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7 Common Salary Negotiation Mistakes to Avoid

Shaking hands after a successful salary negotiation


Talking about your salary is never the most comfortable topic of conversation. Whether you’ve landed a new job or are simply looking for a raise, you have to tread carefully when it comes to negotiating your pay.

A report by CNBC notes that less than 40% of employees attempt to negotiate their salary during the hiring process. The result of this, according to the Glassdoor survey cited in the article, is that “the average U.S. employee could be earning $7,528, or 13.3 percent, more per year than his or her current annual base salary.”

So what can employees do to maximize their chances of success when negotiating their salary? Here are 7 of the most crucial salary negotiation mistakes you need to avoid if you want your pay to reflect your true value.

Negotiating at the Wrong Time

Timing is everything — especially during salary negotiations. Before initiating a meeting, you have to strongly consider the best time to talk about your pay. That requires looking at both the big picture and the small picture. To do so, you will need to understand the annual cycles of your prospective company as well as your direct report’s schedule.

For one, you shouldn’t ask to negotiate your salary at the start of the fiscal year. You’ll find better success at the halfway point of the year when there is likely less pressure on the budget. Secondly, you should try to be considerate of your recruiter or manager’s schedule. Schedule your negotiations so that they have the time to fully consider your request.

Not Doing Your Homework

You have to do your due diligence before you initiate salary negotiations. While you have every right to start a conversation about your pay, not preparing can lead you to failure. The first thing you need to do, certified financial planner Jill Schlesinger told Marcus, is to do your research. Try to think about the opportunities within your desired field so you can settle on a specific role that fares well in today’s labor market.

She also details more steps to help employees find success during negotiations. For instance, you can leverage an updated résumé and cover letter when talking about your pay. Be sure to include elements in your résumé that appeal to HR managers in your field the most for a smoother conversation. Another crucial step that you have to take is cleaning up your online presence. This includes tweaking your social media accounts to make you look professional or maybe changing your settings to private.

Lastly, you should try to perfect your communication skills ⁠— being clear, concise, and stern is pivotal in ensuring that you get what you want out of salary negotiations. This skill is only really mastered by those who have constant exposure to difficult conversations, so if you’re a little rusty, hold mock negotiations between you and your family or friends.

Forgetting to Consider the Whole Compensation Package

You should be able to recognize that there’s more to negotiations than just settling on a number that works for you. Other than the lump sum of money that you get annually, your compensation also includes other monetary and non-monetary benefits that you should strongly consider before saying yes to an offer.

These benefits may come in the form of healthcare, paid vacation time, flexible work hours, or even memberships to health clubs. It’s hard to put a specific value on non-salary items, but to end up with a better deal, always factor in the benefits that your company offers.

Negotiating Through Improper Channels

It’s a given that talking about money can make people uncomfortable. Indeed, many fail to negotiate their salary due in part to being perceived as pushy or brash. Because of this, some employees try to hold salary negotiations through email and other non-direct channels as hiding behind a computer or a phone can boost one’s confidence.

Nevertheless, it’s always best to have face-to-face negotiations. By being direct and discussing an offer in-person, you can create trust between you and your employer, avoid conflict, and increase the chances of a mutually beneficial resolution.

Underselling/Overselling Yourself

During negotiations, many employees tend to either undervalue or overvalue themselves. While it’s understandable that putting a number on you and your skills can be difficult, it’s important to know your worth if you want to increase your chances of success during salary negotiations. You can find out how much your skills are worth by looking at the local labor market.

Creating a baseline market value for you isn’t an easy task, but by reading up on facts and documented sources about your profession, you can create a comfortable salary range that you can confidently put to your employer or HR manager.

Accepting an Offer Too Quickly

During the hiring process, you need to go hard in selling yourself to land the position. However, this changes once a prospective employer decides on you and makes an offer. Large Scale Creativity founder Yoram Solomon points out that the ball is in your court once an offer is made ⁠— you have the option of accepting it, rescinding it, or negotiating for a higher pay.

So it’s best to wait it out. There’s a strong chance that your prospective employer might initiate negotiations if you’re able to prove your abilities. Most employers are ready to adjust their initial offer if they fear losing you to a competitor.

Focusing Only on What Benefits You

As we’ve mentioned, you also have to factor in what’s best for the opposing camp when it comes to salary negotiations. Your employer has their reasons for setting a specific figure, and while this can be adjusted, it’s best to not push it. Moreover, being inflexible and only negotiating for your own sake will get you nowhere.

To increase your chances of success, talk about what the company will get out of adjusting your pay. It’s incredibly easy to talk about why you deserve a better salary, but employers will only take your negotiations seriously if you also frame it as a win for the company too.

Picture of Anna Rhodes
Anna Rhodes
Anna Rhodes is an Arizona-based career writer who specializes in helping people with their careers. When she’s not busy with her blog and 2 sons, you can find her at the local golf club.

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