Yes, you absolutely should negotiate your salary—here's how

Remember, this is called work, not play. You deserve to get paid an equitable amount of money for the work you're going to do.

woman on phone taking notes

Congratulations! You've got an offer! Before you accept the verbal offer you've received on the phone, we want you to practice saying this.

"Thank you so much. I'm so excited about the prospect of working with you and your team. Once I get the formal offer via email, I'll need a couple of days to process my final decision."

Then, oh my gosh, hang up. And start working on your negotiation plan.

Recruiters expect you to negotiate, so go for it.


Here's the deal. Only 63 percent of women negotiate salary offers. And when they do negotiate, 70 percent of the time they receive some kind of boost; and that amount ends up being about five percent higher than their male counterparts.

Why would you not do this? That's money laying on the ground, waiting for you to pick it up.

We hear objections to doing this all the time, including:

"I'm uncomfortable asking."

"I'm just happy to have a job."

"I'm afraid they'll rescind the offer."

"This is a good offer."

"Money isn't that important to me."

Remember, this is called work, not play. You're doing these jobs because you want meaning and fulfillment, sure. But you also want to get paid an equitable amount of money for the work you're going to do. It's called fair trade and the onus is on you to ask for it.

It's okay to be uncomfortable—you can research, prepare and practice so that you'll be ready. You want to keep your eye on the end goal, which is to get paid equitably for your work.

Pay negotiations are often positioned as a game or battle—something you have to win where there are rules of engagement, hardlines, ultimatums, and go/no-go conversations. That's a very adversarial, zero-sum equation in our estimation.

Remember, it's just a conversation

Instead, we suggest that you approach these interactions as a conversation. When it comes down to it, we're people having a conversation about what you're going to do at this new company and in this new role. Ideally, everyone wants to come out of that conversation feeling good.

Make sure to look at compensation websites to get a sense of both what you can command, as well as the pay band or range for this particular role. Salary.com, Comparably, LinkedIn and Payscale all provide this information at no charge. From there, you will be able to have a realistic view when considering your skills vs. performance vs. compensation.

In general, a reasonable negotiating goal may be 5 to15 percent above the initial offer. You can also think beyond money (such as time off, bonuses, and training) as you negotiate your compensation. Just be careful to avoid absolutes and ultimatums.

We also want to take a moment to remind you to bring up your future as part of this compensation conversation. When you bring up the topic of pay, managers often use this as a proxy for better understanding what motivates you, and to establish an idea of how you are thinking about your future within the organization.

Rather than allowing recruiters and hiring managers to draw their own conclusions, we suggest you tell them explicitly how you foresee your future. And do make sure your future management team understands that your focus is on the overall success of the organization, as well as for you individually. If it looks like your focus is a bigger paycheck and not the wellbeing of the organization, a pay conversation potentially falls flat.

Compensation structure

Now let's discuss how to think about compensation. When looking at total compensation, companies offer common types of benefits. Typical compensation packages include:

  • Health insurance
  • Performance bonuses
  • Vision and dental insurance
  • Retirement plans

Each of these has a cost to the company and a value to the employee. The values of these plans are sometimes not reported to the employee. Similar rates may not be available to you if you're paying for your health, vision or dental plans.

In addition to compensation and advancement opportunities, when you consider both the income and longer-term career prospects, we also recommend you consider where your values lie. Corporate values and culture issues are a key component to making a good transition into a new workplace, and you want to understand what they are, which ones are important to you, and how to find out about them.

To be clear, there's no right or wrong on these topics. This is more about what's important to you, and how this role and company syncs up with your values.

Factors you might want to take into account include:

  • Workplace culture
  • Personal life issues
  • Diversity and social responsibility
  • External recognition.

Glassdoor, Fairygodboss and other online workplace review sites are great sources for this information.

How to negotiate a salary

You've clarified details of the initial offer, gotten answers to all of your questions about the total compensation package, and considered your "must-have" list. You've evaluated the entire final written offer and compared it to other offers you might have. You've asked for a few days to consider. Now, you're ready to negotiate.

We'll walk you through this so you feel confident you're paid fairly, and know how to ask for what you want—and deserve.

Once you've determined what you think you are worth, based on your research, you want to get ready to talk. The order we recommend goes as follows:

1. Specify an amount.

Start with the basics. Both women and men who ask for more money in a salary negotiation are more likely to report getting one than those who don't speak up. And women have more reason to ask: Men are more likely to say they haven't asked for a raise because they got what they wanted without asking and are already well compensated.

Women are significantly less likely to ask for a particular amount, but people who are specific receive a greater increase in compensation on average than those who aren't. And interestingly, the actual amount of money you ask for doesn't appear to be as important as just proposing a number.

2. Prepare and practice.

Take the time to research and practice before a negotiation. Only a small percentage of individuals talk to others about how to approach the issue and rehearse the actual conversation. Make sure you do. There's evidence that people who take those additional preparation steps are more likely to get more money.

3. Make your pitch.

Tell them what you want, then be quiet. Many times, people are afraid of silence in a negotiation. But you must allow the person making the offer to hear what you've said and come up with a response.

4. Be ready for their response.

Here's what their responses may be:

Response #1: They accept your offer! Congrats and give yourself a big hug. You didn't just negotiate for yourself but did your part towards pay equity.

Response #2: They can't give you exactly what you want, but they can budge on a few things. This is where you need to really understand what is most important to you beyond salary. If you're happy with a bit less pay but more time to work from home, that's great! If they can't budge on money bring up some of the other variables and see if they can work with you. Even if they can't at this time bring up re-evaluating after 6 months.

Response #3: They can't work with you at all on anything you've asked for. Be mentally prepared for this and know that it's okay to still accept the offer if it feels right for you. Again you can ask to revisit this in 6 months if all is going well. If it doesn't feel right and you literally can't live on what the salary is then you need to be prepared to walk away.

Regardless, negotiating is showing the company that you have confidence and believe in your skills and what you have to offer the company. Companies want people who aren't afraid to have uncomfortable conversations and you're giving them immediate proof that you can in the most professional and respectful way.

Negotiation prep is critically important when you're looking to get paid equitably. Remember that it's part of a larger approach to the modern job search. You can also find more about resumes and how to play the job search game at BacktoBusinessBook.com.

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