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Salary Negotiation: Make More Money, Be More Valued (kalzumeus.com)
596 points by llambda on Jan 23, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 193 comments

Like many others in the comments, I disagree with the whole "Don't be the first to state a number" strategy.

Being weaselly about your number is a very noob thing to do in a negotiation. A skilled negotiator will seize on this and anchor the negotiations in at a very low rate. You need to know your number ahead of time, and drop it on them like it's the most natural thing in the world.

Your initial offer should be high but not ridiculous. (Unless you really are that busy with work and you don't want the job anyway, then give them a ridiculous number, and see what they say. Sometimes they'll say yes anyway).

The number could be 2x whatever you make currently, or 2x whatever you think they will pay, but the important thing is that it's high, and you say it with confidence and act like it's reasonable. It's far better to work your way down from (your) high number, than up from (their) low number.

Agreed re:being weaselly about your number. Given that someone has to say a number first (absent weird note-trading schemes), not saying a number first is (game theoretically) tantamount to saying "I'm hoping you'll unwittingly make an offer better than what I believe I could credibly demand". In complex multi-dimensional negotiations this can be totally reasonable (when there are 20 different key terms to negotiate, saying "I think you'll make an anchoring mistake first" is not at all unreasonable). Salary negotiations are usually not multidimensional since the position/title is usually fixed and the official story is that you'll work at some fixed level of output commensurate with that title and not connected to pay (so you can't say "I'll accept $X but I'll probably slack a lot").

From the employer's position the "I think you're likely to botch it" bet is not a bad one: employees don't know the employer's value function for the work, but the employer can have a pretty decent model of the employee's value function for steady income (tip: eliminate your short-term need for steady income and many negotiations become a lot easier).

For the employee, hoping for an accidental or poorly-informed over-offer is rarely justified. Employers usually have many past negotiation experiences and many sources of information for what other employers are paying, whereas employees usually have few. Similarly, the employer's side of the exchange is primarily liquid and easily quantified (cash+benefits) whereas the employee's side is poorly quantified and illiquid (the employer usually can't directly "sell out" your past labor and partially recoup if he decides it was worth less than he expected).

Expecting employers to err on the side of overpaying with any sort of frequency seems theoretically hard to justify, and that is certainly not in line with my experience. Unless you know the employer wants you specifically (as opposed to any instance of the class you represent), I think it's almost always better for employees to open with what they consider a high number and let the employers try to talk them down.

It is very situational dependent.

I make a good salary. I very know quite well what a top level salary for my position in my area is because I have a large network of friends doing the same thing and it is a clearly defined role (as most technical jobs are). I would want to put my number out there first because we're going to be negotiating in a very specific range. I still want to hold off until after they've decided they want to hire me (that helps my leverage), but when push comes to shove I want my number out there first.

My friend works in marketing. Definining her salary is much more difficult. Marketing titles can really vary - what is an associate? What is a specialist? What is a product manager? What is a brand manager? There are some brand managers making six figures and some making $25k. In her case, she wants to change jobs because she is horribly underpaid. Almost any salary would be an improvement. Her throwing out a number first could only be detrimental and so she will wait until she hears the number on the table.

As a side note, always compare total compensation not just salary. In the two examples above, we both want to get MBAs. Having our next company pay for the MBA would be worth a lot of money. I would take 10,000+ a year less for a place that will pay for an MBA over one that doesn't. Don't forget about bonus, healthcare, 401k matching amount & vesting, overtime, vacation, flexibility, etc etc etc. And negotiate it all at once.

| Her throwing out a number first could only be detrimental

That's a strong statement. How do you know this to be true?

Definining her salary is much more difficult. Marketing titles can really vary - what is an associate? What is a specialist? What is a product manager? What is a brand manager? There are some brand managers making six figures and some making $25k.

Pricing herself out, or under. He just defined the problem; the discussion on finding out relevant / points of reference for the salary negotiations.

However, in marketing (as some below have noted points of "pain" in relation to "increased X sales %, saved $ with cost savings streamlining X" etc., may be more definable with her previous experience. More information would be helpful though, as the fields fascinating (marketing).

You anchor the range. If you as an applicant state a number first you set the top of the range.

You say: "I want $100,000."

They say: "Oh, well, we were thinking more like 60,000"

You say: "Ok, how about 80,000?"

They say: "Done."

If they were willing to pay 100k, you've just lost 20k. They know what they are willing to pay, you don't. You're at a disadvantage and need to gain more info. The one who speaks first loses. Instead:

You say: "I really am impressed with this company and I'm sure you will offer me a very competitive salary."

They say: "60k"

You say: "That's great! I was thinking anywhere from 60k up to 130k."

Now you've set the range and the negotiation will more likely end up where you want. You won't lose money doing this. BUT you might gain money if they say, "90k" right off the bat and you didn't expect them to offer that much. Then you can offer the 90k-120k range and even if you only gain 5k after that, you're much better off than if you spoke first.

On edmunds.com there was a fantastic undercover used-car salesman expose where they talked about this. The salesman would always ask people what they wanted to spend each month on a car. No matter what they said, (say, $300) the salesman would then counter with the question, "up to?..."

Inevitably people would be embarassed or confused and offer a higher number. The article said the tactic worked so well that the salesmen would jokingly greet each other in the hall by saying "up to?.."

So think about the range.

I spent approximately the past year looking for a new job (and accepted an offer this month). From my salary research regarding people in my situation, it seemed like a 10% pay hike makes the difference between a median salary and a 75th-percentile salary, or between 25th percentile and the median.

If I had asked for $100K in the salary-negotiation stage for any of these jobs, I would not have considered $60K a serious counteroffer. Either the company had a serious misunderstanding regarding my skills and responsibilities (maybe we need to discuss further what I am bringing to the table), or the company doesn’t have a lot of cash and is offering extra-sweet equity packages instead (that might be a good offer for some people, but not for me), or they’re just lowballing everyone (FAIL).

"You say: "I really am impressed with this company and I'm sure you will offer me a very competitive salary." They say: "60k""

Sorry - the real world just isn't this simple.

First - if you are talking to a company that really is trying to screw you down to the lowest possible number - ask yourself why you would want to work for such a company? If they are going to start off the relationship by nickel and dime-ing you, what do you think they are going to do once you're in the door?

The reality is that any company that is worth working for is going to want to bring in good developers at a salary that works for both parties. It is way more expensive in the long run to bring in a developer for less than they are worth and have them leave in a year when they realize it, than it is to just hire them at the right salary in the first place.

If a company hires good developers and treats them well, not only are they going to produce more for the company, they are much more likely to help you bring in other good developers.

I don't know about you - but I prefer to work with good companies who are looking beyond the next P&L statement.

I prefer a more honest approach. 1) Do your homework. Talk to people you trust and figure out what you are worth in the market 2) Do your homework (part 2). Figure out how much you need and how much you would like. This (and step 1) will give you solid salary range to work with. 3) Do your homework (part 3). Decide where you are flexible - maybe your spouse has good benefits and you don't need any, maybe you're willing to trade salary for equity (or flexible hours, or something else).

The bottom line is - no tricks or tips are going to give you better results than knowledge and preparation will.

Once you've done your homework you don't need to rely on tricks to get what you want. There isn't anything wrong with putting a number out there first if you've done your homework. Sure you anchor the conversation - so go ahead and anchor it in your favor. You know what you need and what you want - so use that information to benefit you. If you know that you need 100K but are ideally looking for 120K, and know that your market value is around 115K, then use that information to inform what you put out there as your first number. If you think you're talking to someone you trust, then maybe you just put your numbers out there. If you think the recruiter is going to negotiate down from your number then add X% to your real numbers.

The other real answer is that nothing works better than having a real plan B. Don't just talk to one company. Go out and get several offers. Let the other companies do your work for you ;-)

This is the way it works where I work, and it's a real-world workplace, with bureaucracy and inefficiency and all. I get bitten by HR and stupid hiring policies all the time. It doesn't mean that I (or the company) want to screw the candidates out of money, it means that HR does.

In larger companies, it's likely that the people that want to hire you are not the people doing the salary negotiation. The "company" is probably not trying to pay you the lowest amount, but the HR person doing the negotiation might be.

In that case the HR person has a low number and a high number he can give you without authorization. You don't know what those numbers are. You are at a disadvantage, and your goal should be to get information about those numbers.

Perfect example is a recent hiring for my deputy, where HR didn't make a lowball offer, but offered the low-end of what we were willing to pay. HR would have been crazy not to. The candidate countered with something much higher. We really wanted to hire that person, so we countered with the highest we were willing to pay. All "plays" in this game were completely rational, but the candidate found out what our highest offer was by not mentioning the number first.

Turns out that our highest offer was STILL not enough for that candidate so she declined. But notice how the whole time she held all the cards and was able to find out our best possible deal. That's the best you can do in a negotiation.

Now, if it actually were an advantage to state a number first, companies would be falling all over themselves to do it. You'd walk in the door and they'd be shouting numbers at you. That never happens.

Clam up and find out your actual value to that company. That value might be well above the going market rate. Put the shoe on the other foot and see how nice your life would be if the MAXIMUM you had to pay your employees was the average market rate.

For the record - I don't think we're actually all that far apart - I just had a couple of comments :-)

I definitely agree that the scenario you are in exists, and isn't necessarily uncommon. My wife is a recruiter - and I have been both sides of the technical side of the hiring table - so I have a pretty good idea of how it works.

I just disagree that refusing to give the first is really either all that effective a tool.

First - I think the two best things you can to as a candidate are to (1) do your homework so you're not at a knowledge disadvantage and (2) do the extra work to have several competing offers.

With your example, it sounded like the candidate had a solid understanding of what they were worth. What would have really changed if they had simply named their number first? The candidate clearly had confidence in the number (since they walked away from your best offer) It might have saved both of you some time if they had been up-front about it.

Anyway - I think I was making two primary points:

1) The best way to improve your negotiating position is to do your homework so you have knowledge and options. Knowledge and options will give you way more power in the negotiation than any trick will.

