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6 Salary Negotiation Mistakes That Could Cost You

salary negotiation mistakes

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If you’re like most people, you’re probably not very comfortable talking about money and are even less comfortable getting interviewed. Salary negotiation, unfortunately, lands right in the middle of both these realities.

Because of this discomfort, it’s easy to avoid preparing for this important talk — or to avoid negotiating altogether. But this salary negotiation mistake could have a hugely negative impact on your financial future.

Let’s take a closer look at six common mistakes people make when requesting a higher salary, whether they’re meeting the interviewer in-person or talking over video chat for a remote job.

1. The biggest salary negotiation mistake: Not negotiating

Of all the salary negotiation mistakes you can make, the biggest is to avoid negotiating your salary altogether!

A survey by global staffing firm Robert Half showed that only 40% of workers tried to negotiate a higher salary the last time they were in hiring talks. Many may not understand that salary negotiation is an expected part of the process. Employers want you to be happy with the deal and expect you to help them find a number that fits both of your financial plans.

“Negotiating is incredibly important because you’re standing up for yourself; you’re tapping into skills to ask for more, which ultimately sends the message that you deserve it.”

-Vicki Salemi, Career Expert at

Employer’s state time and again that they find those who sought to negotiate as more confident — and only 6% in that survey said they wouldn’t negotiate a salary with an entry-level employee. That means the vast majority — 94% — are open to negotiating salary for entry-level workers. That number is probably even higher for experienced workers.

Most people who ask for a higher salary get one. 

Still not convinced you should be negotiating at the hiring stage? Well, recent studies have shown that most of those who ask for more money get it. About 20% of those who did get an increase saw boosts as high as 11% to 20% of the original number. Theoretically, an 8% salary increase on a $50,000 job offer will result in a difference of over $12,000 in your account in just three years.

So even if you feel awkward about asking for more money, it’s crucial to do so. Avoiding the conversation could cost you serious money over the course of your career.

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2. Not knowing your professional worth

Another common salary negotiation mistake is not knowing your professional worth. Some go into interviews expecting too much; others, too little. You should never throw out a number based on guesswork.

Instead, you can avoid overvaluing or undervaluing your position with market research. Sites such as Glassdoor and Payscale can give insight into average salaries for your position.

You might also speak with people in the industry or even reach out to people within the company you’re applying for to get a sense of salary expectations.

And remember, this number isn’t a reflection of your worth as a person. It’s simply a reflection of how much companies are currently willing to pay for your skillset.

“Candidates who fail to research critical factors regarding compensation tend to draw the ire of recruiters and can raise a few red flags.”

-Jim Leahy, director of people and talent acquisition at WayUp

Once you understand the perceived value of your position, you can approach the negotiation with a clear idea of what would be fair compensation.

3. Forgetting to discuss benefits

Another common salary negotiation mistake is to get caught up in the salary number and forget about benefits. Company benefits, like family health insurance or transportation discounts, can often be just as valuable as a larger number on a check.

Consider the value of all the prospective benefits as part of your overall compensation package. Maybe you’ll accept a slightly lower compensation than you requested if the employer can make up for it with paid vacation days, a student loan matching benefit, or another perk.

4. Not bargaining at the right time

So when exactly is a good time to discuss negotiating your salary? After you’ve received a job offer.

Once you’ve been offered a position, it’s almost always a good idea to negotiate salary before accepting it. That said, you don’t necessarily want to be the first to throw out a number. Instead, find out what range the employer is thinking so you have a reference point.

Since the employer already said they want to hire you, you can feel confident you’re in a good bargaining position.

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5. Asking for a ridiculously high number

An employer who’s interested in hiring you is not normally going to be trying to take advantage of you. While there are exceptions, most numbers offered by employers tend to be within the realm of reasonable expectations; either of what they can afford or what you are worth.

You want to boost your salary, but you don’t want to push too hard. Pushing past 15% of an initial offer is generally frowned upon. Some businesses don’t have large profit margins and may not be able to budge much on their initial offer.

Again, basing your salary expectation in market research, as well as waiting for the employer to state a number first, will help you ground your request in reality.

6. Too hastily accepting or declining an offer

Another salary negotiation mistake would be waiting too long (or not long enough) to give your answer. If you know your “dealbreaker salary,” you should be able to give an answer within a reasonable amount of time.

If you hesitate for too long, an employer could be turned off and think you’re not as motivated to join the team as you said you were in the interview.

On the other hand, you probably don’t want to accept a counter offer right away without giving it a little bit of thought. The decision of whether or not to accept a job offer will have long-term consequences, so don’t rush into it.

Thank them for the offer and then ask for a day to sleep on it. Think over all the terms and conditions of your contract before you accept, decline, or renegotiate. After waiting a short amount of time to clear your head, you’ll have a clearer sense of the best way forward.

You can bounce back from salary negotiation mistakes

Even if you make a mistake while negotiating salary, it’s not the end of the world. Remember, your biggest mistake would be avoiding the conversation altogether.

Salary negotiation is a key part of ensuring both you and your employer are happy with your employment situation. Most employers want you to be content and motivated in your job and will typically pay a bit more to ensure that.

So know your worth, and understand that negotiating is an expected and normal part of the process. It’s up to you take charge of your financial future.