In May 2020, Ben was graduating with a Computer Science PhD from Carnegie Mellon University. A top degree from the top program but at a difficult time. COVID-19 has essentially shut down the US economy and companies are laying off or setting hiring freezes.
When Ben first heard about Ralph, he thought it was a scam. He thought the impact Ralph advertised was just marketing. It wasn’t until after Ben spoke to a former Ralph client, who went to his alma mater, and who verified that Ralph helped more than expected, that he decided to use Ralph. When we dug more into Ben’s perspective, it became easy to see why he was so skeptical.
Researching his own market value online, he went onto Glassdoor, Blind and Levels.fyi and he saw an offer that was similar to his, a Microsoft L63 Scientist offer with an equity package of $150K over four years. People were commenting that this was fine so he assumed his offer was also fair. Given the state of the world, he was tempted to take the offer and be happy with employment.
When he asked two of his academic advisers what compensation he should accept, they both said they had never had a student who got more than $300K/year. So when Ben shared the higher ask that Ralph advised, his professors thought that he was crazy. Ben had PhD peers-friends with similar profiles, who recently graduated and negotiated job offers in similar companies, and they told him that they were offered what Blind and levels.fyi and Glassdoor said and they negotiated just 10-20% more. So they recommended Ben to just take a 20% increment and sign. At this point, Ben was even afraid of sharing the Ralph numbers with his wife. She would panic. She was afraid of “gambling with” or risking the offer in the middle of the pandemic, after months of company rejections due to hiring freezes. In every direction, Ben was being told that the status quo was correct and he should not challenge it. Except with Ralph.
If Ben hadn’t had direct confirmation from a trusted reference Ralph worked with, he probably would have ignored us. In his words, “I kept going because of what the CMU alum told me about his negotiations with Ralph. His ask and the final offer he received were higher than the status quo. I researched his background and I felt that I could at least do the same. Plus, it was helpful that had experienced recruiters participate in the calls and give their honest opinion too. They helped me see that what I was doing was justified and safe.”
With Ben’s trust, we proceeded and we were able to help him increase his offer by 43%, well above $300K/year. We advised Ben on how to communicate with his hiring managers in a way that was respectful and worthy of utmost understanding, and patience on their end. We helped him negotiate two changes in his offer when he did not have a higher counter offer to share. We gave him the guidance to withstand anger and pressure from the recruiters, who were pressuring Ben to accept their initial offer. This was not easy, but this was also not a gamble.
Ralph has facilitated over 400 negotiations. We help candidates navigate their biggest blindspot: how companies think about the value of their talent. We guided Ben so that he was comfortable negotiating rather than fearful of an adverse consequence. In Ben’s case, he had tremendous support from his hiring manager. This further cemented this opportunity for Ben as the right one because it showed how invested his hiring manager was in his success. An investment Ben is excited to reciprocate through his work.
For Ben, the increased compensation is great but the learning experience from using Ralph was invaluable. He now understands how to determine his leverage, how to articulate his unique background and potential, and how to express it all in a way that companies acknowledge. Before this experience, he had no idea how much the companies valued someone like him. His time in academia was filled with feeling like he was a small fish in the big ocean. Now he believes in his worth and knows how to ask for it. He finally sees that his peers, the online resources like Blind, and even his academic advisors, are as inexperienced as he was before he signed his final offer. After finishing with Ralph, Ben said “now I know how broken the status quo is”.
Today, Ben resonates with the challenge that Ralph is taking on: information asymmetry, fear of retribution, and loss aversion from inexperienced candidates. Candidates are dealing with recruiters who have years of experience negotiating and negotiate on a daily basis, whereas they only know as far as the online reading they’ve done and the hearsay from peers who are equally inexperienced. It’s not a fair game at all. Ben empathizes with how some candidates permanently undersell themselves in industry, while others get only better and better opportunities, financially, and otherwise. A differentiation completely independent of work quality or value. He hopes that by sharing his story, others won’t fall prey to these systematic disparities.
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