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3 Common Salary Negotiation Mistakes and How to Fix Them

Topics: Negotiation
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It’s essential to negotiate salary, especially when you start a job, if you want to maximize your earnings over time. But, negotiations are high pressure situations; it’s so easy to make a mistake.

The good news is that there are some quick and easy ways to recover from the most common errors.

Mistake #1: You gave your salary history

You might have heard that it’s not a good idea to give your salary history to a prospective employer. Your future earnings should not be determined by your previous salary. Still, it can be awfully hard not to spill the details when asked during the interview process.

Maybe you even used some linguistic trickery to avoid answering the question the first time it was asked. (Stating your target salary at these times can work.) But, when they circled back around and pressed you, you ended up giving the figure. Now you’re worried that your future compensation will take a hit because you disclosed.

The fix:

First of all, it’s important to know that salary history stuff is a little different for women than it is for men. Sadly, women are sort of doomed either way. PayScale found women who share their salary history when asked earn 1.8 percent more than women who don’t. Men who don’t disclose, however, earn 1.2 percent more than men who do.

The best bet for women is to focus the attention on your salary target, regardless of whether or not your salary history comes up. Do your research and provide a number based on your experience, skills and job title.

Mistake #2: You mentioned a salary target that is too low

It’s easy to be caught off guard during the hiring process. Providing a salary target that’s too low is a common mistake. Maybe you didn’t realize that salary would come up, or you just didn’t take the time to think about it. Either way, know that there is a way to turn things around if you find yourself in this situation.

The fix:

There are some ways to recover from an error like this. Basically, you have to set the record straight. You might consider talking about how you’ve learned more about the job. Now, given the responsibilities as you understand them, you’d expect a salary range between x and y if they decided to hire you.

Nothing is set in stone until that final offer. So, don’t think that it’s too late. Salary negotiations happen over a period of time.

Mistake #3: You didn’t negotiate at all

Nervous about negotiating salary? You’re in good company. In fact, even though there are consequences for not negotiating, 57 percent of workers report that they haven’t asked for a raise in their current field. If you’re one of these folks, remember that not negotiating does come with a cost.

“I tell my graduate students that by not negotiating their job at the beginning of their career, they’re leaving anywhere between $1 million and $1.5 million on the table in lost earnings over their lifetime,” said economist Linda Babcock of Carnegie Mellon University in an interview with NPR.

The fix:

You can still negotiate your salary. It doesn’t matter whether you’re working at your first job in your field, or if you’ve been at the same job for years. Start by doing your homework. Check out PayScale’s Salary Survey to see what workers with your experience should be earning. Now, armed with that information, you’re ready to have a conversation.

Be sure to schedule a meeting. You don’t want to catch your boss off guard with an impromptu conversation of this level of importance. You may even want to mention that you’d like to discuss compensation when you schedule the meeting.

When it’s time to sit down, be friendly, clear and pragmatic. Discuss the results of your research and talk about options.

You also might want to consider negotiating for some components of compensation other than salary. Sometimes, a manager has more wiggle room when it comes to other things, like vacation time, flexible arrangements, or benefits, than they do with salary. Upgrading your compensation package in an alternative way could be just as great as a salary increase. But, you can’t know what will happen unless you have the conversation.

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