, counter-offer, etc.). The second type is the more situation-specific script. These scripts are usually unique to a person’s circumstances and are not needed in every negotiation. For example, your ability to start a new job may be contingent on specific immigration rules, and you will also need to carefully prepare for those important discussions.
We split situational scripts into a separate category because almost all candidates require general scripts when negotiating. Whereas it is not necessary for everyone to negotiate start dates or the timeline given to consider an offer. Secondly, general scripts tends to have more online resources available and might be easier to prepare for as compared to the second one.
How to structure scripts for your job offer negotiation
A good script should have four parts: the objectives, your questions, handling pushback, and a closing plan.
Objectives for salary negotiation scripts
It is essential to establish what you need to achieve in each call. It sounds obvious, but most people don’t do it and don’t see why they need it, which can have major consequences. These objectives can often be non-intuitive. For instance, let’s assume you are preparing a script for an offer call. You may think you need to tell the recruiter you are very disappointed in their initial offer and start negotiating/sharing leverage right away. That would often be the wrong objective for the offer call. Going into your offer call discussion, you should instead ask questions to understand how much the company wants you, what the new employer is prioritizing (do they need an offer signed quickly?), or any unknowns about their compensation structure. These questions will help guide you in the later stages of the negotiation. Your objective for the offer call should be to ask these questions, receive the initial offer, build rapport with your recruiter, and ultimately tell them that you need time to consider the offer, which will allow you to set up the strongest counter-offer.
Questions for salary negotiations
Once you have settled on the objectives, it is time to craft your questions. There are two types of questions while preparing a script. The first kind is negotiation specific. So, these will include topics like interview scores, levelling, compensation breakdown, and compensation range. The second kind is more ad hoc. These questions don’t necessarily have anything to do with negotiation and are primarily in your interest. However, it’s totally fine to ask these important questions and sometimes they can add value to the salary negotiation conversation by building rapport with your recruiter, which is also very important. A few examples for negotiation questions are:
- How did the hiring team feel the interview went?
- I recently read about the California Equity Pay Act. Would you please be able to share the compensation range for this role?
- I want to make sure I fully understand this equity grant. How many stock options are you offering and what is the strike price and current value of each option?
You’d be amazed by how many recruiters let important details slip (e.g. you got perfect interview scores) or try to manipulate compensation numbers to be higher than they actually are (e.g. calculating start-up equity value without subtracting strike price).
Handling pushback when negotiating
When a recruiter asks a question or pushes back following your compensation request this is critical moment in the negotiation, and it is easy to get nervous and slip up. Hence, it is in your best interest to have a handling pushback section in your script and prepare for it as much as possible. Thinking through pushback in advance allows you to prepare the optimal answers to tricky questions, which has a massive impact on the outcome of your salary negotiation. For instance, let’s pretend that you are preparing a script for a situation where you have offers from Google and Amazon. Amazon has offered you more money and you are using that as an anchor to negotiate with Google, your top choice. After sharing your Amazon numbers, the Google recruiter starts to push back:
Recruiter: The offer we provided is top of the band.
Candidate: Are there situations where it’s possible to go above band?
Candidate pauses or mirrors “Never?”
Recruiter: Well, in some cases, but it’s really rare, and I can’t do it in your case.
Candidate: I know it would be really hard, but how can I accept this offer given the gap between this and my Amazon numbers?
Recruiter: I understand it’s a tough situation and I want to help but there isn’t much I can do.
Candidate: Can you take this Amazon offer back to the team and see if they can approve an exception?
Recruiter: Will you commit to signing if I ask the team about above band numbers?
Candidate: I would be ready to sign if you can close the gap between the two offers.
In this answer, the candidate is using a couple of tactics. First, the candidate is inquiring about possible exceptions and is also pausing at appropriate times or mirroring to force the recruiter to provide more context. Additionally, the candidate commits to signing if his numbers are approved. This is a good strategy because it gives the recruiter confidence that all their hard work will result in a hire.
Closing the call to maximize your chances of securing your desired compensation
Closing a call is an integral part of the conversation as this can determine when the next conversation will be held and what the next course of action will be. In the script, you should prepare for (1) the call going your way, (2) the call not going your way and the recruiter promising to do something about it, and (3) the call not going your way and the recruiter putting their foot down. For our example, let’s consider the last situation where the call did not go as planned, and the recruiter maintained their position. In this case, you want to thank them for the offer and tell them that you have to think it over or discuss it with your friends/family before coming to a decision. You do not want to make a decision in the heat of the moment.
Helpful techniques to use when creating negotiation scripts
There are four important salary negotiation tactics that are helpful when writing scripts and negotiating: rapport building, silence, how-based questions, and mirroring. If you think of the section above as the strategy and structure, these techniques are the tactical implementation (i.e. more focused on the individual sentences for key moments).
Rapport building – relationships will Advance your Career
An important part of every salary negotiation is rapport building. We consistently see a strong correlation between candidate outcomes and the relationships they establish with recruiters and hiring managers. This is because a recruiter who sees you favorably is more likely to advocate to the compensation team on your behalf than one who does not. Your recruiter is the intermediary between you and the decision-maker (often a compensation team or hiring manger), and they can present your case favorably or unfavorably. It is never a waste to spend time at the beginning of each call getting to know your recruiter better and building a relationship (you should do this during the interview stage as well).
Silence can also be a very potent tool. We have all been conditioned to fill any silences in our day-to-day lives, and hence, almost everyone finds silence awkward. When used with a recruiter, they typically try to fill the silence and reveal critical information that you can later use to negotiate later. In about 20% of cases, we’ve actually seen recruiters go so far as to start self-negotiating during periods of awkward silence.
How-based questions and their role in increasing your job offer
One of the most important tactical tips is saying no the right way. We do not want to say no the wrong way, as it can come across as offensive or result in a dead end. An excellent way to avoid that is by using how-based questions. For instance, let's say a recruiter asks if you would accept $220K/year. Rather than saying no, you can reply by saying, "I’m really excited about this opportunity, but how can I accept when there is such a large gap between that and the Amazon number?”. It is really important you say this as a question and with a positive tone. You want the recruiter to be working with you and collaborating – don’t think of this as a confrontation.
You can also use how based questions if you want to deflect answering a question. For instance, a recruiter is pressuring you into giving your comp expectations. Despite saying you don’t have a number in mind, the recruiter repeatedly asks for a comp range, you can say, “how I can give you a range when I haven’t had a chance to fully assess my market value?”
Mirroring is a technique where you repeat a portion of your recruiter’s last statement to encourage them to elaborate further. This is surprisingly helpful as recruiters sometimes provide curt answers and with a simple mirror they proceed to elaborate and share many helpful details that you can use later in the negotiation. For instance, if a recruiter says, "I think you would be a good fit on our team" and the candidate responds by asking "a good fit?", it may result in the recruiter sharing additional information like the interview going well or the hiring manager liking a candidate. This can be used to your advantage later.
Negotiations are tricky, but scripts are a terrific way to practice and improve your performance. They give you time to think of your response and experiment with what you will say. The value they generate will always be greater than the time spent on them and hence, it is important to do this when starting a new chapter in your career.
With that being said, scripts are a lot easier to create if you have experience negotiating. If you don’t, you can always book a free consultation with one of our experts. If you work with us, one aspect of our 1-1 service is the creation of custom scripts optimized for your unique situation.