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Every day at Moms in Tech, we come together to help each other be just a little more successful in work and life. As this amazing groups of moms have shared their stories, I’ve noticed some themes in what we’ve been through in our careers. I’m excited to share with you Advice From the Field, a monthly advice column tackling some of the most interesting questions from this unique community of women.

If you are a #momintech and have a question you’d like answered in this column, please send me a tweet and let’s connect. All questions are anonymized and shared with permission.

Image from: https://www.thealternativeboard.com/7-negotiation-tips-dummies/

Question from a Moms in Tech member:

I just got off the phone with a recruiter who delivered an offer after asking me for my salary expectations. I deflected as best I could, but when I finally got the offer it was 25k lower than I expected. This job has a lot of benefits for me (close to home, new and growing field). Any advice on how to get them to up their salary? -PRIORITIES

Hey there PRIORITIES.

We are seeing more and more Moms in Tech asking about how to navigate this very awkward situation, especially given the recent changes in California hiring practices legislation.

The situation: You want the job, but you feel like they may be lowballing you. So naturally, you want to figure out how to get them to a more competitive range. However, there are additional considerations to recognize and honor.

Understanding what’s most important to you within the context of the negotiation is equally as important as knowing what you are worth on the market.

PRIORITIES, you noted that commute and opportunity were two additional facets of the opportunity that were pretty important to you… important enough for you to bring up as an additional consideration balancing your disappointment against an offer 25k below what you were expecting. Are there others? If so, what are they? Write them down. What is on your must-have list for your next gig? What’s on your nice-to-have list?

Take the time to commit these to paper. You might be surprised what bubbles to the top and for what reasons. For one mom, commute became less important because she had an amazing extended family support system so felt good about taking an upside opportunity with more travel. For another mom, she put proximity to her children’s schools as the top priority because she had committed to volunteering in their classrooms on a regular basis. Every person’s situation is unique, so documenting your priorities will go a long way in providing you with clarity into how to enter the negotiation.

That said…let’s get back to this question of the offer being 25k lower than what you were expecting:

  • Please do not think this is a situation where you need to choose between the two benefits you listed and an industry-competitive salary.
  • It may be them, not you.
  • It could also be you.

One of three things could be happening:

You are being lowballed → They are expecting to negotiate and are starting in a lower range assuming it will give them maximum flexibility to increase the package at a later time.

Your expectations are too high → You are most likely using a contextually inaccurate comparable. There is also a chance that you may think that you (or the role that they are filling) are worth more than they do. When this gap exists, I generally find that the internal reset can be too jarring unless the recruiter and/or hiring manager are exceptional at helping you through the reset process with fact-based perspectives while painting a vision of what’s possible. In short, you may end up walking away from this one.

Their expectations are too low → This can happen for a number of reasons. For instance, if they haven’t adjusted benchmarks over 6 months in a bullish employment market, there’s a very real chance that the market has moved on them. When this is the case, candidates can often provide fact-based information in the form of other offers or known market comparables to assist in resetting expectations. Often, it becomes more worth it for the prospective employer to bend now versus start over in the search as they will likely encounter similar pushback anyway.

Okay, let’s remove all of the other variables and simply assume you are being lowballed. That’s rude, right? Maybe not.

There are variables on the company side that affect the salaries they can and should offer (which you may not necessarily have factored into your expectations) such as stage, funding or available capital, geography, and state of the cap table. If any of these are the case, it would benefit you to have a transparent conversation with the recruiter and/or hiring manager to understand how these factors play into the offer you received, and where within the compensation package there is room to negotiate. For instance, in an early-stage company there are greater cash compensation and fewer equity or variable constraints. Once you understand the logic behind how the company structures offers, you should have a better sense of what you have to work with from a negotiation standpoint.

Additionally, there are variables on your side that affect your own expectations of salary range such as:

  • What you make today
  • What you have defined as an ideal compensation package regardless of who is making the offer
  • What you know about what other companies are paying for similar roles
  • What you know about what that company may be paying others in similar roles and why
  • Whether or not you possess niche skills that others vying for the same role do not have

A word of caution here — just because you know what someone else is making, it does not mean that you have the right to ask for the same level of compensation.

I know, there are many not-great things about this system. However, given the system, information like this still puts you at an advantage given it is an important anchor that you can use to articulate the value you bring at the compensation levels that you are looking for.

Focus on the unique value that you bring and why the company needs to pay more for it.

As an example: “Given XYZ Company has recently aggressively poached data analysts and scientists from your competition and I have significant experience leading insight teams that drive business transformation, I know that I can quickly inject the leadership you need to accelerate your 3-year growth plan.”

In short, they need you and therefore need to align more closely to your value rubric.

Now compare the value/needs messaging to this: “Thanks for the offer. Actually, I think it should be $xxx because that’s what I’ve seen in the market for roles like this.” ← Very simply put, not as compelling.

Negotiating is often thought of as an uncomfortable situation, and you might want to just “get it over with.” Instead, consider reframing the situation — this negotiation is an opportunity for you to ensure that the company you are joining is on the same page as you when it comes to the value you are bringing. If you aren’t able to get there, then it’s probably better that you find that out sooner than later. And if you are, then your baseline for success is already defined and you are well on your way to setting you and your new employer up for success.

Best of luck, PRIORITIES, and please do let us Moms in Tech know how the chapter ended!