Case Study: Negotiating an additional $160,000 in annual compensation as an executive joining Alphabet

“What am I really worth in this situation?”

Taylor (name changed upon request) has built an extensive career in tech that spans more than 30 years, during which he’s developed some unique and highly specialized expertise. It was this expertise that led Alphabet to approach him with a significant opportunity to direct one of their teams.

Despite having a long career, Taylor hadn’t gone through many salary negotiations, and never with a company like Alphabet. Being at the executive level, he knew that compensation packages differ quite a bit in terms of components such as stock options, vesting, signing bonuses, performance bonuses and so on.

"This company is obviously one of the biggest in the world, the division I'd be working with is dealing with a lot of very novel technology, and I also happen to have a very unique skillset in the industry," says Taylor. "So all of that was creating a lot of angst on my part about what am I really worth in this situation? I can't really compare it to a lot of things."

Taylor wanted to do everything he could to put himself in a winning position for his salary negotiation, so he did some online research to find out all he could about Alphabet’s compensation packages. His research led him to the Fearless Salary Negotiation material and my coaching service.

Hiring a salary negotiation coach was not something he had considered since he wasn’t previously aware that such a service existed. Like many people, Taylor wanted to confirm that I was legitimate before deciding to work with me, and felt more comfortable after finding my book and its reviews on Amazon.

"The thing that really clinched it for me was Josh’s experience helping software engineers negotiate salaries and offers with these big tech companies," says Taylor. "It was pretty clear through the information I found that Josh really understood their process."

As soon as he received word that he was chosen for the role and would be receiving an offer, Taylor reached out to me and we set to work immediately.

Pushing the comfort zone to get the best offer possible

We focused first on setting the table for Alphabet to put a strong offer forward, which includes the often difficult task of refraining from disclosing salary history or salary requirements, even when asked multiple times over.

"I'm a scientist — when somebody asks me a question, I give them an answer," says Taylor. "One of the most helpful things Josh did is he actually gave a script and the logic and the thinking behind how to play the game, so to speak."

Taylor and I walked through each of the likely scenarios that he would face during the negotiation and I coached him on suggested responses in each case, providing wording he could use to tactfully respond to questions and set him up for success.

"Of course I had the opportunity to put my own words in the response," he says. "But it's a lot easier to start with something you can rely on versus creating from a blank page. So for every conversation I went into with Alphabet, I was prepared."

Alphabet came in with a strong offer, which included: a salary range that started around the $250,000 mark, a 30% performance bonus, and about seven-figures of equity in restricted stock units (RSUs) over four years.

In order to maximize the result and avoid leaving money on the table, we decided to put all our chips on trying to negotiate a bigger equity package for Taylor (since Alphabet typically doesn’t move much on base salary and is generally fixed on performance bonus). We wanted him to go back with a number that would push the upper bounds of what they could offer without going way outside those bounds. We decided to go with a counteroffer for nearly double the equity they offered.

Pushing for a large number usually requires going quite a bit outside your comfort zone, as was the case for Taylor. A week went by with no response from the recruiter.

"That waiting was very stressful," says Taylor. "My imagination's going all over the place with what they could be doing. Maybe they decided I'm just too greedy. Who knows what? Josh helped calm me down."

When Taylor checked in with Alphabet to inquire how the process was going, the recruiter responded immediately and said everything was fine and they were just waiting on approvals. That showed us that we were in good shape and that we played it just where we wanted it. If we countered too low, they would have come back with a snap yes, and if what we asked for was way outside the bounds of what they could do, that also would have been a quick response.

A six-figure negotiated improvement in annual compensation

After going through the necessary approvals on their side, Taylor’s recruiter came back with a huge improvement to their original offer. They came close to meeting the number we suggested for equity and maxed out the salary to the top of the offered range as an offset, resulting in a total increase of about $160,000 in annual compensation over the original offer.

It was a big win for Taylor, and more than doubled his current annual compensation as an executive at a startup.

"Being able to proceed to the last few years of my career ending with this huge bonus is great," says Taylor. "You know, some of that money may end up being my kids' money — that's not necessarily a bad thing."

Our work together was very collaborative and Taylor’s willingness to go outside his comfort zone with a big counteroffer helped him get this fantastic result. Taylor says what helped give him confidence was working with someone who is knowledgeable about how the negotiation process and compensation programs work with big tech companies like Alphabet.

"It's like professional sports — if you don't have film on your opponent and you go into a game without any scouting report, you're in big trouble," he says.

"Josh has 'the film' on Alphabet and other tech companies. He knows who you're dealing with and that's a huge advantage. Even when Alphabet came up with some surprises, Josh was still able to pretty well predict what they were doing and why. It takes a lot of the anxiety out of the process."

Taylor and I enjoyed working with each other immensely. I’m honored that he was so happy with our work together and the excellent result that he connected me with a colleague of his who is also negotiating with a big tech firm (and has even paid my coaching fee on his colleague’s behalf).

“Bringing on Josh made a huge difference for me — no way I would have ended up with that number without his help,” Taylor says. “Whether you’re a mid-level engineer or an executive — to me it’s a no brainer to work with Josh. Even just a $10,000 difference in your annual compensation is a lot of money over time and a career.”

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I'm Josh Doody, a professional salary negotiation coach who helps High Earners negotiate their job offers. On average, High Earners improve their first-year compensation by $47,273 with my help.

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