microsoft

Ask Gayle: How do you negotiate offers for the big companies?

Gayle, I recently got an offer from a major software company, but it's not quite what I was hoping for. How can I negotiate my offer?

~ PV

First of all, you're off to a great start by just trying to negotiate. Most people don't even do that.

Much of the standard negotiation advice applies here:

  • Having competing offers will give you leverage
  • Know what you can get an other companies (goes back to the competing offers thing)
  • Being able to quantify your value to the company - what can you do for them?
  • Think big picture. Maybe you can't get a salary bump, but perhaps you can get a better signing bonus. Or maybe you can get relocation in cash, instead of the company directly paying for it. Or, perhaps you can get an agreement for an earlier review or opportunity for promotion.

One thing to note with big companies like Microsoft is that they often have "levels" for employees, with a small salary range for anyone at that level. You have some wiggle room within that range, but larger bumps may require jumping up to the next level. You'll need to understand what you need to demonstrate to reach that level, and use examples from your past to demonstrate that you have these qualities.

More than a number: How much does Google care about GPA?

Gayle, I'm currently a junior at Cal Poly, and my GPA isn't great. I estimate when I graduate it'll be between a 2.7 and 3.1. Will that put me out of the running for Google and Microsoft? Do those companies really have a minimum GPA requirement? Is there anything I can do to offset my low GPA to increase my chances of getting hired?

~ Alex

Not only is there not GPA requirement, but you don't even necessarily need to have gone to college. I worked with a number of people at Google who had dropped out of college. Does that mean GPA doesn't matter? Not quite.

Both Google and Microsoft will try to use any available metrics to predict whether or not you'd be a successful employee. Once you've interviewed, your interview performance matters much, much more than anything on your resume. In fact, I never even remember GPA being discussed after someone's interview.

In the resume selection process, GPA can certainly have an impact, but it's not the only factor. Ultimately, companies are looking for a "track record of achievement," or signs that you're smart and that you can code. That can be one or more of these factors:

  • Attending a good school
  • Internships / jobs at other "good" companies
  • A strong GPA (above 3.0)
  • Big / cool projects (course projects, open source work, things you've done 'for fun')
  • Other technical work: TAing, etc

If you don't have a great GPA, that's okay. Many people get interviewed with low GPAs, but they compensate with other projects and work. In fact, that's exactly what I did (my GPA varied between a 3.0 and a 3.3).

One final thing: if you're trying to compensate for a lower GPA with other projects, the quality of your resume tends to make a bigger difference. After all, if the numbers are telling a great story, it's that much more important that you learn how to.

Read our resume tips on the links below, or check out CareerCup's professional resume review service.