from Guide to the Job Hunt on Sep 3, 2023
How to de-stress job offer negotiations
There's a lot of information involved in negotiations. The meta-information about how to conduct negotiations. The actual information about your offers, their deadlines, details, details you need, etc. How is it even possible to juggle all this?
Negotiations can be nerve-wracking — tips to keep track of, the information to remember and not share, and more. Here's how to make negotiations less stressful.
Repeatedly hopping on phone calls for high stakes negotiations can be stressful. To generally save yourself some headache, you can push all calls to email.
Even if you decide that calls are a-okay to take on, keep an eye for the following red flags; these indicate it's time to push calls to email.
- Too many ad-hoc calls: Calls can be scheduled last minute. For one-time occurrences, don't be afraid to push to a later date to collect your thoughts. However, if this occurs repeatedly, you can push all calls to emails, to protect your time and minimize scheduling overhead.
- Easily pressured into giving up information: If you find yourself giving up too much information over the phone, consider email-only communication, where there's less need to think on your feet. With asynchronous emails, you can then take more time to carefully decide what to share and what not to share. Note that the reverse is also true: It's much harder to connect with and get information from your recruiter via impersonal emails.
Recruiter is not providing information: Phone calls should be useful for both parties, and don't forget that one of those parties is you. If you're no longer gaining information from calls, for that particular recruiter, consider pushing all communication to email, where it's far harder to send pointless communication.
- Nuro's recruiter for example would use multiple calls to ask for information, without providing any. Emails would start with "I have an update!" and the update would be "we got approval from X and will share range information later". At this point, calls were more for her than for me, so I asked to discuss over email in the future.
Making decisions on the phone: Don't feel the need to make critical decisions over the phone. Tell the recruiter you need a day, or a few. However, if you find yourself inadvertently making decisions on the phone, without properly thinking them through, consider pushing to email as well.
Say you've identified one of the red flags above. Simply let the recruiter know you'd like to continue discussions over email.
Recruiters will generally understand, and a simple explanation like the above suffices.
There are of course factors in the job hunt that distort or stretch your timeline beyond your control. However, there are also many ways for you to control the timeline. The tips below are specific to timeline management in the negotiation phase, after you've received initial offer details. There are two key ideas:
- Make delaying the timeline attractive. The rough idea above is to buy time with methods that supposedly work in the company's favor. Time pressure is one the recruiter's strongest tactics, so you ideally should show that there's a viable alternative tactic to increasing your chances of acceptance.
- Make it seem as though the timeline is beyond your control. The idea is that if you don't have control, the recruiter can't pressure you into a decision or deadline anyways. If it's beyond your control, it's beyond theirs as well. This general idea isn't mutually exclusive with the above, and you can use both in conjunction, serially or in parallel.
To translate those ideas into actual actions, here are possible methods to use:
- Schedule calls with leadership, hiring manager, or colleagues at the company. In short, these calls tell the recruiter that you're seriously considering their offer. It furthermore tells the recruiter that giving you more time to make a decision, increases your chances of accepting their offer. After all, you're chatting with employees that are supposedly proponents of the company. We talk about this in more detail in How to handle an early offer deadline.
- Set a decision date in advance. This can help you add structure to an otherwise highly unstructured process. It also gives you a slew of other benefits — hiring managers may increase offers if they don't hear from you near that date, you can organize other decisions and dates around your decision date, you can use this to accelerate offer processes at select companies etc. We talk about this in more detail in How to plan your job hunt.
- Mention other decision makers. The rough idea is to emphasize you're not making the decision alone. Instead, you need buy in from others, be it family members, mentors, or significant others, and you need time to meet with them. This appeals to the idea above that the timeline is beyond your control. There are other, critical stakeholders.
- Use other deadlines to accelerate the timeline, or at least the offer approval process. In particular, you can use other offer deadlines to your advantage. For example, say company A is dragging its feet making an initial offer. You may say that you'd like offer A by date X to compare with offer B before its expiration. On that date, or after, you may then decline B and inform A you've done so, and are still considering A against your other options.
The above should help you control the timeline — when it ends and how quickly or slowly it proceeds.
This too sounds cheesy, but I mean it in two specific ways.
- Organize your decision making. Split your thoughts into "criteria" that you care about, and how each offer's "ranking" relative to those criteria is. Most indecision occurs when you waffle between the two, so keeping those groups of thoughts will help you sort through your indecision. We discuss this in more detail in How to make big decisions.
- Organize your offer information. For every offer, know the most important parts. Write it down on a spreadsheet, on a sheet of paper, any place where you can look at all of your options and make comparisons quickly. There are several key components you need to get straight — base salary, equity as well as its vesting details, annual bonus, signing bonus etc. We discuss this in detail in Is my offer good?
Keeping these two groups of information organized can greatly help your sanity.
In short, push communications to email, or be aware of the red flags that indicate email is necessary; control the timeline to your advantage; and stay organized with respect to your decision making and offer information. Taken altogether, these tips can greatly ease the stress of a negotiation. Best of luck!
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