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Would you do your best to negotiate a better salary if you knew that negotiation could put up to $2 million in your pocket over the course of your career? Of course, you would.
If you are ever tempted to accept the first salary an employer offers, think again. While it might save you from the hassle of negotiation at the moment, the truth is that skipping this critical step means many women leave a ton of money on the table over the course of their careers.
Many Americans, especially women, fail to negotiate
While three in five Americans say they did not negotiate the salary for their current or most recent job, women negotiate less far less often than men — 52% versus 68% — making this a problem that has the potential to impact the earnings of female workers for their entire careers.
Why the unwillingness to bargain for more? Some women think negotiating makes them look greedy or ungrateful. Others aren't good at seeing their worth and speaking up for themselves. Many do not realize that employers often start lower than what they're truly willing to pay.
When it comes to negotiating, preparation boosts confidence and promotes results. Take time to think about the following five questions before your next job interview.
5 salary negotiation questions
1. What is the going rate for my position?
This is a question a woman needs to pose to herself. As career coach Roy Cohen, author of "The Wall Street Professional's Survival Guide," explains:
"Before you have your interview, even the first round, you need to know your worth in the market. Without a benchmark you have no idea how to measure what you deserve and what you should ask for. You also need to do your homework and have some understanding as to how this company pays its employees as compared to other companies.
If they are below market, and are known to be less generous, then negotiation will likely not be successful. It will have no bearing on you or your experience. They're just cheap. On the other hand, if you discover that the range for compensation is wide, you need to be prepared to demonstrate why you deserve a premium."
Good places to find salary information include professional associations, industry recruiters, online job review sites, and network connections. Confronted with actual data, it becomes harder for a company to justify a lower salary — and, hopefully, harder for a woman to simply accept whatever gets offered.
2. What was your salary at your previous job?
Be ready to respond to an interviewer who asks this question by not giving out that information. In many locales, asking salary history is illegal because it perpetuates the cycle of pay discrimination for women and minorities.
For example, an employer who knows filling an open position should require presenting a $50,000 salary encounters a woman who made $40,000 in her last job. He decides to only offer $45,000 because "she should be happy just to make more." Yes, it's better, but still not up to par.
Prepare an answer such as "I would rather not say. Responsibilities differ by position, and I'd like to focus on reaching an amount that we both find acceptable for performing the job at hand."
3. What is your desired salary?
Giving a response when an employer poses this question often depends on the interview stage. If asked early in the process, Cohen suggests a statement such as "I was expecting that we'd discuss salary at some point later on, but I first figured that we needed to see if this is a good fit. I've done my homework. I know the range for these sorts of positions, and I'm sure you'll be fair."
Postponing salary discussions allows time to sell the company on your worth. As the employer comes to want you more, negotiations shift to your favor.
When ultimately pressed for a number, try giving a salary range rather than an exact figure. You'll keep from selling yourself short or appearing overly demanding. Providing wiggle room sets the stage for arriving at a mutually satisfying outcome through negotiation.
4. How am I viewed as a candidate versus others?
It may not seem like a compensation-related question, but posing it to the employer can put a woman in a good position.
"This is a great question because you back the interviewer into a corner," Cohen says. "If you are told that you are far better than the rest or outstanding, you are in an ideal place to negotiate. Great candidates deserve to be paid a premium. And if you're aware of the prevailing salary range and potential for bonus that they pay employees in equivalent positions, they have no choice but to pay you the same or more."
5. That amount is lower than what I expected, but I would really love to work here. Could your company possibly make up the difference through (fill in the blank)?
If you've reached a point where the employer won't budge on salary, remember that negotiation needn't focus solely on money. Present other options that increase total compensation or improve your life.
Things a woman may want to suggest include:
- Commuter or parking benefits
- Child care subsidies
- Stock options
- Covering professional membership dues
- Student debt assistance
- Performance bonuses
- Professional development training
- Quicker enrollment into the company's retirement plan
- Work-from-home options
- Flexible hours or start/end times better in line with familial obligations
"The key is to adopt a win-win attitude. Somehow, we will make this work!" says Vicky Oliver, author of "301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions."