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Salary Negotiation for People That Hate To Negotiate with Josh Puetz

joshpuetz profile image Josh Puetz ・1 min read

Josh Puetz is an engineer with over 20 years of experience making mistakes and telling stories about them. A veteran of several startups, he’s currently a principal software engineer at DEV where he creates software to support sustainable Internet communities. He lives in picturesque Door County, Wisconsin with his husband and daughter, where he enjoys coffee, CrossFit, and writing about himself in the third person.

This talk is for developers of all skill and experience levels. We'll follow a new developer as she negotiates salary and benefits as part of a job offer.

In this talk, we'll cover:

  • Reasons why we don't negotiate (and why we should)
  • Finding your market value
  • Ways to negotiate salary & benefits
  • How to make a decision

and I'll provide some next steps!

Here is a download link to the talk slides (PDF)

This talk will be presented as part of CodeLand:Distributed on July 23. After the talk is streamed as part of the conference, it will be added to this post as a recorded video.

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Josh Puetz


Purveyor of fine nerdery. Poptimist. Principal software engineer at dev.to.


markdown guide

Yes-stock options are not salary, potential bonuses are not salary, a personal budget for career education or conferences is not salary and use of the office keg and bougie coffee is not salary. Get that money!


Keg and coffee are just ways to keep you in the office longer, as are stocked breakrooms, catered lunches, pinball/pool/foosball tables and arcade games, etc. Always greet such "perks" with skepticism, especially if you see few people leaving for lunch (I've seen way too many instances where it was creepily noted and held against people who were subsequently deemed "not a team player").


100%! Mike, thanks for noting the β€œnot a team player” part.

FWIW any company that overly emphasizes that "team player" component is probably both dangerously overreaching into your personal life AND fostering a culture that encourages homogeny of thought (which is anathema to innovation).


What are some good strategies to avoid giving the first number? Is there a good strategy to submit an online form where it will not accept a blank value for desired salary?


Some great replies here, I also love the technique of entering $0 or $1 in the form. Another trick I've used is to try to edit the form by editing it in Chrome so I CAN submit it without giving a number 😈


For responding to direct questions, I've had a fair amount of success turning the question back on the asker, e.g. "I'm negotiable as long as the salary is in line with my skills and experience, but do you have a range that you are working with?"


For a form, enter $0. It's usually a valid answer and no one will think that's what you actually make.


That said, personally, I've gotten better offers when I have said the first number. However, it is more risky. You need to be sure of what comparable salaries are and shoot for the high end of what your skills and experience can get on the market. Your personal mileage may vary, but it's something to consider if you feel like you are being lowballed in general in your job search


I have a strategy to avoid giving an expected salary but I don't know how to avoid the question of "How much do you currently make?" Does anyone has a strategy for this?


I'm in the same boat, especially since here anyone can look up anyone else's salary online. So it feels like it's also a bit pointless to give a vague number, avoid the question or lie. What I've previously done is saying something along the lines of "I make , but given my skills and the kind of work I'll be doing here I am expecting more." and also vaguely mention there's the chance I'll get a counter offer that's higher. Has worked for me so far.


I've had success by just being direct and saying "I don't see how my current salary is relevant to the job I am interviewing for" or "I don't feel comfortable answering that question".


Great question, what are some strategies to respond to this question? And how to avoid online form application responses?


"I'm sorry, my current contract with my employer prohibits me from disclosing that information."


When recruiters get pushy, I say, "If knowing my current salary is a requirement for this position, I'm no longer interested."

They always back down.


If your counter offer is your minimum acceptable salary number, you could expect the company will come in lower than that as a final offer. I know you need to be ready to say 'No', but it seems like there might be other strategies that are helpful in this situation.

Any suggestions on this specific scenario?


That's a really good point, thanks for the question!

So it's tough...in the scenario where you're countering your minimum acceptable salary, you're playing hardball: I need to get this number, or I won't come work for you. I didn't really explain this well in my talk, but you should communicate that in your counter. There's a different between telling the person you're negotiating with "I'd be more comfortable with " versus "I really can't accept any less than ".

The idea is that if a company isn't up to your minimum acceptable salary at first, you're already in a danger area.


Thank you for the follow-up! This is kind of what I expected, but I appreciate you taking the time to answer my question and reinforcing this.

If i didn't say it already, FANTASTIC talk!


Always counter higher than your minimum by a healthly margin.


I feel like this is good advice, but the speaker specifically said that if the calculation comes out smaller than your minimum acceptable salary, then you counter offer with the minimum acceptable salary.

I guess I wanted to understand that aspect of the talk

That's fair, and hopefully the speaker can weigh in with their perspective.

Personally, if their offer is that far below your minimum acceptable salary, either your expected salary numbers are not in line with the market or they are undervaluing your skills (probably the latter). If you really want that job, you can emphasize that your counter offer is a hard offer that you aren't willing to go below. You'd be surprised how many times they come up with more money. Another option, like Josh mentioned, is see if they can make up the salary deficit in other ways, like more vacation time or a higher education budget.

I think that's fair insight, and I appreciate you weighing in as well! Great discussion!


Excited for this talk! I really want a Beignet now after seeing the 1st slide.


My classmate would make them all the time for us! I want!


Ok you got me looking up beignet recipes. πŸ™πŸΎ


Right? Someday I'll go back!


