Tips for Negotiating a Raise

By Ellevest Team

Ellevest Senior Social Media Manager Kirstyn Hippe spoke to Career Coach Chelsea Johns about a topic no doubt at the top of everyone’s minds: how to negotiate to get that raise or salary offer. Take a peek at their chat. (FYI: You can still hear / watch it for yourself here, too, if you want!)

Editor’s note: While Chelsea’s services are no longer available through Ellevest, we’re big fans. You can check out some of her advice below.

ICYMI: Career Coach Chelsea Johns on Negotiating a Raise

Tips for Negotiating a Raise

Senior Social Media Manager Kirstyn Hippe: Today, we're going to be talking about how to negotiate a raise. It's Equal Pay Day, so it's a very fitting topic. I'm just waiting for Chelsea Johns to join and we'll start talking. […] Hi, Chelsea.

Career Coach Chelsea Johns: Hi, thank you for having me. I am so excited to be here on Equal Pay Day, Women's History Month. It's just such a timely conversation.

Yes, absolutely. Would love for you to give an overview of who you are, what you do at Ellevest, what we're talking about today, and why it is so important, especially right now.

My name is Chelsea Johns and I am a career coach. I work closely with women on all things career. Prior to pivoting to coaching full-time, I actually worked in corporate recruitment for about ten years. Through that, I really learned a lot about some of the challenges that women face, especially when it comes to the topic we're talking about today, which is negotiation.

Let’s jump right into it. As we've mentioned, today is Equal Pay Day. What does negotiation have to do, at a high level, with these gender, pay, and wealth gaps?

If you haven't looked at all of the posts Ellevest has put out today, please make sure you do that after today, because there's a lot of really great data. I'll just repeat some of it, because hopefully it’ll help motivate you to ask for that raise, promotion, or negotiate that offer.

Women are paid just 83 cents a dollar, compared to men. That pay gap is even greater for women of color. That really adds up. We're talking tens of thousands of dollars a year. Just let that sink in a little bit. As women get older, their earning potential actually declines. That means that the gender pay gap increases substantially for women 45 and above.

The gender pay gap is just one contributing factor to the wealth gap. Women are more likely to take career breaks when they're raising children or exiting the workforce for periods of time. They also tend not to invest as much. Enter Ellevest.

Since women are now living longer, and Social Security benefits are based on lifetime earnings, women lose out yet again. I guess what I'm getting at is that negotiating your compensation is one of the most important ways that we can close the wage gap and build wealth. You want to negotiate early, and you want to negotiate often.

We talk a lot about the gender pay gap but the wealth gap is so much larger, especially for Black women, Native women, Latinas. It literally goes down to, women keep and own as low as one penny on the dollar, which is absolutely insane. I'm so glad we're talking about it. I think you covered it a little bit there. But why is negotiation, itself, so important, even outside of these larger structural reasons?

Yeah. Let’s take it now down to the more personal reasons, for anyone who's joining us today. Negotiating for yourself at work has this ripple effect into your future. It doesn't just impact you right now. It has the power to raise the bar for what you're likely to earn and receive for the rest of your career. That means that the more you negotiate today, the better off Future You could be.

I know I'm throwing all these stats at all of you, but something that always sticks with me, is that 70% of hiring managers actually expect you to negotiate. Think about that as you go into your next negotiation — they're expecting you to do something. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Even if you don't get what you're asking for, you can gain clarity on what it would take to maybe get to that number. Or it could just serve as practice for your next negotiation. We only get better. I know this is a skill that we have to develop over time, but just know that each time you do it, you'll get better and better every time you do it.

Yeah. That's a great segue, because I think a lot of women, especially, know that they should be negotiating, know that it's expected, but still feel so intimidated and so nervous to actually have those conversations. Why do you think that those conversations are so intimidating, and how can you ease some of those nerves going into it?

Yeah, I hear that a lot, especially for women. It stirs up this discomfort, stress. I had a call earlier today and a woman was talking about how anxious she was. I hear, "I don't want to ask for too much" a lot. Or, "I don't want to lose out on the opportunity."

I'm going back to my recruiter days here, but I can't tell you how many times a man would come in, have no qualms asking for a salary. Then, a woman with more degrees, more experience [would come in and ask for a number] on the lower end. That's why I think it's so important to have these conversations, so that we can talk about what it is that's coming up for someone, where those emotions are really coming from.

I think a lot of it starts with this mental mindset. When you go into a conversation, whatever emotion is associated with it, [that emotion] is going to come up. What we like to do, what I do a lot with my clients, is really focus on this mindset shift. We want to reframe negotiating in a way that feels comfortable for us.

