5 Don’ts of Salary Negotiation

Published in CareersConnect, May 2012

By Cheryl Palmer

If you are one of the many people who feel uncomfortable with salary negotiation, especially in this still-struggling economy, know that you are not alone. The job search process can be tough enough with you now having to master social media, staying abreast of what is expected from your résumé, and sharpening your interview skills, and salary negotiation is usually given little attention in the grand scheme of things. However, salary negotiation is usually the last step before you are hired, and if you falter here, you could be losing several thousand dollars before you even start work.

To ensure that you avoid missteps in the salary negotiation process, the following are some basic "no-no's" that you need to pay attention to.

1. Don't Accept the First Thing You Are Offered
Usually the first offer is not the company's best offer. It is generally expected that you will try to negotiate even though the competition for jobs is stiff. You may not be able to negotiate the same salary that you could before the economic downturn, but it is still worth it to negotiate. You don't want to feel taken advantage of after you start your new job.

2. Don't Mention Salary before the Organization Makes You an Offer
The appropriate time to discuss salary is when you are being offered the position. Any talk of salary before then is just that—talk. You should do your salary research so that if you are pressed for an answer about salary during a phone or in-person interview, you can state a range. But try to avoid talking about salary if you can. Focus instead on learning about the position and what will be required of you.

3. Don't Volunteer What You Want in Terms of Salary
The basic rule of thumb with salary negotiation is that the first person who mentions salary loses. In other words, whoever mentions an amount first puts the other person in a stronger position. For example, if you state that you are looking for a salary of $110,000 a year, the HR person is unlikely to offer you $120,000 because you have now set the bar lower. Don't volunteer information unnecessarily because it can hurt you in the negotiation process.

4. Don't Lock Yourself in to a Specific Dollar Amount
As was stated above, if you are pressed for an answer, give a range. That still leaves you room for negotiation. There is not a lot of wiggle room with a specific dollar amount.

5. Don't Overlook Benefits as Part of the Total Compensation Package
In some cases a generous benefits package can balance out a lower salary. After all, benefits are worth money. It may be worth it to take a lower salary if the company pays for most of your health insurance or if you get 401K matching. Sometimes it's easy to get excited about a high dollar amount for the salary without considering the total compensation package. Take some time to mull over what you are being offered before accepting a new position.

About the Author

Cheryl Palmer is a career expert, professional speaker, and the president of "Call to Career." Learn more about Cheryl at www.linkedin.com/in/cherylpalmer. She can be contacted at Cheryl.Palmer@calltocareer.com, or by visiting www.calltocareer.com. Her blog is available at www.calltocareer.com/category/blog. To receive the free report titled, "Top 10 Mistakes that Executives Make," visit her website at www.calltocareer.com. 

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