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Make It Count: My Top 5 Salary Negotiation Tips

Let’s be honest: Salary negotiation isn’t fun.

Let’s be honest: Salary negotiation isn’t fun. It can be awkward, uncomfortable and downright painful (depending on who’s on the other side of the negotiation table). But, no matter the scenario, it’s important. Two million dollars important to be more specific. That’s right — women who do not negotiate at the start of their career could leave up to $2M on the table. That’s a lot of cheddar! And sadly, while 46% percent of men negotiate their salary after a job offer, only 30% of women do. No bueno — we can do better, ladies! And if there’s one thing I’ve learned throughout my career, it’s that the negotiation process with a prospective company is reflective of what you’re about to get yourself into. If a company is difficult, rude or unwilling to give you your worth, that will not change once you get on board.

So without further ado, here are my top five tips for salary negotiation:

1. Be fearless. 55% of women are apprehensive about negotiating. That number drops to 39% for men. Why? No one should ever be afraid to negotiate when an offer is on the table. If an offer is extended — trust me — the company wants you. A great question to ask when you receive an offer that’s slightly below expectations is “what’s the percentage to the midpoint on this salary?” This helps clear the air and focus on the facts. Most companies want to start you at 85% to the midpoint. Be fearless, though. You don’t have to accept that offer if you feel it’s on the low end of your market value. Don’t sell yourself short — ask for more. And as I mentioned above, if a company reacts poorly to you knowing your market rate and asking for what you’re worth, you’ll dodge a bullet by not accepting the less than stellar offer.

2. Never reveal your current salary. Oh boy, I have seen it ALL with this one. (And failed at it all with this one.) Recruiters are pretty ruthless nowadays when it comes to requiring your current salary. I know, I have fallen for the bullying recruiters before. Whatever crazy excuse recruiters may give you, they DO NOT NEED IT. (And big kudos to Liz Ryan for being fearless about spreading the truth.) All recruiters need are your salary requirements. Politely tell them to pound sand if you’ve already provided them with those requirements. If they continue to persist, walk away. A great recruiter will tell you if your salary requirement is in the range or not. If that recruiter does not, it’s most likely a red flag. I once asked what the budgeted salary was for a position and the interviewee responded, “What? Am I supposed to have a budget for this?” With a good cackle, no less. Yes, as a matter of fact, you are, sweetheart. Needless to say, that didn’t work out. Finally, if a recruiter tells you a copy of your W-2 is required, Lord have mercy, you better RUN!

3. Know (and stick to) the facts. There’s no excuse not to know an *approximate* salary range for the role you’re interested in with sites like Glassdoor and Salary.com. I always take a quick scan of one of those sites if I’m about to interview for an opportunity. Try to find out the range from the recruiter if you can. But, own your future by having an approximate range handy as well. You don’t have to spend all day, but at least take a few minutes to dig around before speaking to a recruiter. Plus, good news: Glassdoor will give you the ugly truth behind some companies — saving you time and energy in the long run.

4. Whoever cares less, wins. This was a phrase often thrown out during my high school and college dating days. While I don’t recommend this tip for your love life, it’s important for salary negotiation. Yes, you need to be passionate and enthused about the opportunity you’re negotiating for, but if you are not given what you deserve, you have to be willing to walk away. Always be of the mindset that it’s not a problem — at all — if this one offer doesn’t pan out. Be the one that cares less.

5. Look beyond just salary. I negotiated seven different aspects of an offer letter at one point throughout my career. Yes, seven! Those included bonus percentage, profit sharing (when it wasn’t included), start date of 401K match, percentage of 401K company match, work from home days, signing bonus and vacation time. And to be honest, I’m sure there were a few additional things I could have negotiated on as well. (I got tired after seven, though. It happens!) It’s important to negotiate on the full offer, not just the base salary. And let me remind you, if the company doesn’t budge on anything you ask for, be fearless and wait for something better to come along!

Anything I missed? Feel free to share.

Good luck!