How To Negotiate For A New Job If You're Underpaid Now

You’re applying for a new job and hoping to get a significant pay bump. We’ve all heard the advice not to lie on your resume. But what about inflating your current salary, especially if you know you’re underpaid?

When it’s common knowledge that women only apply for jobs when they meet 100% of the criteria, why not just add a bullet point to make it look like you check all the boxes? Or add a zero to the “current salary” field on the application?

Have you ever been tempted?

Maybe you’re desperate to get out of a toxic work environment, or you’re trying to save enough to finally pay off your student loans. It feels like all your goals could just drop into place if you were only making more money. Here’s the good news: there are creative — and truthful — ways to make it happen.

When it comes to the job requirements, first, know that it’s not essential that you meet all of them. If you’re at 60 to 70%, apply with the confidence that you’ll learn on the job. Not convinced? Ask yourself what your guy friend would do in your shoes. Or better yet, ask him!

Then, think bigger about your experience. Do you have a volunteer project or side hustle where you get to develop skills beyond your typical resume line items? Are you taking night classes or teaching yoga once a week? Work these into your portfolio so that prospective employers can see the breadth of your skill set.

“So, how much are you making now?” is a notoriously dreaded interview question. You could just get it over with and answer them. But that might get you a lowball offer. Or you could avoid answering them. But it will come up again eventually, and then what will you do? (Note: NYC and MA companies can no longer ask for your salary history.)

Should you lie and bump your number up a little, knowing that you’re already underpaid?

In short: no. If your new company asks for a pay stub or does a background check to verify your previous employment, they could rescind your offer.

Here’s how to handle it: first, if you’ve signed any confidentiality agreements at your current employer that prohibit you from sharing your salary, now’s the time to dust off that employee handbook and confirm. Or, use this opportunity to tell a short story about your background, why you made choices when you did, and how this led you to where you are now.

One thing you could do is proactively offer them your pay details — to be shared after you reach an agreement: “I’d be happy to share my pay stub for verification purposes if and when we get to that point in the process.”

It’s to your advantage to put the salary number out there first, but ideally you should wait until you think you’re a finalist for the position. The amount you’re going to ask for is based on the research you’ve done confirming the market rate for your position, as well as the unique experience and qualities you bring to the role — not how much you were making before.

This post originally appeared in Women@Forbes, where Alexandra Dickinson is a contributor. She writes about how to use a negotiation mindset to achieve your goals.
 

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Alexandra Dickinson

Alexandra Dickinson is the CEO and founder of Ask For It, a boutique consulting company working to close the gender wage gap by effecting change at both the institutional and individual level. We work with companies, schools, organizations and individuals through a combination of trainings, workshops and consulting. Our goal is for women and men to be paid based on their talents and skills, regardless of gender, and for our company to have been an important part of that change.