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All-Too-Common Mistakes People Make When Negotiating Salary

By: Rebecca Johansen
Nov 17, 2020 • 7 min read

Negotiating your salary? Be sure to avoid these common mistakes!

Many people find it uncomfortable to talk about their salary — making negotiating pay or looking for a raise a difficult task to undertake. Nonetheless, it’s important to try to hammer out your salary with your employer. If not, you can potentially lose thousands of dollars every year! To avoid some common mistakes when negotiating your salary, read on.

Staffing firm Robert Half notes that only 39% of workers attempted to negotiate during their last job offer. However, the success rate of negotiations was only 10%. This means that while some employees can bravely initiate negotiations, not all emerge victorious.

To find success during salary negotiations, you should be brave enough to try and know how to play your cards correctly. With that being said, we’ve listed below the most common mistakes employees make when negotiating their salary, so you can avoid them.

Not Doing Your Due Diligence (Research!)

Anyone who looks to improve their current pay or aims to get a higher starting salary should prepare and do their research. For one, you can’t just throw random numbers in the air and then accept an offer that you think is enough. Of course, your employer knows how much your position and credibility is worth in the current market, and they can easily lowball you.

So, be sure to do your due diligence and take a look at the average salaries in your chosen position. Average salaries in the company, your estimated market value, and other benefits will also be important factors to consider. Furthermore, you should also consider the salaries of positions similar to yours before negotiating. If you don’t know where to start researching the market salaries of different jobs, you can check out the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics database. The US BLS contains the annual mean wage for more than 800 occupations.

Not Valuing Yourself Correctly

As you do your research, you’ll probably settle on a figure that you’re comfortable with. To raise your chances of success during salary negotiations, you should place your salary value in a range. Doing so prevents you from undervaluing or overvaluing yourself in the eyes of your employer.

“The key is to anchor the range with an ambitious but reasonable number at the bottom, equivalent to the one you would have used as a single dollar offer,” certified financial planner Jill Schlesinger told Marcus. This allows you to have a baseline market value while still opening up, landing a higher pay.

For instance, if you want a salary of $100,000 a year, suggest a $100,000 to $120,000 range to your employer. This usually works because most employers are affixed to your range’s bottom end and will unlikely go below it. Keep in mind that this only works if your range’s base is rooted in reality, so be sure to keep your figures reasonable.

Failing to Consider the Compensation Package

There’s more to your compensation than just your salary package. Non-monetary benefits like healthcare, allowances, flexible work hours, and paid vacation time should be considered before asking your boss for a salary increase. When negotiating your salary, you should also think of other bonuses that you might receive from the company, like support for professional development, additional training, and promotion opportunities.

It can be difficult to gauge how much exactly non-salary items cost, but if you want to be successful in your salary negotiations, be sure to consider the whole compensation package your company provides.

Not Negotiating in Person

Many people find it difficult to talk about money or their salaries as they have a fear of being perceived as aggressive or brazen. Holding salary negotiations through email and other indirect channels can give you a confidence boost. However, this can actually lessen your chances of getting what you want.

It is always best to hold in-person, face-to-face negotiations with your employer as it allows you to be more direct. Furthermore, content media website developer Neil Kokemuller writes on Chron that not hiding through indirect channels mitigates the possibility of miscommunication. It also fosters trust between you and your employer, and helps you avoid conflict.

Initiating Negotiations at the Wrong Time

It’s important to get the timing correctly when initiating salary negotiations. For one, you should be considerate of your manager’s schedule. When asking your manager to put your pay increase on their agenda, be sure to schedule the meeting at a time when they’re more relaxed.

Additionally, you should also look at the bigger picture by taking note of your company’s annual cycles. Don’t ask to negotiate your salary during the start of the new financial year. Chances are good that a new budget has just been approved and fixed. Schedule a meeting at the halfway point of the year when there’s less pressure on the budget or your manager.

Accepting an Offer Right Away

Last but not least, do wait it out before you accept your company’s offer. The ball is in your court once your employer makes an offer. Accepting it right off the bat would be a grave mistake. For one, the offer is still subject to increase, and you can still demonstrate why you may deserve more. Take your time! Furthermore, many employers may adjust their final offer if they feel like they might lose you to a competitor. So, after hard-selling yourself during negotiations, try to relax and think first if the offer matches your worth.

Ultimately, your goal during salary negotiations should be to remain financially comfortable. Keep a level head and know how to assert yourself while still remaining flexible. Furthermore, be sure to do your research first to value yourself correctly, so you know how to properly sell yourself. By avoiding the mistakes we’ve listed above, you and your employer can settle on salary negotiating suitable for everyone involved.


For more information on negotiating your salary (and other mistakes!), check out the rest of our blog!

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