American women on average lose out on $840 billion each year because of the wage gap—and no, it’s not fair. One way to start collectively changing the disparity in pay is by asking for more, and that’s why learning how to negotiate a job offer is so important. “The gap exists for a number of reasons,” says Carol Frohlinger, JD, managing partner of Negotiating Women, a firm that works to train women in negotiation tactics. “The reality is that women aren’t negotiating money because most women are reluctant to advocate for themselves.”
The fact of the matter is that talking about money is uncomfortable for anyone, but this is your life you’re discussing, and you should be able to take the reins. When you get that phone call or email that a new role is yours, you may think all the hard work is done, but that’s not true. You can call into question salary, potential bonuses, paid time off, and even health benefits if that’s most important to you. Chances are that you would negotiate more often if you felt prepared, considering only 15 percent of women polled during a survey said they felt they were effective negotiators.
Below we’ve rounded up the five tricks for negotiating a job offer to always keep in your back pocket. Here’s to asking for what you deserve.
Have a Number in Mind
You should have already done the research as to what the “right salary” would look like for you in this next role, based on what others are making in your industry and market. This can include other things like benefits too. When a job offer doesn’t hit that mark, then you will always have a benchmark you can work toward with the hiring manager. “The first number becomes an anchor,” says Robin Pinkley, co-author of Get Paid What You’re Worth.
Practice Makes Perfect
Having this conversation in person or on the phone can be uncomfortable if you’re not used to it. Instead, write a mini script of what you’ll say and practice in front of a mirror or with a family member or friend if they’ll listen. Hearing these words come out of your mouth a few times will make you more confident and it will help you get many of the nerves out the first few times around (which is just what you need).
Know What to Say
You want to make sure you still remain positive, which can be hard when all you can think about is how you’re disappointed. “Start with some enthusiasm,” says Alexandra Levit, co-author of Mom.B.A. Then add, “The number I had in mind was more $X because …” and explain why you are worth it. Giving hard facts about successes you’ve had at your previous role (or roles) will help you make your case.
Avoid an Email Rebuttal
It’s much easier to craft your argument in an email, but it’s that much simpler for a hiring manager to send you a generic reply that they haven’t allocated any more money to this role. Experts say it’s so much better to have this conversation on the phone or face-to-face if it’s an option. “If you can’t do it in person, do it on the phone, but actually do it live,” says Dawn Fay, district president for staffing agency Robert Half. And don’t forget to be polite while doing so, as it will get you much farther.
Use Time in Your Favor
A friend told me that one time she had discussed a certain salary with human resources, but then when they called to give her an actual job offer, they offered her less than what was discussed. Instead of simply accepting something she wasn’t comfortable with, she explained to human resources that the number was lower than previously mentioned and she would need a day to think about it if they couldn’t budge (they said they couldn’t). Not all too surprisingly, her potential manager ended up calling her later that day with a higher salary offer, saying they told human resources they needed her in that role. Sometimes, a little silence can do some major good.
Next up, learn about the types of leadership that break the glass ceiling.
National Partnership for Women & Families. Fact Sheet: America's Women and the Wage Gap. Updated March 2020.
Monster.com. How Salary Negotiation Contributes to the Wage Gap.
Snider S. Salary Negotiation: How to Negotiate Salary and Succeed. U.S.News & World Report. Updated January 16, 2019.