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These 5 Salary Negotiation Mistakes Will Cost You Serious Money

Topics: Negotiation
salary negotiation mistakes
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If you always take the first salary offered — and never ask for a raise once you’re happily toiling away for an employer — you’re likely to wind up underpaid. Add in the fact that real wages are 7.5 percent lower than they were in 2006, and you can see how not negotiating salary can put you in a hole financially.

But it’s easy to say that everyone should negotiate, and harder to do it once you’re seated at the conference table opposite a hiring manager or your boss. If you’re anxious about asking for more — or scared that you’ll ask in the wrong way — beware of these salary negotiation mistakes. Avoid them, and you’ll be on the path to getting paid what you deserve.

1. Not negotiating in the first place.

Only 43 percent of respondents to PayScale’s survey reported ever asking for a raise in their current field — despite the fact that 75 percent of those who asked received some kind of pay increase.

It’s not hard to figure out why so many people held back: asking for a raise is scary stuff. In fact, the majority of non-askers reported some sort of fear-based reason, from being scared of losing their job (8 percent), to being afraid of being perceived as pushy (19 percent), to being uncomfortable negotiating salary (28 percent).

But with 75 percent of askers getting more money, it’s in your best interests to push through the fear. Not asking is probably the biggest salary negotiation mistake you can make.

2. Asking for what you want or need, not what the market will bear.

Successful negotiations are based on data, not emotion. Now’s not the time to talk about your increasing expenses or hurt feelings about a colleague’s promotion. Getting a raise is all about figuring out the price you can command on the job market, and making a case for why you should be paid at that rate.

In less than 10 minutes, PayScale’s free Salary Survey can help you figure out how much your skills are worth. That’s the first step in getting the raise you deserve.

3. Forgetting about bias.

The myth is that women are paid less than men because they’re less likely to ask for raises. In fact, PayScale’s data show that women negotiate nearly as often as men (42 percent of women vs. 44 percent of men). However, they’re less likely to get a raise when they do ask (26 percent of women vs. 23 percent of men reported not getting any increase).

Further, research shows that both men and women judge female negotiators more harshly than male ones.

“In repeated studies, the social cost of negotiating for higher pay has been found to be greater for women than it is for men,” writes Hannah Riley Bowles, director of the Women and Power Program at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, at Harvard Business Review. “Men can certainly overplay their hand and alienate negotiating counterparts. However, in most published studies, the social cost of negotiating for pay is not significant for men, while it is significant for women.”

So, what’s the answer? Some experts have suggested tying their salary request to a communal concern. For example, if your role involves negotiation, you might make the case that you must negotiate, in order to do your best work for the team. (Read more tips for women negotiators here.)

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4. Not understanding the industry or the company’s culture.

A few years ago, a story made the rounds about a candidate who lost a job offer for a tenure-track position at a college, because she attempted to negotiate. Most of the experts who chimed in at Higher Ed were shocked that the college rescinded the offer without even attempting to negotiate; one academic job consultant weighed in with some advice: candidates should “negotiate offers, but with careful attention to tone and by tailoring their requests to the institution at hand.”

The vast majority of employers aren’t going to pull a job offer just because you attempted to negotiate, provided you went about the conversation in a professional way. But it’s worth making sure you understand the standards in your industry and at that particular organization, before you ask.

5. Going in without a plan.

Now you know that you should negotiate your salary, and that you should do so with plenty of market data and industry research under your belt. But don’t book that interview or meeting with the boss until you figure out exactly what you want to say.

Prepare a script, but be ready to deviate from it if things change. Come to the table not only with a salary range in mind, but with a list of other things you’d like, as well — just in case the budget won’t stretch to accommodate your request. Additional vacation time, telecommuting privileges, perks and benefits can all make a big different to your bottom line and quality of life. Be ready to ask for them, especially if there’s less cash available to play with.

Tell Us What You Think

Which salary negotiation mistakes would you add to this list? We want to hear from you. Tell us your thoughts in the comments or talk to us on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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Anna Sneha MathewKimLeahRobCarl Recent comment authors
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Even if you’re in sales, negotiate the highest possible base salary. Don’t let them sell you on the fact that the commission plan will get you to your needs. Because when the commission plan changes, and it will change, you want to make sure you’re covered. So go for the highest base possible.

Anna Sneha Mathew
Anna Sneha Mathew

I believe negotiation is a skill. You dont have to put up with something that is too less or too high for you. In this world of today, you can rate yourself. You have to be competent for that.


My husband has worked for this company coming up on 7 years. He has NEVER rec a raise bonus etc., For which he was promised upon hire. He first asked for a raise after 18 months of employment, was turned down for reasons that the company was not making enough money at the time. The next time was after 4 years of employment, he asked again for a raise and was told the same thing as before. My husband said… Read more »


The tactic of recruiters has been to ask you what you were making at your last job and make you an offer based on your last salary whether it’s competitive or not. When I declined to tell one recruiter he told me it wouldn’t be fair to expect more money than my last job. I’m tired of this sneaky tactic to undercut a fair salary. Not only that but my salary information is confidential. I won’t give out my salary… Read more »


I am happy with my negotiated salary. We both were happy with the agreed amount, and increases. However, we also discusses bonuses as well. I was told the bonus program was being revamped, but promised it was very competitive and aggressive. However, I have not seen this yet. How should this be approached with the company without sounding unhappy? I am very happy in my job, but this is one area I specifically discussed as a turning point for me… Read more »

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