This lesson is aimed to provide students with all the information and tools needed for successful negotiation. Start by viewing the video below. Allow yourself up to 55 minutes to complete. We suggest that you take notes and complete the reflection questions (in the Check for understanding section below) as go along.
- Build understanding of and confidence towards negotiations
- Evaluate offer packages in their entirety
- Look at examples and discuss tactics for negotiating
After you’ve completed this lesson, you’ll synthesize your learning and share any questions that you have in this Exit Ticket
Section 1: Introduction
Section 2: Why Does Negotiating Matter?
For some reason we live in a world that is afraid to talk openly about money. That changes for you today. In this session, we’ll have an open discussion about averages our alums are currently making in full-time junior developer jobs, apprenticeships, internships, and contract/freelance opportunities – and how you should negotiate for what you want.
As our mission states, we aim to unlock human potential by training a diverse, inclusive student body to succeed in high-fulfillment technical careers. As part of that high-fulfillment piece, we aim to provide you with the tools to navigate offer negotiations. It’s up to you to use these tools, but keep in mind that companies will low-ball you with their first offer because they expect you to negotiate.
A negotiation conversation could take as little as 5 minutes. Think about that. You generally can’t do 5 minutes of work this year and have your boss give you an extra $10,000. But you can pick up $10,000 in salary negotiations just by having a conversation about your compensation. That makes your negotiation five very important minutes so that no money is left on the table. You can’t afford to not negotiate. Not only that, but when our alumni have used these negotiations tools, they’ve been able to get more of what they deserve. We’ll look at some examples later in this session. If you’re ever given an offer that you’re not sure how to negotiate, bring it to the staff and we’ll help.
Keep in mind that the wage gap in tech is very real. Creating transparency around salaries is an important step in closing that gap, and that transparency starts with negotiations. Do not let money stay on the table that could be yours.
Information for Colorado-based students:
The Equal Pay For Equal Work Act was enacted on January 1st, 2021 in Colorado to address pay disparities affecting women and minorities, and it includes several provisions aimed at preventing wage discrimination, such as:
- Prohibiting employers from seeking prospective employees’ wage rate histories;
- Allowing employees subject to wage discrimination to file a civil action; and
- Providing for economic damages in the event of a violation, including liquidated damages.
The Act also contains several broader obligations and prohibitions intended to increase pay transparency, including:
- Requiring employers to announce opportunities for promotion or advancement;
- Requiring employers to disclose hourly or salary compensation and benefits for each posting or job opening; and
- Requiring employers to keep records of job descriptions and wage rate history for its employees.
Section 3: Getting Started
What is your bottom line for any of the following:
- Your dream job
- Contract roles that pay hourly but don’t include benefits
- Not so dreamy jobs but you’d still be willing to consider them if the compensation is right
And when you’re asked this question: “What are your salary expectations?” what would you say?
Here’s how we recommend you respond:
- First, do not put a number on the table. Instead, say: “I would love to hear what you’re offering for this position so I can have more context for the conversation.”
- During this discussion, you may be talking with a hiring manager. Don’t be offended if they ask you again – they are just doing what they’ve been told, and they might not be equipped to go through a negotiation at that time. You should still push back about wanting to know more about what is being offered.
- If you’re filling out an online form, and it expects an answer, it’s fine to write in 0 or $1 and mention that you want to have a follow-up discussion (as all salary discussions should be).
- If you’re pushed to give a number, use the average Turing grad starting salary (you can find the latest quarterly data here). AND you should also take that opportunity to sell yourself to explain why you deserve more.
- What traits can you describe yourself with to create leverage? Examples:
- “I can provide references”
- “I have these applicable skills from my previous experience…”
- What traits can you describe yourself with to create leverage? Examples:
- Again, if you’re pushed to give a number, provide that Turing grad starting salary AND create a way for the company to decide what your worth is. Example:
- “I’d prefer if your company determine through the interview process what my skills are worth to you as a developer given my background. My classmates are currently getting offers in the $75k to $80k range right now, but I’m open to discussion about compensation as we get to know each other.”
Section 4: What to do when an offer is made?
Once you’ve asked for more context and you’re given an offer, take these next steps:
Take at least 48 hours
When you receive an offer, do not accept on the spot. You don’t even have to negotiate on the spot. Acknowledge receipt of the offer. Say, “Thank you so much for this opportunity! I need to take some time to review the offer (you can say with your partner, mentor, etc. if you don’t feel comfortable leaving it open ended). Could you send me the offer in writing so I can review it?” You want to sound excited and interested, but you’re also biding your time, so you can you consider any other offers and think this through
Section 5: What is Negotiable?
