How I negotiated a $300,000 job offer in Silicon Valley

In the span of a week, I had job offers to work as a software engineer at Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, LinkedIn, and Yelp. Here’s how I negotiated them.

Note: If you’re looking to get actual Silicon Valley recruiters to help you out negotiate your offer, the best service I’ve had pitch me is from Levels.fyi. That’s my affiliate link, so I’ll get a portion of whatever package you choose.

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What if I told you… that negotiating isn’t as scary as it sounds?

Introduction

First, some assumptions on my part:

  • You have offers, plural. This can be two or this can be ten, but you need to have more than one offer concurrently. I’ve negotiated on behalf of (many) friends in the past with no leverage, but I’m not going to focus on that scenario.
  • You’re not afraid to negotiate. The night before my Google interview I spoke with another candidate in my hotel. His strategy was to low-ball himself to increase his chances of getting an offer. That’s not the path that I took, it’s not a path I’d advocate, and it’s not one I’m going to even entertain. You should always be willing to see what you can get.
  • You won’t practice the Dark Arts of Negotiation™. I’m pretty sure you can negotiate by lying your way through the process. From a moral perspective, though, c’mon. From a practical perspective, getting caught in a lie is not going to help you.
  • You won’t renege on an offer. Could I have squeezed a bit more out of the eventual offer I signed if I had? Maybe. But I’m not comfortable accepting an offer and later rejecting it. I’m sure other candidates do it and I don’t think it gets you banned from the Valley. It’s just not something I wanted to do.
  • You’re willing to work at any of the companies if the price is right. I definitely had a personal ranking of which companies I’d prefer over each other, but each company had a chance. No one was just there to beef up offers.
  • I’m going to both anonymize the companies I negotiated with and fuzz their numbers. My goal is not to answer “how much does MegaCorp offer if you have competing offers.” My goal is to answer “how do I respectfully ask for a larger comp package?” for people that don’t know where to start. The total compensation for each offer is accurate (within 5%).
  • You’re starting at square one. I give my personal experience in this article and some examples of conversations I’ve had when negotiating. I don’t draw on decades of experience with very in-depth detail. I link some pieces at the end that are more suited towards that type of read.

Before the Offer

Congrats! You have multiple interviews. I’m sure you’re nervous. I’m sure you’re telling yourself you don’t deserve it, that you got lucky. You think you’re going to fail miserably. The last thing on your mind is how to talk numbers with recruiters.

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I bet you didn’t know that Google recruiters wore capes, did you?

The Initial Offers

Alright, it’s the moment of truth. You’re going to hear how you did. 😱

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Trust me, recruiters will do their best to limit your offer. You don’t need to help them out!

The Counter-Offers

So, you’ve got numbers from everyone that you’re considering. Now you can start counter-offering based on what information you have. When I counter-offered, I never used solid numbers — I gave ranges. I don’t like the idea of committing to a solid number until the very end.

  • To me, there’s an implication when giving a solid number that it’s “the one.” If a company can hit “your number”, you’ve lost out on the chance to negotiate much more unless more offers coming in. Companies can still hit your number if they offer the top of your range; keep that in mind. If you give a $5,000 range, don’t be surprised if companies meet your demands and expect to get a signed offer.
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I definitely looked this cool while negotiating.

My Offers

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Break in case of emergency

My Final Offer

Bravo’s recruiter emailed back and said he worked out a new package for me and wanted to run it by me over the phone. I already knew at this point that if he met my ask (180k / 270k / 70k, TC 265k) that I would sign right then and there. I’d thought long and hard about this last little dance.

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Uh, what do I think? What do you think I think?

The Takeaways

I’m going to summarize a lot of the above in a more digestible way:

  • 🙊 Don’t lie. I wasn’t personally asked to provide evidence of other offers, but my friends definitely have been. It’s not worth it to lie, especially when your candidate profile is saved at various companies. Good luck getting into a company that catches you.
  • 🤗 Be kind and respectful. Recruiters are people, too. They’re also the people that act as the path for you getting into your dream company. You don’t need to schmooze them, but be friendly. Help them help you! You may have competing philosophies, but both of you want the same thing in the end: a signed offer from their company.
  • 🗣 Be (selectively) communicative. Make it very clear to everyone what your timelines are and if you’re waiting on other companies. Keep people in the loop. We hate getting ghosted by recruiters and I’m sure recruiters hate being ghosted by us. Let them know if you’ve signed another offer or if you’re no longer considering theirs. Let them know if other companies have sent you offers and share the names if you think it’ll help your case.
  • 👎 Don’t give a minimum (unless it makes sense). You don’t want to give a lower number than a company would have offered you, but you also don’t want to waste anyone’s time. If you know a company won’t be competitive at first, let them know what the other company’s range is. If they’re out, they’re out. Your time is better spent talking to companies you’d actually go to.
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I imagine this is what whiteboard interviews looked like in the 1950s
  • 🚫 Don’t reject an offer until you’ve signed another one. You never know what could happen. You don’t want to leave someone hanging on your decision when there is no way on earth you’d sign their offer. But even if an offer isn’t competitive, you’d still sign it if the other companies lost their headcount. Keep your options open. You earned it.
  • 🤔 Think a lot and whittle down your offers. Over the course of your negotiations you’ll converge on the one or two offers you think are “best”. As that happens, focus your time on the ones that make sense, and don’t waste brain cycles on the ones that don’t.
  • 🤦🏻‍♂️ Bonus: don’t tell teams you’re disinterested in them. I’ve seen people “negotiate” by asking for a larger packages by saying they’re less interested in the company. This sounds like a recipe for disaster — why would you tell a company you don’t want to work for them? Find a new slant.
  • 🎉 Everything above worked. The final offer I signed was ~$300,000 in total yearly compensation (over four years, including a variable annual bonus, and amortizing the signing/relo package). I negotiated it up from ~$225,000*, an increase of 33%.

Wrap-Up

After my previous post, I primarily saw three questions:

  • How much was I offered?
  • Which offer did I take?
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twitter.com/bayareabell — DM me on Twitter if you have any questions on anything, iOS or otherwise. I’m no industry vet but I’ll help if I can :)

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