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Ask a Recruiter: Can I Still Negotiate My Salary During a Pandemic?

By InHerSight – May 23, 2020 at 10:00AM

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Plus: How to find happiness even if you desperately need a job.

This article originally appeared on, a website where women rate the female friendliness of their employers and get matched to companies that fit their needs.

With rising unemployment, asking for what you want before accepting a job offer can be challenging, and even seem ridiculous if you desperately need a job. InHerSight asked Dana Hundley and Jenna Richardson, co-founders of Career Cooperative, to weigh in on negotiating salary and finding a job that makes you happy during uncertain times. These are their answers, in their own words. Are you a recruiter with job advice to share? Email our managing editor Beth Castle at [email protected] for consideration.

A woman at a desk n a library writes in a notebook.

Image source: Getty Images.

What's your elevator pitch?

We are the co-founders of Career Cooperative, an Oakland, California–based boutique consulting firm that empowers clients to face career transitions, professional growth, and recruiting with confidence. We consult with companies to attract diverse talent through impactful recruiting and interview strategies and support employees through career development. We started working together at a recruiting agency, and through our combined 15-plus years in full-cycle recruiting and career development, we've worked with hundreds of candidates and companies and learned a lot in the process. When you have a focus, understand your value, master the magic of your story, and build a supportive and diverse community, the realm of possibilities is endless.

How can job seekers stand out when there's a flood of applicants?

Make sure your resume and all application materials are tailored to the role you are applying for, really speak to your values and the value you will bring to the role. Also make sure your resume is clean and easy to read. Think white space, headers, and impactful summaries that allow recruiters to see and know in the first few seconds of reading your resume who you are as a candidate. Resume fatigue is real, and recruiters want easy-to-digest information in a resume so they don't have to dig for relevant information.

Community always plays an important role in job hunting, and when you are trying to stand out in a large crowd of applicants, tapping your community for referrals or introductions helps bring your application to the top of the pile. Reach out to the connectors in your community (the people who also seem to know someone) to help you reach and engage in a broader community and access more opportunities.

Let's talk negotiation. Do women have wiggle room to still negotiate salaries and benefits in a market like this? What about flexible work hours or the possibility of maintaining their remote status post-coronavirus?

Yes! Always advocate for what you need and want. The same rules of negotiation apply regardless of a pandemic. Make sure first and foremost you understand what you need and want, and your value as a candidate, then ask. You don't get anything you don't ask for. And have an open mind about the final compensation package. Maybe there is no room for base salary negotiation upon signing, but you may advocate for clear, regular reviews with  performance-based raises. 

As companies are creating infrastructure around working from home right now (many are learning first-hand its benefits), there are way more opportunities for candidates to negotiate flexible schedules and the ability to work from home.

The caveat is that companies may not have a lot of room for negotiation due the economic downturn and COVID-19. If you get pushback, or a hard no, and the offer is just not where it needs to be for you to accept, put the ball back in their court. You can say something like, I completely understand there are constraints happening outside of your control; I trust you and really want to make this work for both of us. I'd very much value your recommendations -- what would you suggest?

On the flip side, what are some good tips for hiring managers searching for applicants remotely? Beyond the usual questions about qualifications, what new questions should they be asking of applicants?

Self-awareness, adaptability, and resilience are especially crucial in candidates at this time. Even as we start to learn more about the long-term impacts of COVID-19, there is still much unknown. With that in mind, hiring managers should be assessing during an interview whether candidates are able to withstand the uncertainty of right now and any known plans (or contingency plans) for the future of the business. 

It is also important in interviewing potential remote employees to clearly communicate to the best of your ability what is happening within the company, and not only the expectations of the role, but the expectations as they are known about working remotely. Interviewing is a two-way street; both candidates and employers need buy-in to move forward. Leading with as much transparency as possible ensures the candidate can best assess if they are equipped for the role.  

Here are some questions to ask:

  • Why X company? Why now? If there is no reason beyond the pandemic that they are interested, that is a sign of potential long-term problems.

  • What did you discover about yourself while navigating changes due to COVID-19?

  • How have you been able to find productivity while working from home?

In tough times, it feels nearly impossible to balance the need for a job with finding a company you love -- or at least a work environment that is not toxic. How can women seek happiness while also ensuring stability?

It remains crucial for women to understand their needs and wants when it comes to a job search. Right now, many women are in a reactive job search based on immediate needs that may not align with long-term career goals. This does not mean women have to give up on their career goals, but they will have to get flexible and creative in how they think about their job search strategy. It may make sense to focus on a temporary solution to meet their immediate needs while still proactively searching and engaging in their community for longer-term opportunities.

The key is to not get stuck in the mindset that this is how it will always be. We are in an incredibly unique and challenging time that will continue to change. Women should continue to pay attention to what they want and need out of work as that changes, too. 

The Motley Fool has an ownership interest in InHerSight. Motley Fool CFO Ollen Douglass serves on the board of directors for InHerSight. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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