3 Must-Dos for Negotiating Your Salary When Starting a New Job

Originally published on Sharpheels.com

If you never negotiate your starting salary, you’re potentially leaving, according to a reputable publication, a million dollars on the table throughout the course of your career. That’s a lot of money to be losing just because you don’t want to ask a question that makes you feel uncomfortable. But statistics show that women have trouble with this area time and time again. One study found that just 1/8th of women will negotiate their salary compared to 50% of men. Not to mention the fact that women are already only getting paid $0.79 on the dollar compared to their male counterparts.

When it comes to determining salary compensation, we’re also working with a flawed system – calculating it off a candidate’s previous salary rather than paying for the position’s scope of work. This affects women in particular. As the SVP of People Operations at Google, Laszlo Bock, wrote this year in the Washington Post, about the gender pay gap: “By paying [instead] for the role, not the person, you start with a clean slate and mitigate any bias embedded within [the employee's] prior compensation. In other words, you correct the pay bias that exists in society.”

But not all companies are on board to address the pay bias that Google is aiming to fix. So what’s a job-seeker to do? Here are three key things to do when negotiating your salary, right after you receive the job offer:

Be Prepared
When you are a job-seeker, expect that the recruiter and hiring manager will ask about your salary history and requirements, and come to the interview prepared.  It may seem early in the interview process to be discussing salary, but you should be ready to talk money right off the bat. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had clients tell me that they got flustered when they were asked about salary on an interview — so much so that they ended up giving away the amount they were making without doing their homework.

So…when you’re asked what you’re making, make sure that the number you’re giving includes everything in your current benefits package — not just your base salary. This number should include your base, PLUS bonus, benefits like your 401k match, paid vacation and health insurance.

You’ll also want to be armed with the knowledge of what the role for which you are interviewing  should pay, based on the industry, years of experience required, and location. There are a lot of useful resources like Glassdoor.comSalary.com andComparably.com that can help with this, so take the time to get a feel for what the typical salary range is for the jobs you’re pursuing.

Conquer the Fear
Most of my clients aren’t comfortable negotiating their salary. When I ask why they’re hesitant, the responses that I hear are almost always influenced by fear. This is particularly the case with my female clients, who worry that the offer will be rescinded if they ask for more money — or that they’ll seem ungrateful by requesting more.

Here’s the thing: as long as you’re coming back with an educated “ask” that’s backed-up by the market research of what the industry, role and years experience should pay, there’s no reason that a company should rescind a job offer. Most companies expect you to negotiate, so they’ll throw out a lower number in order to have the room to meet your ask. In fact, a female recruiter once told me that she always feels a twinge of guilt when her female candidates don’t try to negotiate, because there’s nothing that she can do to increase their base salary if they don’t ask!

In the rare event that a company does rescind the offer, take a minute to step back and ask yourself, honestly: Do I really want to work for this company? What they have just done is a huge red flag, and paints a clear picture of the lack of value they have for their employees.

So, when given the opportunity, go for it. Negotiating your salary doesn’t make you seem ungrateful – rather, it’s not showing your enthusiasm that will make you seem unappreciative. Thus, when you’re offered the role, reiterate your strong interest in the position and the company first — then follow up your genuine excitement with an inquiry about your salary.

Don’t Be the First to Give your Number Away
There’s a saying in business: The first person to give away a number always loses. That’s also true when negotiating your salary.

However, sometimes it’s tough to get your interviewer to state their number first. So if you’ve tried dodging the question a few times and your interviewer keeps insisting they need to know what you’re currently making, my favorite way to address the question is to flip it right back to the hiring manager or recruiter.

For example, “I’m focused on making an impact here at your company. My research shows that the industry standard pays around $75,000 – $85,000 for roles with a similar level of responsibility. Is that pay range consistent with the budget you have for this role?” This shows the recruiter or hiring manager that you’ve done your research and that you’re aware of the “going rate.” It also establishes a baseline for the discussion that is in line with the job you will be doing vs. your previous positions.

Bottom line: You’ll never know whether or not you’re leaving money on the table if you don’t speak up. When interviewing, come prepared with an educated (researched) “ask,” push past the fear, and then request the amount of money you know you deserve. Three things to remember that should get you paid what you’re worth!


Mary Beth Ferrante