Do Companies Expect You To Negotiate an Offer?

How big companies, startups, and agencies approach negotiation

The job hunt can be tough. After rounds of interviews, calls, portfolios, assessments, and just generally proving your worth to a company, it can be odd to think about negotiating an offer. After all, you just spent all that time trying to convince the company that they should hire you. So, what leverage do you have to negotiate?

A lot! In fact, many companies expect you to negotiate. Some of our coaches at Levels.fyi, who all have 5+ years of extensive recruiting experience, ranging from startups to FAANG, weigh in:

“I always expect candidates to negotiate, but still about 15% of them don’t.” – D.

“I’d say almost 100% of my candidates negotiate, even interns. Even when I say it’s non-negotiable, I still expect them to try.” – C.

Of course, every company is different, so we wanted to break up the sections below to help you understand how that might play a factor in negotiations.

Big Tech Companies

For big tech companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook / Meta, etc. and even other companies like Salesforce, Uber, etc. our coaches say that recruiters expect their candidates to negotiate! These companies have larger HR teams that deal specifically with compensation, so they’ll often have more room to negotiate and play with numbers.

A common theme our coaches say helped successful negotiations is mutual trust between the candidate and the recruiter. Often times, negotiating with these companies is all done through the recruiter, so they can be a big advocate for you in this process. They may have specific ranges to stick to or, in some cases, they may have to be the messenger for everything that goes to a compensation team to evaluate, so building trust and openness with your recruiter will go a long way to ensure you’re getting the offer you deserve.

Some of our coaches have also hinted to candidates to initiate the negotiation process because they believed the candidates were selling themselves short. That said, do your research, speak to peers and mentors, and ensure you know your market rate. That trust with your recruiter can easily be broken if you ask for a number that’s far too high, as it could show a lack of due diligence.

Startup Companies

When it comes to startup companies, our startup coaches (from Series A to Series C companies) say that it's definitely encouraged to negotiate. Note that these companies tend to have a low base, high equity compensation philosophy so our coaches say that there is usually wiggle room in the equity compensation because of that.

Startups are a risky endeavor and they often prefer to use cash to help build and scale the business. This means that they may offer a compensation package that’s lower than normal in base salary, in exchange for higher equity for the future.

That said, it’s still possible and encouraged to negotiate. These companies often prioritize finding the best candidate fit, so they will often have more room to work with for the right experience and skillset.

Want to learn more about startup offers? Check out our post, “How to Evaluate Startup Offers.”

Agencies

Sometimes, companies will use a recruiting agency to help fill contract roles or sometimes full-time roles. According to our agency coaches, the agency recruiter is usually told an approved salary amount prior to the interviews and then they will relay the information to the candidate. It doesn’t seem so much different than a normal, internal recruiter, but there is usually one big difference.

Agency recruiters often work for commission. Because of that, they may be incentivized to keep you at a lower pay rate than normal. That said, there are benefits to agencies that could outweigh a potentially lower salary, too. Access to a large job network, industry knowledge, and candidate advocacy, are all benefits that some job seekers have liked when working with agencies.

However, just because there is a pre-approved salary doesn't mean candidates have to accept the initial offer. Our agency coaches say that, when recruiting for full time roles, they’ll either connect the candidate with the hiring team to negotiate directly, or they’ll be the messenger for it as well. Per our coaches, only about 50% of applicants try to negotiate, even though they expect more.

How to Negotiate

Now that you know these companies expect you to negotiate, how do you do it?

When considering the process of negotiation with a recruiter, our coaches say that they always try to get the best offer for their candidates, based on their achievements and data points. The best offer doesn't always mean the highest offer, though. So, you should still have room to negotiate!

Internal recruiters don't get a reward for handing out super low offers, so it's best to just stay honest and genuine with them. If you build rapport and trust, your recruiter will be able to advocate more on your behalf and help you out.

Our coaches across tech companies, startups, and agencies have a general consensus that it's totally acceptable to bring up the topic of negotiation and it's greatly encouraged for all applicants. That said, it is still important to do your research to ensure that trust isn’t broken.

Research

What’s the best way to do your research and ensure you’re saying the right things? Use Levels.fyi! Whether you're unfamiliar with the process or you just feel uncomfortable going through it alone, our coaches can help you walk through it. Negotiation can begin even before you receive an offer, so your conversations with the recruiter and hiring manager can impact your offer potential. Among other things, we recommend considering compensation early in the process and ensure you’re ready when the time comes!

At Levels.fyi, we have some of the top career coaches who have helped job-seekers collectively negotiate a total increase of over $100,000,000 in total compensation across all stages of the job process. Our coaches can help you craft strategies and scripts specific to your situation so that you may receive the best possible offer for your skills and knowledge.

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