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Negotiating your ideal Engineering job offer

From the EXA Career Conversations Series with Derek Tor, SWE at Brex
Jean
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July 19, 2022
Guest profile photo

Derek Tor is currently a Software Engineer at Brex. Previous to Brex, Derek was a frontend interviewer at Triplebyte, where he assessed and certified engineers starting their careers and looking to work in tech. Derek initially went to work at a non-technical job after graduating college but decided he wanted more for himself. He then attended a coding Bootcamp in April 2013 to learn web development, and ever since, a whole new world opened up to him. These days, he likes to use Javascript with React.js and React Native. Although, he is always open to learning new things.

Intro

Whether you’re new to the tech industry or looking to upgrade your position, navigating the hiring process and negotiating an offer can be stressful. 

The timeline for recruitment typically goes like this: 

  1. Research on companies
  2. Recruiter calls
  3. Interview Process
  4. Negotiation

In this EXA Career Conversation, Senior Software Engineer Derek Tor shares tips and tricks for each interview and negotiation step to help you get the best offer possible. 

Research

Before applying for a role, you must start by researching different companies and the position you want to determine what is suitable for you. You can use websites such as levels.fyi, blind, and friends to get insight on your job search criteria like company culture, work-life balance, and the average comp for the position you’re applying for. See what the competition is like and which companies most meet your values and interests as we discussed extensively during the Exaltitude curriculum. You should use this research to determine your worth and what you want so you can move forward with confidence. 

Recruiter Calls

In the next stage, you will speak with a recruiter and get the chance to ask questions about the position and company. You can ask a lot of things here, but if you’re looking to get the salary you want to ask for the expected ranges for different salary bands. 

Interview

If everything goes well, you will get to the interview process where you may be tested on your technical ability and behavior. If you’ve passed the interview stage and receive an offer that you’re happy with, you can either take it or negotiate it to your ideal offer. 

Negotiation

By the negotiation phase, you should be clear on the salary band and have talked with the recruiter about numbers you’re looking at. You don’t want a lot of back and forth, so you should say everything you’re looking for at once - total comp, bonuses, benefits, vacation time, etc. But you don’t want to just demand your worth because at the end of the day, your recruiter is your friend - they have a quota to fill and want to meet your goals by hiring you.

Don’t be afraid to leverage your recruiter as a point of support to negotiate for a higher comp.

Before I worked for my current company, Brex, I had two jobs. Brex wanted me to invest time solely into my role there, meaning I had to leave my other job and miss a chunk of my income. Going into negotiation, I started by asking for a number above the range they presented and explained that the boost would compensate for the loss in extra income. I ended up being bumped to the top of the range and received a bonus. By conveying the idea that I needed the help and having a genuine reason, my recruiter was much more receptive to my request. You should also remind your recruiter that you’re here for the long term, and therefore worth the investment. 

If you ever feel that the negotiation isn’t going well and you aren’t going to reach your goal, you need to be able to walk away. Knowing your worth and what you want, you shouldn’t settle for an inadequate offer. 

A big weapon in negotiation is leverage. If you have other offers you can refer to, use them to bump your comp and be less anxious as you have a backup. 

Common negotiation questions

Here are some common questions people ask when negotiating. I hope you’ll find your answers here. 

What do you do if a recruiter asks you for your salary expectations?

You can tell them you have to do more research on the typical compensation for your level before committing to a number.; This way, you don’t risk of accidentally saying a number lower than the band.

What do I do if I get down-leveled?

There is a chance that a company will down-level your position from the one you applied for - for example, from senior to junior engineer. If you care more about getting into the company than the position, you can try to negotiate for the highest end of the band for the role you received and try to get promoted later.

What should you do if your current company counter-offers you?

It really depends on what you want. If you’re willing to stay at your current company for the new salary, then take it. If you want a little more, then you can use negotiation tactics and leverage with other offers. You don’t necessarily have to disclose any numbers, as you can use the ambiguity to see how high your current company is willing to go. 

What should I do if a company isn’t willing to negotiate?

Some companies just aren’t willing to budge, and if you aren’t willing to settle, you can always walk away. Don’t look at it as a fault in your negotiation skills since your recruiter’s offer is typically restricted by a higher power like a compensation team. 

How do you know what your negotiation limit is?

If you’ve received an offer you’re already happy with but think you can get more, you should step back and look at other aspects of the job, like the company’s growth potential. If the company is well established with steady growth rates, you can talk to your manager again and argue your worth for the next compensation cycle. Go with whatever amount makes you happy and content. 

Summary

Here is what you should do in each stage of the hiring process:

Research

  • Do your research on the company and the position
  • Levels.fyi, blind, friends
  • Figure out your worth and what you want 

Recruiter Call

  • Ask for the expected range/band
  • Tell the recruiter you need to do more research before committing to a number

Offer

  • If the interviews go well, you will get an offer
  • There’s no need to negotiate if you are happy with the initial offer

Negotiation

  • Say everything you want all at once(total comp, bonuses, benefits, vacation time, etc)
  • Use the word “help”
  • Let them know you’re here for the long term
  • If you know you won’t get what you want, walk away

If you’re interested in more lessons on career navigation, follow Exaltitude on LinkedIn for upcoming Career Conversation workshops. 

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