It’s no secret salary negotiations stir up conflicting feelings. Some women feel uncertain as to what salary they can command, while simultaneously feeling strongly that they should be paid what they’re worth.
And it shows. One study of graduating MBA students found that half the men negotiated their job offers and only one eighth of the women did, while another found that 20 percent of women say they “never negotiate at all, even though they recognize negotiation as appropriate and even necessary.”
Add to that being out of the workforce for a number of years and salary negotiations can seem especially fraught.
The good news? If you’re in this position, it is possible to negotiate a salary commensurate with your skill set and experience—and feel good about doing it. We consulted hiring managers and HR leaders for advice on how women coming back to the workforce can negotiate for a salary that reflects their value and the skills and experience they’re bringing to the table.
Are women able to “pick up where they left off” in terms of the last role they held in their field?
“Being able to ‘pick up where you left off’ is subjective,” says Carla Ramirez, talent acquisition specialist at The Zebra, a startup that provides a platform for drivers to compare car insurance policies. “For example, being out of the workforce six months versus six years will have a very different impact both on you as a professional and on the workforce you’re returning to.”
How do I feel confident in negotiating when I’ve been out of the workforce for a while?
“Do your research before entering negotiations to ensure you know what you’re worth. Research the latest salary trends for your city, industry, and job title by reviewing compensation surveys such as Robert Half’s 2016 Salary Guides and talking to recruiters or others in your network,” says Katie Essman, regional vice president for Accountemps, a staffing agency for high-level accounting and financial services professionals. “By confidently marketing yourself and your relevant skills, and conducting salary research, you should be more prepared to negotiate for what you’re worth.”
What if the company won’t budge on their offer, and I really want the job?
“If you do agree to a slightly lower salary than you might have liked, during the negotiation process, build a salary review into your employment agreement after three to six months,” says Rebecca Brooks, founder of The Brooks Group Public Relations, who negotiates when taking on new clients.
Another tactic? Raise the possibility of a performance-based bonus. This would either be a percentage of your salary should you hit certain agreed-upon milestones, or a lump sum. The point here is to set measurable results, or ones that are numbers-based, such as a growth in advertising accounts brought in (if you are in Sales), unique visitors to your website (if you are in Media), or fundraising dollars (if you work for a non-profit).
How else can I give myself a leg up during interviews and negotiations?
There are other ways to up your compensation, like non-cash perks, such as extra personal days or vacation days, the option to work from home one day a week, a complimentary gym membership, or car service if you need to work past a certain hour, Brooks says.
Another tip you likely learned long before you entered the workforce: Practice. Either use a career coach who can prepare you for the interview with tough questions you’re likely to encounter, or walk yourself through various scenarios well before your meeting, so you handle it with confidence.
Finally, there is nothing wrong with walking away until you find a better offer. “Remember, there’s power in a pass,” Brooks says.