Hi, I’m Dan, a former product manager and now advisor at Pathrise. I work with hundreds of product managers to help them land their dream job.
Most of the time, the application funnel looks very similar for all product manager positions, which starts with the written application and then moves to a behavioral phone screen with a recruiter. If the candidate passes these first 2 steps, they are usually given a technical challenge or a technical interview. Once their technical skills are on par, they are brought on for an onsite, which is a mix of technical and behavioral interviews and could potentially take all day.
After that entire process is over, the lucky few receive an offer, which is cause to celebrate! But rather than saying yes to the first offer given, we strongly recommend negotiating. In fact, we have worked with hundreds of job-seekers to land great jobs with salaries that are more than $12k above industry standards. We know that negotiation can be tricky, so we wanted to lay out tips to help you go into this stage with confidence.
You are negotiating from day one
Negotiation actually starts from the first interaction you have with the company, which is sometimes a written application and other times a phone screen with the recruiter. A lot of companies have a question about expected salary in this stage, but this is the first “gotcha” moment. If you come across this, don’t worry. A good response to the recruiter would be: “I would like to do more research on the industry standards before giving a number.” On the application, you can say, “Negotiable, within reason.”
In the meantime, do that research to get a sense of the industry standards. According to Glassdoor, average compensation for product managers is $113k. Associate product managers, which is a position that requires a less extensive background, has an average salary of $85k. On AngelList, the average salary for a product manager is $105k. This might be a more well-rounded salary average because it includes startups.
Now that you have these numbers in mind, you can get a better sense of what to expect. Still, you should not share anything with the recruiter, even when you get your offer. Be polite, say thanks, and that you will let them know over email. This is our recommendation because email allows you to remain calm, think about your responses, and even ask friends or mentors for help with your negotiations.
When you are preparing to negotiate, remember that compensation is more than just salary – it also includes equity, bonuses, and other benefits (like PTO). Big tech companies like Facebook, Google, and Amazon are known for offering high salaries and good benefits, so you might have better results with your equity, signing bonuses, and other benefits, rather than salary.
With smaller startups, the salary given in the first offer might be lower, so you should start with that in your negotiations unless they explicitly mention they can’t go higher. In that case, ask about more bonuses, equity, and benefits, which all go into increasing your total compensation. When negotiating, you can make use of this email template, which we annotated, so that you hit the right points and highlight your value to the company.
You can use also make use of Glassdoor and Paysa to do some research on what other companies are paying for these roles. Here is a template a Pathrise job-seeker used recently to receive a $25k increase in salary by leveraging his knowledge of what he could have made at a different company in the same type of position
Hi [recruiter name],
I wanted to thank you again for the offer, I’m very excited for the chance to join [Company X], especially after getting to know the team! I took some time to talk about the offer with my family, and after doing some reflection I’d like to ask a few questions.
I would love to know if there is any flexibility on the base salary to ease my mind about the decision — my goal is to be at my next company for a long time, so it’s important to me to make sure that I’m set up for success. I’m also about to finish up the interview process with [Company Y] for a similar position (on the same type of team), which starts at $95,000 per year with a $24,000 signing bonus. I am much more excited to join [Company X], but the difference in pay is a significant barrier for me at the moment. Is it possible to increase the base pay to come as close as possible to $95,000, or perhaps offer a significant sign-on bonus to help mitigate the difference? If so, I would have no hesitation signing the offer right away.
Again, I want to reiterate my excitement and interest in working at [Company X] — I’ve really enjoyed getting to know everyone I’ve spoken with, and from what it sounds like the team is working on some really great things that I know I can contribute to.
Thank you again for this offer, please let me know your thoughts when you have a moment.
With this background knowledge and tips, you should be able to go into the offer stage for product manager positions knowing what to expect and how to increase your salary above the average.
Pathrise is a career accelerator that works with students and professionals 1-on-1 so they can land their dream job in tech. With these tips and guidance, we’ve seen a 5-20% increase in salary from our job-seekers in the program.
If you want to work with any of our mentors 1-on-1 to get help with negotiation or with any other aspect of the job search, join Pathrise.