Debunking salary negotiation myths

Fear of failure can derail your negotiations, but doing homework and recognising your value can lead to a positive outcome.
Debunking salary negotiation myths

People who have never worked in sales or as a manager or business owner likely have little experience in negotiating, so when it is time to seek a new job, negotiating a salary package may be daunting.

Negative myths associated with negotiation are enough to discourage even the most confident professional from striving to reach the highest level possible. But if you want to be competitive in today’s market and earn the salary you deserve for the work you do and the value you bring to your organisation, you must learn this vital skill.

We called on two employment experts to debunk some common myths that often discourage job candidates from negotiating the best salary and benefits possible.

You don’t have enough job experience to negotiate. If you are interviewing for your first job or an entry-level role in an organisation, you might feel you don’t have the right to negotiate at this stage of the hiring process, according to Emma Louise O’Brien, head of career coaching at Renovo, an outplacement company in the UK.

“Maybe you don’t feel confident to negotiate for an entry-level salary, but you could negotiate an opportunity for a salary review based on your performance once you’ve passed a probationary period,” she said.

If you receive a good offer, you don’t need to negotiate. “Make sure the offer is as good as you think it is,” said Julia Bear, Ph.D., associate professor of management at Stony Brook University in New York. Bear advises all job applicants to conduct salary research before starting negotiations. Convey to the person doing the interview that you have done your homework, by referencing how you researched average salaries for the position you are seeking.

Websites like Glassdoor and Indeed may give you a good benchmark, but consulting with professionals in your network and talking with those in positions like the one you are seeking will give you an idea of what salaries for that job really look like.

Negotiating for a better salary will make you appear greedy. There is a general assumption that you should negotiate only if you are not pleased with an offer, O’Brien said. “But your career move is really important, so your negotiation is about making sure you are quite clear on the salary you are looking for and why you think you are worth that salary,” she added. “Examine your value in today’s job market and if you are not being offered your market value, you can open up a negotiation or choose not to accept that offer.”

The only time you might appear greedy is if you totally misread the job specs and you are asking for a lot more than that role is actually worth.

You are not worthy of a higher salary. Feelings of low self-worth come down to psychology, Bear said. If you don’t feel worthy of being paid a good salary, try to recognise your value, put things in perspective, and draw strength from times you were assertive in the past. “Look at your CV and your portfolio in the context of general market values, depersonalise it, and be objective,” she advised. “Imagine you are negotiating on behalf of someone else.”

Salary is the only part of compensation you can negotiate. Several aspects of a compensation package are worth negotiating, not just the cash salary, according to O’Brien. “In the UK job market, a massive area being explored at the moment is an agile working environment, so negotiating flexible hours or remote working is a good way to increase your overall salary package,” she said. It might be that the organisation can’t offer you a higher monetary salary, but they may be able to offer you a flexible work arrangement, which may then reduce your commuting cost. “It’s really about being creative and considering all the aspects of the salary package that can be negotiated,” she said.

Negotiating does no good in a down economy. Don’t assume an organisation can’t afford to pay the salary you request, even in a down economy. “You’ve got to remember that if the organisation is offering you a job, then you are in a really strong position because you know they want you,” O’Brien said. Remind the hiring manager that you understand the economy is at a level of uncertainty and tell them you are confident you can offer the skillset and experience they are looking for. “The negotiation comes down to your professional value and how you are going to bring value to the organisation that is hiring you,” she said.

Avoid negotiating if you anticipate the answer will be “no”. O’Brien works with many job-seekers who believe they shouldn’t negotiate for a better salary because they should be grateful for the job offer and probably would be turned down anyway. “Negotiating is a two-way process, and just because you’ve been made a job offer doesn’t mean you have to accept it as stated,” she said. “As soon as you are made an offer, say you are very happy to receive that offer and you would like it in writing so you can fully digest the whole of it.” When you review the offer, take into consideration all aspects of it, such as holiday allowance, healthcare, and pension. Then plan and prepare your negotiation.

Don’t bother negotiating when others are competing for the same job. When more than one finalist is vying for a job, you might think the hiring organisation will choose the most affordable candidate and negotiating your salary package might knock you out of the running. O’Brien advises job candidates to remember that salary negotiations don’t start at the beginning of the process. “Negotiation is actually the endpoint after you have received a job offer,” she said. “Understanding the expertise and unique skillsets you are bringing to the organisation gives you value, and it provides leverage for negotiating your salary package.”

Don’t risk negotiating if you don’t know how. In terms of salary negotiation, there should be no reason why you shouldn’t at least consider it. “You might be afraid to negotiate, or you might feel you don’t have the level of experience to do that, but it’s all about preparation,” O’Brien said. She advises anyone who is afraid to negotiate to think about a strategy and prepare a script. “Hold your composure, keep the conversation positive, and demonstrate you are really excited about the opportunity,” she said.

Teri Saylor is a freelance writer based in the US. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Drew Adamek, an FM magazine senior editor, at