Top 6 Negotiation Rules That Helped Me Increase My Offers By $35,000

Including how to ask for extensions, how to deal with “exploding deadlines”, and overall tips on how smaller vs larger companies negotiate!

visual representation of how it feels to negotiate

Before we start: Remember that you are the one companies want, and that you hold the bargaining chip! After investing thousands in resources and months of time to find you, screen you, and interview you for the role — do you think they’re suddenly going to change their mind when you ask for a better offer? Spoiler alert: the answer is no.

Rule 1: Always bring up negotiations over the phone*

Choosing the right method of communication is an important first step.

Speaking directly with your recruiter is the best way to communicate how you’re feeling about the opportunity and also hear out how your recruiter is feeling and thinking in terms of negotiating.

In most cases, you will initially learn about your offer from a phone call with your recruiter. Following up with a request to talk about the offer in more detail over a phone call is very doable and your recruiter will likely be happy to talk again.

By talking over the phone, you also become more personable and can develop a deeper connection with your recruiter. If they feel particularly strong about you, they may try harder to improve your offer!

*Small note on talking on the phone vs sending emails:

If you’re extremely introverted and are much more comfortable with communicating through email, that is also a totally fine option. As long as you take the time to explain your thoughts & feelings about the offer and mention any concerns you have, you should be able to negotiate via email. However, you should still be prepared for when you recruiter asks if you can talk about the negotiation over the phone.

Rule 2: Make it about anything, BUT the money!

Emphasize your passion about the company, or your interest in the projects, or even how much you love the location! But don’t make it all about the money.

I know, it seems counterintuitive because when it comes down to it, negotiation is almost always about the $$$. You know it’s true, and so does your recruiter.

So how do you negotiate without asking for more money?
One way I’ve done this is to compare the different offers in terms of learning experience, company culture, work-life-harmony, and overall growth potential.

Let’s say you have company A & B, where company A has a better offer (in terms of $$$) and you are trying to leverage that to improve company B’s offer.

  1. What I would first do is find what makes company A’s opportunity unique and ‘better’ than company B in terms of experience or growth potential.
  2. Then, I’d connect again with the recruiter from company B and I’d mention that I’m on the fence because of company A. I’d bring up its perks and emphasize my priority in having the best environment for the start of my career.
  3. And then, I would include how company A is also offering a very competitive compensation — (be prepared to provide details of company A’s offer!)
  4. After this, I’d kindly ask the recruiter that given these circumstances if there was any leeway or room for improvement with the original offer.
  5. ??? (something magical happens)
  6. (best case scenario) Company B: Hey, we got you a better offer!
    (worst case scenario) Company B: Hey, we can’t give you more than our original offer, but there’s definitely room for growth & promotion within our company!

No company wants you to be there just for the paycheck. Recruiters look for people who are genuinely interested in the work & can add value to the company’s bottom line.

Rule 3: Always be extremely excited when talking to the companies you’re negotiating with

This is the easiest way to increase your chances of success.

Being positive and genuinely excited when talking with your recruiter or anyone else from that company will not only help you in negotiating your offer, but also help you establish a lasting relationship. This way, in the case where you don’t end up taking their offer, that bridge isn’t burned and you can still go back for a future opportunity when the timing is right.

It is important that you maintain this level of optimism when talking with any of the companies you are negotiating with — even if that company may not be your first choice. The moment a company gets a sense that they are your backup, they won’t be as willing to negotiate or even worse, try to stick you with the ‘exploding offer’ dilemma. (See rule 5)

People like talking to people who are excited and happy. Make them feel excited about you & the idea of having you join their team!

Rule 4: Don’t be the sole decision maker

Woah there, you can’t just decide without talking to your family first!

When discussing reasons why you’re not sure or may need more time to decide, try to find ways to frame your situation such that you aren’t the sole decision maker.

Even if you don’t care about what your family thinks, you should still mention them as a factor in your decision. This way, there are people who are ‘out of reach’ for the recruiter to convince, so your recruiter can’t try to pressure you into accepting the offer.

In general, thinking about proximity to your family is especially helpful when considering the location and vacation or PTO policy of your first job. Mentioning these other factors (and people) you’re weighing in before deciding is a good way to ask for an extension as well.

By raising the concerns of your family members or significant others and considering their wishes when contemplating your decision — it displaces some of the responsibility onto their shoulders.