2) Negotiating for salary is fundamentally different than other types of business negotiations. A salary negotiation is (hopefully!) the beginning of a lasting relationship. I think it needs to be approached - from both - sides with more focus on "win-win" than would be appropriate for other negotiations where a more hard-nosed approach would be appropriate. Personally, I am wary of both potential employers and potential hires that don't approach it this way.

Sorry - one last point from talking with my wife...

A recruiter is not simply trying to get you in the door at the cheapest salary possible (neither, really, is a good company). There are definitely companies and recruiters that work that way. A good recruiter/employer is trying to get great developers in the door for a salary that will make them happy. A good recruiter/employer will know that having to re-hire someone in a year because they left for a better offer or because you low-balled them at the beginning and didn't adjust is much more expensive in the long run.

When negotiating with the recruiter - don't think in terms of convincing the recruiter. Think is terms of given them the ammunition they need to convince the person who will approve the offer. Give them facts, data. information - help them build the narrative that will convince the hiring manager/director/etc that has to approve the offer that they need to hire you for the amount you want.

To me, going in with knowledge about what you need and what you are worth and being prepared to help the recruiter sell you to the decision makers is a much better strategy than anything as simple as "clamming up" :-)

Parts of this seem unrealistic to me. How would anyone say with a straight face "That's great! I was thinking anywhere from 60k up to 130k"? Sixty to a buck thirty? Nobody has that kind of range.

In the first example, if the company was willing to pay 100, why would they say 60? As the article mentions, typically the person on the other side of the table is much less invested in your salary than you are. If that's the case, I can't see them going from 100 to 60.

I dunno. I think there are a lot of ways to approach this and the main thing is not getting caught doing the dumb stuff patio11 talks about, like shying away from the entire process. But these smaller issues like mentioning the number first could more likely go either way.

In the first example, if the company was willing to pay 100, why would they say 60?

Because you've told them you want 100k, and they think by offering 60k, they might be able to (easily) get you down to 80k. If they were willing to pay 100k, this is a win for them.

>In the first example, if the company was willing to pay 100, why would they say 60?

Because if the company can get away on spending under budget for you, they can either spend more of that fixed number on someone or something else - anything from the manager's own salary ("Hey, I saved the company 25% of my budget this year, give me a raise!) to adding additional staff to buying that long needed server.

If you aren't spending as little as possible on all your costs, you're doing the business thing wrong.

Because if the company can get away on spending under budget for you, they can either spend more of that fixed number on someone or something else

I think the recent trend in hiring software engineers is to pay what they ask, because if you don't (e.g. offering $60k instead of $100k), you're going to have to hire again in 6 months to a year when they leave. Just searching for a software engineer can cost $30-50k in downtime, recruiter's commissions, and learning curves.

> If you aren't spending as little as possible on all your costs, you're doing the business thing wrong.

This needs to take into account the costs of turnover (including the cost of training a replacement) and hiring. There is an inverse relationship between the salaries that a company pays its employees and turnover costs.

I'm curious how this should all work when working with a recruiter.

I've come across a number of interesting positions that are available only through these guys. But we never get 15 minutes into a conversation before they're asking about salary history. The implied message is that the number you give is going to decide if your resume gets passed onward or not. So going too high, say 2X, would certainly kill your chances.

I've tried the "let's get to a fit before negotiating salary" and I actually had one recruiter say "sorry, this is how we roll". I dumped that guy, but it keeps coming up.

I know the OP's advice was to avoid this route and get to the hiring manager. Just curious what to do about these people.

Go "too high". Why dump the recruiter when you can just price yourself out of the recruiter's league?

Believe me, if your salary seems impossible to achieve the recruiter will tell you, probably pretty bluntly. And if it is possible to achieve and the recruiter helps you get there she'll be thrilled. Recruiters get a cut of that number!

(Though, remember, take recruiter advice with a grain of salt: Their tendency will probably be to talk you down. As with buyer-brokers in real estate, the recruiter's incentive is to make the deal go forward, not to hold out for the best possible price for you. Alas, in the end, the responsibility for holding out for a good price is almost impossible to delegate: The buck stops with you.)

Of course, the take-home lesson is that if you aren't comfortable setting a high anchor point for your salary you shouldn't deal through recruiters. Which probably helps to explain why companies seem to love using recruiters.

While some recruiters get a cut of the salary, others operate on a fixed contract. I know of one company that pays a recruiting firm $110-$150 per hour, and the recruiting firm only pays $50-$60 per hour.

I don’t know specifically how to manage this procedure with recruiters, because in my most recent job search I found a position without using recruiters entirely.

But my general attitude regarding salary negotiations in the early stage is this: For any job that I apply for, I can go to salary.com, fill in the appropriate information, and get a range of expected compensation levels. Any recruiter or HR flapper can do the same thing. So I tell them that I expect to be compensated according to the market rate for engineers of my skill and experience level. If they’re not satisfied with that answer, then they shouldn’t be representing my interests, because either they’re stupid or they think I’m stupid.

I've learned that, as a rule of thumb, recruiters are damage and should be avoided. They are almost always more hassle than they're worth, and the chance of any recruiter ping/interaction leading to a good, paying gig is much less than if you can deal directly with a potential client, directly with a potential hirer and decision-maker. They suffer from middle-man effects, and they look for proxy signals rather than the actual substantive things they should want. They also want a big cut. And they are almost always very technically ignorant and incapable of judging what things are important, whether a person is qualified, etc. And they can "fish you", and by that I mean they tell you they have something, but it's really just to get your resume and other facts about you, put into their database, and then nothing ever happens except maybe a series of future contact attempts about gigs that just happen to have a few buzzwords in them, but you otherwise very clearly would not be interested in or available for. Again, this is my rule of thumb based on experience with most of them. I also think their profession, at least in the software industry, is going to die out, due to all the cheaper, better, smarter alternatives to sourcing and vetting.

Sometimes we are helpful as middle-men, being the "bad" guy for the negotiations (upping the salary in negotiation based on X, Y, Z). ~20% avg fee for $80,000 vs $102,000 is a difference of $4,400 to the company, and an extra (lets say 15% commission) $660 to the recruiter. However, that is way too high of a spread at that point of the negotiation to be a feasible discussion (the candidate should have been submitted at $90-$105, or $95-$110,000).

If the company is sold on the candidate, it is feasible for the recruiter to negotiate another $10,000. If the company has other options or isn't clamoring, you may lose the offer.

But, most recruiters are bunk, and the difference between $80,000 and $95,000 can be a breakdown in the offer being pulled, ergo the "real estate" example of closing the deal at a lower price (salary) and cost of losing it all together. The cost of losing it isn't worth the extra $3,000 / company and $450 / recruiter.

With a recruiter, if you let them know your top-end range, they will typically be blunt with "that is too far out of the range of the position."

Recommended the above comment: Of course, the take-home lesson is that if you aren't comfortable setting a high anchor point for your salary you shouldn't deal through recruiters. Which probably helps to explain why companies seem to love using recruiters. http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3501730

Companies can sway this the other way, with using the recruiting firm as the "bad guy" of "well, he/she was submitted at $85,000, why are they pushing back for another $5 (or $10),000. This happens as well (incorrectly "getting a candidate in, and we'll renegotiate up, you don't want to price yourself out!" or, submitting too high, resulting in an immediate dequal.


Edit: many companies don't necessarily have a sense of fairness, hence asking for salary history, to offer you the lowest possible (or even lateral) salary.

great insight behind the scenes, thank you.

You don't really negotiate with a recruiter, in that sense. When they are asking you your salary information, it's not negotiation, it's fishing for information -- they want to know whether continuing the conversation is a waste of time or not.

Recruiters can be useful because they should know the upper salary bound for the position that they are trying to fill. Just ask them directly how high the client can go, and they'll probably volunteer this information. Act underwhelmed and ask for a little more (or end the conversation there if it's seems like a waste of time). The recruiter will go back to whatever HR manager and either get a "yes there's some flexibility" or "no it's set in stone".

Most recruiters are the "putting warm bodies in front of desks" kind. This kind of recruiter doesn't really give a crap about you or the client, they just want to make the deal, but a high salary for you works out well for them also. Filling positions this way can be a sign that the client is desperate.

There is another kind of recruiter that doesn't work this way. They're rare and they only do talent search for hard-to-fill executive and consulting positions. They are more about building networks and relationships.

What really threw up the red flag for me was that he didn't want to only know what I earned at my current position, but the 3-4 previous positions before that, including my reasons for leaving each job.

I can understand he wants to find A-type winners that are on a rising arc instead of slumming for a job, but that took a lot of balls to ask.

Wow, it sounds like they were probably just filling out the job application for you. It was clearly a "warm bodies in front of desks" kind of recruiter. I've experienced this sort of thing before where a defense contractor wins some bid and needs to hire like 2000 engineers now and just enlists a team of recruiters to make it happen.

What's he recruiting for? Banks and jobs that require security clearance often require this sort of background info.

High-frequency trading firm. I didn't think that needed bank-level clearance either, but maybe the hiring firm stayed on the cautious side of background checks.

This is completely untrue. The recruiter will be trying to push their client's rate up, while simultaneously keeping your rate as low as possible. They might say something like "our commission is x% of the final rate", but you'll typically have no way of checking that.

They are already anchored at the maximum salary they'll pay you, and you are anchored at the minimum salary you'll accept, but neither of you knows each other's numbers.

They want to hit somewhere above your minimum. They don't want to hit your minimum (since it may be volatile) and they really, really don't want to hit below your minimum. And they are okay with hitting their maximum.

In my location it costs 15-20k to find a senior engineer you want to hire. Once that happens, you really, really don't want to lose them in salary negotiations, or to another offer. So you don't lowball them. If they give you a number they can lowball themselves, but if they don't, then you offer something near your maximum.

Your advice is that you give them a number so high that you're sure it's above their anchor and that it gives them no information about your anchor. But that doesn't change their anchor, and not giving a number at all is pretty close to that, while being nearly risk-free to you.

Of course, once they've asked for a number, you've refused, and they've pushed on it, it may not be risk-free to fight anymore. At that point, I'd agree: Aim for the sky.