Consider all pieces of the offer and weigh the pros and cons; is there more value in negotiating another part of the offer than salary? Additional parts of the offer to consider:
- PTO/Sick days/Mental Health days
- How does the company approach PTO and health?
- Professional Development stipends:
- Classes/Tuition reimbursement
- Family leave
- Other perks:
- Travel reimbursements
- Cell phone
- WFH setup
What do you care about? What’s missing from the offer? What didn’t they talk about?
Make sure to talk to someone you trust to get some feedback (your staff coach, mentors, etc.)
If you’re given a short timeline: In this case, create a pro and con list – to decide which offer you’ll take. It’s not a red flag that they need you to hurry necessarily. Maybe they just got a bigger workload and need to make a decision quickly.
Think about it as a whole – what were your interactions like? What are the relationships with the team members?
You can still talk to other companies you are in the process with. “I found out I need to let them know by this time, is there a way I could know about your hiring deadline by then? I’m still really interested.”
Section 6: Negotiating the Offer
Once you have all the facts and can make a decision, go back to the company:
- Consider how you want to communicate: Negotiating in person or on the phone allows you to show how genuine you are in the interaction; however, email chains are helpful to have everything in writing. In either scenario, you want to be generous and respectful and watch out for any blind spots in your tone/language.
- Be honest and transparent
- Get all of the facts – are there other potential opportunities not on the table yet? What are your priorities that you need to discuss?
- Don’t forget about mentorship – you can get that written into your contract
- As a general rule of thumb, when it comes to equity, don’t trade salary for it. Companies include equity in their offers as a way to keep you invested in the company. But you shouldn’t put too much weight on stock options; if it’s an Incentive Stock Option, assume you’ll never get money out of it. Restricted Stock Options (RSUs) might be worth negotiating as they’re publicly traded. You can negotiate using these stock options, but you’ll want to be careful about it. Don’t negotiate it all away because you want to sound like you have skin in the game and that you’re not a flight risk.
- “I’m new in the industry, I don’t know if investing right now makes sense for me. Could I give back some of the options to get X instead?”
- When negotiating for a higher salary, ask for 10-15% more than what was offered. Never ask for more than 15% more than what they offered you, unless there are rare circumstance that you’ve discussed with someone you trust prior to negotiating.
- If you have doubts about taking the position, what would it take to make you feel ok taking the position? What would remove the doubt from taking the job?
Reach out to other companies that you’re interviewing with and let them know that you’ve received another offer and that you’re most interested in an opportunity with their company. Then ask about their hiring timeline for making a hiring decision as a way to leverage your offer.
“I have another offer, it’s expiring within this time; I’m going to ask them for an extension because I want to keep working with you.” This lets the company know that you’re interested but also letting them know that you’re pursuing the other company.
This puts the ball in their court and tells the company that you a person who is sought after, which increases their interest. When you find out timelines from the other companies you’re interviewing with, let the offering company know that you’re very thankful and excited for the opportunity, but you’re also deep in the process with “x number” of companies, and it’s too early into your career to burn any bridges; you’d like to honor the process. Could you give them an answer by “X” date?
Try Out This Template
“I’m excited about this offer. I was hoping to make X. How can we close the gap on this?”
- Using “we” shows that this is a joint effort
- Not an aggressive move – “close the gap” instead of “I need this”
- Don’t mention another company or their offer – that becomes aggressive. Tech industry is small, and companies talk. Don’t give them a bad impression; plus, you don’t know what’s happening behind the scenes
- You should give reasons. If you ask for something without a reason, you come across as greedy or needy. Depending on what’s important to you, it will affect how you talk about it. Give more details about what you value. If you’re going to negotiate beyond salary, trade for something.
- If you want more benefits, give an idea why or trade something for it. If you want extra time off, what could you give back in exchange? “I want to continue growing and learning while I’m there, would you consider giving a professional development stipend?”
- If PTO is important, you need to be able to explain why personal rest time is important without sounding “lazy” or that work is a burden; you can emphasize travel/family/what you would trade for it.
- If working remotely is important, find out if that something that’s part of the company culture. If they allow for it, how much will they allow? Will they reimburse internet at home? Will they reimburse a co-working space? You could mention working with clients, other teammates, for a selling point
“If you can do this, then I’m on board.”
