How to start the negotiation conversation [VIDEO]

In honor of Equal Pay Day (the symbolic holiday that represents how many days US women have worked in 2016 to earn what our male counterparts did in 2015), I want to share one of the ways you and I can advocate for all we’re worth: negotiation.

We’ve all heard that we should “Ask for more,” but how exactly do we get that convo started?

I should mention, first of all, that there are many reasons the gender wage gap exists – and social scientists agree that unconscious bias and discrimination are chief among them.

But just because the system is rigged doesn’t mean we can’t take action to right it – starting with ensuring our own salaries are up to par.

After all, the National Women’s Law Center found this year that full-time working women in the USA miss out on over $430,000 over the course of a lifetime because of the gender wage gap. A pretty motivating reason to #AskForMore, am I right?


If you want to right this wrong, let’s get the negotiation conversation started. Here’s how:


Best Practice #1: Secure a Solid Job Offer First

The process of negotiation does not begin until a formal job offer is on the table.

And no, handshake deals over drinks don’t count – I’m talking about a formal letter from the HR department (or at the very least, an email from the hiring manager) that spells out your job responsibilities and full compensation package in detail.

If you attempt to negotiate your salary before this stage, it could backfire. Discourage salary talk during the interview process (pre-offer) by using phrasing like, “It’s too early to talk salary, but I’m confident that if we find this is a good fit, compensation won’t be an issue.”

Do everything you can to avoiding naming your “salary requirements” or past compensation in the interview process – let them make you an offer first.


Best Practice #2: Buy Yourself Some Time

When you receive a formal job offer it can be hard to dive right into the negotiation conversation immediately. Instead, buy yourself some time to think about the offer (a.k.a. Prepare and practice for your negotiation conversation) by following this formula:


  1. Express your excitement and gratitude like, “Wow, I’m so excited about this opportunity, thank you for the offer.”
  2. Explain how there are many factors involved in this decision like, “As you can imagine, there’s a lot for me to consider, and I want to make sure I proceed in a thoughtful way.”
  3. Propose a day when you’ll get back to them like, “Can I get back to you on Friday?”


This is NOT an out-of-ordinary request.

Accepting a new job is a huge life choice, and by asking for time to think, you’re showing your prospective employer that you’re a thoughtful, responsible decision-maker – just the kind of person who would also make a good employee.


Best Practice #3: Ask to ask

You’ve received a formal offer and bought yourself some time to think. By this point in the process, it’s your goal to schedule another live conversation with HR or the hiring manager you’ve been speaking with.
Remember – negotiation is a dialogue. It’s a conversation with the explicit intent of arriving at a mutual agreement. That kind of back-and-forth is best done in real time over the phone or in a meeting.

The alternative – presenting your counter-offer via email – is a great way to have your words misconstrued or taken out of context in the absence of vocal tone or body language.

So go ahead and get that next conversation on the books (you can email the hiring manager to schedule it, if you like). Consider using phrasing like:

“When can we speak about the details of this offer?”

“Is [this component] of the offer up for discussion?”

“Who can I speak with about the details of this offer?”

Then when you have that next conversation, you can present your counter-offer.

Voila – you’ve successfully initiated the negotiation conversation!

While negotiation is an expected part of the hiring process, no employer in their right mind is going to roll out the red carpet for you and invite you to you the negotiation table. Be assertive using the 3-step process above to steer the conversation to negotiation.

Obviously this is just the very beginning of a nuanced topic, for which there’s a ton of research and many more best practices available.


Ready for more?

Dive deeper with me and craft your own negotiation script at Bossed Up Bootcamp, our flagship training for women navigating career transition. We’ve got Bootcamps coming up soon in DC, NYC, and Boston, where you can step up as the boss of your life and career. Apply NOW!


Got questions, comments, or your own negotiation story to share? Weigh in on the comments at the bottom of the post – I love hearing from you!


Keep bossin,



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