Being weaselly about your number is a very noob thing to do in a negotiation. A skilled negotiator will seize on this and anchor the negotiations in at a very low rate. You need to know your number ahead of time, and drop it on them like it's the most natural thing in the world.

I don't think anyone is saying to not have an idea in mind ahead of time of what your goal number is. The point Patrick is making is to just not be the first one to state a number.

Just because they've attempted to anchor the discussion at a low rate doesn't mean that you don't already have another mental anchor known only to you of your goal number.

But the argument is that if you are the one to give your number first, you could lose out on money you could have gotten because you had no idea that they were willing to offer even more. It's hard to state you want $X/year and then ask for $1.1X a few minutes later. If you are the first to state a number and you ask for $100k/year and they were willing to offer $150k/year, you will never find out about that extra $50k/year.

If you are the first to state a number and you ask for $100k/year and they were willing to offer $150k/year, you will never find out about that extra $50k/year.

That looks good in paper but doesn't happen much. Vast majority of the time you will be low balled.

You're always low-balled at first, but if their low ball is in your acceptable range, you know you can ask for more.

The key is to give out the number first at 200k/year then settle for 180k/year

I would go even further than this... If you are given an opportunity to state a number first, go for the ridiculously high, especially in the context on "we simply must have a number to get the ball rolling". Patrick suggests that you say "Okay, lets fill in $1.00 and then come back to it later" - Wrong! "Lets fill in $1,000,000... etc" is the way to go.

The reasons are best explained here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anchoring

Re the "Don't be the first to state a number" strategy, what happens in the real world when two competent negotiators meet?

After about a week we broke down the office door. People on the floor below were starting to complain about the smell.

One thing I often find in salary negotiation advice are lines that go like this "At my last company, I increased sales by 3% by $YADDA_YADDA".

The thing is that I can't really think of nice metrics like this, and am surprised that a lot of engineers would find something as significant as sales numbers.

For one thing, the further your metric is from strict revenue, the harder it is to put a price tag on it. A sales number is easy, but if you optimized some part of the code somewhere, it becomes much more fuzzy and longer to explain. Sure, Patrick also pushes people to get jobs were your contribution is more directly correlated to revenues, but not everyone will want a job like that, and until you do get one, you can't use that.

The other thing is that I feel it's easier to consider a sales person as directly responsible for a significant increase in revenue for their market. But engineers work in teams, so saying "I increased sales by x%" is hard to justify: what about the Product Manager that spec'ed it out? What about the rest of the engineering team that worked on that change, reviewed it, pushed it to production? If you're the only one doing all that, sure, but that's rarely the case.

So, what's a good way to come up with relevant, justified metrics like that?

Sales guys very rarely tie their stomachs in knots with "So I suppose technically I might have talked to five million in new accounts last quarter, but most of them required new features, so I'm not sure I can justifiably claim credit for that one without splitting it with the engineering team." One might start learning from that example. Did you lead development on a new product with $5 million in sales? Then I might describe that as leading development on a new product with $5 million in sales. I wouldn't recommend optimizing SQL queries on a screen no one actually uses, but if that is your day to day activity, you were improving performance of the company's flagship product which launched to over $5 million in sales. If you're optimizing page load speed then presumably you tracked the before and after and, if you don't have great data about how that trickled into the business results, you can at least say "I shaved 5 seconds off our dashboard. Research from Google / Amazon / Microsoft / etc has found that page load speed has the following quantifiable impacts and that the sensitivity is on the order of 100 ms, or roughly one fiftieth of the improvement I delivered."

You can also either a) engineer your transfer to the part of the company which makes money or b) engineer your work duties such that they include things which will help career growth. For example, A/B testing both prints money and gives very relevant, justified metrics which are likely to include things motivational to decisionmakers at current and future employers. If you are an engineer in a company which doesn't A/B test but could, you should make that sale internally, and then nominate yourself as the obvious person to implement it.

patio11: just to play devil's advocate here, you have posted in the past that you have never made more than $60k per year[1]. This prompted a much attacked post [2] that is actually sort of structurally similar to this one (how to get more money for engineers), but aimed at you specifically rather than others, which made it strange.

Can I ask you the extent to which your points are field tested? Within the last 488 days, have your salary negotiations actually paid off, and who have you been negotiating with given that you are an entrepreneur with your own company?

This is not meant as ad-hominem and I like much of your writing. But you are like a sports trainer recommending a workout plan, and it is not unreasonable to ask whether you are actually in shape.

[1] http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1716991

[2] http://www.sebastianmarshall.com/the-genius-and-tragedy-of-p...

See the following, under "Consulting":


As those of us who've consulted can testify, consulting is like a never-ending series of salary negotiations.

I'm not Patrick, but I play him on tv.

A couple points, First of all I am a heat seeking missile for praise. For me, I've never optimized my life or life style for money.

Think of negotiation as levers that can be moved. I've discovered how to move the levers, but I haven't moved them because I'm not optimizing for money.

This is an article about moving the levers, not about optimizing the levers.

I know what you're saying, but sales guys benefits from the perception that they're solely responsible for the close of a sale. That's their job after all. So the $5M in sales? It wouldn't have happened without them! (that's the perception)

if that is your day to day activity, you were improving performance of the company's flagship product which launched to over $5 million in sales

Already there are more steps. You know he didn't sell that himself, a sales person did, and the link between performance and number of sales is unclear without knowing the product. So, to me, the $5 million number is nice ('ok so he was trusted to work on that important product') but feels a bit irrelevant when asking for a specific offer increase.

For whatever reason, it doesn't convince me that this candidate in particular couldn't have been replaced by another candidate for the same result. In the example of a sales person, I'm more easily convinced that s/he was influential in the result. edit: I guess it's because sales is so much more of a "people" job than engineering.

But maybe I'm just pointing at what you've been saying: take a job closer to the money…

This is how I put it

"For 9 months I led development on a project that did x, y, an z. I delegated work to 5 other engineers and spent about 30% of my time coding/architecting. The released product took in $15M in revenue the following year."

"For the last 2 years I've been on a team of 5 software engineers who work on one of my company's top portfolio products, which nets a revenue of $200M per year. I was the architect of one particular feature which boosted sales $25M the following year, and coded half of it while leading 2 other engineers to finish it to completion."

It helps not to think of $$ as being a direct tie-in to what value the engineer provides, because again, we aren't _that_ close. It does help to understand that there is some tie-in - ie. as an engineer, that you get that you are essentially building stuff to make money and you are cognizant of the consequences of your work. On another level it demonstrates that you have status to be in positions of that much importance. But you don't want it to come off like bragging, it simply is some metric that could easily be read off from a project post-mortem.

Good managers know that it takes more than the sales guy to close the deal to make that $5MM deal work. The sales people know this, too. Aftermarket support and/or production issues mid-stream are the bane of our existence. When it goes well everyone deserves the credit.

Now that I have that experience if I saw a non sales person place something like the above on their resume I would be very intrigued. Not because they're claiming responsibility (which I don't read into that) but because it says to me that they see their place in the whole system and how they contribute. That is really rare and really valuable. Like you say it's harder to see it when you're not in front of the customer, but if you do see it I think it means you're probably an "A" player.

For example, I used to sell heavy equipment to the concrete industry. In the back shop there was a manager of a unit that did about 25% of the work that needed to be done to build any machine that I would sell. He didn't have any direct contact with the customers. He didn't sit in on any sales meetings, and didn't have a very good idea of the forecast that was coming (unfortunately). He was absolutely critical to making each sale happen and each customer happy and he seemed to understand this. Without him it would have been very difficult to land the deals that we did. He absolutely deserves to place that he was critical to building an $8_figs business area on his resume. And by doing so I think it shows that he has vision beyond his area. I'd work with him again in a second.

He was "far" from the money but it didn't seem that way to me. He could just write on his resume that he was a Tool and Die Maker that managed a small machine shop of about 6 people. And it's true, but it doesn't do him justice.

The other problem is what happens if you ended up on a project that didn't make any money or one that lost money.

You might spent 3 years working on something and produced the most excellent work of your life but for whatever reason the end product sucked. It might not have been your fault , the marketing might have been terrible , it could have been mismanaged or it might just have been an awful idea from the start.

It probably sucks for the guy who programmed microsoft clippy..

This is why everybody should study science for a while. ;) The tack to take is "we did this experiment, and we built the best thing we could, a thing that accomplished feats X and Y and Z, but the experiment didn't yield the results we hoped for."

Considering that figures floating around say that as many as 90% of software projects fail, there's probably many of us in that group. (I consider myself one of them.)

There's got to be a way to put a positive spin on a project that was late, over-budget, rejected by the customer, poorly specified, technically misdirected, utterly mismanaged, and ultimately written off as a huge waste of time, money, and energy. But just saying "I learned a lot about how not to do things" doesn't really impress anyone.

Just addressing the technical misdirection:

"We made a number of technical errors. We decided to try using a brand new datastore called NoDB. Unfortunately, it turned out that our learning curve on NoDB v1.234 was steeper than we expected. It's an amazing product, but it's new and not yet well documented so it took us a long time to learn its quirks. I became an expert on NoDB because of all the tuning I had to do to try to improve performance and it's a fantastic product. I think that YesDB would have been much faster to learn but by the time we realized that, the project was cancelled.

However, with what I learned from that experience and what you've told me about your project, I think that NoDB would be a perfect fit. It has yaddayaddayadda features. What do you think?"

Yep. It's seen as bad form to criticize former or current co-workers at a job interview but sometimes the only honest answer is "all my co-workers were either lazy or incompetent but I'm better than them hence why I'm looking for another job".

It also sucks when you do client work in web development and build a good website for somebody who then proceeds to use the CMS to create pages full of spelling errors and nasty images their nephew created in pirate photoshop so you cannot use it as a portfolio piece.

OK, this may be harsh, but it's true.

You come into an interview with me and say that, and you've just talked yourself out of a job. I don't care how impressive your resume is; don't care if otherwise you walk on water. If you can't even avoid expressly criticizing your teammates in a job interview, it sends signals that you don't know when to keep your mouth shut; that you have no idea what it means to be tactful. That in turn suggests to me that you're going to be a pain in the ass to work with and are more focused on "who's right" in a discussion than coming to a consensus.

