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25 Questions and Best Practices For When You Receive An Offer

Congrats on receiving an offer! Deciding whether to accept the offer and negotiating its terms is a critical step in ensuring you choose the right opportunity. We spoke with exceptional top talent and Contrary's portfolio founders to create a list of questions to ask after you receive your startup job offer.

Still interviewing? Here are 23 questions and best practices for startup interviews.

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Receiving an Offer

You nailed the final round interview and believe you're about to get an offer. Here are questions and best practices for when a recruiter or hiring manager give you the call.

The Offer Call

1. Express excitement and appreciation.

You've worked hard to get to an offer and so has the company's recruiting team. Even if you have other offers, show your enthusiasm and appreciation to avoid burning a bridge if you ultimately decide to turn them down — you never know when your paths may cross in the future.

2. Take notes on the offer details.

As the recruiter dives into the offer details, be sure to write everything down. Some companies will follow up with a written offer immediately. Some will only prepare a written offer after you verbally accept the terms. Some will share 2 offer details, one that optimizes for cash and the other that optimizes for equity. You'd be surprised how often the verbally communicated terms do not appear in the written offer. Here are the critical points:

  • Role and Title
  • Base Salary
  • Equity (Ask if they're Restricted Stock Units(RSUs) or Stock Options and what the exercise price is)
  • Signing Bonus (if applicable)
  • Annual Bonus (if applicable)
  • Healthcare Benefits

3. Ask for a written offer letter.

Having an offer in writing gives you confidence that the company will act on their word. If the company is only willing to write an offer letter after a verbal agreement, you can send an email with the offer details you notated and ask for confirmation from your recruiter; however, having a formal agreement in writing is best.

4. What's the start date?

Recruiters generally expect that you will start in 2 weeks. Depending on your situation, you may want to take a break before your next job or start sooner. If you want to start a little later, just ask. Most recruiters and hiring managers are flexible with 1-3 additional weeks. Larger companies may be flexible with even more.

5. The recruiter will inevitably ask for your opinion on the offer. Restate the offer details to ensure that you have the right information and then let them know that you will circle back.

It's important to be thoughtful as you consider the offer (or at least pretend). Don't corner yourself by expressing your opinions about the offer without any extensive thought. Instead, you can mention that you will discuss with a mentor, family, etc. before getting back to the recruiter.

6. When does the offer expire?

Most companies have a 1 week offer deadline. If you need more time to wrap up other interviews, ask your recruiter for more time. Reiterate your excitement for the team and emphasize that you would like to have complete information to feel confident in your decision by finishing the process with other companies.

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Considering an Offer

Determine if this role is the right fit. Companies tend to be more willing to share information when they believe you'll be joining them, former and current employees can share their thoughts on the role and company, and you can negotiate your offer to meet your needs — know what you deserve and don't be shy to ask for it.

Assessing the Company

To assess whether the role and company are fit for you, ask these questions:

Questions for Leadership

Now that you have an offer, leadership will be more willing to share company details because they're incentivized to bring you onboard.

  1. If you haven't already asked in the interviews, ask these 23 questions on company operations, culture, and growth.
  2. What's your runway?
    This usually applies to early stage companies only where the runway is <2 years. The younger the company, the more risk there is in joining — and also the higher the upside.
  3. Are you planning to fundraise sometime within the next year?

Questions for Current and Former Employees

Talking to past employees is a great way to uncover red flags and better understand the employee experience.

  1. Why did you join the company?
  2. What was your experience negotiating with the company?
  3. For former employees: Why did you leave?
  4. For former employees: What do you wish you knew before starting?
  5. Is there anyone else you would recommend that I reach out?

Negotiating

Haseeb Qureshi, Managing Partner at Dragonfly Capital, wrote two excellent blog posts on how to successfully negotiate your job offer within the context of a startup or early stage company that further dive into this.

Here are some of Haseeb's key points and tips:

  1. Never describe the process as "negotiating". It immediately sounds adversarial. Instead, mention that you want to discuss the offer.
  2. Always appear positive and excited about the opportunity, even if the offer isn't initially exciting. Reiterate how you love the mission, the team, the problem they're solving, etc.
  3. Protect information that weakens your position. For example, don't get pressured into saying you'd accept an offer for a certain amount of salary.
  4. Communicate your Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement. If you have other offers, mention them. If you're thinking of going to grad school, mention that. However, continue to reiterate how excited you are about the opportunity you're negotiating for.
  5. Push for bonuses. Relocating bonuses and signing bonuses are generally the easiest to get because they are not recurring. Salary increases can be the most difficult.

In addition, here are additional tips to further optimize your compensation package:

1. Push for equity.

While you should optimize for what you want (more cash or more equity), ask for additional equity if the team is unable to go higher on cash. It means that there's less cash in your pocket in the short term, but it doesn't cost the company anything to give you that today and shows that you're committed to the company's long term success.

2. Ask for an annual target bonus.

Not all roles and companies have one but it never hurts to ask. This shows that you want to show your worth before asking for more cash.

3. Ask for a salary bump after the next round of funding.

For employees joining at the pre-seed and seed stages, it's inevitable that the companies won't be able to pay high cash salaries. It also shows that you have confidence in the company.

Managing Your Job Search

1. For other companies you are excited about, let them know you received an offer to expedite their interview processes.

Leverage the offer you received to get other companies to expedite their process and inform them of your offer deadline. This ensures that you're able to make an informed decision and don't have to turn down one offer just to wait for another company's decision.

2. If there are companies you would no longer consider given your current offer, politely withdraw your application.

Reach out to the recruiters of the companies you no longer wish to continue interviewing with to save both your time and the company's time and help you focus on the offers that are exciting to you!

3. Thank those that helped you prep.

You've asked friends and colleagues to refer you, introduce you and help you crush your interviews. Update them with the good news and thank them for their support. This is also a great opportunity for back-channeling if you received help from former or current employees.

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