Mistake People Make When Negotiating Starting Salary

Salary negotiations can be one of the most difficult steps in the job search process. For some, it’s a natural discomfort with talking about money. For others, it’s a fear of asking for too much (and losing the opportunity) or too little (and being underpaid).

Mistakes made at this point in the search process can cost thousands of dollars in the long run. Here are the most common mistakes and tips on how to avoid them.

1. Bringing up the salary question first

Nothing turns off an employer faster than a candidate asking about salary too early in the process. Arguably, there is merit in raising this question early so no one wastes time. However, this protocol is so engrained in the hiring process that if you violate it, the reaction is almost always negative.

2. Not knowing your worth

In some instances, such as when you are moving to another part of the country or hitting the job market after many years working for a single employer, your current pay level may not be relevant anymore. Check your fair market value by reviewing job postings, online salary calculators, industry associations, and recruiters.

3. Making it all about you

Employers are not concerned about your personal financial situation and how much money you must earn to make ends meet. Always keep it professional. It’s about job responsibilities, industry standards and your qualifications.    

4. Believing you can catch up later

The best time to negotiate salary is after a job offer has been made, but before you accept the offer.Even a $5,000 difference in the starting salary can add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of your career.

5. Thinking there is plenty of room for negotiation

Contrary to what some candidates think, most employers are not trying to take advantage of you by giving you a low-ball offer. Unless your prospective employer is unscrupulous, you can assume that the offer is within a reasonable range of what they feel the job is worth. While you might be able to move the salary up a notch or two, it is probably no more than within 5% – 10% of the offered amount. 

6. Focusing only on base salary

Many salary negotiations go off track because the entire focus is on base salary. What often gets lost in these discussions is the value of benefits, pensions, memberships, parking, and other perks. These can sometimes be substantial and amount to another 20% or 30% of salary.