I really, really, really hate the phrase "not a team player" but right or wrong, that's exactly what that statement would advertise.

I'll back that one up. That exact attitude is something I'm personally working on right now, mostly as a result of discovering how much it affects people's perception of my work and abilities.

Talking crap about your previous co-workers is a great way to waste interview time and convince someone you will be difficult to work with. You're in a job interview. This is best-foot-forward, "paint me a picture of how awesome you could be" time. Don't bitch about your last job, we aren't here to talk about that.

If the honest answer truly was "everyone else was incompetent", just talk about your role in the project. If everyone was really that terrible and you were really that good, you should have some awesome stories about how you helped keep things on track. Maybe the whole damn thing was a sinking ship, but you have to have done something to help keep it afloat. Tell those stories.

Anyone with half a brain will catch on that you're talking around a bad work environment. They'll appreciate your tact and file away a note that letting you talk to customers/sales/management/whoever may not be as horrible as it would with most engineers. That's a very good mark in your favor.

Oh, don't get my wrong I'd be way way more tactful than that in an actual interview.

It just sucks when you feel like you might have to defend a lot of bad decisions that were made by others and all your good ideas were overruled, I don't want to sound like "Mr Hindsight".

I believe the proper euphemism for this situation is “I am looking for new challenges”.

If a client taints the beautiful layout, maybe prototype screenshots can be used for your portfolio?

Curiosity: Have you actually been in the position of interviewing people who said things like that and being unimpressed, or do you just feel like they're not impressive things to say about yourself?

The latter.

> So the $5M in sales? It wouldn't have happened without them! (that's the perception)

Maybe there was a either a strict deadline or a challenging technical issue to overcome such that that sale couldn't have happened without your contribution.

Maybe that software was sold for $5M because it was way more stable, responsive and easy to deploy and use than its competition.

Maybe, thanks to good engineering and best practices, bugs and requests for improvement were quickly answered.

Maybe, again thanks to good engineering, that software was easily tailored to each customer's need, and customers were willing to pay (way) more.

Maybe... Start to look at your job and at your product with sales goggles and find other selling points.

Many companies I think will intentionally keep employees in the dark as much as possible about how much they are really worth to the company.

I worked in support once for an outsourcing company where I was paid only a little over minimum wage and given a number of SLAs to keep (which I usually exceeded).

When I found out years later about the actual costs to the customer of the work I was doing (management flatout refused to give us any of these numbers) I realized that I could have worked about 4 days a week on the same monthly salary and they would still have made a substantial profit on me.

Coming from academia, where we don't make money, we spend money, I wondered this too. I can come up with a badass Monte Carlo algorithm that does our computation in half the time, but there's absolutely no way to connect this to any monetary value because the end product isn't about money.

Vis-a-vis your institution, get good at grant writing. You don't make money in academia by doing research, you make money by doing grant proposals.

Vis-a-vis the funding agencies, they generally have a set of concerns which are non-monetary, too, so meet them where they are.

I meant coming from an academic job to a non-academic one. I'm doing well on the grant front, but I don't think that'll help me in getting a "normal" job.

There are three main ways for people to show their business value:

1. Absolute ability to add $ to the bottom line

2. Relative ability compared to others

3. Absolute technical skills

Academics transitioning to business do well focusing on 2 and 3, especially 2. If you show me that you were the top 1% of the top 1%, I'm going to be impressed.

One quick concrete example: a friend of mine got the top scholarship for graduate students at her school. This was worth maybe $7,000-not a huge amount in business terms. But it marked her as one of the two best out of 10,000 graduate students.

Most people would just put the name of the grant, but what's impressive is the fact that only .05% of applicants got the grant. Once she put that as the first line on her resume, she got significantly more call-backs.

I'm in the exact same situation. My way forward is to get an external consultancy project worth $XM and use that as an example.

Amount you spent might also be useful, if you can prove you spent it wisely.

Sounds like you've made some interesing Monte Carlo based research. Why not write about that/promote that? Get other insitutions talking about how great lutorm from $YOUR_INSTITUTION is. Will academia pay for that?

Real-life example from a friend I coached:

-His main role was working on a software process that generated XYZ benefit for the free users

-He increased the efficiency of that process, allowing the company to increase the XYZ's they created by 100%

-Free users who had XYZ were n% more likely to buy

-Sales were worth an average of ABC dollars

-Multiplying it all out, he was responsible for increasing the bottom line by a lot

Now, he had to make a lot of estimates, and ask people he knew at his company for estimates on some of the information. But by amassing all this information he can make a much stronger case for his value than if he could only talk about the technical work he did.

I don't think most engineers or engineering managers really give a flip... At least IME they don't.

They want to see that you can produce code. So if you can point to features/apps that you developed, or how you optimized some feature somewhere, that's what they want.

I understand that and that's kind of my point. As an engineer, you can definitely talk about what you've done to convince the other party that you're capable, but it's (IMO) more difficult to tie it to a specific increase in the offer when negotiation starts, which is what Patrick discusses.

Specifically, he puts the asked salary increase head-to-head with the potential revenue increase: "Getting me that extra $4,000 would make this a much easier decision. Considering that this is conceivably worth millions to you, we’d be silly not to do business with each other." Which indeed makes it sound like a bargain. :)

And I know it's exactly the goal of what Patrick preaches: speak in terms of value created, not technical competence. It's just, y'know, hard :)

The thing is that I can't really think of nice metrics like this, and am surprised that a lot of engineers would find something as significant as sales numbers.

One way: Did you work on a feature that was then used to sign up a client that is now worth €X?

>So, what's a good way to come up with relevant, justified metrics like that?

Make shit up.

I'm dead serious. Not in terms of "This product never existed and I'm going to lie to you", but in terms of "Everyone loved that feature I did, it probably helped retain 3-5% of our clients alone, and we were able to hire another two people the following year, so that probably works out to about 10% growth."

So: my feature improved helped grow sales by 13%.

Start gathering them.

Seriously, if you're working on $YADDA_YADDA, then obviously there should be some justification for it, either to yourself or your manager. That's what you need to get down, stuff like: improved response times by x%, killed y open bugs, removed z lines of code, whatever your project's current major issues are.

And if you can't come up with an easy justification like that, why are you doing it? :)

> What about the rest of the engineering team that worked on that change, reviewed it, pushed it to production?

"I worked as part of a team that $x. My role on the team was $y."

The suggestion to not give a number first is awful. You may not want to give your previous salary history, but you most certainly do want to give the first number. You should do your research and figure out what the company usually pays for someone of your experience (checkout glassdoor.com or ask around) and state a number that is on the very high end of reasonable. It is always easier to try and stand your ground than fight your way uphill from a low offer.

The only case you might not want to state the first number is if you can't find our what the company typically pays.

This is only good advice if:

a) You really know what you're worth to the person across the table. (In a crazy-hot market, it's hard to get a good handle on this. And if you're mentally constrained by your current salary, negotiated in a down market when you had no experience, it's hard to break free of that. It's also hard to evaluate your own skills as others see them...)

b) You are completely comfortable with asking for, say, 1.5x what you're worth with a straight face;

c) when the person across the table visibly flinches or chuckles or hedges - and they will; books on negotiation explicitly teach you to do this - keeping that straight face and defending the number you just asked for.

So I incline to the opinion that patio11 is giving the right advice for his audience: The kind of people who secretly think of themselves as vastly overpaid and are secretly ashamed of it. I know from painful experience that if you send me into a room and ask me to anchor my own price my natural-born tendency is to tie that anchor around my own foot and then throw it into the Atlantic Ocean.

If that is the case, then shouldn't a large part of the post focus on creating more options? Because if you have five interviews, I bet it is easier to be bold in negotiation than when you have one. Any other advice for the timid(than getting more options) is just beating around the bush imo.

While it's theoretically great to be able to play offers off against each other, in practice it's difficult to get the timing right. Inevitably, the offers arrive out of order and you're going to have to negotiate on behalf of the other employers who will be making you offers.

Moreover, even if there are no other explicit offers on the table at the moment it is in your best interests to teach yourself to imagine them, because opportunity cost is real.

So I think it's a good exercise to get comfortable with negotiating one offer at a time. You need to learn to take a deep breath and realize that there are always more options. Other jobs are out there! Moreover, as patio11 points out, if the other side offers X and you ask for X + Y and they say no, rare is the negotiation that can't be salvaged by falling back to X.

Most of the time you already have an offer i.e. your current employment.

Moreover, as patio11 points out, if the other side offers X and you ask for X + Y and they say no, rare is the negotiation that can't be salvaged by falling back to X.

Yeah sure but already you are in a defensive position the moment you ask for more than they just proposed. It's a universally agreed negotiation tactic to make the first offer.

It's a universally agreed negotiation tactic to make the first offer

Well, your argument was going better before you went this far, because now I'm going to have to ask you to take it up with Roger Dawson, author of the fairly-well-rated Secrets of Power Negotiating, from whom I learned the tactic of never naming the first number.

And, while Dawson is probably exaggerating his status as one of the best negotiators on the planet - because he's got to be prepared in case you negotiate him down ;) - forgive me for betting on him against you.

(Dawson's logic, by the way, is pretty clear: All else being equal, the default pattern of a negotiation is that one side names a number, the other side names a different number, and you compromise somewhere in the middle. And you're the second person you obviously have a big influence on exactly where the "middle" will be. If you want to end up at $125k, and your partner goes first and offers $120k, you know to ask for $130k or $135k, and now things go smoothly... but if you're asked to go first and you name $130k and your partner flinches and then says in a quavering voice that the budget will only stand $70k "but maybe we can make a one-time exception", now the "compromise" point is anchored around $100k and you're going to have to negotiate much more skillfully to claim your remaining $25k.)

Does anyone have a negotiating book to recommend that offers fundamentally different advice from this?

To be fair, shouldn't the first scenario be offering $70k as well? Otherwise it's biased towards the premise that you should say a number second.

