How a pro does it — My friend Rachel made $1,000 an hour negotiating a new job

Ramit Sethi

Here’s what my 25-year-old friend Rachel just negotiated:

“I got a 28% raise in base salary which comes out to more than $1000/hr based on how much time I spent. Plus stock options, which at least allow me the luxury of dreaming about being a gazillionaire :)”

How? I asked her to write up how she did it…

“I’ve applied to, and been ignored for, many many job openings – more than I care to share. Despite this I decided to jump back into the job market a few months ago after doing marketing for a large hotel in San Francisco. I found a marketing manager position on a site called VentureLoop (Craigslist for start-ups) and through it I sent in a resume which snagged a phone interview, which was followed by an in-person interview, which was followed by an offer letter.

Sounds like a cakewalk, right? Actually, the VP of Marketing told me that I had the least experience of anyone she was interviewing – then she hired me anyway. I can’t pinpoint exactly why I was so successful in getting this job in contrast to all of my past attempts, but I can think of a few things that probably made the difference. My strategies weren’t rocket science but they involved time and effort, two things which definitely make a difference separating you from the pack.

1. I broke down their job posting line by line and wrote down projects I’d worked on or skills I possessed that directly related to their description.
2. I researched their website extensively, read media articles about the company, and looked up the management teams’ backgrounds so that I could speak knowledgeably about the company and why I was a good fit.
3. I prepared a spiel about my somewhat eclectic resume, which can look unfocused if not set in the proper context.
4. I called an expert on start-ups, finance, bargaining and a half-dozen other things to get some outside counsel. Ramit gave me some key advice, including “tell them you want to get your hands dirty,” and “suggest three things you would do to improve/enhance their marketing efforts”. Yes, he does talk just like he writes on his blog.
5. I actually took Ramit’s advice, which is where a lot of my work came in. I dreamed up three proposals for generating greater interest at tradeshows, better responses to direct marketing campaigns, and increased name recognition in the general population.”

Wow! So the interview must have gone really well, right? Not quite…and Rachel’s description of what she did is a classic case in turning a missed opportunity into a chance to win.

“I never actually found a good opportunity to mention my ideas (this despite a four-hour interview). I emailed the proposals to my potential boss instead, using them as a way to continue self-advocating even though I was no longer in her office. I then individually emailed every person I spoke to that day to thank them for their time. Might have been overkill, but then again, my email flurry may have been the tipping point for my hiring.

My references later told me that the VP had been impressed with my energy and intelligence, and had decided she would rather train someone with potential than hire a more experienced, and perhaps less flexible, individual. Three weeks of sustained research and planning paid off with an entirely new career – a pretty stellar return on the investment of my time.”

Just notice how this is the exact embodiment of everything iwillteachyoutoberich stands for. Rachel eliminated barriers and carefully researched her options, took action by applying for a job, reached out to experts for advice, and came in with a presentation that was better than everyone else’s (so much so that she didn’t have to negotiate much). And when she didn’t get a chance to show off all of her presentation, she sent it by email — even though some people would think that was “weird.”

She came to play.

Getting rich isn’t about one silver bullet or secret strategy. It almost never happens by sitting in a room coming up with an idea. It happens through regular, boring, disciplined action. Most people only the results of all this action — a winnable moment, or an article in the press. But it’s this behind-the-scenes work that really makes you rich.

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  1. Tyler

    Interestingly enough I had the exact same thing happen to me. I ended up getting a 60% raise over my previous position…mostly due to the research I completed on the company and the presentation that I prepared.
    Deja Vu for me!
    Great story!

  2. Jim M.

    I did this to get my dream job at a University that I had wanted to work at for some time. Unfortunately, the University closed this extension campus I worked at 2 years after I got there, but the point is that this strategy works!

  3. Ben

    On a related anecdote, I interview a lot of intern candidates. One kid I interviewed was looking for an internship off of my usual hiring period. I was insanely busy at the time and wasn’t really sure I needed interns. He emailed me every other day until I hired him.

    Moral of the story: Be persistent! You may think you have been denied, but many times you just have a slow bureaucracy working against you. There has never been an easier or cheaper time to command someone’s attention, so do it.

  4. Liz

    Hi! I’m new to this website and LOVE it. I would like to know more about #3: a spiel about a somewhat eclectic resume. Any pointers?

  5. jw

    Great article with solid tips. I am applying now and will definitely use some of these tips. On a side note, years ago when I got my current job, I did send a thank-you note to everyone I talked to AND also sent in work samples to my potential boss. I got the job even though I was changing fields so it does help to show enthusiasm and initiative.

  6. Johan

    To be honest, a lot of the problems that I’ve seen and heard from friends is the idea of entitlement. When you’re going into an interview, you’re there to impress and wow the employer. You have to do everything in your power to make them feel that you’re the best candidate, even if you are the best on paper.

    I’m 3 years out of college, but have moved up and received great jobs just because I go the extra mile. I’ve been in a hiring position now for a while and it amazes me how many people graduate and feel their diploma is enough to get them a good job and thus don’t do anything more for the interview.

