Never Take the First Offer

Last updated: March 9, 2021, at 8:29 a.m. PT

Originally published: March 9, 2021, at 8:29 a.m. PT

Business people shaking hands after meeting

By Meredith Cambre: Y Senior Executive Director, Camping & Outdoor Leadership

In my experience hiring leadership positions, I have noticed that women tend to accept the salary offered to them in the initial job offer. Men, on the other hand, tend to negotiate for more than the initial offer. I have also experienced this personally. When I applied for my current job, I was so excited to get the offer. It was a significant increase over my current salary at the time, and eagerly accepted what was offered. It did not occur to me at the time to ask for more. There are three problems with this.

  1. Our male counterparts are asking for more and getting it.
  2. No one else is going to advocate for you. 
  3. There is no time when you will have greater leverage than the time of the initial offer.

I learned later that the males who had occupied the position before me made significantly more. The difference was so wide that it could not be explained away by years of experience and years in the role. I think those men had been more successful at asserting their own value and asking for more. If I had thought of my value to the organization’s performance and mission rather than the increase from my then-current role (for which I was also underpaid), I would have seen the need to negotiate.

As women, we need to value our own worth before we can ask others to place a greater value on it. 

In the moment, when you get an offer and before you’ve accepted it, you have more negotiating power than you will ever have again. The hiring manager has already determined that you will add value to the organization. They have a duty to manage the organization’s resources responsibly. In this moment, their goal to keep organizational costs low is at odds with your goal to make a great living wage. They are doing the right thing to manage costs; you are doing the right thing to advocate for your value. Many women, including myself, shy away from conflict. And negotiating can feel like conflict. But if you break it down, there is no conflict. You are there to solve a problem for the employer, and they can benefit from your problem solving skills... at a price. You will do better work and be more satisfied in that work if you feel you’re being paid fairly. You owe it to yourself and your employer to ask for what you’re worth.

This article has great resources to help you prepare and negotiate successfully. I hope you will read it and remember, never take the first offer!