In that case, let's say you want $125k, and the company offers $70k before you say how much you want. Well, you're still in a difficult situation to get to $125k. Ask for $180k? That wouldn't fly. (I'd also say that if a company offers $70k for a position that should be around $125k, they're clearly indicating that they're trying to screw you over. So probably not worth pursuing)

That being said, I feel that not giving the first number would be beneficial to me because I might then be offered more than what I would have said. (I think I've been mostly underpaid, so my perception of a fair salary is likely screwed up towards the bottom)

I'm sorry, it probably would make a better argument if I hadn't used the $70k example. It would have been more believable and everyone knows that coders love symmetry.

Except I just couldn't resist, because... truth is stranger than fiction, and I really have been offered 40% less than my desired salary.

(Remember, to a nonprogrammer, programmers look like clerks. When you tell them how much you expect to earn, and they flinch, they may not even be play-acting: Why, for that kind of money they could have hired three clerks! People will generally not hesitate to offer you the median salary for white-collar workers of your age range, either because they're actually clueless or as an opening feint in negotiations; you need to be prepared for that.)

Anyway, now that I've led us here, your scenario: You think you can earn $130k. A company opens with an offer of $70k. Do you really counter with $180k?

Well, maybe you do! If you're negotiating with an experienced software engineer at a mainstream software company, you could certainly try it. The message you'd be sending is I recognize that you have just thrown me an embarrassing lowball, and I know you know how low that ball was, but I'm going to take it in good faith by assuming it was an obvious joke, and play along by lobbing an obvious highball right back at you. You should probably open with a hearty laugh, though, and make your counteroffer with a sly smile and maybe even a wink.

But I, being excessively polite and fairly bad at broad back-slapping humor and pretty much a coward, would probably not do that. Instead I'd play it safe and assume that my counterparty is a babe in the woods - if they've just lowballed you by 45% they're certainly signaling that - and move them up more gently. I'd flinch (Dawson: "always flinch at the first proposal. Practice flinching. A wince, a cough, a pregnant pause, a slight chuckle, but flinch") and say something like "you know, the average starting salary for a Google programmer is far higher than that." Then talk about that for a while.

[EDIT: In my first draft of this I named a number at this point. A number which was lower than my target. A rookie mistake! I really am bad at this. Perhaps it would be better to try and coach them closer to your target number before naming any number of your own.]

But it will be hard to salvage a negotiation that starts so low. Give up and take it as a sign: You'll need to start marketing yourself to a higher class of employer, because you've made a mistake. Either you're ridiculously overestimating your earning potential or you're targeting the wrong market with the wrong message. See: patio11's other essay.

Why would a partner give a $70K counter in one case(when he goes second) and offer you $125K in the other case(when he goes first)?

It seems contrary to my experience. In my experience, you are lowballed when you don't take control and set your price.

Also, if you want $125K, you can either ask for $150K or not budge on $125K(and make it clear that it is non-negotiable beyond $5K) ... the no-budging works great if you have other similar offers. That is how I got my present salary anyway.

You are talking about resetting anchors. While it can happen, generally the first number is a stronger anchor than the second.

>While it can happen, generally the first number is a stronger anchor than the second.

Not so, because the second anchor sets another number the moment it is uttered: the middle ground.

Employers may lowball you if you are forcing them to give a number, so what. If the number is insulting, you suggest that perhaps the interview is a waste of time and leave. Nothing lost. If the number is low but not crazy, you suggest that it is low - and won't be the final number - and carry on, taking this into account when you counter with your "high" number.

If you are asking for $150 and "making it clear that $125 is the minimum" you've effectively lost out on the fact that the employer may have given you >$125, but only as a last resort to losing you completely.

Setting the first anchor is generally a bad idea.

Nope, if you set it at $125K, you walk away from anything lower. That is how I do mine...I leave at most $5K room for negotiation but other than that, I tell them this is the fair salary in my view and they can match it or I walk. And indeed, I'll walk if they can't come pretty darn close to it.

The $150K is if you want to play a more elaborate game. Then you don't say between $125K and $150K. But if they come back with a $130K counter, you take it.

If you set it at $125, and get $125, their budget was probably at least $150. You're leaving money on the table and not even realizing it.


Your max buy price: $10000 Their min sell price: $4500 Used Car Value - Worth probably around $4000.

You: I'll give you $10,000 for that car. Salesman: Deal. Translation: You got screwed.

You: I'll give you $5000 for that car. Salesman: $5000 is a little low, but lets talk about all the other stuff first. <later> Salesman: $7000, and is really the best I can do. You: done. Translation: you got screwed.

You: I'll give you $2000 for the car. Salesman: You aren't serious. The car is easily worth $10000. Walks away... You: Ok, $4000. Salesman: $7000 is the best I can do. You: done. Translation: You got screwed.

In every case where you present the first number, the salesman can use that to frame the debate. Even if you really lowball the number, you allow the salesman to name his price by providing the top number that you can work from. The more outrageous your lowball, the more outrageous his top number. Point being though that you're working towards the number in his best interest, not yours.

Same holds true in salary negotiations. Never, ever say your number first, unless you are perfectly happy conceding on it for some other point.

Your examples are flawed because you are coming up with a number out of your ass. The idea is to gauge the used car value and then make an offer lower than that. In the first case, you wouldn't offer $10,000, you'd offer $3,800.

Funny enough, this is the method my Dad uses to buy cars and it works almost every time. But it requires that you understand the lowest number the guy can go without taking a hit. Once you know that number, go a little lower and tell him that the day he can sell at that number, he has your business. After my dad has done the research, he explicitly tells them they do not need to sell him the car as a salesman - he knows what he wants and for how much. The day the salesman is ready to sell for the amount specified, he should call my dad. They do. Every single time.

>But it requires that you understand the lowest number the guy can go without taking a hit.

I don't give a damn if he takes a hit or not. His profitability is his problem, not mine. Ideally, he takes a loss on the car he sells me because that sale pushes him over some target that actually works for him. Only he knows his position explicitly. I can never know this. Assuming I can is putting me in a loser's position.

Generally, if a car salesman isn't pissed off at you following the sale, you are getting ripped off. I hate to tell you this, but it is true. If the car salesman is "happy" to sell to your dad, it's probably because he's an easy sell. That's not negotiation.

The first case is only an example, but your $3800 offer is pretty close to my example where you offer $2000. The error you're making is that $4500 is some sort of set in stone value. It isn't. The car might in fact be worth more than $10K to you, and less than $1K to the dealership.

The art of negotiation is the act of getting the car for the lowest possible price, regardless of its worth to you or the seller.

Generally, if a car salesman isn't pissed off at you following the sale, you are getting ripped off.

Yep, they are usually pretty pissed at my Dad.

Ideally, he takes a loss on the car he sells me

He is not really taking a loss if he's meeting a target that net makes him a profit(in some manner). You seem to argue that you can't extract such information. I'm arguing that you can.

The point is he might be making a loss to the business for some other goal (e.g. making a quarterly number that his boss will reward him for, costing the business even more), so making assumptions based on the value of the expected average market value of the car has a decent chance of setting the value higher than the value of the car to that salesman at that point in time.

But how does this dialog progress if the salesman gives the number first? I can't envision a scenario other than them offering $10,000 at which point we're back in your final scenario there.

I was once in a situation where two companies were interested in hiring me, and when the hiring manager for one of them found out I had nibbles from elsewhere, he said he didn’t want to make me an offer until I was absolutely sure that his company was the place I really wanted to work for.

Translation: “I don’t want to get caught in a bidding war for you.”

I went with the other company, which was, in fact, the place I really wanted to work for.

Do you have any examples of some good books on negotiations?

I read Dawson's Secrets of Power Negotiating.

I found the book made me uncomfortable, in sort of the same way I feel when I'm watching a masterfully-made infomercial. This, to me, is a sign that it was working. ;) If the sport of negotiating was as natural as breathing for me I wouldn't be reading a book about it!

I've read a few.

Negotiation Genius is probably the most accessible one:


Winning Through Intimidation was a fun read, especially if you're into real estate. Apparently the book is worth a lot now (I had no idea, I have an old hardcover version that I don't even see here)


I'm partial to Game, Set, Match by Henry Kramer, but I'm sure that's influenced by my taking a class with him (and truly enjoying it).


"Getting to Yes" by Fisher, et al. and "Bargaining for Advantage" by Shell are considered classics in the field.

I was reading "Bargaining for Advantage" this weekend after reading another recent salary post and also recently re-negotiating my salary. I really like the book because it kind of sets down a clear set of steps and vocabulary to refer to them, and because it emphasizes information and assessment of the situation rather than psychology.

I was voted as the most ruthless negotiator in class because as soon as the negotiation began, I rushed to anchor the most extreme position. The rest of the negotiation was how I might budge a little bit. In all but one case, the party budged and I got a super awesome deal--and the points. In one situation, the party didn't budge and neither of us earned any points.

It all really boils down to options and what is at stake. In my class negotiation, I literally had nothing at stake(the grade wasn't tied to winning negotiations). In real life though, if you don't have options and you only have one offer and you are pretty sure you won't get any more, this is harder to execute. On the other hand, if you don't have a lot to lose, you can be somewhat irrational.

Note, you are not giving your current salary number, just what you expect.

If it is way overboard, the company should still make you an offer if they like you. From then on, it is up to you: if you have a better option, go with it; if you don't, emphasize that you are willing to find some middle ground because you dig something unique about the company. You can say how you understand they can't pay what you'd like but because you are excited about industry x and enjoyed the culture, you'd consider middle ground figure of _____.

Final caveat: There is such as thing getting TOO good of a deal ... and then getting fired soon after because you couldn't deliver on the expectations you set relative to your salary.

Scientific research agrees with you. The concept is called anchoring

Anchoring research helps clarify the question of whether to make the first offer in a negotiation: by making the first offer, you will anchor the negotiation in your favor. In fact, Mussweiler and I have shown that making the first offer affords a bargaining advantage. In our studies, we found that the final outcome of a negotiation is affected by whether the buyer or the seller makes the first offer. Specifically, when a seller makes the first offer, the final settlement price tends to be higher than when the buyer makes the first offer.



The whole article could use a lot more science. I suggest reading "59 Seconds" from Richard Wiseman.

