So, you nailed the interview and got the job offer—but it’s not anywhere near the salary range you expected. Or you’re job hunting and you stumble on when asked those awkward ‘what are you making now?’ questions. You’re definitely not alone. It’s a universal truth that talking money can be hugely uncomfortable—specifically, going back and forth on salary negotiation, something required for you to make the money you deserve.
It’s so not worth it to be polite and accept a lowball offer then regret when you’re not paying off your student loans, saving as much as you’d hoped, or just feel overworked and underpaid—a cliché that potentially could be avoided if you know your worth and learn to advocate for yourself on the front end before you accept the job.
Since this is a dicey topic, we consulted three women who know what they’re talking about, and got their top tips for negotiating to get the salary you want and deserve.
Give a Range
Whether someone asks you in an interview, or it’s a box on an application, it’s okay not to give a specific number for your current salary or desired one, and instead, give a general range. “If you’re able to enter ‘to be discussed,’ that doesn’t paint you into a box,” says Lisa Skeete Tatum, founder and CEO of Landit, a technology platform that aims to increase the success and engagement of women in the workforce.
“If you have to enter a number, hopefully you have done your research and understand your value and the salary range for that position,” she says. “I would anchor at the high end, which will leave you room for negotiation.” If you’re currently making $45,000 and want to make $55,000, you can say that your current salary is in the $50,000 range, and that you’re looking to make in the mid-50s, at minimum. That’s honest, accurate, and will get you closer to what you’d like to make.
Do Your Research
Make sure your salary-related homework is done before going into an interview. Find out what the compensation is for similar roles, so that you can walk in and ask for the salary you want with confidence. “There are many sites where you can figure out what your projected salary for your line of work and location should be,”says headhunter Nicole McMackin, member of the International Women’s Leadership Association and president of Irvine Technology Corp., a firm that specializes in information technology solutions and staffing. “I have found sites such as payscale.com, salary.com, and livecareer.com are all very helpful in determining appropriate compensation for your skill set.”
It’s better to over-ask in the beginning, and come down later if necessary, than to ask for less than you know you’re worth (or would even accept!) and have to explain that later. While you don’t want to ask for a ridiculously high amount, which could put you at risk of not even being considered for the role, ask for a number within reason, that would also be a substantial bump up from what you’re already making.
“My general rule of thumb is to only apply for positions that will pay you at least $20K more than you currently make, unless the opportunity and experience compensate for making far less than that,” says leadership consultant and adviser Dana W. White, author of the new book Leader Designed: Become the Leader You Were Made to Be. “Good people are in high demand! If they want you, they’ll pay. And a few more thousand dollars, even $10-20k, means nothing to them, compared to what that extra $10-20K means to you.”
Ask with Confidence
It’s important to believe you’re worth every penny you’re asking a company to pay you. “Have an abundance mindset,” says White. “Don’t walk into negotiations thinking about what you can get or what they’ll give you. Walk into negotiations and ask for what you want. I promise you that no employer is ever going to pay you one cent more than what you are worth, so tell them what you are worth!” And believe it.
Some people may advise you to bluff and tell your new employer that you’re making more than you actually are in order to motivate them to offer you more. Sure, it may work for some people, but it’s not a risk worth taking—especially if you really want the job. “Never, ever lie! Your reputation is your most valuable asset in getting any job or promotion,” says White. “People in industry often have very close ties to one another and there can be a great deal of turnover between companies—you never know who knows who and who will find things out. It’s better to ask for what you want with proof points and be turned down than be caught in a little white lie for a few bucks and ruin your reputation forever.”
Ask for More
If you aren’t offered what you were hoping for the first time around, remember that this is just a starting point for negotiation—and companies are used to the process, even if you aren’t. Be gracious, upbeat, and go back to the table. “I would recommend saying something like, ‘Thank you for the offer and I am looking forward to working alongside you and your team! I was hoping with my years of experience, expertise in X, and ability to meet your strategic objectives, I would be receiving a compensation of Y,” says McMackin. It can’t hurt to ask. They’ve already offered you the job, so the worst that happens is that you get turned down.
Consider Other Forms of Compensation
If you don’t get the answer you were hoping for, remember that there are other things you can negotiate for—more paid time off, days working from home, or an early review to discuss a raise based on your performance. “It’s inevitable that you won’t always get the salary offer you want,” says Skeete Tatum. “The best strategy is to always understand the ‘why’ for the denied request, and, based on that information, you can ask to revisit your salary at the next cycle or after milestones or performance have been demonstrated.”
A version of this article originally appeared in June 2016.