An experienced developer, Ben (name changed upon request) was recruited by Google and had been given thumbs up from their hiring committee. He knew he’d soon get an offer and was eager for the process to go smoothly and quickly, since he really wanted the job.
While getting a quick resolution was important to him, Ben also wanted to make sure he got the best deal possible. He knew getting as much salary and equity as possible would have compounding effects for years to come.
"This was by far going to be my largest salary up until now and perhaps for the rest of my career, knowing how well Google pays," says Ben. "The week that it was going to take to do the negotiation part was going to be perhaps the most impactful week, earnings-wise, in my career. It was exciting and stressful."
Like so many people in his position, Ben felt he was at a significant informational disadvantage. Though he was an experienced software engineer, he’d only negotiated once before at a startup company and this was the first time he was negotiating with a big corporation.
Having done some research on what to expect, he knew there would be room to improve his initial offer — especially with RSUs and a sign-on bonus — but fully expected to be outmatched by Google’s HR resources and hiring team.
"I'm so unfamiliar with the process," Ben says. "I didn't know the numbers or the words to use, where there was leverage and where there wasn't. Because of the sums involved, it seemed crazy to not have an expert on my side."
Ben reached out to me for help, seeking both advice on how to navigate the pre-offer process and help preparing his counteroffer. The one thing that caused him to hesitate was the upfront coaching fee of $3,000, which felt like a ton of money to shell out of pocket.
"I didn't even want to mention to my girlfriend how much it cost," says Ben. "I had to quickly do the calculus of am I going to get a good deal for myself on my own versus will Josh likely make up the $3,000 plus 10% of whatever he increases the offer by? As soon as I thought about it in those terms, three grand sounded incredibly insignificant."
We started working together pre-offer to help Ben first choose a team to join and then to tactfully set the table for Google to give him the best initial offer possible.
Ben felt like he could possibly push for a higher level (pay band) than what his recruiter recommended he go for. I helped guide him to focus on that in a way that would likely improve the actual offer itself and give us maximum room to negotiate the offer he eventually received. We walked through how he should position himself before the offer came in.
Ben received a pretty good initial offer from Google (see breakdown below):
|Component||Years 1–4 Compensation|
(15% standard Google bonus)
With the offer now in hand, we walked through the negotiation step-by-step to maximize his compensation package. While Ben would be happy to receive a sign-on bonus, he was most interested in increasing the base compensation as high as possible to maximize earning over time.
I drafted a counteroffer email for Ben to send to the recruiter, prioritizing base salary and equity and emphasizing what he brought to the table. The aim was to be appropriately aggressive in our negotiation while still preserving the rapport with the hiring manager.
"In the end, the most impactful thing Josh did was a line in a two-paragraph email that essentially said, 'Instead of $211k per year, I want $250k.' That doesn't seem like I paid for much!" says Ben.
"However, there's a lot of things that went into that email. Where do we want to pressure them? Which dimensions do we want to go on? It was knowing the correct things to ask for (cash or equity), knowing the correct amount to ask for, and knowing how to come up with a narrative around why they should try to reach my number. That email wasn't just a number, it was a story."
After sending his counteroffer email, Ben received a substantially improved offer. Google improved total annual compensation by almost 15% and included a significant sign-on bonus in their final offer.
|Component||Year 1 Compensation||Years 2–4 Compensation|
Increase of $9,000/year
Increase of $30,000
Increase of $18,750/year
(15% standard Google bonus)
Increase of $59,100
Increase of $29,100/year
Ben happily accepted the offer, feeling that we had sufficiently maximized the offer and that there weren’t many more marginal gains to be found.
"I was going to be incredibly happy with this job no matter what," says Ben. "But now I've set myself up for compounding increases in incoming cash by starting my Google salary and equity higher than I would have otherwise. I feel like I got the best deal that was available to me."
The numbers are a great result on their own, but we also were able to maintain Ben’s good relationship with his hiring manager, which was very important for him since he’ll be working with this person for years to come.
Ben says having an expert on his side to walk him through what he could expect during the negotiation and how to handle discussions with the company gave him a lot of comfort during a quite stressful process.
"With Josh on my side, I was confident at every point that we were making the right decisions and doing the right things," he says.
"It would have been worth the coaching fee even if we hadn't gotten a bump at all. At least I would know I did the best that I could. I had an expert. I didn't leave anything on the table. If I hadn't hired Josh, I probably would be sitting here today still wondering, 'Man, could I have easily bumped this by a bunch of more money?' It's a much better experience having an expert on your side than trying to do it alone."
I'm Josh Doody, a professional salary negotiation coach who helps Senior Software Engineers and Engineering Managers negotiate job offers from big tech companies. On average, Software Engineers and Engineering Managers improve their first-year compensation by $47,273 with my help.
Apply for a free 15-minute intro call to learn how I can help.