I was under the impression that putting out the first number anchors the negotiation around that number, not necessarily in one's favor. For example, if you think you want to earn 100k, and they were hoping to keep you under 125k, throwing out a number of $110k is not giving you the advantage, as they may have thrown out a first number of $115k if you had let them.

This is more reason to research the company's salaries up front. If they were planning to lowball you and you put out a high number, it may help you, but if you don't know anything about the company, it may be more beneficial to let them make the first move (unless you have multiple options open and are willing to say a high number).

the problem is that salaries aren't uniform for all companies.

so if you go by glassdoor, you'll see that some engineers make $40K/yr, while others make $150K/yr in the same area.

If you go by listed salaries on job descriptoins, once again on monster.com you might see jobs posted at $100-150K/yr...while others, for pretty much the same exact requirement list/job description you'll see $50K

The good thing though, is that if you ask for more than they can afford, they'll almost always tell you their real number. So just ask for 1/3 more, i.e. if you want 90K, ask for $120K, then watch them come up with a 100-110K counter offer....and who knows, you might just get that $120K

In fact VMG's HBS link, which generally encourages making the first offer, includes this caveat:

> There is one situation in which making the first offer is not to your advantage: when the other side has much more information than you do about the item to be negotiated or about the relevant market or industry. For example, recruiters and employers typically have more information than job candidates do...

If I can get to the point where I understand the market as well or better than the potential hirer, I'll try to make an anchoring first offer. Usually I can't.

If that is the case, you shouldn't accept any offer at all - how would you know that you are being fooled?

It still makes sense to accept an offer (even if you could be getting screwed), if that offer remains substantially better than what you're currently receiving.

Considering that anchoring works with completely unrelated numbers, I wonder how well it would work to ask the population of Tallahassee, or the distance in miles to the moon, right before you start talking dollars.

Or ask about last quarter's gross profit... ;-)

If you do give the first number - in any negotiation - and you don't count that as a point for the other side, you are probably a horrible negotiator.

This might not mean much to you overall, but don't confuse it with strong negotiation skills.

Honestly, my top advice for negotiating better: interview lots and never feel like if you don't take this job, you won't get a better one. The techniques are important. But if you don't have a solid foundation in any negotiation(options and leverage), you're fighting an uphill battle.

As it stands, patio11's advice seems to be more applicable to people who have very few job options. I'd argue most people on HN would have multiple options, even if they are shy about activating them(by applying/interviewing).

> interview lots and never feel like if you don't take this job, you won't get a better one

Right. One thing my dad taught me is that if they want to sell it more than you want to buy it (or vice versa), you win. If you're feeling insecure about your value, I'd say that matters a lot more than, say, who throws out a number first.

While I don't agree with all of the article's advice, it gets the most fundamental point right: Stop feeling guilty about asking for market compensation.

Being a nice person has nothing to do with it. It's not your fault that you're worth more than they're offering out of the gate. It's the market's fault.

Good luck out there.

To get what you're worth, you should actually ask for more. The other one will assume you did and try to bargain you down hard anyway.

I have never been in a salary negotiation in which I was bargained down hard, which may mean I'm a terrible person to ask for negotiation advice.

But not entirely, because the "assume the counterparty is a dick" technique is actually kind of pointlessly lossy, even if it works out in aggregate over the market. It's been a long time since I negotiated a salary, but in a few recent contracting scenarios I've just set a price that I knew was fair, stuck to it, and when necessary explained to the prospect why it was fair.

People are either willing to listen to reason or they're not worth dealing with.

Actually, that sounds reasonable!

From my experience a good bargainer will always win more then you, but he will often also help you in ways you didn't imagine were possible. Because he is good at finding what is really important to people and how to get things done. If he wants something from you, he will also give you solutions to some of the harder problems you have in exchange. So I don't think a strong bargainer is a dick.

Of course there are people who bargain to trick you. And even normally fair and strong bargainers will sometimes use their powers more to their advantages then they should. But in my eyes it's not the common situation. Between sticking-to-the-first-number and tricking-each-other-out-of-money there is a big range of good and bad bargaining which actually solves the good purpose of finding each others priorities, a good range for the value bargained, and a result both parties can agree to.

The best way to avoid saying the salary number is to simply ask the question of them first. In other words: "What salary range does this role warrant in your company?"

That frames the conversation really, really well. For one, if the two ideas are severely mismatched, you don't waste your time. If the number is low, you can make note of it then and explain why you are so much better than that. If the answer is non-committal, you've got a wonderful spot to review the role in detail and "come up with the number together".

If the number is high, you can reset your mid-point and focus more on their "horrible" vacation allowance that they'd need to correct to bring you on. :)

"Applicant: Great, I can’t wait to get started. Getting me that extra $4,000 would make this a much easier decision. Considering that this is conceivably worth millions to you, we’d be silly not to do business with each other."

I think the problem is that you don't have a verifiable skill that will increase sales by X%... Because if you did, then you'd be silly for only asking for an extra $4000 based off of increasing sales by millions.

I think the problem is that you don't have a verifiable skill that will increase sales by X%... Because if you did, then you'd be silly for only asking for an extra $4000 based off of increasing sales by millions.

I think software engineers can come up with a few skills that makes them more valuable than other applicants by a quantifiable amount. In my case, I have extensive experience with streaming audio and video across web and mobile devices. Having built and maintained the streaming video infrastructure that powers RushLimbaugh.com, JimRome.com, CoastToCoastAM.com, BobAndTom.com as well as their corresponding mobile sites and apps while I worked at ClearChannel, I have the experience to cut months off of similar projects for my current company. That alone was worth the 37.5% increase over my last salary to them.

I think Patrick's point is that this is B.S., but it's B.S. that the interviewer can use to rationalize giving up the $4,000. It's exactly the same as the Free Food At Google argument.

I think a lot of what Patrick does well in this article is "reframing" the situation. I find once you get out of the "I don't want to offend them and lose my shot" mindset, negotiation and other "money talk" becomes really routine.

I wonder if there is value in creating "mock hiring sessions" that require you to negotiate your pay up. There are millions of "mock interviews" done in colleges every year, why not go that extra step? It seems learning to reframe the situation is easy enough to do given the proper coaching.

"If you’re sane only about 25% or so of your gross income is subject to the results of real estate negotiations. Close to 100% is subject to the results of salary negotiations. Thus, your salary negotiations are probably going to be the most important financial decisions you will ever make."

That's pretty irrelevant really, what's relevent is the difference it can make. First, if you negotiate a 20% discount on the 25% you're doing better than negotiating a 1% pay rise for the 100%. Second, a negotiated salary recurrs annually, it's not a one-off sum. So yes the conclusion is right, but for the wrong reason.

The 25% he alludes to is your recurring mortgage payment, which also happens annually--monthly, actually. What he means here is that a discount of 5% in your mortgage negotiations is much less than an increase of 5% in your salary. So he is right, for the right reason.

corin_ is right - salary is recurring, mortgage/real estate purchase is one-time. You pay off the mortgage with recurring payments, but they are based on the one-time amount. If you negotiate $10k extra salary, after two years you will have $20k extra. If you negotiate $10k lower real estate purchase, after two years you will not have $20k extra. (Technically you will have a little bit more than $10k extra due to compound interest on smaller principal, but nowhere near $20k.)

I'm not convinced by this article that the author has ever done a salary negotiation.

The author offers his services to companies as an independent contractor. I would think a huge amount of that involves rate negotiation.


This isn't full time and the $13,000 should be amortized over the next couple years as that was spent on client prospecting and he seems to be moving in the direction of only dealing with repeat client work.

I wish that more of the comments on this article offered hard, unabashed numbers like Patrick does. Filtering on actual real-life experiences would be far more enlightening than armchair negotiation strategy.

Can you explain the key differences you see between the two?


I am very curious as to the source of your understanding for how high end consultants and speakers operate, because it very much does not match either my experience or the experiences related to me by people who I find credible.

For example, negotiating airfare and hotels doesn't happen. (This was not obvious to me when I started. Thanks Thomas.) You just say "We'll invoice you for them according to your standard travel reimbursement procedures." and that is the entire discussion. Rates are more fluid, particularly for first-time clients. There are different ways to manipulate one's rate, and there are other ways to manipulate total price of the engagement with add-ons such as scheduling flexibility as a line item.

You're correct that great consultants will not have any conversation about the difference between $59 and $64.

Patrick, rdouble is not being nice, but his major point is right. There are different forces in play for negotiating engineer's salary than a consulting engagement.

Employee compensation within a company needs to be equitable. Similar work for similar pay. Whereas terms of a unique consulting engagement don't affect anybody else. This is a huge driver of all kinds of compensation decisions, like standardized salary ranges, etc.

You are right about pattern matching. But unlike for an investment banker or a marketing consultant, for an an engineer his negotiation skills do not correlate with the quality of his work. More than that, an irrational but hard negotiator will come off as an dick. And employers avoid hiring irrational dicks as engineers.

But should you negotiate salary in general - sure. But you should realize it's a different situation than a consulting deal.

The part about managers thinking less of you because you do not negotiate is completely true. Everybody wants an awesome negotiator under them. Just like if you solve P=NP on the white board on the interview will mark you as the wizard, negotiating will mark you, right from the interview, as someone who fights for what he wants, and will fight for what the project/team/company wants.

I upvoted you but I'm not so sure its the negotiation skills that they'll admire as much as the self confidence in your own market value. Sort of "This guy is used to getting paid really well, he must be really good."

>"I received a comment that this is untrue for startups by someone today. For a funded startup which has enough engineers to warrant a foosball table, the company payroll is well north of $100,000 a month."

I'm 90% sure that was in reference to this post: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3499480

Our most recent round of funding at the start-up where I'm working was 750k. (http://techcrunch.com/2011/10/24/smartots-raises-750000-offe...)

That has to cover everything for about half a year, including developers, artists, lawyers, rent, travel expenses, regulatory costs, etc... And we've made it go pretty far and will likely raise a much larger round in the near future. I'm sure everyone at the company would love to be making more money, especially those who have worked in richer countries. However, even a couple of developers pushing for the kinds of salaries that pattio11 is would mean the start-up burns its cash, the founders lose their invested time and money and worst of all, we don't improve kids' education.

