Guest contributed by Susan Brennan
On April 9, a US appeals court ruled that a woman cannot be paid less than a man for the same job simply because they had a prior lower salary.
While this is certainly progress in the right direction, it will be interesting to see how companies enforce and track this in action.
Do you cringe a little when you think about salary negotiations? While negotiating your salary might feel like something you would rather avoid, deciding, whether or not, to accept a salary offering and having the confidence to negotiate for higher, is a skill that take you well beyond your life right now.
However, pay secrecy or being discouraged to discuss salary is a real thing that many people, especially women, deal with. According to a survey from the Institute of Women’s Policy Research, 51 percent of women reported, “The discussion of wage and salary information is either discouraged or prohibited.” And with women in the United States earning on average 80 cents to every dollar a man makes, the time for women to feel confident to earn what they deserve and have these conversations is now.
Here is a guide on salary negotiating from the moment you receive the offer to the moment you and your future employer agree upon a number.
- Before the offer—and even the interview—do your homework so you have data to back up your case
Before you start talking numbers, figure out how much you need to live by doing an inventory of your fixed expenses. This is called determining your bottom line. What do you have to pay every month rain or shine; rent, child care, food, car payment? This isn’t necessarily the number you should settle for, but it will give you your bottom line—then build up. Caveat: Employers do not care what your expenses are, so don’t use this as an argument for more money.
- Know your worth
There are a lot of resources to help you determine what the market is paying for similar positions and experience levels. Websites like Glassdoor and Payscale allow you to plug in a job title and years of experience and get a range for what the market will bear for that kind of role. The numbers will take into account geography and a number of other factors that have an impact. Across industries, pay gaps vary. For example, female doctors earn significantly less than male doctors, an average of 28 percent.
There are also some awkward situations you need to be ready for, such as:
- On the first interview, you’re asked about your salary expectations. A good (and honest) response is to tell the interviewer that at this point, you’re focused on learning more about the role and what you will be doing before moving forward with salary. If you absolutely need to answer, never provide a single number; have a range ready based on your research so you have data to back you up. If you’re asked about salary on an online application, try to skip that question or enter a range if possible; otherwise enter the high end of your range.
- You get the offer at a lower salary than you expected. First, express that you are excited about being offered the position and the value you can add to the company. Then add something like this (given that you’ve done your homework on fair market salary): “I did want to talk to you more about the base salary because I’ve done research around comparable roles with my background in [insert experience], and my expectation was that I would be in the range of [insert range here] and I’m wondering if there’s room to negotiate.” And make sure you also ask questions about benefits such as health coverage, retirement matching, and vacation; they can add a lot of value and should be taken into consideration.
- You want to negotiate the salary. Should you email, meet in person, or make a phone call? The natural tendency for a difficult conversation is to email, but when it comes to salary it’s very important to have a conversation if you can. You can certainly send email to say you would like to talk more about the offer, but set up a time to talk. It will help both of you get a good read on each other, and you can get answers quickly. If the answer is “No” to negotiation, ask when you could expect to get closer to your range. “How do people in this position historically move up the range? How often will I be reviewed and see salary increases?”
- You get the call with the job offer and salary you want. Should you accept? First and foremost, do not say “Yes” right away, as it binds you without knowing the full terms of the offer, including benefits and reviews. Pause, take a deep breath, be gracious; and buy some time. A good response: “I’m thrilled to get the offer and I will definitely take some time to think about it. Could you send an email with all of the details and we can schedule a follow up call to discuss?” This is important: Do not make verbal acceptance to an offer without reviewing all the details! It may seem counterintuitive to pause after all your work negotiating, but there are a lot of other details that are part of the offer. The contracts are typically written by a lawyer or human resources personnel and can be binding— even if you’ve only made a verbal agreement. Carefully review the agreement once you receive it.
The bottom line of successful salary negotiation especially for women: Know your budget and have data on the market range (versus a single number) to back up your worth. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you deserve; but make sure you are vision-driven—the value you will add to the company—and data-informed.
Susan Brennan is Associate Vice President of University Career Services at Bentley University and co-host of the career advice podcast Counter Offer, the podcast that helps you love Mondays. Over the past decade, she has put Bentley on the map for delivering impactful career education and outcomes, with 99% of first-year students participating in her team’s ground breaking career development course and 97% of 2017 graduates employed or attending graduate school within six months of graduation.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions of guest contributors are not necessarily those of theglasshammer