by Nic Wood


The ability to be able to negotiate for yourself, and the value that you bring is key in terms of providing you with the opportunities you want in life. Yet, in my coaching work with The Female Career, I encounter women who are comfortable negotiating a deal on behalf of their organisation but find it more difficult to negotiate for themselves. For me personally, I used to wish that my hard work would be enough, and that if I did great work then I would be recognised for it. This is not always the case. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

So why should we bother to negotiate? Consider the following scenario…  

A man and women, both aged 22, equally qualified and just entering the workforce are offered a role with a salary of $25,000. The man negotiates and gets $30,000. The woman doesn’t.

Through their careers they receive identical pay rises of 3% p.a.

By the age of 60, the pay gap between them has widened to more than $15,000 a year, with the man earning $92,243 and the woman earning $76,870.

Over the 38 years of working, the man’s extra earnings equate to $361,171

If he had simply banked that money in an account paying 3% interest, by age 60 he would have had $568,834 more than the woman

With that in mind, I’ve summarised some key things to consider that will help you negotiate with confidence to get the salary and opportunities that you want. If you prefer listening over reading you can also check out our podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/nz/podcast/negotiation-top-tips-to-get-the-pay-and/id1521372516?i=1000522064143

1.      Prepare

Think about what elements you want to negotiate. These could include:  

-    Salary

-    Job title

-    Key responsibilities

-    Other financial benefits such as sign on bonuses or annual/performance bonus

-    Stock options/equity

-    Training and development

-    Flexible working

You might also want to think about other non-financial elements, such as:

-    Reporting lines

-    Size of your team

-    Start date

-    Work location

-    Holidays or unpaid leave

-    Travel

-    Future growth or promotion

-    Involvement in particular projects

-    Equipment

I have found that negotiation is easier and most effective when you are not solely focussed on salary. Considering a broader range of elements that make up the overall employment package, may allow you to expand the conversation and include options that have mutual gain for both parties. There may be some elements that provide a high value to you personally but are a low cost for the organisation.   I really value flexibility and time off in the school holidays, so I always include those as key negotiation points.

It can also be helpful to get information on the organisation and stakeholders. Ask who might be involved in salary decisions, find out how the organisation is doing financially, how their customers are feeling and how their competitors are doing. Thinking about such questions provides you with a broader context, and by putting yourself in the organisation’s shoes, allows you to have a better understanding of which elements might be realistic negotiation points and which ones might be a ‘no-go’.   

Research salary data for similar job titles, industry comparisons and location. Talk to your recruiter and HR friends and ask them, “What is an appropriate salary range for someone in my industry with my skillset & experience?” Check out various sites such as careers.govt.nz, Seek, Trade Me Jobs or Glass Door. Consult salary surveys and ask around within your own professional network, but make sure you are asking both men and women. As previously mentioned, we know that we have a gender pay gap, so if you only ask other women, you may be under pitching. Create a spreadsheet with all the different data points so that your negotiation ask feels credible to you.

Remind yourself of all the strengths, skills, qualifications, experience and relationships you will bring to the role. Doing your own due diligence and preparing well helps to build your confidence and credibility going into the negotiation.

Also have a think about where and when you will negotiate. In person? On the phone? Or via email? They all have advantages and challenges so think about what will feel the most comfortable and natural for you.

Finally, practice makes perfect. The more you practice, the more confident you will be going into the negotiation. Run through the conversation with a friend, practice saying what you want to say out loud, or even record yourself speaking to your key points. 

2.      Options

Know your BATNA. In negotiation theory, the “best alternative to a negotiated agreement” or BATNA refers to the best alternative course of action a party can take if negotiations fail. What are your alternatives if an agreement cannot be reached? What is the organisation’s best alternative?  In this current market, you may be the only preferred candidate thereby giving you further leverage to negotiate.

 3.      Know your numbers

Get really clear on what is your actual ask. Think about what your ideal figure would be and then as a rule of thumb ask for around 10% above that. This gives you a gauge for what they may be willing to consider, and you will hopefully land somewhere in between at an amount that you are both comfortable with. If you start high, chances are you will end up closer to your ideal figure.

 4.      Mindset and emotions

Negotiation is a series of interactions and conversations so it’s unlikely you will nail it in one conversation. There will be some “to and fro” where you explore options that work for you both. Remember to be friendly and enthusiastic in your discussions, but firm in terms of your ask and priorities.

Negotiation conversations are often about hard numbers or certain figures, but they are not always logical, so our emotions can sometimes get in the way. Helpful ways to keep them in check include:

-  Taking a few deep breaths

-  Take a pause, or say “I’ll come back to you”

-  Be aware of their emotions – look out for signs they may be feeling pressure or frustration

-  Think what your emotional triggers might be – we all have them!

-  If negotiating in-person, be aware of your facial expressions - keep it open relaxed and friendly

-   Mindset – why are you asking? What’s the bigger picture for you?

-   Keep calm, optimistic and be flexible

And what about those really tricky questions?

I think some of the fear for people around negotiating is “what if I get asked a tricky question?” or “what if I’m put on the spot and can’t answer?” A question that a lot of people struggle with is “What is your current salary”? You can use a couple of tactics to handle this question.

-  Delay - “Before we discuss salary, I would like to better understand the roles and responsibilities”

-  Ask - “Based on my qualifications, skills and experience, where would you see me fitting within the salary range?”

-  Go back to the data – “I’m looking for a salary in line with the market rate of $xxx”  

What if they are not willing to negotiate at all?

Again, if this happens it’s useful to use further enquiry, such as “What would need to change about the role for it to be paid at this level? “or “what elements of the package are negotiable?” and remember your BATNA and their BATNA!

 5.      Summarise

It’s always a good idea to summarise the outcome in writing to avoid any confusion and so that all parties are clear on the final outcome. 

What works for you? I’d love to hear any additional tips that have worked well for you when negotiating, please feel free to share in comments😊 and if you would like to discuss how coaching can support you to be more confident, resilient and impactful in your work. You can email me: nic.wood@thefemalecareer.com