Programming Interviews For Dummies
Book image
Explore Book Buy On Amazon
Hopefully, your programming interview ends with a job offer. Once the company gives you a salary amount or benefits package to consider, you need to begin job negotiations and give a counteroffer — even if the company’s offer gives you more than what you expected.

job negotiation ©Shutterstock fizkes

Why? A company that’s invested enough time and effort to interview you and make an offer is always going to come up a little bit low and leave itself a little bit of wiggle room to negotiate the job details.

Always presume the company is experienced with job negotiating with potential employees and will expect you to provide a counteroffer that’s a little bit higher. You don’t want to leave any money on the table just like you wouldn’t knowingly leave a public place without your wallet that has a couple thousand dollars in it.

Giving a counteroffer

You may be afraid to negotiate the job details because you think you’re going to lose the job, especially if this is the job you dreamed of or you need a job right now.

Here’s our counteroffer for your brain: You need to understand who’s the most important person in the conversation. (Yes, you.) If you’re still not convinced, try reading the book, Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss and Tahl Raz (HarperBusiness). After you read it, you’ll understand why Voss and Raz subtitled the book, Negotiating as If Your Life Depended on It — because it does.

It’s also natural to think that if you counteroffer with a number that you think the company will see as too high, then it’s more acceptable to meet in the middle of what the company has offered and what your desired highest salary is. Then the company representative will counteroffer with an amount that’s lower than what you think the middle is. Congratulations! You’ve just lost a lot of money.

So, counteroffer with your high amount. The company representative likely expects that, too, because he expects your counteroffer will come with a little wiggle room, and you’ll be willing to accept a somewhat lower salary than your counteroffer amount.

In the worst-case scenario, the company representative won’t negotiate the job at all and will say that the offer is final. Then you’ll have to review the rest of the company’s proposed benefits package and see if you can negotiate one or more of those benefits.

Making counteroffers and getting more money won’t just improve your life and livelihood right now, but also in the future as you grow with the company. After all, you expect to get raises at some point, so you need to remember that raises are usually based on the percentage of your pay. If your pay is higher, then your raises will be higher, too.

What’s more, if you’re going to get another job in the future, then the higher pay from your current job will likely lead to an even higher starting salary at your new job.

Negotiating more than salary

The first job negotiation session is usually about salary, but that’s only one of the cards in the company’s hand. The rest have to do with other benefits the company is offering. These benefits could offset a lower salary if you get more flexibility in your job and more opportunities for making a lot of money if you think those opportunities will come in a reasonable amount of time.

For example, you can make counteroffers about a signing bonus for joining the company, the amount of time off you get, the 401(k) matching amount, and how many shares of company stock you get.

There may be other options in the package to negotiate. If the company is a startup, you may be able to negotiate an ownership stake when the company meets clear financial milestones.

You could negotiate your roles and responsibilities. If there’s the opportunity to work from home, you can negotiate how often you can do that. You can even negotiate the equipment the company will provide you to get your job done.

Avoiding pitting companies against each other during negotiations

It’s possible you’ll be negotiating a job with one company knowing that you already have one or more offers from other companies. This is one card you don’t want to play because it makes it very easy for the company to withdraw its offer.

So, play it straight. Don’t respond to the company’s offer by saying, “Hey, I got a higher offer from another company that has also offered me a job.” The company representatives will likely ask you what that offer is.

Tell them and they’ll counteroffer with a slightly higher offer than what the other company is offering, and you’ll be prevented from getting the highest amount possible. If you don’t, and they have to guess, then one of two things may happen.

First, you may get a much higher offer than what you were expecting, but they’ll still get a bad vibe about you and they may not be as willing to negotiate other parts of your benefits package. Worse, people in the company will talk about it, and you don’t want to come into a new job with people giving you the side eye.

The other result is that they’ll see you as unprofessional and possibly lying to them, withdraw their offer, thank you for your interest, and escort you from the building.

If you want to mention that you’re entertaining multiple offers, you can do so at the end of the job negotiation. You don’t have to tell the company representatives about the other offers or even the companies’ names because you should always presume that company recruiters talk to each other. That’s especially true if you’re looking for jobs in the same geographic area, and those recruiters can ensure you won’t play cards with them anytime soon.

Walking away from a job offer

The best negotiators are those who are willing and able to walk away. The company you’re interviewing with is certainly willing to walk away if it can’t get you to agree because it likely has second and third choices for the job.

The best way to look out for number one (yes, you) is to ensure that you’re interviewing with multiple companies and, better yet, have at least one other offer from another company. If you’ve applied at a number of companies and interviewed well with at least a few of them, it’s likely you’ll have the ability to walk away from the company’s table, too.

What’s more, you should have some side projects that you’re working on so you’re still generating income if you have to walk away. You don’t want to be in a situation where the company you’re negotiating with is the only one you’ve applied to and interviewed with. In that situation you’ll be more desperate to take any offer whether you realize it or not.

If you decide to walk away, do so in a respectful way — don’t be angry, threatening, or plain old nasty. You can say, “Hey, this isn’t what I’m looking for. I’m sorry we couldn’t come to an agreement, but this isn’t the right opportunity for me. I’d love to work for you, and I’m sure we could do great things together, but we can’t agree about the job benefits and that’s okay.”

Being polite and respectful will leave the company representatives still thinking highly of you — so much so that they may decide to continue job negotiations. They may even offer you more because you’re head and shoulders above their other choices, or their second and/or third choices don’t work out.

What’s more, one day in the future, this company may invite you to apply for a different job with you specifically in mind, which is the best kind of job offer to get. Then don’t be surprised if you end up with a better hand than you had during your first card game.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

John Sonmez is a software developer and the author of two best-selling books, The Complete Software Developer's Career Guide and Soft Skills: The Software Developer's Life Manual. He is also the founder of the Simple Programmer blog and YouTube channel. Eric Butow is the owner of Butow Communications Group (BCG), which offers website design, online marketing, and technical documentation services for businesses. He is the author of 32 computer and user experience books.

This article can be found in the category: