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My favorite tech salary negotiation tip (that recruiters love, too)

Photo courtesy of Jopwell

How many of you negotiated your first job offer?

I have to admit I didn’t. Even though when I was graduating from college, I had three offers. I decided to accept the one that was most interesting to me, yet paid the least. I didn’t know I could use those other offers as leverage. Maybe I would have been successful at negotiating for more salary, maybe not. The point is, I didn’t even try.

I also didn’t try to negotiate my salary when I moved to my second job. Ditto for number three.

I’m now older and wiser, after spending over 25 years working in the software industry. And in my current role as an Advocate for Women in Tech, I often work with clients as they navigate job transitions. One topic we discuss is how to negotiate their compensation.

To best serve my clients, I collect negotiation advice from recruiters. Their insight is priceless. And game-changing. I’ve helped clients get better salaries, signing bonuses, and even higher-level roles.

Just recently, I helped a master’s student negotiate her first job offer in the tech industry. I shared a bunch of negotiation tips, including my favorite one. Here’s what happened.

Julia’s story

Julia (not her real name) is getting her master’s in computer science. She interviewed with tech companies this Fall, and received three offers. All were for much more salary than she had made in the past, and she was thrilled.

I asked Julia which job she was most excited about. As she told me, she also explained why. She was most interested in the kind of work they’d have her do. And she’d heard great things about the team’s culture from a friend who’d worked there before.

It turns out that Julia’s top choice also offered the highest salary of the three offers. Plus good benefits, a bonus program, and some equity. Everything looked great.

Yet, Julia didn’t accept it right away. A professor told her she should negotiate. After all, the guys do it all the time, and this professor encouraged her female students to do so, too.

Julia knew she should negotiate, but how? Her top choice was the offer with the best compensation. She didn’t have any leverage with the other offers.

Here’s where my favorite negotiation tip enters the story. It’s a statement that many recruiters love hearing from candidates:

“If you can get me X, I’ll accept the offer right away.”

Why do recruiters love hearing this? Well, assuming it’s a reasonable request, the recruiter has something tangible to bring back to the hiring committee. Often there is some wiggle room in the salary or other aspects of the compensation. It’s easier to make a case to dip into the reserves if the recruiter knows you’ll say yes.

Recruiters also love this approach because it demonstrates a decisive leadership style. Chances are, they want to hire people like that.

Armed with this tip, Julia did some research. She looked on Glassdoor and Comparably to see what similar companies were paying for the same position. She spoke to friends. And she found the courage to call the recruiter and ask for almost 5% more. She used the words, “If you can get me X, I’ll accept the offer right away.”

Guess what? The recruiter called Julia back two days later with the good news. They could increase their original offer to what she requested. Julia accepted the new offer on the spot.

A happy ending.

Do you have a favorite negotiation tip? Please share it in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you!