Negotiating: What You Need to Know

By Joanna DiTrapano, Director of Marketing

Let’s face it — negotiating is uncomfortable. Money is very personal and, because of that, people often have a difficult time discussing it and asking for more when necessary. Women in particular struggle with compensation discussions.

To tackle this very loaded topic, I sat down with KNF&T’s Senior Vice President of Diversity Search and Direct Hire, Kim Dukes, to get her take on what candidates should do during the negotiating process. Here’s what she had to say:


From the get-go, it’s more difficult to get women to change their jobs. This is because women are risk averse – they may not like their job but will stay in that position because it’s safe and comfortable.

Take, for example, a client of mine who began working on her MBA. The classroom was roughly split between men and women. She noticed that when the professor was asking questions, men were eagerly volunteering to answer. But the women in the class wouldn’t say anything unless they knew they were unequivocally right. That’s risk aversion.

This reminds me of the report by Hewlett-Packard that revealed women only apply for open jobs if they meet 100% of the criteria, whereas men will apply if they meet only 60% of requirements. It’s just a different mindset.

Women will gain more by taking more risks, and the bigger the risk the bigger the reward… as the old adage goes. So I encourage everyone, including women, to negotiate. This is especially relevant now that we’re in a candidates’ market. The power shift is back to the candidate so if you want something, ask. Nothing is worse than not knowing.


If you’re working with an agency recruiter, this shouldn’t be an issue as they’ll know up-front what sort of salary you expect and communicate that to the organization.

However, if you’re independently job hunting and are asked what you make, it can be a tough question to answer, especially because you don’t want to limit the potential offer based on your current salary.

If you find yourself faced with the dreaded salary question, you can say something like:  “I appreciate the question but at this point in my career there are many other factors that influence my decision like work/life balance and enjoying the work I do. Right now I really want to focus on the evaluation process so we can both determine if we’re a good fit. If so, I am sure you will give me the best offer possible for the role.”


If you’re working with an agency like KNF&T, it’s best to be transparent with your agency recruiter from the beginning. We do the heaving lifting for you when it comes to discussing compensation. We work with candidates on the front-end to understand their desired salary and the justifications behind it.

However, if you’re on your own and receive an offer, the best piece of advice I can give is not to accept it right away. Take a period of time – whether that be 24 hours or 48 hours – and think about it.

During that time, talk to someone you trust and look at the entire compensation package (benefits, time off, etc.). Identify the reason why you’re making the move. Does this fit the criteria for you to take the next step?

If it doesn’t meet the criteria, think about what you need. Is it additional compensation? Is it more vacation? Take the time to really mull over what would satisfy you.


It’s impossible to evaluate the actual value of the job without having a full understanding of the benefits package. The value of a role isn’t limited to the dollar amount. Peripheral benefits can really add up. For instance, some companies pay for parking, buy employees’ lunch, offer medical reimbursements, provide liberal work from home options, and more.

A great benefits package can be critical to your overall decision. If you have fantastic benefits at your current role and those same benefits are not offered in the new position, then you may be losing money even if you are offered more salary.


Negotiating comes with risk, and the organization you’re interviewing with may not be able to give you what you want. So, when you’re thinking about what will make you happy at your new job, think “OR”.

For example, “I want 10k more OR work from home on Fridays.  I want 10k more OR a more flexible work schedule.” Remember that a successful negotiation is when both sides win.


I can’t stress this enough: you only have one opportunity to negotiate. You can’t ask for more money in one discussion and then, once you get it, ask for more vacation time. Everything you want needs to be covered in your first request.

Make sure you have your thoughts organized going into the discussion. Be able to articulate what you want and create a business case so the person you’re speaking to can advocate for you inside the organization. If your request is phrased poorly, you might be perceived as entitled. Of course, if you’re working with a recruiting firm there’s no need to worry about this. The agency recruiter will handle negotiating on your behalf.


At the end of the day, make sure you feel good about the offer and know that you can feel good about your decision a year from now.