Of course there is always the chance that those two guys have such beastly skills that they can get us market dominance (and profits or a much larger investment) before that happens. Would you take that gamble?

Disclosure: I don't speak for the company, I'm not privy to top level strategy discussions and I don't own any of it or represent it, etc... I do like what we're doing, though.

The flipside is that maybe the execs aren't good enough to get the kind of funding necessary to build the company effectively, or that the business idea (beyond "improving kids' education") is not viable in its current implementation path.

One of the founders has successfully sold a start-up in China in the past and the CTO has sold 2 in the US. The product fit still isn't 100%, though. The business has gone through a couple of pivots just in the time I've been there.

It should go without saying that before hitting market fit is a terrible time to take on overly mercenary employees. Goal #1 is to survive off of the money long enough to reach that point.

Goal #1 should be to get to that point, goal #2 being to be able to pay someone else to do it. Goal #1 only involves paying someone if you can't do it yourself, and if that is so, you have to achieve goal #2 to an extent that it ensures goal #1.

I think there are a lot of people disagreeing with "Don't state the number first" but it's important to be open to new ideas.

This article is meant to make you stronger and offer some new tricks in the negotiating process. You're certainly not learning and expanding your game if you're convinced that you don't need to do anything different.

I think its important to think about what the author is really saying: Can you find out what cards their holding before they know what cards you have? Can you? It's tough, its challenging, that's the point.

The more information you have before you start making decision the better decision you're going to make, period. When you start throwing out numbers a very big decision has just been made, theres's no going back at that point.

If you're worried they are going to laugh at you, or be offended, they won't be. This is not a war, it's an interview, a chance to make an introduction and meet somebody new. Sometimes you can make connections in the interview even if you end up not taking the job. You're dealing with people, not robots. No one is out to get you. In fact, they're considering hiring you and working with you everyday!

The point is learn new tricks and push back a little.

Interesting point. Also, it really helps to somehow weasel/tap your way into the hiring side. ;) Even if it's just to see the submissions of applicants.

An important principle of negotiation is knowing their interests as well as you can. And presenting a representation of yourself which strongly satisfies those interests.

Basically, all the work is done before the negotiation; the point of negotiation is where it all comes together and you use all that pressure you've built up to (politely) bear.

If you have a take-home project, great, you can hit it out of the ballpark by adding all the professional polish that virtually no other applicant will do — have it build, solve corner cases, or casually note that it was tested on 3 platforms; whatever's vaguely appropriate. Virtually everyone else cuts some corner somewhere. Most will submit a minimal answer, to a question which resembles — but isn't — the take-home question.

To the company struggling to find a good coder, this makes you a drool-worthy thing to purchase, like the newest Mac. They will calculate what they're losing in not having your increment of productivity, and that will pressure their decision.

(That said, I prefer to state the number first as an anchor, because I research relevant salaries, but whatever. ;)

patio11 draws some content from his original "Don’t Call Yourself A Programmer, And Other Career Advice"[1] which you should definitely read.

[1] http://old.kalzumeus.com/2011/10/28/dont-call-yourself-a-pro...

I think these discussion tend to get a lot of people debating on who should offer a # first.

I don't think this is a question with a binary answer. Statistically, you may be able to determine which works better as a whole, but nobody will negotiate their salary enough times to render a proper sample. I'd guess that treating each salary negotiation uniquely will produce a higher mean salary than simply changing the "who says $ first" variable.

Any tips specifically for negotiating a higher raise? Most of the advice is targeted to the "new job"-salary negotiations.

Get attached to the part of the company that makes money, set up the measuring and politics such that you get credit for increases in the amount of money they're making, pitch a raise for you as the easiest way for them to get a repeat performance in the next quarter. Also, since companies have persistent exploitable inefficiencies about this issue, be prepared to talk to the people who are actually willing to give you a raise. (i.e. it may not be the people you currently work for.)

At a previous job I negotiated an 80% raise and double promotion 8 months after joining. This was at a huge, very bureaucratic, very political company. This made me the youngest Senior Analyst ever at the company. Here's how I did it:

Work portion: I focused my work on what provided value, not what was difficult or what was in my job description. One of my big achievements was saving the company roughly $1.2MM with a week of work.

I also found out who would be responsible for approving my raise/promotion (my boss and his boss) and what they valued. My boss pretty much just valued results and didn't care how long you worked, where you worked from, etc. But his boss cared a lot about office presence, face time, filling out mandatory reports that no one read, work hours, etc. So I made sure to satisfy both of them, even though I could easily accomplish all my work in just a few hours a day.

Negotiation portion: first, I found out when budgets were set, which was in September. Since performance reviews were done in December, that meant that by the time a performance review came about, your raise would have already been decided.

Then in May, I had a meeting with my boss where I told him something like "I'd like to have a meeting to discuss compensation sometime next month." So he knew it was coming-there was no surprise. Also note the timeline, the actual discussion was in June, giving my boss and his boss plenty of time before budgets would be fixed in September.

Then I made two write-ups: one presenting the value I'd contributed in terms my boss would value, and one presenting the value I'd contributed in terms his boss would value. I then made my case to my boss, focusing on the value I'd provided, and asked for the double promotion so that I could fall back down to a single promotion if that didn't fly.

This was not a perfect approach, but even this much was enough to put me in probably the top 95% of engineers trying to negotiate a raise.

I should mention that pretty much the entire approach above came from Ramit Sethi's book I Will Teach You To Be Rich.

This is a tactic that works very well for me:

I go into the room and do lots of listening at the start. I'm told something like a 3% raise. I say that's very interesting.. blah blah and the manager thinks then it's done.

Then I ask to confirm what my job title is, and what my responsibilities are (write them down). Then I go through a list of all the things I've done or am doing in the last year (prepare well in advance) and I get the manager to say if that item falls within my responsibilities, or if it's "over and above" my current title. Also then make sure the manager comments on how valuable that "thing" is. I drag this on.

Eventually, we have a list of 5 things I'm doing that are "expected" and 20-30 things I regularly do that are "over and above" and highly valued in the manager's own opinion.

From there, it's quite clear I deserve a higher raise.


Another thing I've done is compare the increase in cost of living to my (potential raise) - When the manager told me 3%, I mentioned my rent had increased 10% and gas had increase more than 25% in the last year... so in fact a 3% is actually a salary cut.

I haven't had the opportunity to try it, but a suggestion I liked when I heard it was to go to the person in a position to give you a raise and tell them "in six months time, I would like to be making X$. What would I need to do or show I am capable of doing (actionable, measurable, objective is important here) for you to give me that?"

Then do those things. In six months, remind them about the conversation (I'm sure it'd go better if you had a reliable way to jog their memory, eg email). If you're worried about them backing out, maybe follow up halfway through to see if they agree that you're on course and that they understand you meant it.

In your guys' experience, how relevant are these tips to someone speaking with relatively young startups (say, seed or Series A stage)? I know that good negotiation skills are good negotiation skills however you slice it, but I'm curious to hear from folks if they've needed to use a different set of tactics when not dealing with an "HR department" as much as a founder.

@patio11 Thanks for writing such a detailed blog on this.

As I read your rephrasing of questions, I remembered reading this book "In the line of fire" by Jerry Weissman. There is a concept explained in this called "Roman Column".

The key message is: Do not answer the question till you fully comprehend the roman column i.e., the key issue. You can get to your own interpretation of roman column or ask the person to clarify the question to understand better. Then paraphrase the question and address the issue head-on focussing on the roman column.

I found the book to be very interesting with lot of real examples about press meets & other negotiations.

I'll just say be careful when taking free negotiation advice from professional writers rather than professional negotiators..That's not to take anything away from patio11 here, just be careful and keep the salt handy.

Details of strategy sure are important, but, above all, do negotiate.

A comment† by http://news.ycombinator.com/user?id=jfoster that really opened my eyes:

> You might also look at it another way, and Google probably will, too. If you're being considered by Google and you don't negotiate, perhaps they are the ones making the mistake [by attempting to hire you].


All negotiations need to end with both parties thinking they are winners. In that spirit, you need to give a number (high-end) (so called anchoring) so that other party can feel good when they convince you for less.

Also, other things (i.e., vacations first 6 months, or some small perks) mention only after you negotiated the salary and pretty much you close the deal.

I've never understood advice that talks about negotiating fringe benefits like vacation time. At best, company policy will prevent those terms from being negotiated because they're standardized. At worst, you're just going to look like an entitled asshole from day one if you try to get special treatment. I'd much rather make up for it in salary negotiation and take the same deal that your future teammates got.

At best, company policy will prevent those terms from being negotiated because they're standardized.

If you frame your counteroffer as “I would take this job if you gave me $X more base salary or Y more vacation days”, then the guy across the table can decide which option is more offensive to company policy. It’s not your job, as the applicant, to decide in advance what terms the employer will accept. Your job is to communicate what you want until you either have a deal or feel comfortable walking away from the table.

At worst, you're just going to look like an entitled asshole from day one if you try to get special treatment.

Personally, I have better things to do with my time than count up how many days off each of my co-workers have taken and compare them with the numbers in the employee handbook.

>At best, company policy will prevent those terms from being negotiated because they're standardized.

Those policies are there for people that don't choose to negotiate those terms.

I always struggle internally with posts like this, or the other one I remember, "Don't Call Yourself a Programmer". To fully follow the advice underpinning these pieces, I would generally risk sacrificing a lot of personal enjoyment in my work in pursuit of money.

I know HN leans strongly towards money whenever money is at hand, but I tend to lean the other way.

You are right. Money is the worst motivation for a job. Money is just a small part of salary.

This is all kind of obvious, and I boil it down to: if you're moving to a new company, they should pay you more than your current job and any other offers. Ask each company for what you want to make, then let them compete against each other.

The real difficulty I had in the last round was pricing relocation; is $XX in New York better than $XX-10% in Seattle?