Rule 5: Don’t give in to the ‘exploding offer’

It’s a company’s way of bullying you into saying ‘yes’ on their terms!

The ‘exploding offer’ is a tactic that smaller companies (and even some mid-sized companies) use to pressure you into saying yes in a small window of time. It goes something like this:

Hey, so we can’t hold off on this deadline much more. How about this, we’ll give you 2 more days to decide and after that our offer is off the table. That’s firm and after 2 days we won’t discuss this anymore.

First of all — what? Let’s think about this for a second.

Do you really think you’d want to work at a company that doesn’t want to respect your voice or time enough to let you come to the decision of working for them?

It’s not professional, simply put. If they’re pressuring you this much to say ‘yes’ to them, can you imagine what it would be like to work for them 40 hours a week? I can already see how much micromanagement is in the future… yikes.

Even so, what if you still want to consider them? How can you ask for more time?

  1. The moment you realize you’re going to need more time let them know
  2. Be honest and say that given that this is an important career move, you want to carefully consider all your options & make sure the opportunity is the best fit — highlight one thing in particular you like about this company
  3. Then, mention that you won’t be able to make a firm decision by the expiration date — offer your apology and genuinely thank them for considering you
  4. Finally, ask if there is any leeway or possibility with extending the deadline by a few days (or even a week)

Remember, always follow your gut feeling. If this company imposes a exploding offer on you, listen to your intuition and see what red flags might arise.

Rule 6: Make sure you have the fine print!

After discussing details over the phone, always make sure there’s a written copy for your records!

This is pretty self-explanatory, but never forget to follow up after a phone call with your recruiter to confirm the details you discussed!

Nothing is ever final or official until it’s written.

In general, I think you should always negotiate if you’re lucky enough to have multiple offers. There is nothing for you to lose, and so much you can possibly gain! (like over $300,000 in stocks from Google).

How Smaller vs Larger Companies Negotiate

Smaller companies (think start ups or companies with <600 people)

In general, I’ve noticed that smaller companies tend to be:

  1. Faster in response time (since there are less people in the chain of command)
  2. More flexible with increasing the salary, sign on bonus, and relocation benefits (but usually not so much with stock shares)
  3. More likely to attempt an ‘exploding deadline’ tactic on you
  4. Tend to argue that the ‘ownership over your work’ and ‘room for growth’ within the company areunique and will in the long run benefit your career more (totally up to you to determine if that’s true)

Larger companies (think ‘Big Four’ or companies with >5000 people)

In general, I’ve noticed that larger companies tend to be:

  1. More systematic in their approach, and often have a stricter pipeline
  2. Able to compensate significantly more in stocks and sign on bonus (I’m talking about more than 150k+ in stocks if you play your cards right)
  3. Less flexible on improving salary since they likely have a set pay-scale (again, another con of being so systematic)
  4. Will never employ an ‘exploding deadline’ tactic
  5. Tend to argue that the resources the company can provide are invaluable and a major reason for why you should pick them

In general, smaller companies will always seem like more of a gamble, and larger companies will always seem like the ‘safer’ choice. Picking between them is up to you, but remember that there isn’t necessarily a ‘right choice ‘— and also that your first job isn’t the graveyard for your career’s future. You can always jump ship if you change your mind!

So, really quickly — here’s my story in a nutshell:

Earlier this fall, I found myself with 5 job offers — and if I’m being 100% honest, I never thought in a million years that I would ever be so fortunate as to having that many offers in the first few months of my senior year.
Sometimes, I do still question how I managed to pull it off…

In addition to being so lucky as to have 5 offers — I somehow was able to successfully negotiate my compensation packages to be $35,000 more than the original value (in stocks, sign on bonuses & base pay). These series of events (namely, dozens of emails and phone calls) is what I’m summarizing here as my top tips for you to negotiate your first job!

Of course, I’m no expert — but from my recent experience, these are the tips that helped me. If this guide was at all helpful in any way, I’d really appreciate it if you could give a clap or two :) Good luck in your journey!

I also wanted to shout out this article by Haseeb that I found particularly helpful when negotiating for the first time. I highly recommend you take a look at his article!

Full-time cat & dog lover, part time developer 💖 I like writing to help others! @helenzhxng | Previously @Paypal & @NASA , now @Squarespace—