Examples of this could be, instead of looking at negotiating as this competitive experience where one person wins, the other person loses, maybe you can start looking at it as collaborative. What would be a win for you and a win for them? That's going to allow you to go into it, thinking differently about the outcome and not feeling like it's only going to be a win-or-lose situation.

Another question I often ask clients, which I think has a more impactful outcome, is who can benefit from negotiating? Of course, the first person is you. Future You, especially. Setting yourself up for success, but also, focusing on maybe family. If you go in and you get that raise or promotion, what can you do with that? Who's benefiting from it? If it's really hard for you to go in and just find the strength to advocate for yourself, maybe it can be helpful to think about it in a way that you're advocating for others, too.

Maybe it's [another woman down the line] who sees you in a senior role, sees a woman now in that position, and they think, "Maybe I can do that." You're actually helping others advance. Again, it's all about reframing it in a way that's motivating, inspiring for you, and not allowing that anxiety to come up.

All about reframing the mindset. If someone has an original expectation in their head, and maybe that's the offer, or maybe it's even higher than you were expecting. You're like, "That's fine. I don't need to ask for more, because that's what I thought I was going to get." Or, "That's more than I thought I was going to get." Do you think it's OK to skip negotiating, in that case, if you would be chill with that number?

Yeah. I'm holding onto the, "OK." I want everyone to feel really excited about wherever they land in that offer. I think it's personal to your situation. Ultimately, it's up to you and what feels best for you. If you feel like the offer that you have makes you feel valued, makes you feel appreciated, that's great.

I would also do some research before I accept the offer, just to make sure — we're talking all about Equal Pay Day — that it is a fair offer based on the research, the market research of your position, in that industry. Definitely, try to incorporate some of that data before you make the decision, so you're feeling informed.

Then ask yourself, does it meet your needs or your priorities? Maybe working remote or flexibility is a value of yours, and that's incorporated in the offer. If the number is a little bit lower than the market value, or not exactly where you wanted, but you prioritize flexibility, then maybe it is enough for you.

Again, I think it's OK if you're feeling valued and appreciated. But I also would say, it's OK to counteroffer. If you're not feeling like this number is capturing the work that you're doing, then what is the number that would make you feel that way? Ask for it. Again, you have nothing to lose there. Maybe they come back and you meet between what you asked for in your counteroffer and their counteroffer to your counteroffer, but that's higher than where you would've landed if you didn't ask. Really think through those scenarios. If you ask, what can you gain? If you don't ask, what are you losing there?

Yeah, exactly. I see a question coming through [in the chat]. "When applying for a job, what should one put for salary expectations?" You touched on this a little bit, based on your experience and market value, but if you could dig a little bit more into how you actually do that research, just a starting point, that would be great.

The research for salary, you can do internally. Maybe set up some of those conversations with people in your own network. Hopefully, you’ll be able to learn from one another — where you are, what to expect in the next levels.

Then, also, there are third-party aggregate websites. Think of,, Glassdoor. Actually, LinkedIn is doing a really great job with salary transparency, as well. I would highly recommend looking there. I know networking conversations can be a little bit difficult. But approach it from the perspective of, "I'm getting ready to negotiate. I want to know if my ask is in line with market value. Would you be open to having a conversation about that?" As we all talk about, working at equitable workplaces, I think that really resonates with someone if they receive a message like that.

I would say, also, that if you’re trying for a raise internally, ask your HR or hiring manager, if they have pay bands, or any type of compensation structure in place, just so you have an idea of what you should expect at your level and maybe what the next two levels above you are paying.

Yeah, that's great. I see a question here, which is super in-line with one we have on our list. "I accepted an offer, but feel that it was too low. I'm three months into my role. I'm curious how I can go about discussing pay when my review comes up." So how often should you be reassessing how much you're making? How soon is too soon to start thinking about that? Maybe if you're in a new job, when is it a good time to start having those conversations or preparing for them?

Take inventory of your responsibilities. Let's say you were hired for a specific job. Even just three months in, your role has grown tremendously. You've taken on a lot more work. Maybe now, you have direct reports. What's changed? Again, that's part of collecting that data to ask for that raise or promotion: "Hey, in the past three months, I have grown this much. I've taken on all of this responsibility."

Then, you can look at the external data. "OK, what are some of the job titles out there that better capture the work I'm doing?" If it's at a higher title than what you have, that's also information you want to present and say, "Hey, here's the research I've done, external to our organization, that shows I really should maybe be at a director level. This is where I'm outperforming my role right now. Based on my research and how my responsibilities have grown, I'm looking for a salary at, or about, X amount."

