IPO

Four tips for negotiating a new tech job

April 10, 2014: 4:54 PM ET

Experts offer advice on how to get what you want and be a team player.

A productive back-and-forth with an employer over your requirements is to be expected in any hiring process.

A productive back-and-forth with an employer over your requirements is to be expected in any hiring process.

FORTUNE -- So you have a job offer. Congrats.

Your next step is to negotiate. Assuming you want the job, a productive back-and-forth with the employer over your requirements is to be expected in any hiring process. Some negotiating rules are universal, but others remain unique to the technology field. (Last we checked, Wal-Mart didn't generally offer free perks like acupuncture.)

Here are four tips for negotiating your new compensation package.

1. Announce an end goal. Tell the employer from the get-go what your requirements are, but couch them in a way that indicates you really want the job and believe in the company's mission. Saying something to the effect of, "If we can get to this point, which I think is really fair, I'll take the job," is the most powerful thing you can say in a negotiation, says Jamie Tilotta Green, co-founder of The Cole Group, a San Francisco-based tech executive search firm that has placed people at businesses including Kabam, Trulia, and Supercell. Using keywords like "fair" and "us" sends a strong signal to the employer that you're on the same team and want to arrive at a mutually beneficial arrangement.

2. Understand the value of that equity. If the job offer is from a startup, chances are company stock will eventually become a topic. The younger the company, the more stock a new hire is likely to receive. (An employee will probably receive significantly less stock from a company that's one year away from an IPO vs. a startup that has just raised seed funding.) Problem is, most folks request and receive a percentage of the company without understanding its value. During discussions, it's perfectly valid to ask, "How much do you see these shares being worth in two years? What about four years?" Companies often have forecasts or projections about equity, and how they respond may offer insight into potential company growth during the short-to-medium term. "If they don't have an indication of where they'd like to be from a business and finance perspective, then that can actually be a red flag for the job seeker," says Scott Dobroski, a career trends analyst for the jobs site Glassdoor

3. Don't go crazy over perks, and be transparent. Stories of tech companies such as Facebook (FB) and Google (GOOG) offering generous perks -- free shuttle transportation, food, or even massages and dance classes -- are nothing new. But it doesn't mean you should go into talks with a laundry list of requests, nor should you expect your employer to be perk-heavy. Instead, consider what's really important to you and be transparent about why. Recently, Green wrapped up some complex negotiations for an executive. A devoted mother of three, the executive wanted transportation each afternoon to pick up her kids from school. As a tradeoff, she agreed to be available to work again later in the evening. Contextualizing the importance of that request was important to the company granting it. Less reasonable? Asking for less relevant services, such as free housecleaning, says Green, which at least one other client asked for. Needless to say, the request was denied.

4. Don't negotiate just to negotiate. Negotiations are common practice, but don't ask for more just to see how much you can squeeze out of your potential future employer. Even generous, publicly traded tech companies will soon tire of someone who keeps pushing for more. Once a company makes a first offer, go ahead and counter, but keep talks as short and as sweet as possible. "If there are too many bumps in the road, everyone will second-guess themselves," says Neil Warlicht, President of Wahl & Case, a Japan-based boutique recruiting firm with a San Francisco office. To date, it has placed people at tech companies, such as Amazon (AMZN), Hulu, and Uber. Worse still, if the negotiations are exhaustive, and if you take the job, you could leave a bad first impression. Adds Warlicht: "People may start wondering why you're doing this."

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