6 secrets to negotiating your salary (from a former recruiter)

I spent 10 years in human resources and recruitment functions. Here are my top secrets for negotiating salaries that employers don’t want you to know.

Women of color too often set lower salary demands than white men. I saw this when I worked for several financial services companies and technology startups.

Now, as a financial coach, I answer questions from other women of color like this:

“I have been working in this company for several years now. And I know for a fact that I’m underpaid for my work. I know this because I do pay scales for other people’s jobs and I’m well below the median. I’d like to have a chat with my manager to discuss a pay raise and I don’t know where to start.

Negotiating a salary is easier said than done, especially if you’re a woman struggling with impostor syndrome. Here are six secrets as a former recruiter that I want you to know to help you in your next compensation conversation.

1) Use a very specific number when asked what you want

I read a 2013 study from Columbia Business School which showed for example, $50,750 as the number you will trade with, instead of $50,000, guess what?

It makes you come across as assertive, smarter, and much more informed.

As a recruiter, when an employee or potential candidate used a more specific and accurate number in their initial negotiation request, I was more likely to bring the final offer closer to what the person requested.

It made me believe that the candidate came from a place of information, research and skill, and not just pulling a number out of the blue.

Now if you are wondering how can I choose this number? This can be based on the research you find for the job you have, looking at salary ranges. But it can be based on your own needs.

For example, if you’re buying a new house and you know your mortgage payment is going to increase by $100, increase the salary you’re looking for by the amount you want for your mortgage.

Or it could be my favorite number: how much debt do you want to pay off this year?

Your employer doesn’t need to know that’s the reason. The simplicity of your specificity will rarely be rebuffed.

2) Let LinkedIn say what you’re afraid to brag about

I’ve interviewed hundreds of candidates over the years, and women have a hard time bragging about their skills and what they’ve accomplished.

If you’re going into a salary negotiation, you need to be prepared to document and talk about what you’ve already accomplished, not just what you think you can contribute in the future. LinkedIn is the perfect place to document your accomplishments because it’s public, while your resume and performance reviews are private.

It also sends a clear signal to your current or potential employer that you are not afraid to share with potential employers who are looking for you.

The days of unquestioned loyalty as an employee are over. There’s nothing wrong with letting your employer know that this is a two-way street.

3) Leverage public testimonials from clients and colleagues on LinkedIn, too

One of LinkedIn’s best features is the ability to post recommendations. It shows that a real person took the time to write a recommendation for you that would be shared publicly, and it looks more believable.

I have over 15 referrals on my LinkedIn profile that have provided me with business opportunities that I otherwise would not have acquired.

It’s a strategic way to say you’re awesome, without having to say it yourself.

4) Don’t fall for the fallacy of a 40-hour work week

If your negotiations fail for a higher salary, work less. It sounds crazy, but by law, if you’re a salaried employee, your employer can’t dictate how many hours you work.

Otherwise, the employer is legally obliged to pay you overtime.

If you’re being paid less than you would like, think about how you can get the job done in fewer hours. And no, you don’t need permission from your company or to broadcast that you are working less.

5) Don’t rule out negotiating employee offers for consulting work

A company that courted me for years wanted me to be an employee. They offered me $85,000 just because the person who had just quit was making that much at 40 hours a week.

I considered the time and energy it would take me to deliver what she was doing, and I knew I didn’t need 40 hours to do the job well.

I said, “I would still like to work with you, but as a consultant. I’m happy to take the $85,000, but I’ll work my own hours and continue to run my own business.

The CEO said: “I don’t know how it’s going to work. How can you do your business and also work for us?

I said, “Would you ask me this, if instead of a business, it was children? Let’s try for six months. And if you don’t like what I’m doing, we can both end the contract in six months.

I became so good at this secret that I was working maybe 10 hours a week, for the same pay the employer was giving someone else to work 40 hours a week. At the end of the six months, they still wanted to pay me the same rate and continue the opportunity.

6) The most difficult, but most effective strategy: prepare your finances to have the freedom to leave

It is your greatest tool in any negotiation. You must be willing and able to walk away. When considering your numbers, you need a starting point, an offer you need to refuse.

This can be based on your financial needs, your market value, or just what you need to feel good about with the paycheck you take home.

I strongly advocate getting your personal finances in order, including paying off all consumer debt and saving three months of expenses.

Having been debt-free for four years now, I have the confidence to quit any job that doesn’t meet my needs or expectations. Having at least three months worth of spending gives you the flexibility to wait for the right opportunity to present itself and not have to accept less than you deserve.

MORE FORBESHere’s how to successfully negotiate a salary

Leave a Comment