The Interview Process Part 3: "You Don’t Get What You Deserve, You Get What You Negotiate"

How can we develop a successful career and be happy while doing so?

For most people, being happy while working seems impossible to achieve. Most people view jobs as a means to an end. But if we have this mindset, when will we be happy? Only on the weekends? Or while we sleep?

One way or another, our career is going to be a big part of our lives. Which is why we must find ways to enjoy what we do on a day-to-day basis. If we go back to Maslow’s pyramid, we see feeling valued, doing things that matter and have an impact contribute to our happiness. How can we be valued and have an impact on our jobs?

In the past articles (Part 1 and 2) we’ve described strategies and tactics that you can apply now to start walking in the path of a successful career. Our goal is to help you find the job that will not only allow you to pay the bills, but it will also add value to your life in many different ways.

Also, identifying your professional purpose will be key to start taking steps in the right direction. Be sure to check our FREE e-guide that will help you Identify Your Professional Purpose. 

As you read through, take note of the advice as Ramon Santillan is back with expert advice on how to negotiate a salary. 

Next Steps After the Interview


I am a little old-fashioned. I was married at 20 to my amazing wife and could not imagine a life without her. I go to bed early. And I believe in the power of handwritten notes.

A corporate email account receives, on average, 100+ emails a day. Then there are Slack messages, pings, social media notifications, texts, and phone calls. We all know the feeling. At night when you think about the day, try to imagine all of the electronic communication messages/notifications you received.

Now think about the last time you received a handwritten note with genuine appreciation.

How long has it been?

“the beauty of a well-crafted handwritten note is that it can show deeper investment and appreciation than a simple thank-you can. It can follow up on a conversation, remind someone they’re not forgotten, raise new issues, or even include a gift” - John Coleman, Harvard Business Review

You spent dozens of hours determining where you wanted to apply, networking, researching and preparing for the interview. That is a large investment, why wouldn’t you go the extra step?

Take the time to write a handwritten thank you note to your interviewer (bonus points for personalized stationery).

Does a handwritten note guarantee a job? No. Yet, that is not the point, to truly grow and become the professional you want to be, you must be willing to give true appreciation while not expecting anything in return.

You will be surprised at the offers you receive when you take that attitude.


Your next step begins when the interview is ending.

Uncertainty leads to speculation. And when you do so you are wasting your time and focus on things that may not even happen.

“I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.” - Mark Twain

You should always have a clear picture of what the next steps are. And it is a valid question to make at the end of the interview. With that piece of information, you should have an idea of when you should follow up, without letting anxiety be the drive behind that action.

If the interviewer tells you the next step will be the decision and you will receive it in x-days, then if by x-days you haven’t received a response it is fine to follow up.

You have to achieve a balance between being anxious or too eager, and not act as if you don’t care because you have “many other offers”. Be confident, not arrogant.

If you follow the methodologies we have been sharing in our past articles you should have at least a couple of interview processes, and you should be confident you will get an offer. This will allow you to focus on taking action instead of speculating about possible outcomes. If you don’t feel confident about you chances then you should contact Ramon, and he will help you get there as he has helped others do so.

How To Negotiate Compensation


Let’s be honest, if not knowing how to negotiate was the only obstacle people faced, the answer would be as easy as going online and googling “How to negotiate salary”. In less than 1 second you’ll get 6,250,000 results on how to do it.

And yet, people still don’t negotiate.

The reason most people don’t negotiate is not that they don’t know how to. It’s because they’re too afraid.

From my experience coaching dozens of people on how to negotiate their salaries, these are the top 3 fears they experience:

  1. Fear of asking for too much money
  2. Fear of being seen as “too greedy” (Asking for too many things)
  3. Fear of losing the job offer

You can read this post where I discuss in detail these 3 fears and how to overcome them.

It would be useless to show you how to negotiate if, at the end of the day, fear of negotiating will keep you from even trying so make sure you read that first.  

“Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.” - John F. Kennedy

Once you learn how to get over the fear, then you’re ready to go to the negotiation phase.

Now that you’re in the negotiation phase, let’s make sure you’re in the right mindset.  Many (inexperienced) negotiators think that you have to pound someone into the ground with aggressive tactics and shady mind games.

That may be fine when you’re haggling with some Moroccan street vendor you’ll never see again but it’s definitely not good when you have to see this person every day from 9-5 for the next several years.  

You want to be friends after this negotiation.  

So instead of seeing it as entering into battle, this is more like coming to an agreement.  Your goal is to show them why it benefits them to give you what you’re asking for.  Which brings me to my next point:

Negotiating is all about YOU.  

But wait.

It’s not about what YOU want, YOU deserve, or YOU need.  

It’s about how YOU can serve, YOU can contribute, and YOU can make an impact.

So instead of thinking of what you want, start off by thinking what you and your unique skills can offer first.  

“In life, like in business, you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate” - Chester L. Karrass

Being a “hard worker and dedicated” isn’t something only YOU can offer.

Instead, think back to your interview and the pain points that came up during the conversation. What needs fixing, how can you fix it, and what type of impact would that have on the organization?

Here is an example from a client that I coached through his salary negotiation at a medical testing startup.  

  • He knew that his new employer orders big quantities from a medical supply firm. As part of what he could offer, my client mentioned that he had a strong relationship with the vendors of another medical supply firm and could get discounts between 10-15%.  $50k a year in savings for his employer.
  • During the interview, my client found out that his new boss was worried about all the time and money wasted during retesting.  His new boss thought that having a process in place would solve all those problems.  My client prepared a training plan ready to implemented on his first day.  $35k a year in savings.
  • My client was close with several prospects that his new boss was going to target with a new product line.  He knew he could arrange for introductions and that his opinion would carry weight with the prospects.  These new clients were worth at least $250k a year.  

Total Potential Impact of $335k in the first year.

When presented this way, his new boss had no objection to giving a 25% salary increase to his original offer letter.  

Your goal is to create an impact so big at your new job that asking $10k, $15k, and even $40k increases would be a drop in the bucket compared to what you are contributing.

Now that you’ve answered what you bring to the table, let’s answer what you want.

Many people say they want more money.

They don’t even know how much. They just know they want more of it.  

However, if you really think about it, money is just a means to an end.  What is it that you really want to buy/get/acquire with the money?

Think about a Ferrari.  Many of us daydream about owning one and may even go to the website and build one to see how ours would be.  But what is the real reason you want a Ferrari?

Is it because you love fast cars or because owning a Ferrari means not having to worry about your clunker breaking down in the freeway during rush hour traffic?

For many of us, a Ferrari embodies the financial security to know that our car broke down, we wouldn’t have to worry about it.  It assumes that if you can afford a Ferrari, you probably don’t have to worry about finding the money for a repair bill.

In reality, you don’t need a Ferrari.  What you really want is a reliable car that gives you peace of mind when you drive it.

Money isn’t everything.  

Instead of just thinking in terms of dollar amounts, think about those other perks that you would pay money for.

Some examples and alternate options to money that I have helped my clients with:

  • Problem: More money to cover daycare
  • Solution: Flexible work from home schedule
  • Problem: More base pay to cover a 90-day commission delay
  • Solution: Reduce delay from 90 to month of sale
  • Problem: More money to cover Continuing Professional Education (CPE)
  • Solution: Have employer pay for CPE
  • Problem: More money to make up for not spending weekends with husband
  • Solution: 9/80 work schedule with Fridays off

Now that you’ve thought about what you want, let’s see how that compares to what others receive.

There have been studies that show that if given the choice of earning $200k but being the lowest paid person compared to their peers or earning $75k but being the highest earner amongst their peers, people usually pick the $75k (being poor but richer than everyone else) as opposed to being rich but poorer than the rest.

