“I just offered a candidate $85,000 for a job that had a budget of $130k. I offered her that because that’s what she asked for and I personally don’t have the bandwidth to give lessons on salary negotiation,” Mercedes Johnson, a freelance recruiter, shared on her Facebook page. “Here’s the lesson: ALWAYS ASK FOR THE SALARY YOU WANT (DESERVE), no matter how large you think it might be…#beconfident.”
The post quickly went viral, with many questioning Johnson’s tactics.
Most reactions were understandably negative. Some HR professionals and recruiters even chimed in with counter-advice of their own.
“Always negotiate your salary, yes. YES. But also, be an employer that pays fairly and doesn't play BS games (games that lead to women and POC being paid less, something companies are legally obligated to care about…)”
—Ask a Manager (@AskAManager)
“capitalism is so far disconnected from reality that Mercedes S. Johnson posted this, thinking that droves of people would applaud her for her selfless actions of *checks notes* offering to egregiously underpay an employee working on salary”
“I’m sorry. I can’t applaud this at all. Every opportunity I have ever had to offer someone more money, I offered. That might make me a terrible negotiator but I’ll take the L.”
—Black Ashley (@ashleysimpo)
“My niece was offered a tech job. No experience. The panel asked what were her salary requirements. My niece, 23, had no clue & underbidded herself. THE BLACK LADY on the panel disconnected the live accidentally,’ called my niece cell phone n told her what to ask for. THIS IS IT!”
— US Rep. Stimmy Hoarder (@hydr8hoe)
How to make sure you get offered what you’re worth
Unfortunately, Johnson isn’t the only professional in the field who is guilty of these types of tactics. So, how can you make sure you’re paid your true value?
1. Find your market value.
There are several tools available to help you better understand what similar workers in your field and with your skills and qualifications are receiving on average. Do some research into your “worth” as a professional. Try, for example, Glassdoor’s “Know Your Worth” Salary Calculator.
Still, it’s important to remember that these are just averages, and each case is unique. Of course, resources like Glassdoor and Fairygodboss can give you insight into what individuals at your level are earning at specific companies, too.
2. Start an open dialogue with the recruiter.
As Johnson demonstrated, not all recruiters will be forthcoming with budget and salary information. But it’s in your best interest to start a dialogue with them to better understand the salary expectations.
“The people that care about inequitable pay and closing the gender pay gap, the racial pay gap, will not do what this person did,” said Tejal Wagadia, a tech company recruiter. “If a candidate’s ask is lower, I will still offer them what their skills are worth and what is within our budget. Just because an ask is lower doesn’t mean we need to pay people lower, especially when it comes to people of color, minorities, women that don’t know how to negotiate, that historically have been paid lower than their white counterparts. For recruiters, the onus, realistically, is on us.”
3. Always negotiate.
Finally, you should never settle for the first offer if it does come your way. While some employers and recruiters are not open to negotiating, many are. Once you’ve done your homework and investigated the salary you believe you deserve, ensure the employer agrees to that amount by presenting your evidence and understanding your own value.
Johnson eventually apologized for her post.
“It doesn’t feel good and this should have gone differently,” she wrote. “She deserves to be paid what she’s worth from the company despite what she thinks the job responsibilities are worth.”
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