Time is money. Time becomes even more valuable when you are looking for a job that suits your needs. When you are taking your time to interview with a company for a Product Manager position, the last thing you want is a low ball offer waiting for you.
In this article, we received an email from a fellow coaching client who is concerned he may be wasting too much time interviewing with the wrong companies. Let’s examine the challenges and Product Manage our way into a solution. Here’s what the client had asked us:
Dear Product Gym,
Always, I’m asked in the first interview (or before it) what my salary expectation is. I always try to deflect it, but sometimes the recruiter or hiring manager will tell me their salary cap, which sometimes happens to be a good bit lower than I would like to accept.
I already told them, “I would like to discuss money and salary more when I know more about the position later in conversations.
The recruiter would usually respond to me by saying, “our cap for this position is $100k.” I’m thinking I can just say whatever it takes to get to the next interview, and then see if I can renegotiate at the end. However:
- I just don’t want to waste too much time on a bunch of places that cannot meet my salary expectations or does not have money.
- I want to know what is the best way to bring the negotiation up later in the process?
Table of Contents:
The Solution to Problem #1: How to Make Sure this Interview is Not Going to Waste My Time
If your intention is to truly get better at Product Management interviewing, then you should continue to interview with this company. Your objective should always be to get to the next round of the interview process.
You do not know what the real budget the company has set aside for this position anyway. How would you know?
Honestly, how could you ever know what their real budget is? Are you going to audit them and their books? What about the companies that quote the highest salaries and, when offer time comes around, still give you a lowball offer?
Let’s think about it from a different perspective; would you tell a real estate agent, car salesman, or anybody trying to sell you something what your real budget is? How many times do you go shopping, say you are not looking and walk out with 3 or 4 bags worth of merchandise? When we turn the situation around, the truth is you will not tell anybody your true budget is either. Even if you would tell the truth, try to exercise some end user empathy and appreciate most people won’t. Human beings are not wired to tell the truth and sometimes people really don’t know.
The real problem is the fear of disappointment and rejection all job hunters feel. When you decided to commit to looking for a Product Manager (or any other) job, wasting your time was exactly what you signed up for. There is no way to avoid this fact. It’s a numbers game for the reason that there are simply too many factors beyond your control and you have to be able to accept that. Disappointment, frustration, and riding the emotional roller coaster was exactly what you signed up for.
More offers, even lowball offers, will help you more than no offers when you need more leverage to help your other offers pay more.
Stay focused on the process, rather than the outcome. You can’t control the outcome anyways. When you stay focused on the process, you can start seeing more things that you can do, in contrast to fixating yourself on the offer.
Watch this Brett Ledbetter Video, where he talks about why and how the best athletes and coaches around the world focus on the process rather than the outcome.
Solution to Problem #2: The Best Way to Negotiate the Offer Up Later in the Interview Process
The best way to negotiate the offer up later in the interview process is to deliver the most value-packed interview possible, showing that you can help them identify, mitigate, and neutralize challenges. Companies often are not bound to the budget they quoted; why would you need to be bound to the salary expectation you quoted earlier? What happens if you have another offer or multiple offers? Would your salary expectations not change too?
The secret to landing offers is making the interview all about the person that is interviewing you.
It hurts to hear this, but this interview is not about you (the applicant). It’s about them (the company that is interviewing you). It’s about their desires, pains, problems, concerns, etc. It’s all about them. Make it about them.
Treat Product Management interviews like consultations, not interviews.
You have to find a way to get them to want to talk to you, not the other way around. Let’s dissect the offer situation in 3 steps:
1. Think about all the people you have interviewed, you have hired, or people you love working with.
- What makes you love these people?
- Have you ever worked with somebody you were truly impressed with?
- Was it because they knew everything?
- Was it because you like them because of the way they approach problems?
- What was it about these people that made them so awesome to work with?
2. On the flip side, think about all the people that you didn’t hire or don’t like to work with. People that you would never want to see in your life again.
- What was it about them that made it so uncomfortable for you?
3. Lastly, ask yourself this honest question: Would you hire you? This is a fair question. Would you make an offer to yourself, if you could interview yourself?
Again, focus on the process rather than the outcomes because if you can win the process, then creating the outcome you want becomes a byproduct. There are going to be good days and bad days for those of you actively interviewing for a Product Manager role, just like there are good days and bad days for Product Managers. Go and change your perspective on interviews as an opportunity to help another person solve a problem.
In the book, The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday, one of the chapters is dedicated to how, at one time, world-renowned actor George Clooney struggled to land even the smallest roles.
Clooney was auditioning days and weeks on end without landing even some of the most undesirable roles. He probably felt many of the same emotions you are feeling right now. His career took a turn when he realized that the people that were trying to cast the best actor for this role had a problem that needed to be solved too, so that’s what Clooney focused on – helping them solve their problem.