Josh, this talk was great! If you're comfortable sharing, I'd love to know what your worst negotiation horror story is! Did you ever experience a negotiation with a company where you did something you regret or would have done something differently? I think these things are so rarely talked about, and I really like the idea of normalizing these conversations; thanks for doing this with your talk! :)


Great question! I think my "horror" story (and it's really not all that bad) was once I was made an offer right at the end of an interview in person! I was so surprised and excited I said yes...without even confirming what the salary was πŸ€¦πŸ»β€β™‚οΈ


should jr devs who are looking for their first job negotiate their salary?


thank you for replying. i have transferrable skills from non-technical roles and i also have a masters but no prior experience in the technology industry. would you advice leaning upon my past non-technical skills to negotiate?

Absolutely! You have skills that will be useful to your employer now, and everything you'll do in the future will also benefit them. Think of your negotiating base as all the future benefits you'll bring your employer!


Hey @joshpuetz ! Amazing talk, loved the examples and the different forking alternatives of what could happen :D

I wanted know if you have any advice for negotiating salary raises within the same companie. That's often a tough one, and usually it seems not the best, but the only way to get a real raise is joining a new company.

Thanks again!


Great question @anabella : it's really tough negotiating a raise because unlike negotiating a new job offer, I'm going to assume you don't want to walk away from the job!

I don't honestly have a lot of experience with this, so I'll point you to Josh Doody's excellent resources: fearlesssalarynegotiation.com/book...


Question: Hey Josh when applying for a job is it important for to keep on a new employer when there hasn't been any response for awhile.

Should I reach out to the employer to see if I am a candidate for the job or wait for them to reach out to me?


I'm a big fan of following up with a company/recruiter if you haven't hear from them in a while after applying: "Hey, just checking in to see where you are in your hiring process.."


How would you suggest determining how much they need you, when you're really not sure?


If they're offering you a job, they're pretty interested. It's expensive to hire people, once they're making an offer, you have a good amount of leverage. I've gotten progressively more aggressive with negotiating over the years and, as long as you aren't a jerk, the worst that's going to happen is they'll say no to your counter offer. Try it out and just push yourself past your comfort level a little bit each time you have those conversations.


That's a really good point, Rachel!


I enjoyed this presentation so much. I always had a hard time doing negotiations in the past but after watching the tips and the advice, I’m confident in not giving my number when a potential employer ask me.


For someone who is used to making $10 an hour, these numbers blow my mind.


For those that noted the slides to my talk were missing examples: thank you! Corrected link is in the post above, and here: drive.google.com/file/d/1k_rV-eDjw...


I need this! I always believed in not giving the first number, but I was scared that would be rude. Glad to hear this!


I once had a company give such a low offer, it'd have taken a 50% raise to meet my minimum number. They justified it with free lunch/dinner, free train tickets to work, and stock options.

Don't fall for this!


This is great information! I have learned to speak up about salary in my current industry. I have not really changed companies for about 8 years but I have changed roles and have been able to receive a raise with proper negotiation each time. Great points!


Never give the first number is the same kind of dogmatic business advice you hear to never apologize. I'm in Canada so its a very different business culture from the US. Negotiation in the form would be seen as haggling and there is a different way to go about up here.


I'm really interested the @andrew : can you elaborate more? Is negotiating a starting salary not common in Canada?


I don't wish to offend you, so we'll leave it at that. πŸ™


I'm looking for my first dev job and have never worked a job with salary or where negotiation is an option. Any advice for getting over the anxiety of attempting to negotiate for the first time?


This is tough! Practicing with someone else has personally helped me.


I'm curious about negotiating an offer for a promotion within the same company :-D


Oooooh, this is a great question πŸ˜‰ +1, would love to know if you have thoughts on this @joshpuetz !


I don't have very much experience with this, so I'd defer to Josh Doody's excellent advice on the subject: fearlesssalarynegotiation.com/book...


These are wonderful strategies for something I know I struggle with. Thank you!!


Love love love this talk and topic. Salary negotiation is one of the things I dread about the job search process, and that first "what's your desired salary" question makes me CRINGE


This was the best talk I've ever heard on this topic!


Oh my gosh, thanks you so much @elleon003 !


Very good topic indeed also due current corona virus.
A short story from some one based in same country as me posted in LinkedIn , He got contacted by an reputable in Lebanon (where I am from) it need to pay 200$ for entry level position , due Lebanon collapsing 1$ was 1500 now 10 000 . But the company has many branches across the world , so they are not affected due to this collapsing. So take care!


The best way to negotiate is when we don't need a job but are willing to take higher offers. It works like this, a recruiter contacts us with a job where our skills match (but we did not solicit the call). The first questions we ask are: 1) Is this remote? and 2) What is the salary? They'll tell you right away if its remote, but if you get into the Salary game simply ask for 2.5K-5K more and don't back off.

What does this do? It weeds out all non-serious offers.

There's only one way where it's better. A major Fortune 100 company recruiter calls because our resume has exactly what they want. In that case the salary dance starts because you really like that company (FANG)

If you don't have a job but are in the market follow this advice. The key point here is to interview as often as we can, work 8 to 9 hours a day in the search, and study, study, study! Don't ever give up!


Can you send us these slides?


The example math from the talk is blank on these slides.

We'll get these slides updated, and the entire talk will be added to this post soon.

Thanks for the heads up!


I'm awful with negotiating so this is really helpful. Thanks for the great talk.


This is very helpful especially when i am getting ready to look for a job.


Salary negotiating is important when getting a job AND when being offered a raise. Don't forget to negotiate when an employer gives you a raise as well.


The more money they pay you, the more they respect your opinions. Negotiating for money is also negotiating for credibility.