You're not just saying, "I'm working so much. I want a raise." You're being thoughtful. You've done the work. You're saying, "Hey, I actually think that, given what I've found, I should really be at this." It opens up the conversation and, again, allows them to focus on the facts and the data that you've collected.

Knowledge is power in those situations, for sure, in terms of any research you can come in with. Backtracking just a little bit now — when in the interview process, should someone bring up salary and start having these conversations?

My advice when you're in the interview, is to hold off giving a number. Try to find out more about the job, so you really know what they'd be asking of you, and then you can do some of that market research based on what you know about the role.

This way, when they do ask, you can say, "Based on my research and what I know about the role, this is what I'd be asking for." If you talk numbers too soon, sometimes you can limit yourself. That's why we say try to hold off early in the process, so that you can make a more informed offer when you get to that point.

I love that framing. I feel like it's always framed as, "Don't talk about it too soon, or you're going to scare off the interviewer, the recruiter, or whoever," but framing it as like, "I want more information, so I can come with a fair counteroffer."

Next question: If a recruiter demands a salary range, either early on or later in the process, how far above your expectations should you generally say? Or is that all also dependent on that research?

I love this question, because I remember how persistent we were back in my recruiting days. Yes, there are times where you will be pressed for a number. It can be very common. I always say: Don't be afraid to answer their question with a question. “What's the salary range designated for this role?” Start off there. Send it back to them. Don't feel like you always have to be the one who has to offer that. They owe you an explanation, too. 

Then, you can also say, "I'd be open to discussing salary, but I'm really interested in the total compensation package." That opens it up where some of those other components within a compensation package are important to you, like the flexibility or PTO, all those things outside of just the salary and bonus. You can learn a little bit more about that. Then you can think, "OK. Knowing those other components of my total compensation offer or package, I would maybe be more flexible, and maybe I'd ask for this number."

If they really push you, which I know they can do, I would say, start at the top of your salary range. If you come up with a range that you're comfortable with, the bottom of that range should be your minimum that, if you get at that point, you're still happy and you'd still accept the offer. But start at the high end, because remember, 70% of hiring managers already anticipate that you're going to negotiate. Knowing that, we want you to fall somewhere within that range, because then you're still comfortable and happy with that offer.

Make sure you adjust for your gender and racial pay gap. That's what we always say. You always want to start higher. Knowing these stats should also really motivate you to start on the higher end.

In the spirit of Equal Pay Day, can you expand on that? Accounting for those gender and racial pay gaps? How should you be thinking about that, when you think about your salary?

There is a mathematical equation, which I actually think Ellevest has posted it, but it should be based on your personal situation: Your gender, your race, whatever your pay gap is. If you go by 84 cents to a dollar, you could take what you are offered, and divide it. I think it's dividing it by 84 cents. Then, you go up that amount.*

Don't quote me on that! But the information is out there, where there is a mathematical equation. I should probably know it better offhand, but it does exist. I guess, you need to do the work of, "Where am I falling, or what do I need to account for?" Then, you just make sure you include that, to help the gap that we're talking about.

Sorry, I didn't mean to put you on the spot with the exact numbers! I just want to make sure that people are actively thinking about this, because I think they're like, "Sure. There's this gender pay gap. There are these racial wealth gaps. But I don't have to literally calculate that into what I'm asking for." But you absolutely can and should.

OK, we have time for a couple more questions. I did see a question come through, also in the spirit of Equal Pay Day. "If you find out that somebody you work with, whether that be a man or literally anybody, makes more than you in a similar role, or somebody with a similar title, or whatever that is, how do you address that?" It's a little different than a merit-based raise. If you find out somebody's making more than you, how do you bring that up with your supervisor?

Hopefully, we'll all be protected on this soon, through new pay transparency legislation. But yes, if you do hear that, I think that's part of the internal salary data that we're talking about. You could say, "I've had some conversations internally. Here's what I'm hearing. Here's what I'm finding, in terms of what this position is being paid."

Then, do some of that external salary data research, so that you're not just focusing on one person. It's not just word-of-mouth. I don't recommend sharing that person's name, but there's a way of using that information in a way where you can deliver it and say, "Hey, I've done my research. Here's what I'm finding internally. Here's what I'm finding externally. Based on that information, based on my experience, this is where I think I would be fairly paid at X amount." It's valuable information. Don't be afraid to collect that data and, again, ask for what you deserve.