I bring this up because you need to first find out what others in your field are being paid to see where what you want lands in that range.  The balance between being underpaid and ripping off your employer is being well compensated.  You can find this by looking up sites like Glassdoor and checking with friends in similar fields to find an average.

Again, use this to find a range of salaries for that particular job and find a spot where you feel comfortable and that aligns with the amount of value you can bring.  Aim too low and you’ll always kick yourself for not asking for more.  Aim too high and you’ll always be worried that you’ll be the first to be fired when cutbacks come.  

This next part is fairly easy.  You will call your contact at the new company and use the following script:

“Hi NAME OF PERSON.  It’s YOUR NAME and I received your offer letter.  There are some items about compensation I’d like to discuss.  Are you the correct person for this?”

If they say “No”, ask them who is and have them transfer you to that person.

If they say “Yes”, ask if this is a good time to talk about this and reiterate your enthusiasm.

“Very well.  I am very excited about my first day at NAME OF COMPANY but first I wanted to discuss the compensation package.  Is this a good time?”

If “No” ask for a time that would be more convenient.  You don’t want to corner them and instead, want to keep it friendly (remember the first tip about making it a win-win and still liking each other at the end).

If “Yes” use this:

“I have been doing research and based on that research and what I bring to the table, I think my compensation should be at $X.  I have several reasons for that and will gladly share them if you’re interested”

If they start with the whole “The economy is bad/we have tight budgets/we’re already paying at the high end as it is”, let them know that you understand but that you’d still like to share the reasons why you’re making that request.

“I understand what you’re saying.  However, I think I bring several things to the organization that would be useful.  That’s why I want to talk about how we can make this a win-win.  Can I tell you my reasons?”

Go through the different ways you can make an impact on the organization relating things to $ amounts as much as possible.  Remember that you want to give them so much value, that it would be stupid for them to deny a salary increase.

When you’ve provided your reasons, you can bring up the other items you’d like to discuss like flexible work schedule and other perks.  Oddly enough, these non-monetary items are more likely to be approved since they don’t typically cost the company money.  

Realize that sometimes you can’t get what you want.  At the end of the day, if you think the offer they’ve made you is fair and you are still excited about taking the job, then, by all means, go ahead.  

However, if you feel you aren’t being treated fairly and that you would be underpaid or unappreciated, then you may be better walking away.  You don’t want to work for a place that is cheap with employees.

So let’s say you did all this and they still won’t budge but you are still interested in the job.  You can always save face and open up the opportunity to revisit the issue at a later time.

Just say this: “Thank you for agreeing to discuss this with me.  I understand the situation and I still really want to take this opportunity.  How about we do this?: Let’s revisit the issue in 6 months after I have hit some of the targets you want me to achieve.”  

More likely than not, they’ll say yes so make sure to sit with them on your first day at work and get detailed goals with metrics.  More importantly, make sure you hit those goals.  Six months later, you can revisit the issue by bringing up the metrics you hit that they agreed to.


So there you have it.  

The most important part of all of this is to practice, practice, practice.  No matter how many books I read, the only real progress I made was when I started practicing and implementing the strategies on a smaller scale and work my way up to an actual salary negotiation.  

If you feel you need more hands on help, click here to find out more about a one-on-one coaching program.


Ramon is the expert in salary negotiation so listen to him!

I have been a contract worker for the better part of 15 years either as a personal trainer, adjunct college instructor, non-profit staff member, or consultant. I am going to take a different approach as we have some entrepreneurs reading.

I will be the first to admit, negotiating a contract is difficult. You feel like it is you against a giant. What happens if they say now, what happens when there are 5 of them in the room and just me, what happens if I ask for too much, or worse ask for not enough and they immediately say yes?

These are real fears and you have to combat them by sticking to your value. What do you offer a client that they cannot do for themselves?  

Do you have data to back up your claims? If no, get data by working for free, i.e. take on a project as a “case study” to prove your marketing, finance, accounting, or consulting talents. If yes, then make sure to have the data readily available to prove you will bring X amount of value to a client.

