How to negotiate a job offer during the interview

It’s an all-too-common negotiation challenge: How to handle the mid-interview salary question. It’s such a sticky sitch!

I recently received a sweet email from a participant in our recent NYC Bossed Up Bootcamp. In her note, Brianna highlighted a priceless negotiation lesson I think we all can learn from, too.

Here’s an excerpt from what she wrote:

“I wanted to reach out to say thank you — I came to your Bootcamp weekend in NYC back in April, and it was a really eye-opening and useful experience. It provided me with both an overall confidence boost and some very specific takeaways that have been helpful to me recently.

When I came to Bootcamp, I was unhappy in my job and looking for other opportunities. About a month later, I got an interview with a great organization for a job that seemed like a great challenge for me. After a few interviews, I got the job! It’s a shift in the kind of work I’ll be doing to something I really enjoy, the team seems great, and it’s a promotion! I’m really excited.

During the initial phone screen, the HR person handling the process asked me my salary range. I hadn’t prepared to answer that so early on in the process. Before I answered, I remembered the negotiation advice from Bootcamp, and instead of giving a number without doing research, I turned it around and asked him what their salary cap would be. The range he gave was much higher than I would have given myself — and, when the offer came through, the final number was significantly more than I was previously making!

I have your workshop to thank for that: if I hadn’t gone to Bossed Up Bootcamp, I wouldn’t have practiced those negotiation tips and I would have unknowingly continued to undervalue myself — and I could have missed out on a big salary bump.”

This message, of course, left me screaming “YAS, BOSS!” at my laptop for quite a while. Talk about making boss moves, Brianna! GET YO MONEY, GIRL!

But she’s talking about an all-too-common negotiation challenge: how to handle the mid-interview salary question. It’s such a sticky sitch! You’re vibing with the interviewer, and they’re loving everything you’ve got to say, so they start moving things ahead … albeit, prematurely.

Maybe the interviewer asks “So, what are your salary expectations?” Or “what’s your salary history like?” (Even though even asking that question is now outlawed in a handful of states since it has a tendency to perpetuate systemic wage gaps).

So how do you handle it?

1. Remember that negotiation starts with a solid offer.

You’re not in any kind of a position to negotiate until an offer is on the table. And unless you’re a contractor or consultant pitching the company (your prospective client), then they’re the ones who should be making the first move on that front.

2. Ask hiring manager the same – as politely as possible.

You’re going to want to stop, drop, and roll off this topic like your life depends on it (because, well, your livelihood does).

Here’s my most popular Youtube video of all time in which I present a quick 3-step strategy to move on from this question gracefully without giving your power away:

3. Be persistent about not disclosing pay.

Slap a smile on your face and repeat these refusals as many times as you need to:

“I’m not comfortable discussing salary at this stage in the game.” 

“When the time comes, I’m looking forward to hearing more about your offer.” 

“I don’t disclose my pay, but am sure you’ll make a competitive offer if you’d like to move forward.” 

Don’t let anyone bully you into answering a question that you don’t want to answer – even if you start to feel squeamish about it! Consider this: those 10 seconds of awkwardness might otherwise cost you THOUSANDS of dollars in lost compensation each year. And that ish adds up BIG TIME when you consider how that compounds over the course of a lifetime.

Stand your ground, and if the interviewer starts bullying you or reacts incredibly poorly at your polite, professional refusal, well: that’s all you needed to know about how they treat their people.

Have you used this strategy when dodging the mid-interview salary question?

I want to hear about your experience in the comments section below!

And of course, I’d also love to invite you to check out Bossed Up Bootcamp whenever you’re ready to navigate career transition and level up in work and life like a boss!

But don’t take my word for it – here’s more straight from Brianna’s email:

Bootcamp was really illuminating, and gave me the space to consider my big dreams and different possibilities without judgement — while still being practical about all of it. Plus I started listening to your podcast (the episode about how to resign in a professional way came in very handy recently, haha!) and I’ve been carrying these lessons forward in my own life and recommending Bossed Up to friends, too!

This article first appeared on Bossed Up.