This article first appeared on Forbes.com
Welcome to The Salary Chronicles, where we’re bringing transparency to negotiation and salaries, one story at a time. We ask women to share their experiences negotiating their salary and what their advice is for others doing the same. We share these stories anonymously so they feel comfortable speaking as openly and as freely as possible.
This week we’re speaking with a woman who was able to tactfully use one offer to negotiate a higher offer from another company.
Title: Internal Operations
Location: Washington Metropolitan Area
Initial Salary Offered: $115K
Final Salary Offered: $120K
What was the situation when you decided to negotiate your salary?
I was on the job hunt after being laid off from my previous job in consulting. I quickly landed an offer from another consulting firm, but I was also exploring other options outside of consulting. I was in the final round of interviews with a company for a role in internal operations and was really excited about it. I knew that making the switch from consulting would mean I would make less, but the hours would be better and I wouldn’t have to travel as much.
The offer I had in hand from the consulting firm was for $125K. As I progressed farther into the interview process for the role in operations, I started to do salary research to see exactly how much less I could expect to be paid. I talked to a good friend who was in the role I was interviewing for and she made $105K. I then did research on Glass Door to understand the average salaries (which were around $105K), but also to see if there were any outlier salaries that would be closer to my consulting offer. I wanted to know if I could push the limit and by how much.
When I got to the final interview with my potential manager, I was told that I was their top choice for the role and to expect an offer once they checked references. I said I was absolutely thrilled to hear that and I was truly excited about the job, but I did have another offer that I needed to respond to within a week. I wanted to not only get this offer in writing quickly, but I wanted to push them to make me the best offer that they could, rather than start with their average salary of $105K.
The next day I was emailed an offer with a salary of $115K. I was thrilled to see that they had come in with a higher amount than I expected, but the difference between the two offers was still too large and I wasn’t sure I wanted to take an offer for $10K less.
How did you decide what to say and ask for?
I was nervous about going back in and asking for more because I felt like they had already come in with a strong offer for their company. I didn’t want to look ungrateful. I was also a little nervous to continue bringing up my other offer, because even though being in demand could work in my favor (everyone loves a winner), I didn’t want it to come off as though I was cocky or unreasonable.
I practiced laying out my ask in a very factual way, being sure to steer clear of making it sound like an ultimatum. I decided to say that the difference was still a little too big for me to feel comfortable, even though I wanted this job. I knew that they probably couldn’t match the other offer, but I asked “what can you do to reduce the difference? I am leaning towards accepting your offer because I am very excited about the job. I am just trying to get paid close to my other offer and what I’ve previously made.”
I put the ball back in their court to get creative and find a way to make both sides happy.
What was the end result?
They came back with an offer for $120K and I happily accepted the offer.
What advice do you have for other women?
Use empathy. I wanted to understand their situation and make sure that they understood mine, so I spent a long time trying to view what I was asking for from their perspective. They had just made a strong offer to their top candidate. They might feel like they had already pushed enough. I used that perspective to craft the positioning of my ask: I was really appreciative of what they’d already offered me and if we could find a common ground to minimize the difference, I would be eager to become the newest member of the team.
Choose your language carefully. I really respected the company that I was negotiating with and I wanted that to be reflected in the conversation, while still being firm and advocating for what I need. Instead of taking a tough stance while using my other offer as leverage, I used language that would make it seem like we were on the same team, working toward a shared goal.