A Different Kind of Job Offer

Negotiating your salary stinks. You’re excited about your new job, but before you can start, you have to have a giant argument about your personal finances with your soon-to-be-employer. You’re torn between being rude and being a patsy. Play the hardline? Take what’s offered?

I always hated this, no matter which side of the negotiation I was on. It’s unfair that people get paid more because they’re better negotiators. And it’s downright outrageous that, according to academic research, women get penalized for negotiating* – meaning, in many cases, they opt not to do it, and get paid less as a result.

At Glowforge, we’re trying to make things a little better, so we do it differently.  Here’s how a Glowforge job offer works.

Before we even open the job position, we describe the role and figure out the right amount to pay by researching compensation data from services we subscribe to including Radford, Payscale, and Culpepper.  We aim to pay at the 75th percentile for salary, meaning our employees make more than 3/4 of people doing similar work.  But it also means that anyone who’s working here could choose instead to work at one of the giant tech companies that write bigger monthly paychecks, if salary is the most important thing.

Early on in our conversation about the role, we’ll encourage you to look at the pay ranges listed on the job description and some of those websites yourself so you can see if our typical pay differs from what you’re making now.

When we get closer to making an offer, we’ll talk to you about equity. I couldn’t find any good explanation of the expected value of startup equity so I wrote a blog post about it – be sure to check out the comments at the bottom for some great alternate perspectives. I’ll explain personally to you our financing situation, our long term goals, and answer any questions (yes, even now, I meet personally with each and every person at the end of the interview process!). Long story short, if you believe in our company, the equity is a great deal; if you don’t, you won’t want to be here anyway.

Now here’s where most companies start to play games – they give you a job offer, but there’s really a bunch more money and stock that they give you if you know the secret negotiation dance.

We do it differently: we give you two offers. We start with the 75th percentile of compensation for comparable jobs in your region, meaning ¾ of people with that title get less than that amount. And then we boost it, offering you your choice of even more stock or even more salary. You get to pick either one. 

That gives you the opportunity to decide what’s most important to you. Do you need more salary to make the numbers work? Are you OK with the salary, and want to go all-in on the stock? It’s important to us that you find the right balance for your needs, and the best way for us to do that is to just ask.

But here’s the most important part: we won’t keep a secret negotiation budget in our pocket or make you pretend you have counteroffers to get our best deal. We’ll just put it all on the table.

We realize that this is a tradeoff. There are some self-described “rock stars” who are really good at negotiating their salary and follow the money wherever it goes. With this approach to job offers, we don’t hire them.

But that means we all get to work with people who are here for something a little more than the paycheck. People who are excited about creating the future together. And we think that, ultimately, that’s the very best part of the offer.


* Glowforge advisor Cate Huston recommends the book “Women Don’t Ask” for a more detailed look at this. She also points out that people of color may have the same negotiation penalty, although the research we could find on it wasn’t specific to job negotiations.