Hate salary negotiations? You’re not alone. In its Salary Negotiation Guide, compensation software site PayScale found that 57 percent of respondents to its salary survey had never negotiated salary in their current field. The most common reason? Fear. Some worried about being seen as pushy, while others were afraid that bringing up the subject might cost them their job altogether. Twenty-eight percent said that they were uncomfortable negotiating salary with their employers in the first place.
Fortunately, your worst nightmare is not necessarily reality. Most reasonable employers will not pull a job offer or fire a current employee simply because they asked for more money, provided they did so in a professional manner. In fact, hiring managers expect candidates to negotiate, at least a little, and craft their job offers with this in mind.
5 Salary Negotiation Mistakes to Avoid
Still, there are ways to screw up a salary negotiation. Let’s look at some of the worst mistakes:
- Taking Whatever You’re Offered
The biggest mistake you can make in salary negotiations is not to participate. By doing so, you might cost yourself hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of your career. Worse, you might tell the hiring manager that you’re willing to take whatever you’re offered, period. That’s not a great way to begin a business relationship.
- Naming Your Price First
Sometimes, you’ll do your little dance with the hiring manager and lose. That’s OK. There are definitely times when it’s clear that holding out is making the situation socially awkward and potentially damaging your chances of getting an offer.
That said, you want to avoid blinking first, if you can help it. The person who names a number first sets the tone for the negotiations. You want the hiring manager to do that, not you.
If they press you for a number, ask for the range for the position. Rest assured, there is a budget, even if they don’t want to tell you about it. If that doesn’t work, make sure you’ve done your homework ahead of time and have a reasonable idea of what the market will bear for your skills and experience.
- Giving a Salary Range You Can’t Live With
Sometimes, you’ll be asked to name a salary range, not a number. If you are, make sure you name a range that’s reasonable and be sure the lower number is something you can live with. Hiring managers often start with that lower figure or close to it, assuming that you’ll negotiate more. The last thing you want is to start the conversation feeling undervalued – or worse, find yourself taking a job that doesn’t pay enough to live on.
- Providing Your Salary History Right Off the Bat
Here’s another salary negotiation trick beloved by hiring managers: asking for candidates’ salary history, instead of their preferred range. This neatly sidesteps the question of what you’d like to be earning, and instead locks you into a salary that’s a little higher than your previous rate.
If at all possible, avoid giving your previous salary, especially if you were underpaid (or are female, which is often the same thing). It’s perfectly reasonable to frame the discussion in terms of the role they’re hiring for, not the ones you’ve had in the past. If worse comes to worst, you can be frank with the hiring team, and tell them diplomatically that you were underpaid for your previous roles. You might mention, for example, that your previous employer was a startup, and had a lower budget, or that your role grew to include duties that weren’t originally part of your job description.
- Being Afraid to Go Back to the Table
Occasionally, you’ll learn more about a job after you’ve received an offer, and realize that the position is slightly different than originally described, and worthy of higher compensation. If this happens, it’s acceptable (if a little risky) to ask to raise the compensation in light of the new information.
It’s essential to do this before you’ve formally accepted the position. Once contracts are signed, it’s a much bigger headache for the hiring manager and human resources to reconfigure the terms.
Another time to consider returning to the bargaining table: when the employer has made it clear that there’s no more money in the budget, you might consider asking for other benefits that will make the position worthwhile, including more vacation time, a flexible schedule, or the ability to telecommute on occasion.
Suggested Reading: 13 Signs You Should Turn Down a Job Offer