Here is an example from when I was a personal trainer. After three years of being a trainer, I had a system that was very successful for clients. One of my potential clients purchased a wedding dress a few sizes too small and already had the date set. She came to me to fit in that dress.

This was easy.

I had a portfolio of before-and-after profiles of clients. I asked her, is X amount of money worth having your dream wedding. Boom, contract signed.

Prove your value and then negotiate deliverables. Do not negotiate price. For example, I have a three-tiered pricing system.

  • I charge ______ per hour for remote work for a one-time project
  • I charge ______ per hour for on-site work for a one-time project
  • I charge 80% of the above for a monthly retainer, i.e. for me, knowing how much is coming in per month is worth lowering my rate as I can budget expenses

The key is to keep the pricing, again negotiate deliverables, don’t negotiate price. The following conversation happens often.

  • Client: we need XYZ accomplished within 2 months
  • Me: that is completely doable, in my experience XYZ will take 80 hours and cost _____.
  • Client: how did you come up with that number
  • Me: in the past, similar projects have taken that much time, and my hourly rate is ______
  • Client: I can’t afford that
  • Me: how can I lower the rate if it takes 80 hours?  What we can do is the first two aspects of the project and hand-off the third to an internal employee
  • Client: okay, let’s go with the first two aspects as those are the most important
  • Me: I completely understand, the first two aspects would take 60 hours and cost ______
  • Client: sounds good, what do we need to do next
  • Me: I will send over a contract tomorrow with the agreed deliverables and we can get started immediately

Seriously, this conversation has happened multiple times. Do I budge on price? Rarely, and only if perks are involved, i.e. equity, travel expenses, or something else that I highly value.

The point is, if you are a contractor, do not negotiate your price unless the extra value is substantial. Negotiate deliverables and stick to your price based on the value you bring to a client.


Agreeing on the value of something is usually a complex task.

In finance, valuation depends on a lot on forecasting. And forecasting depends on a lot on assumptions. The result is an educated guess, but your assumptions have to be based on strong data and sources.

The process is similar when negotiating compensation.

In order to ask for something, you must have strong data and sources to prove that the value you are asking for is justified.

As Ramon pointed out, money is not the only thing that has value. Different people value different things.

First, you have to understand the value that you will be bringing in and able to create once you are part of an organization.

After that then you should do some research on how much compensation is usually attributed to the position and the value creation process you will be part of. With this information you will be able to have a better grasp of what your compensation should look like:

  • Average and range of compensation for the specific job within the industry
  • Average and range of compensation for an MBA, with X years of experience
  • Different things that are part of a compensation package
  • How does the career and compensation progression look like

These are just some of the points of comparison that you could have. The more data and information you have, the stronger your valuation will be.

If you do your due diligence you will be well prepared to have a conversation about compensation with a focus on creating value for the organization and for you.

It's in the best interest of both parties to feel good after that conversation. Companies want employees that feel valued and motivated to work, and individuals want to cover their basic needs and start moving towards achieving self-actualization needs (see Maslow’s pyramid), which will allow them to create more value for the organization.

Talking about money it's usually uncomfortable for most people. If you keep avoiding it, it will keep being uncomfortable.

Embrace every opportunity you have to talk about money and negotiate. Look at those situations as an opportunity to practice your skills. By doing so you'll be on your way to becoming a great negotiator.


Over the past three weeks, we have covered identifying where you would like to work along with securing interviews, how to conduct research before your interview, and now how to follow up as well as negotiating your salary.

You now have the basics to go find your ideal industry and career! These insight work and were compiled based on experience, insights from top professionals, and our interview expert Ramon Santillan. 

For more detailed steps on perfecting your interview answers, make sure to get Ramon’s book: Big 4 Interview Questions: Why the Answer matters more than the Question.  

Additionally, in the upcoming weeks, we will place the three articles in a free e-guide on Your MBA Purpose.  Stay tuned as it will be available shortly!

This is part of a series of articles by Alejandro I. Sanoja and Matt Avery, see our past articles here.