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  1. Blog
  2. Ask a Recruiter
  3. August 18, 2020

Ask a Recruiter: It’s My First Time Negotiating. What Should I Expect?

Why, oh why, does it have to feel so awkward?

Woman looking at her phone
Photo courtesy of Bruno Emmanuelle

This article is part of InHerSight's Ask a Recruiter series. We ask recruiters from companies big and small to answer questions about job hunting, company culture, and more.

InHerSight asked recruiter Marjorie Kalomeris of MK Career Coaching to share advice on negotiating for the first time. These are her answers, in her own words. Are you a recruiter with job advice to share? Email our managing editor Beth Castle at beth@inhersight.com for consideration.

What’s your elevator pitch? 

Hi! I’m Marjorie Kalomeris, a tech recruiter and a career coach for women of color. I spent the first six years of my career in recruiting at LinkedIn, where I learned the art of negotiating offers from the best of the best in Silicon Valley. I have since relocated to Europe and have lived in both Ireland and the Netherlands. I’ve hired hundreds of people to work in tech. I now work for an Andreessen-Horowitz-backed Series D scaleup in Amsterdam called Optimizely. I started my own side-hustle this year, MK Career Coaching, since I’m extremely passionate about helping women of color get a foot in the door and find their dream job from anywhere in the world!

Let’s talk about negotiating your salary. InHerSight data shows half of women have never done so before. Why is it important to negotiate?

Negotiating every single offer, starting with your very first offer, is extremely important. There are two reasons for this. First off, negotiation is a muscle, and it requires practice. Most people only encounter under a handful of high-stakes negotiations in their life, and they are largely unprepared when those conversations do arise. Second, and most important, is that each salary you accept becomes your jumping off point for your salary expectations in your next role. This can have huge compounding effects over time, and each missed opportunity to negotiate could be costing you tens of thousands of dollars, if not more, over the course of your life.

How should first-time negotiators prepare for the conversation? 

Preparation and practice are key to feeling comfortable going into your first negotiation. Prepare by doing your research on the company to understand both the salary ranges and the other perks and benefits they offer. Each package is more than just the salary—what are the bonuses available? Do they offer other perks like a regular wellness/gym stipend? Do your due diligence to understand what life looks like for employees at the company you’re negotiating with. I recommend practicing in two ways: First, write down what you want, how you’re going to say it, and how you would respond to potential pushback from the recruiter. Second, grab a friend or someone you trust and practice actually saying the words! You’re not so much looking for their feedback, as really getting comfortable with a real-life scenario. 

What resources should women use to figure out salary information so they make a fair ask? 

What a great question! Because you should never go into a negotiation without some information to frame your ask. Everyone will tell you to start with some basic Google searches and websites like Glassdoor, LinkedIn, Comparably, etc., but I find a lot of the information to be inconsistent and often misleading (ie., a sales role could only capture base salary, but not the commission structure). I find the best thing to do is to ask people. Ideally someone you know at the company, if that applies to you. Ask men and women if you can. If you don’t have access to folks at the company, ask people who work at competitors in similar roles. Get around 5–10 data points, and then you have something tangible you can reference when the recruiter asks you your expectations, and then follows up with, How did you come to that number?

Read more: How to Ask Someone How Much Money They Make

What should women expect to happen when they negotiate? What’s a normal amount of awkwardness or pushback?

Pushback is definitely normal, but remember, no respectable business is going to take away an offer due to negotiation, if done carefully and thoughtfully. A normal response could look like, You know, this offer is already at the higher end of what we would be able to offer. 

Upon further probing and after you ask gently for more, you could hear something like, Okay, I’ll have to check with our team and see what we can do. It’s already high in our bands, but let me ask and come back to you. 

And that’s it! You wait to see what they say, and go from there. The worst that happens is that they come back and say no, and you still have an offer on the table.

If a salary bump is a no-go, what are some other things women can negotiate to make a job offer more appealing?

If you’ve asked for a salary bump and gotten a no, there are other things you can negotiate. Flexible working or remote working is one to ask about if it appeals to you, especially in this post-COVID era. Can you work remotely from a different setting for a few months a year? Permanently? Other levers to think about include asking about their internal bonus structure, equity, or potential sign-on bonuses. Although sign-ons can be exciting, remember that they are one shot and will not be repeated in future years, so try and negotiate for things that will increase your annual take-home pay and your quality of life at work. How about an education stipend to take an external course? This most likely comes from a different cost center, and could actually lead to a certificate that will move your career forward in the long run.

I negotiate every time, but I tend to find the process to be deflating—or de-energizing, perhaps—because I feel like I’m risking rejection from something I really want. For women out there who feel the same way, any good pointers on shifting that mindset?

This is an excellent question, because negotiation is deflating! We’re not used to it, no one particularly enjoys it, and it can be a source of fear and frustration. So first off, acknowledge that it is extremely normal to be stressed out before going into a negotiation. The biggest mindset shift I can offer is for you to remember that any offer, no matter the outcome, is a cause for celebration. Both sides are (almost!) on the same team! The recruiter likely wants to make you happy, wants to make sure you accept, and ultimately wants to fill the role. So make it easy for them by offering up options, asking questions, and acting like you’re on the same side of the table, because you are. 

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Beth Castle

Managing Editor, InHerSight

Beth Castle is on staff at InHerSight, where she writes about workplace rights, diversity and inclusion, allyship, and feminism. Her bylines include Fast Company, Charlotte magazine, The Charlotte Observer, SouthPark magazine, Southbound magazine, and Atlanta magazine. She holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

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