A couple years ago, Hollywood made headlines when news leaked that Jennifer Lawrence was paid a lot less than her male co-stars for American Hustle. Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chairman Amy Pascal defended the decision saying, “If people want to work for less money, I’ll pay them less money. I don’t call them up and go, can I give you some more? They have to walk away.”
When it comes to negotiating salaries, the PayScale Salary Negotiation Guide shows that 31% of women are uncomfortable with it, compared to 23% of men. We worry more that negotiating will backfire on us – because some employers are more likely to penalise women for being assertive. It’s old-fashioned, but true.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it your best shot, but in the interest of everyone getting along, it also helps to negotiate in a way that shows you’re smart – plus a great team player.
Think about these points below before you get to the interview – and practice talking about it so your voice does not wobble at the crucial moment. Ask friends and family to play the HR manager. Practice to them, to your mirror, to your pets.
1. Research the company
Be prepared and find out everything you can about the company you’re applying to. What do they value? What do they see as potential areas of growth? How do your previous roles or education fit int with what they want to do?
2. Understand the Singapore job market
Times are tough and if you go into a meeting with HR and lowball yourself – they aren’t going to offer you more. It’s important to do some research and get an accurate idea of the usual salary for the job you are going for. HR managers are usually given a range for your role and if they think you’ll expect something at the lower end of the range they’re going to offer it. Some sites that can help include Payscale, Glassdoor and Sandbox Advisors.
3. Try not to reveal your expected salary in your cover letter
It’s not unusual for a company to ask for your salary expectations but giving away your expected salary is risky for you. If you state something lower than what you deserve, you lose because no one is going to offer you more than that. But if you put something higher than the job usually pays, they probably won’t even give you an interview. So play it smart and…
4. Redirect the question of salary to focus on why you’d be a great hire
State your slary as part of a “passion package”. Meaning go for the #humblebrag route. Say something like, “Salary is only one of the factors I consider important when it comes to a job offer. I also look at the fit of the role and how much I can bring to the team. I’d be happy to discuss it more once you decide I am a strong candidate for the position.” This shows you are a willing team player and sounds good to potential employer.
5. Make them an offer they can’t refuse
If salary negotiations prove difficult, give the company a range you are comfortable with. Don’t be vague and take whatever the job pays. That makes you look like a pushover. Remember if you don’t negotiatiate starting pay, you are probably leaving money on the table. Most employers have a salary range for each job and will open negotiations at the lower end.
6. Maintain your poker face
Avoid giving the potential employer an exact number. While on one hand, this can appear like you’ve done good research and are prepared for the job (always a good sign for employers), it might also result in you undervaluing yourself. If the number if lower than expected, negotiate politely, but if it’s higher, don’t let them see your excitement. Everyone should feel like they’ve won.
7. Don’t be afraid to negotiate even if the fee is stated
Once again remember, HR usually has a range in mind for a job. That means you can start with questions like, “Is the pay flexible? Based on my previous experience I am confident I can do xxx, would you be willing to offer $Y instead?” You can also ask for your salary to be looked at again after six months. And before you worry about being able to deliver, don’t – women have a tendency to worry about failure at work even when they’re doing great. Just focus on the job at hand and show you can get it done.
8. Don’t make it all about money
If your current salary is a lot lower than the job you are going for – don’t worry. Instead, move things along by drawing attention to other topics such as your skills, your responsibility and your ability to contribute to the company. Employers look for desirable, capable candidates so show that you can be one. This is why research into the company before an interview is so important. This way you can impress the interviewer with your enthusiasm.
9. They’ve made you an offer, so now what?
The first thing to remember is not to say yes or no right away. Instead, ask for more details about the total package – as well as for a few days to consider it. Make sure they know you are eager even if you want a few days to think about it. If the salary is lower than expected, don’t be afraid to keep negotiating even if it’s a bit depressing at the start. Negotiation is a conversation where the goal is to reach an agreement. So don’t be afraid to go back and renegotiate terms. Try to find common ground to compromise on stuff like annual bonus, travel compensation or even later start dates in the morning.
10. Remember to look at the big picture
Salary isn’t everything. So remember to look at company culture, holiday time and flexibility before making a decision. Some other important qualities to remember are skills you might learn, wellness programmes, travel or moving compensation and even discounts to the company’s services and products. These can impact your decision just as much as money.
This story was originally posted in SHAPE Singapore, May 17, 2017.