Case study: How one of my students negotiated $20,000 and quintupled his shares using a Dream Job technique

Ramit Sethi

Coin Tower

Imagine the top companies in your industry are calling you.

Good for your confidence.

But you keep coming out of interviews empty handed.

What do you do?

You prepare better than you’ve ever prepared before.

That’s what Jesse did. He’s a 33 year old software engineer. Married with two children. He was earning $95K a year, and after one of his personal projects went viral (even receiving coverage from the Wall Street Journal), all the top companies in tech started reaching out to him.

But he couldn’t get a job.

Here’s the story of how Jesse recognized the number one thing holding him back and turned it around to land his dream job.

I did get a lot of interest, but I couldn’t seal the deal.

Jesse was doing a lot of things right. His LinkedIn profile made it very clear to recruiters what he did, and he had even developed a personal website for branding. When a coding project went viral, companies like Microsoft, Google and Facebook contacted him. “It was very vindicating that even bigger tech companies were interested”, he said, “I really wanted to get out of my current job.”

But Jesse had a problem. Interviews weren’t leading to job offers.

“I got a lot of interest, but I couldn’t seal the deal. I realized I was obviously doing something wrong. I came across as nervous. I didn’t have good competence triggers.”

So Jesse started looking for ways to improve. “I spent a lot of time reading about jobs and interviewing, you know the kind of stuff you see on self-improvement blogs, but it wasn’t getting it done.”

Then fate stepped in…

“I Will Teach You To Be Rich was a Google Reader subscription suggestion based on some of my other subscriptions”, said Jesse, “I followed that to the blog where I read all the free stuff and attended all the lead up things to Dream Job. My hesitation was you didn’t really know what the flow of the course would be, and the other side was convincing my wife it was worth that much money!”

“But I convinced her”, Jesse laughed, “she could tell that I was really jazzed about it. I kept telling her this stuff is really good. I needed to get better at interviewing, and I needed to get better at the career in general.”

“I hope you won’t get mad, but I shared with my wife that interview you did with Julie and it changed her mind completely. It showed her there was a lot of meat. This wasn’t optimize your LinkedIn profile, it was put in the work and you are going to get a lot out of it.”

Normally I would have said give me $5K more and we are good, I got $20K.

The Dream Job lesson that made the difference for Jesse was the Question Behind the Question Principle.

“Whenever they’d ask a question, I’d think about it in terms of ‘what’s the question behind the question?’ I kind of knew that before, but I didn’t really know how important it was and I wasn’t doing it.”

Why does this matter so much?

“Well, when they ask you a question about your job, they are basically asking, ‘can you do the job?’ If you aren’t answering that then they might think you can’t do it. Now I know I can do an interview without being nervous. I can actually prepare and be ready for it. That was really a turning point for me in my career.”

Jesse spent over 30 hours preparing for his next big interview. A lot of that was practicing with his wife. “She’d ask me questions, the first time I answered them I wasn’t that good, but the second time I was way better.”

“I’ve thought a lot about it over the last few weeks”, said Jesse, “I haven’t changed professionally that much. What I’ve changed is my ability to better communicate what I do.”

How much is that worth?

Jesse aced his interview, and when it came time to talk numbers he had prepared for that, too. He countered their offer of $90,000 and 1000 shares. “I can negotiate on cars and stuff, but on salaries everyone told me $5000 was the max. I showed them the pay range from my research and said ‘I’m not an average performer, I should be on the high end of this range not the low end.”

The company upped their offer to $110,000 and 5000 shares of the company.

“I really wanted those shares, I consider them a heavy buyout target and I want to be on that boat when it sales!”

You can bet Jesse is feeling confident now.

“I was really proud of myself, and my wife was really proud of me too.”

Now I know how to keep my hand on the pulse for the next dream job.

Jesse isn’t done yet – he’s looking towards the future. “I plan in two or three years to poke my head up. I have three different routes I’m thinking about. Working for myself, a straight vertical climb to a director role, or becoming an author.”

And he’s using the strategies in Find Your Dream Job to lay the groundwork now for his next move.

“This might be my first dream job, but when it comes time for the next round, I’ll review the videos, or better yet there will be a bidding war and they’ll just say ‘okay, show up at this time’”.

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  1. Sue

    I am messing up my interviews, too! One thing I am doing wrong is discussing things beyond the scope of the job. I recently interviewed for a job in recruiting, and I said that in the past, I went on campus. However, going on campus wasn’t a part of this job. I need to limit my universe to the job description. It’s a variation on rambling :/

    *I have a lot of enthusiasm for the Dream Job product. I am aspiring.

  2. Sean Mysel

    Practicing and doing your homework goes a long way. When I got my first full time job managing operations at a brand new sports arena, I went on tours of a bunch of huge facilities.

    Talked to people who ran them and asked them what their needs are. Once I walked into the interview, the only question that messed me up was “so tell me what it was like being in your mom’s womb..” I answered by saying that it was too early in my life to remember anything like that!

    Got the job, raises and bonuses…good job man!

  3. Eric

    Dream Job is totally worth it. I used the techniques to negotiate a $100k increase in total comp (salary + bonus) over my previous job. I taught my wife the techniques and she got an additional $100k in equity AND a shortened vesting period.

  4. Harry @ PF Pro

    Interviews are definitely tough and stressful, but they’re that way for everyone. I always dress to impress and make sure that you have researched the company. Learn about what they do, where they’re located, what projects they have going on and what they have for the future.

  5. Jeet Banerjee

    Interviews aren’t for everyone. Some people are great test takers while others aren’t so good. Interviews go the same way, you have to think of outside the box techniques to impress people now a days.

    Good article though!

  6. W at Off-Road Finance

    I’ve always interviewed well (I think I”m 9 for 10 on offers, and the other 1 I didn’t want after seeing the firm). The secret as far as I can tell is empathy – figuring out what the interviewer is trying to achieve/learn and giving them that.