How to Negotiate a Job Offer in the COVID-19 Job Market

Are you having job offer negotiation jitters while interviewing for a new role? If you’re currently interviewing for a new job you may be wondering what type of negotiation power you have, if any, in the current market.  Whether you’re in the market because you’re currently unemployed due to COVID-19 or you’re ready for a change based on other factors, this Hey HR Hotline will help you prepare for your upcoming new job offer negotiation!

Q: I’m currently interviewing for a new job opportunity and I have no clue how to negotiate a job offer in the COVID era.  Please help! 

A:  If I could change my middle name to Negotiate, I would.  Ashley Negotiate Pare 😉 My advice is to, almost always, ask for what you deserve, what you want, and what you need in order to be satisfied in saying ‘yes’ to an employer, a friend, a date, a parent, a landlord or anyone! When it comes to salary negotiation for a new job, you’ll never have more leverage to negotiate than before you sign on that dotted line.   Yes, you can talk about money during a global pandemic and economic crisis.  The fluctuating economy does not change the fact that you will provide a service and deliver value for the job you’re hired to do. So, leverage your value from the start and make your ask.

There are two very important reasons to negotiate your job offer during COVID-19:  The first being even if you’re currently unemployed, you still hold value in the market.  Despite many people looking for work, if you land the job offer it means the company has identified YOU to be the best fit for the job.  This means they want you to say “yes” to the offer.  Sure, they may have a couple other candidates waiting in the wings, but you’re their first choice and it’s important you’re paid fairly and competitively for the job you’re being hired to do.  Negotiation shows your potential new boss that you know your value and own your worth.  This allows you to enter into the relationship from a place of (self) respect.

Yes, “fair and competitive” may fluctuate, however if an organization is hiring, they have a budget.  If they use the objection: “I’m sorry we don’t have the money right now”, I would recommend asking them to share more about their company’s finances before you accept. How has their business been impacted by the pandemic?

The second reason to negotiate is because as women we’re still fighting for diversity, equality, and inclusion.  We’ve tried relying on organizations to pay women and people of color equally in the past and it’s failed.  It’s very important for women, especially Black and Latina women, to advocate for competitive pay up front to avoid perpetuating a pay gap from one job to another.

Women of color are disproportionately impacted by the gender pay gap, and as a job candidate you play a role in holding employers accountable for paying women and people of color fairly!  You can do this by having the conversation about money to better understand how the organization makes pay decisions so you can decide to join (or not) based on their culture and values.

Here are two questions you can ask to hold employers accountable to racial and gender equity in their pay programs:  

  1. “Can you tell me what programs you have in place that ensure your employees are paid fairly and at market value?”
  2. Or, “It’s important to me that I work for an organization that treats its employees with respect and values racial and gender equity.  Can you help me understand where my salary offer falls compared to others in my role?”

So, now that you know WHY it’s important to negotiate during these times, I want you to have the tools to make your ask.  Earlier this year I was featured in a Resume Now article called 10 Tips For Negotiating Your Salary and these recommendations are still the perfect place to start.

In addition to the article, here are my recommendations for negotiating a job offer during the Covid era. 

  1. Make the ask – whether it’s a specific ask for more money or you want to know more about the organizations pay philosophy, values, or DEI programs, it’s up to you to ask and start the conversation.  If you negotiate and the answer is “no”, you’ll discover so much more about whether or not the job and culture is right for you based on how the organization responds.  If you don’t ask, the answer is “no”.
  2. Listen to the answer – what are the words the recruiter, HR or hiring manager use when they respond to your ask? What is the tone? How do you feel you’re being treated?  Their reaction to your ask is just as important as the actual response! If the company is not willing to talk about money openly before you join the team consider what this may mean for your future career with them.
  3. Counter with curiosity -based on their response you probably want to get more information.  If they object and say “no, we don’t have money in the budget to pay more than our approved salary range right now” you can ask them to consider having the salary conversation with you again in 6 months.  Ask follow up questions and negotiate for non-monetary rewards.  When you get curious you can learn the intent behind the organization’s decision.  Knowing their intent is powerful in removing your potential feelings of “it must be me”.  It’s your right to know if employees are paid fairly and decisions are made consistently.
  4. Get it in writing – Job offers in writing are done deals.  If you agree to a future conversation about compensation because budgets are temporarily tight, please get it in writing! You don’t want to be in a situation 5 months from now where you’ve accepted a lower than desired offer and your hiring manager quits.  If it’s not in writing, promises of more money vanish with their departure.
  5. Answer this before you negotiate: Are you willing to walk away?   Are you feeling desperate for a job?  Are you feeling confident that there will be more opportunities for you?  Assess whether or not you’ll accept the job offer, and for what amount of pay, if negotiation is not possible.  There is no wrong answer, there is only what you say “yes” to.  If your negotiation fails, it’s still okay to accept the original job offer! At the end of the day you have to be satisfied with your answer, no matter the outcome, and trust that you’re doing the best thing for you at that moment.

Negotiation can open so many doors; don’t get locked out! How can you use negotiation to secure your future?

Would you like support navigating the job market right now? 

If you’re feeling stuck but motivated to land your next ideal job in leadership, for a limited time I’m offering private coaching sessions to support you in taking intentional action in your career. Reach out to me directly and book a complimentary personal coaching session.  If you’re ready to do the work and are considering working together by joining The Activator Program starting this September, book your complimentary session on my calendar below.