I saw one question come through a couple times: "Should you be having this conversation with your direct boss or take it straight to an HR, people-operations kind of person? Where's the best place to start that conversation?"

I think it really depends on the company, knowing what the policy is there. Is it better to go to HR? If you have a really good relationship with your manager, that may be a better place to start, because they can advocate for you better. Maybe then, they take it to HR and say, "Wow. This person has done a really great job. I'd really like them to get a 3% increase," whatever it may be.

I think it's based on who you have a stronger relationship with. If something is more formal, in terms of the company structure, and it has to go through certain ways to actually get approved at different levels and tiers, then I would start by going to HR and saying, "Here's the conversation I'd like to have. Here's the data I've collected. What's the next step?"

Don't be afraid to ask those questions if you're not sure, either. If you're thinking, "I don't really know actually the best way," you can ask HR. That's what they're there for, especially if you're in some of these bigger organizations.* Find out the best way to do that.

Then, if you have the relationship, whether it be a manager or someone else that works there, ask maybe, "What's your experience been like when you've asked for a salary increase?" Again, knowledge is power. We want to continue having those conversations and start with people that you feel most comfortable with.

I think I've seen a couple questions come through about people being scared if they negotiate, they might lose the original offer, or they're worried about retaliation from that company that's offering them the job. Is that something that people should be worried about? If so, or if not, how should you think about it?

Yeah. I feel like that's a little bit of a limiting belief. I hear it a lot. That we're feeling like, "They could take it away." But the reality is, they can't.* Of course, your ask will probably be more realistic within what their offer is. Again, that's where that data is so important, because it really does separate the facts from feelings.

If you're feeling, "This is too much for me to ask for," go back to the facts, go back to the research. That will really allow you to feel confident in your ask, knowing that it's grounded in the research and data that you've collected. Don't be afraid to ask. I've never heard anyone actually take it away, unless you ask for an enormous amount and there's nothing backing it up, but I have no doubt that none of you would be doing that.

Yeah. I also feel like if it's a company that would rescind an offer for you asking for what you deserved, then is that a place you really want to be?

Yeah, exactly.

That is very much indicative of a larger culture there. I'd be like, "Um."

Well said.

We have just a couple minutes left, so we'd love to hear just any final words of advice or encouragement for somebody who is wanting to start this process or is in the middle of it. Just some final words of advice on negotiation.

If there is one thing you take away, please allow it to be this: Don't agree to the first number that they give you. So often, we do that! Again, it could be something that's fear-based, where you get the offer, you're excited. Make sure you take a moment. It's normal. It's standard to say, "Can I have 24, 48 hours to review the whole compensation package?"

Take that time to maybe do the research and make sure it's in line with what you should be paid. Do some of that reflection. "Is this actually making me feel valued? Is everything lining up with what I'm looking for?" But don't feel pressure to give that answer immediately. That's something that we really stress over; I hear it often. Allow yourself to take that moment!

Secondly, get it in writing. I have had so many people recently who have said, "I've been promised this promotion. It hasn't happened in years." With that, whatever offer you get, ask for time to review it and have them email it to you or send it over, so that you can review everything. Then you can ask questions after reviewing it and make the informed decision that’s best for you. Those are my two biggest pieces of advice when it comes to this topic.

We have so many resources here at Ellevest on this topic, specifically, and a whole host of other career topics, that are very helpful. Folks can check out the Ellevest Magazine to find them. Thank you so much, Chelsea. This has been really wonderful. I think we've hit a lot of really great advice. Appreciate your time today and we'll see everyone else in our Instagram comments.

Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for having me.

Thank you. Bye, everybody.



Editor's note: While this is part of HR's job, keep in mind that HR often primarily exists to protect the company first, employees second. And HR departments' helpfulness can vary depending on where you work. If you're going to HR to ask for negotiation-related advice, it's probably safest to keep the ask simple and process-related.

Editor's note: Divide your salary by the amount of the gender and racial pay gap you face, formatted as a decimal. So, for example, if you're a Black woman, your pay gap is 64 cents on the dollar. You'd divide the amount you want to ask for by 0.64 to adjust that number up to what a cis white man would make.

Editor's note: It's worth noting that this does actually happen sometimes. Several studies have found that women who initiate negotiations for more money are penalized more than men. That said, it's perfectly reasonable (and smart!) to ask for more if you've done the research on the market rate for your role and experience. Being penalized for using data to stand up for yourself? That's a big red flag that suggests you could be in for a toxic work environment should you accept the offer.

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