    Here is a quick rundown of what I did for all of my interviews (out of around 15 interviews, only 5 did not extend an offer to me):

    1. Research the company. Find out their weaknesses, their competitors, their market, their goals, etc.
    2. With this research, formulate 2-4 plans you think should be implemented to meet their goals, fill a weakness, break the company into a new market, whatever. Just come with discrete and detailed plans.
    3. If you’re unable to go through all of your plans, email it to your recruiter + your potential boss.
    4. For that matter, get business cards from everyone to speak with. Email them the later that same day discussing what you went over in the interview. This also gives you a chance to remedy an answer you gave which didn’t go over to well. But even if you don’t do this, email them all and thank them for their time. They DID take time of their work day to interview you, you know?
    5. This is pretty old school, but I do it anyway. I send a typed, old school mail, letter to the recruiter + potential boss, thanking them for taking the time. I know, sappy, but I remember getting hired at my first job and seeing it on my boss’ desk the first week, so I know he got it at least.

    I think some of these tips overlap above, but I think all taken together, it really puts you in a good position to get the job. Just don’t be lazy and/or entitled. 🙂

  7. Curt

    I badgered this bunch of weirdos who had a wiki farm until they felt they’d lose their minds if they didn’t give me the time of day. I won them over by performing a profanity-laced interpretation of Euripides’ The Trojan Women using hand puppets and modern dance.

  8. JohnofScribbleSheet

    Impressive. Hard work and Audacity can make a hell of a difference.

  9. Helen

    LOL, sounds like me! i talked to ramit about getting a merchandising position even though i have no finance background whatsoever, and here i am! i didn’t negotiate my salary though…i guess that will have to be on the agenda.

  10. Elizabeth

    I’m glad I came across this article. I’m in the process of searching for a job now and this article was really inspiring. I too have an eclectic resume!!

  11. Liz

    I can totally relate in a way. I had went on the interview for my current job a few weeks before my graduation (assoc. in graphic design). I hadn’t done any extra research but still had everything I had learn in school fresh in my head. I just went in and showed my stuff, needless to say they were very impressed. The company is small, but quickly growing. The position i was applying for was an unpaid internship, but I was straight up with them and said I can’t work for free (especially because my program at school didn’t offer internships at all). Six weeks later I got a call for a full-time position to start immediately, and that was almost a year ago.

  12. Lea

    Congrats to Rachel – she did well. 🙂

    My ‘problem’ with job hunting has always been picking out the jobs to actually work for – its hard putting out lots of apps every week and then never hearing a word back from them. How can you justify putting in 20 or 40 hours of work on a job app, with no idea if they will actually look at it or not?

    Ideally, I reckon job applications should go more like:
    – put in basic application, little more than submit cv, maybe answer a quick online multiple choice
    – this is probably automatically filtered
    – the short list gets notice of same, so they can go into a flurry of work, knowing that someone will actually look at their app.

    Of course, ideally recruiters would manage this, but I often wonder how they earn any money, given how often they don’t reply. 🙁

    My dream world is a happy place 😉


  13. April

    I did something similar to this to get the job I have now. The first time I applied, I couldn’t get a phone call. So a year later, when another position opened up, I politely stalked the decision-makers. I dropped off my resume, letters of recommendation, and writing samples. I included a copy of my qualifications for each item listed on the job description and a “first 90 days” plan of action. Then I looked at the job code and was able to figure out that the code used the first and last initials of the decision-maker for that opening, and I looked for her e-mail address on the website. I sent her a quick e-mail introducing myself and saying I was looking forward to interviewing. After the first interview, I sent a round of handwritten thank-you notes to everyone in the room. After the second interview, I did it again. I also researched the organization and came prepared with three strengths to really emphasize (kind of like branding) and a list of questions to ask them.

    It was a ton of work, but it got me the job. My biggest downfall was that I accepted the salary they offered without trying to negotiate it more. It was slightly higher than what I had made before, and I was so worried about having to tell them that I was leaving for Europe in two weeks that I just accepted it. Dumb move, I know.

  14. April

    Lea–maybe you should focus on a handful of companies and go the extra mile to get noticed. I don’t suggest electronically submitting resumes, and if they require it, I’d do it, but still drop it off in person. I include lots of extras that other applicants probably won’t include…some of the things Ramit’s friend does, some others that I mentioned above, too.

    I think submitting 30 applications a week and only doing the minimun isn’t as effective as researching several companies and really putting forth effort with each of those. I imagine that any job listing gets dozens or maybe hundreds of applicants, so the trick is to make them remember you, even if you think you might be going at it a little too aggresively (I did think this, but it got me the job).

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  16. Mehul

    So if Rachael worked a normal forty hour work week, she would make $40000 for the week? How intensive is this job?

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  19. Ryan

    great inspirational article about getting up and persevering and making your experience and skills work for you… however I don’t see where any negotiation came into play. So she got offered more money than her previous job? The title is misleading.

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