This is all kind of obvious

You're probably much more experienced than I am, but I thought a good 80% was new to me, and incredibly useful. Perhaps in the abstract I knew many of the principles, but to see them elaborated down to the level of actual conversations that happen during the negotiation was very valuable.

In my experience, most companies will severely lowball on big relocations and cost of living adjustments. You could be living in the boondocks on $100k a year, where the cost of living is next to nothing. And then you find a roughly equivalent job in NYC, where the cost of living is easily 2X or 3X your current situation. Will the firm in NYC double or treble your salary? Extremely unlikely. Most will simply anchor to your existing salary, with perhaps a very miniscule adjustment for COL.

In these situations, it might make sense to volunteer the first number in the negotiation, and to go high with it. Don't mention your current salary. Just talk about how the cost of living is a big adjustment (be precise about your multiplier, citing a data source), relocation is a big adjustment, etc., so accordingly, $X sounds reasonable. (Where X = the first number you mention; you do not make reference to your starting point before arriving at X. The hiring manager or HR person usually won't work backwards and reverse-engineer your starting point, but rather, will treat X as the anchor. The mere fact of having a rationale leading up to X makes X seem credible).

The other thing I'd say is not to make X a wildly ballsy figure, or to pull it out of thin air. You should have a very realistic reasoning for having arrived at X; it shouldn't be complete bullshit. Giving a number that is wildly off the top end of the pay scale for a position is a sign of naivete, which is often a signal that you're not actually qualified for the position (or that you're overqualified, in which case, why are you applying for this position?). Your anchor X should be somewhere at the high end of what your research tells you is a realistic range for the job in question.

There are many people that are not comfortable with negotiation. They see it as a game, and want to avoid it. They would rather just produce something and get paid for it for a living, and cut all the bullshit. For those people, maybe the template below will help (just a suggestion).

1. Find out what you really like to do (technology or domain-wise etc)

2. Find out where you break even on your daily/monthly expenses.

3. Add to that a savings cushion that you are comfortable with. Thats your number.

4. Find out companies that do 1, and drop that number right away so that they know where you stand.

5. If company rejects, keep looking.

6. If the company okays it because they think its well below market rate, and you come to know of it, work for them for a couple of years and then jump ship.

You may have been low-balled for sometime, but you worked on something you liked, and have some experience under your belt to search for other opportunities in the same field.

Great advice here, now I want to see something about negotiating a raise within your own company. I could use this information to get huge raises by changing jobs every couple years for the first decade of my career.

But what if I like my job? I want to stay here and negotiate large, fair raises. How?

Be willing to leave.

Sounds trite, but it's true. If your employer knows you are never a threat to leave, they will never try to convince you to stay with monetary incentives.

Once you are willing to leave, shop around and "interview" with your employer too. Figure out what the best overall deal is at that point.

My friend wanted to move his family across the country. He approached his managers with the proposal that they let him work remote. And, more importantly, he explicitly let them know if they did not accept his proposal that he would resign. He got the remote approval and he says that there was no bluff. He was all-in. If they said "sorry, we cannot do that. Cya", he would have had to resign. Because his creditability would be shot if he said "oh, thanks for considering". He feels he got it because he really was forcing their hand.

Always be the first one to give a number. That sets the bar. Let's say your current salary is $100K. You want $130K. You say call the number first, $160K. Now the company is negotiating against that number. If you accept $140K they will perceive it as a win for them.

The problem is most engineers significantly under value their worth and so usually offer a low-to-the-company number. There are people working in offices (not as programmers) that don't know zip files. You, as a programmer, can do magic with the magic boxes.

In the long run, it would be better if programmers were better are valuing themselves. In the short run if programmers stopped giving numbers, it'd be better.

Thanks Patrick. This was a long time coming.

I can tell you've had quite a personal journey about this topic.

For those of you who suck at negotiations and how to go about them, I believe the single best thing you can do is to get more than one employment discussion going at the same time. Then you can be totally honest and open in your negotiations and still maximize the offer made by each company. It is quite difficult to mess it up at that point - you might not get the highest salary possible between the companies, but you will get close to the highest possible salary that at least one of the companies is willing to offer.

First let me say that this appears to have plenty of good information and I will definitely read the entire piece.

But I've been stopped right away by this paragraph near the beginning:

"I think that middle class Americans are socialized from a very young age to view negotiation as something that is vaguely disreputable and engaged in only by poor people. Think of the associations you have with the word “haggling”: do you think of a successful young professional talking about thousands of dollars in a brightly lit office? No, you probably think of an old woman arguing over a trivial sum of money in a dirty flea market."

Nothing could be further from the truth for people that are, as only a few examples, jewish, indian, asian and I would imagine other immigrant groups.

As a member of one of the above mentioned, it's exactly the opposite. I was raised to think if you don't negotiate you're stupid. And not only that, but if you give someone a price and they don't negotiate so is the other party.

Of course this all depends on the product or service in question obviously as well as the dollar amount.

By the way, negotiation doesn't mean someone giving you a price and you saying "will you take $x". That's something that any good negotiator will recognize as essentially saying you will pay the asking price or maybe you want them to throw you a bone.

A friend of mine turned me on to the audio version of this book, "Negotiating Your Salary: How to Make $1000 a Minute" [1], many years ago.

It's more about a mind shift than rocket-science techniques, but I can attest to increasing my income by tens of thousands of dollars by putting its ideas into practice.

[1] http://www.amazon.com/Negotiating-Your-Salary-Minute-Revised...

I'd like to suggest a "comfort challenge" for patio11: apply the principles in this article to increase your stated income ($70,000 [1]) by a factor of three without compromising your quality of life. I bet it can be done.

[1] http://www.kalzumeus.com/2011/12/21/bingo-card-creator-etc-y...

One question I’ve been asked, interviewing at startups, is: “how do you feel about cash vs. equity?” For my personal financial needs, this is a no-brainer: cash is king, baby. But other HN readers might be in a position where their market-rate salary is $100K cash but they could see themselves getting by at $75K or even $50K... how should they answer that question?

The advice to "never be first to state a number" should really be "never divulge your current/previous salary".

This isn't as easy to dodge though, right? Or do people do this routinely?

It is not too difficult to dodge questions about current/past salary. We're clear on why you want to do that, right? If you say "My salary at my current job is $65,000", you will receive a job offer at $70,000 +/- $2,000 regardless of whether the company would happily pay $90k for you if they had not known your current salary.

Anyhow, given that, there are numerous options to decline to damage your own negotiating position. My personal favorite is "As a matter of professional courtesy, I decline to comment on the specific policies of past employers. Don't worry, I will treat your confidences with the same level of professionalism when someone asks me about them in a few years."

It is unfalsifiable (as opposed to what people sometimes suggest on HN: "That is under NDA", which is a claim that can actually be a lie), conveys status, and (gently) informs the person you're speaking with that you're aware how the game is played.

Dude ... I've said it before (under my real HN account) and will say it again ... you-are-the-man!

I can't believe how stupid I've been all these years :( I'll admit that when recruiters have asked me this question, I've behaved almost like a deer in headlights.

My current job, I accepted the offer as is. THEN asked them if they had any salary negotiation room. Of course, I was told no. I felt like hitting my head against a wall right after that phone call. I won't be that big of an idiot again!

http://salarytutor.com/ this is a pretty good and fast read on the subject with some actionable advice that will help prepare you for the conversation.

Speaking of salary negotiations, there is something I always wondered about the US:

What is the difference in "pure" salary vs additional costs to the empolyer?

Things like 401k contributions and benefits (e.g. dental or health) certainly come with a pricetag. Seeing as I'm doing remote work from another country, I'm not sure how much that actually saves the company. The same goes for simple things as not needing office space / electricity / ... which I provide for myself over here (as I'm working from home).

Does anybody have any insight on that?

So here's an issue I've faced. Instead of being asked ... what's my number? I've gotten asked .. "what's your salary?" How do you deal with this one?

Make something up. It's not like they're going to call your boss and say "Hey we're trying to steal this employee away from you, how much money are you paying him?"

Some exceptions to this: 1. You work a government job where your salary is public knowledge 2. You are unemployed and they can just call your previous employer. 3. You listed your current boss as a reference and they're probably getting a call anyway. 4. You expect that they're going to perform an extensive background check that might uncover your salary anyway.

If you don’t think your current salary is relevant to what you are worth to your next employer, then you don’t have to answer that question. Really.

"Can't disclose my current salary due to NDA?"

Real estate purchases in US are usually highly leveraged, say 5x for a typical purchase with 20% down.

So, negotiating those will have proportionally larger impact than immediate cashflow changes suggest.

The article incorrectly suggests otherwise which detracts from its authority.

I think the people who has the right to negotiate is the one who has the skill to do the job being offered. Because you know your capability, definitely, you should know what is your value in the market.

Anyway, article is interesting.

Jut like everything in life, confidence is key. You gain confidence through experience. Try, fail, try again. Little tricks like not being the first to say a number is about as useful as pickup lines are for dating.

Random note on the site theme: This detail looks horrible, adding unnecessary high frequency contrast when selected: body { text-shadow: white 0px 1px 0px; }

Can anyone say how applicable these suggestions are to getting internships while still in college?

I'm currently working at my first internship where I negotiated a ridiculous lowball into a substantial lowball. I didn't have any other offers on the table and was worried that I wouldn't get anything, so I settled. I think my point is that it won't hurt to ask.

I later found out that I wouldn't be an employee, but a 1099 contractor responsible for all my taxes, making the rate even lower than I initially thought. Needless to say, they will have to more than double my hourly rate when summer comes for me to stay.

Any advice for negotiating over email if you don't receive an offer until after the interview?

"What's it going to take to get you into a top of the line Engineer today?"

Anyone want to give a TL;DR explanation?

how do you negotiate equity?

Author drew numbers from thin air resulting in horrible advice.

Throw in - "For a funded startup which has enough engineers to warrant a foosball table, the company payroll is well north of $100,000 a month." - yet still require that employees provide their own hardware/software to do the job.

Key: never tell them your salary. Then, be the first to give the number at 2X your current salary. Then come down a little eg, 5-10% lower then 2X.

Get a bunch of offers, let them bid it even higher.

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