What if a Company Can’t Meet Your Counter?
If the company is unable to meet your counter offer, this is okay. The worst thing they can say is “no.” It is good practice to always negotiate.
You can decide at that point if you want to continue the interview process. If you don’t currently have other offers on the table, then stick with this process. Take that offer and keep job-hunting. We can help coach you through leaving the position gracefully if you find something better later.
Consider asking for a three-month or six-month review and set goals and milestones together to meet at the end of that time to evaluate what you’re worth
Say something like, “I want to see these goals, and if I make them by 6 months, I want to then discuss a raise in my salary.” Bring it up in initial negotiation to put it on the table, and even if they do reviews later in the year, it doesn’t hurt to ask during the initial negotiation.
- Another way to ask is for a signing bonus:
- “I know we can’t meet my salary requirements, but what about rounding it out with a signing bonus?”
- Companies are more likely to try this since it’s a 1-time thing and it’s a great option to negotiate for if benefits don’t kick in for 90 days so that you can cover that cost. Keep in mind that it’ll be taxed.
- You could also negotiate moving costs, but be aware that this is a reimbursement, not something you can take. Ask about the tax write-off and get a list of what’s reimburasable.
- “Will you reimburse IRS-approved relocation expenses?”
Keep in Mind
- Negotiating just an extra $1000 or two isn’t worth it – it doesn’t even out to a lot of money. It could make you look petty. You don’t want to ruin a relationship over it
- There’s always a (small) chance that someone can rescind an offer, but it’s very unlikely – it’s costly to the company to take that back.
- If a company rescinds simply because you brought up the conversation while you were respectful, that was probably a red flag and you dodged a bullet
- You should be somewhere you want to be and where you’re valued
- If they rescind the offer because you were disrespectful, that’s different. But we don’t expect you to be disrespectful
- Firm language and demeanor is a tactic from hiring managers:
- Stay positive and confident
- Continue to use language like “us” and “we”
- Hiring managers love to use language that make it seem like you have already accepted the role
- Thank them for the offer and let them know when you will get back to them
Bottom Line: Negotiating is Always Important. It’s important for you to advocate for yourself because there’s no guarantee that anyone else will.
Other Parts of the Offer to Consider: Equity
Learn the lingo:
- Stock Option: Contract given by the company which allows you to purchase shares in the company at a later date, and allows you to sell those shares for profit.
- Options are granted on your hire date. After your first year, you can exercise 25% of your options. Starting your second year, you will vest about 21 more options every month. Hopefully the company’s value is increasing during this time, and in your fourth year, you are fully vested and can buy all of your options.
- Strike Price: The price per share at the last valuation when your stock options were granted.
- Cliff: A time period usually imposed before your options begin to vest.
- Exercise: To “exercise” an option is to make a choice to buy the shares (or not). The “exercise period” is a window of time you have to make this decision.
- Vesting: How often your stock options become available for purchase.
What does this look like? Most Common:
- Options will vest over 4 years
- 1 year cliff to buy first 25%
- Monthly vesting
- 10 year exercise period
- 90 day exercise period upon termination
- How many stock options? It will end up being a small fraction of ownership.
- What’s the strike price? The more rounds of funding the company has had, or the longer they’ve been around, the higher the strike price.
- What’s your exit plan? Whether the options are going to be worth anything some day depends on the exit plan.
Bottom Line: Don’t accept more equity over salary.
Here are a few examples of how alumni have approached the negotiations conversation. Remember, you can reach out to the Career Development team for coaching when it comes to negotiating an offer.
Example #1: Educate Employers
Initial offer: $55k + some common benefits (health insurance, conference budget, sick/vacation days, computer gear).
Advice given: Discuss the market value of Turing grads and how to sell themselves.
Here is what they sent to the employer:
I’ve done a good amount of research and talked with my partner your offer, and I’d like to open a discussion about the base salary. The median starting salary for Turing graduates is $75,000, and my peers are seeing offers ranging from $70,000 to $80,000+. I’m confident my references would be happy to confirm my abilities to work effectively on a team, my capacity for growth, and how quickly I learn new concepts. This—plus the writing skills and professional experience I bring to the table—leads me to value my potential in the middle-to-upper part of that range. I know that’s a significant increase from your offer, so I’d like to discuss the possibilities for closing that gap, and getting into that range in the near-term.
