salary negotiations

The biggest mistakes to avoid when negotiating salary

Written by Lauren Pelley
Posted on

Whether you’re going through the stress of interviewing for a new job, or you’ve already spent a few years at your office, you’ll eventually have a few salary conversations.

But those negotiations can be riddled with stumbles if you don’t play your cards right. “You have to understand this can easily go sideways,” says Alan Kearns, managing partner and head coach at CareerJoy.

So, how can you avoid making big mistakes when negotiating salary? Here’s what Kearns says are the big no-no’s to avoid and what to do instead.

Don’t be fearful when negotiating

Being in the running for a new role might make you panic about the possibility of not getting the job, which may result in you selling yourself short when it comes to salary.

“Are you desperate? Then, you might undervalue yourself,” says Kearns.

To avoid suggesting a lower dollar amount than you deserve, take time to mull over your desired salary. Do your homework on typical salaries in the industry, consider your living expenses, take stock of your skillset, and above all — aim high. The worst they can say is “no”.

Don’t spring a surprise salary conversation

“Negotiation is an ongoing conversation,” says Kearns. “It shouldn’t be a surprise.”

In other words, start the conversation early and delicately in a job interview process, instead of waiting until the last second in a third-round interview to bring it up.

“Same goes for long-time employees,” says Kearns. “Salary should be a conversation that comes up regularly at performance check-ins. Don’t spring it on your boss out of the blue.”

Kearns recommends setting up a meeting with your manager so you can discuss in a focused, private setting.

Don’t assume employers know your work

Your future or current employer might not be in the loop on your accomplishments, even if you’ve slid your resume in front of them or stay late in the office every night. Kearns says you must create a business case for what you’re negotiating and why. What are your major successes? What value have you brought to companies? Can you quantify the financial boost that comes from having you as an employee?

By figuring out the hard numbers, you’ll get a better sense of why you deserve a certain salary and you’ll be able to articulate that to someone who might end up making it a reality.

Don’t just negotiate salary

We all know money matters, but Kearns says negotiating just a dollar amount is a big mistake and a missed opportunity.

There are plenty of other things you should consider when negotiating, some of which might be more important to your overall happiness than a pile of cash in your bank account.

“Vacation days, training opportunities, and the ability to work from home are all areas worth chatting about,” says Kearns. “For instance, your job title is worth bringing up. Maybe you want to be an ‘associate’ instead of a ‘junior associate.”

If you avoid the big mistakes, you could wind up with a decent paycheck and maybe some other perks too.

See also:

These 5 salary negotiation mistakes will cost you serious money

How to make $1M during your career with one simple trick

10 conversation starters to take the stress out of networking 

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