Outcome: They heard back 4 days later, and the salary was bumped from $55k to $65k with a bump to $70k after a 90-day period, contingent on a positive review at that time.
Example #2: Using Leverage
Student received 3 offers:
- $97k (full benefits + equity)
- $110k (full benefits + equity)
- #120k (full benefits + equity)
Our advice was to inform each company of the offers that have been presented and any changes.
Negotiation: Student informed all employers that they were working with multiple offers. Student set up phone calls with all employers. Offer 1 didn’t budge, Offer 2 increased the offer to 135K after 90 days of employment. Offer 3 didn’t budge. Alumni, was leaning towards offer 2 but called offer 3 to inform them of the jump that offer 2 made.
Outcome: Offer #3 was boosted to $130k and doubled equity, and this student accepted the offer.
Example #3: Always Ask for More
Initial Offer: 2 Turing Graduates who received the same offer at the same company of $70K + Full Benefits
- Student #1 had full stack experience relevant to position
- Student #2 had limited experience with tech stack; however, they had previous industry experience
- Student #1 decided against negotiation
- Student #2 requested bump up to $80k based on background
Outcome: Student #1 received and signed an offer at $75K. Student #2 received $80k.
Example #4: Why Research Matters
Initial Offer: $115,000,
Advice: Should I even negotiate? YES.
Background: Student focused on her education, professional experience, and technical skills.
Negotiation: Student researched market value and made a counter offer of 15% over the base salary of 115K and $11.54K more than offered in equity.
Outcome: Company agreed to the salary increase to $125K but not the stocks.
Example #5: Provide Context
Read the following chain and think about the professional communication skills at play:
Hi [Name] - Attached you’ll find your offer letter to begin work with us on [Date] at $90,000/year. Also included are some additional forms to fill out and sign. Please bring these with you on your first day of work along with two forms of ID. Looking forward to having you on board! HR Manager
Thanks for sending all of this over! I will take a look through all of these documents and let you know if I have any questions. [Name]
Hi Hiring Manager - Would you have some time for a quick phone call tomorrow? I’m so pleased with much of the offer, but I was hoping to be just a bit closer to 100K in salary. I think my relevant experience working in [specific experience] and under tight deadlines will ensure I can contribute quality work as soon as I’m on board. I’m happy to provide you with references that can speak to my abilities in that area. Let me know if there’s anything we can do to close this gap. Thanks again! Talk to you soon. [Name]
Outcome: Hiring Manager emailed back with an updated offer of $100k.
Check For Understanding
- Self Reflect: What feelings come up for you when thinking about negotiating your next offer? What was something that you found helpful from this lesson in regards to negotiation?
- Evaluating the entirety of an offer is a best practice. What benefits are important to you? List a few in your notes document.
- What parts of negotiating the offer raises questions for you?
- Now that you’ve completed the lesson, add any questions that you have from the lesson with this Exit Ticket We will incorporate questions into the Live Negotiations session in Week 1. Please have the prework completed by 5pm the Saturday before you start Mod 4.
- Use this Worksheet to walk through the steps
- Turing Salary Data
- Find latest Quarterly Salary Outcomes for Turing grads and more qualitative data on outcomes here
- Averages for Contracts/Hourly Work
- Follow the #salaries channel on Slack
Find more resources here.
Does the first number set up subsequent numbers?
- Yes – say they offer $80k, which is a great offer, but think longterm. In 2-5 years with a potential 1-5% increase, will that be enough? Take into account inflation rates and cost of living. What’s great now might not be great in 2 years. This is why developers change jobs as often as they do.
Is it better to be at the high end of salary in your first job of your career and max out? Or meet in the middle?
- Go for what you can get. Since you probably won’t stay at your first job for 2 years, don’t think so much about strategy – if you tap out, you’ll go somewhere else
How can you approach negotiating for work visas?
- Find a US-based company with international ties. You could talk to them about being relocated to another country. They will do a sponsorship, but it’s easier for them because US taxes are still being paid. Any companies with locations in other countries are already willing to have that conversation
- Otherwise, we would recommend to not ask for a visa during negotiations because that’s an indication that you’ll be leaving them
- For a company with international ties, you could say you don’t have a visa right now, and do they sponsor visas? For big companies, it’s more likely as visas can cost up to $10,000
- You could consider taking a lesser salary to negotiate visa sponsorship