18 things you should never say in a salary negotiation

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How to Negotiate a Salary

You secured the interview, brought your A game, and landed the job. Now comes the hard part: negotiating your salary.

"Salary negotiations are like any other type of negotiations — except the words you use can be extremely powerful, since there is a personal aspect to the discussion," says HR expert Steve Kane. "The negotiation is not over the worth and price of an inanimate object, but rather the value of you to some enterprise."

Here are 18 words and phrases that may hurt more than they'll help in a salary negotiation:

"I accept [the first offer]."

Remember: This is a negotiation, so be careful not to end it before it has even had a chance to start, says Ryan Kahn, a career coach, founder of The Hired Group, and author of "Hired! The Guide for the Recent Grad."

"I'm looking for X."

Never throw out the first number. "You want to leave room for discussion," says Lynn Taylor, author of "Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job."

Kahn agrees. "A good negotiation strategy is to let the employer offer the first number. That puts you in a position to see the number they are offering and gives you the opportunity to negotiate it up from there."

"That's all you're offering me?"

Never say this, or anything else that will offend the employer — even if you think the salary they're offering is laughable.

"I have other outstanding offers right now that are much more lucrative."

Even if it's true, you shouldn't use "that card" to pressure the employer, Taylor says. "Only discuss the offer at hand."

And if you don't have another offer on the table, you'll definitely want to avoid this tactic. "You could shoot yourself in the foot," Taylor says. "The hiring manager may ask you to elaborate and if you're bluffing, it'll be hard to save face."


"In negotiations, you'll have to be willing to be flexible and provide counteroffers when the offer isn't in line with what you are seeking," says Kahn. By saying "no" you could be quickly closing the door on the offer at hand.

"Bottom line'/'This is my final/last offer."

These phrases sound like threats, and they typically close out the negotiation, says Kane. "If you say any of these things, and the demand is not met by the employer, the negotiation will be over and you'll have to be prepared to walk away."

"I know this may sound a little aggressive, but ..."

If your rationale is based on fact, you should never have to preface your request with this type of disclaimer.

"I hate to have to ask for this, but ..."

True, it might not be the easiest thing to ask for more money — but saying you "hate to have to do it" is a flat-out lie. Plus, it's just a really terrible way to preface the negotiation.

"I need ..."

You should never say you need X amount more because of expenses or debt. "Don't bring in personal issues; this is about your merit and the job fit," says Taylor.

RELATED: 6 job perks you should always negotiate

6 job perks you should negotiate
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18 things you should never say in a salary negotiation

1. More vacation time 

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2. Flex time (ability to work from home and at different hours)

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3. A better official title for your position 

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4. Commuting reimbursement 

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5. A severance package

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6. Designated office space

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7. Continued education tuition reimbursement

Photo credit: Getty


"I heard you offered John $X, and I'm a harder worker."

Never use gossip in a salary negotiation — and definitely don't compare yourself to others. It's mean and unprofessional.

Of course it's fine (and recommended) to do your research on compensation — but that should be done on sites like Glassdoor and PayScale ... not at the office water cooler.

"I think ..."

Don't use "I think" or "maybe" or any other "uncertain words," says Jessica Miller-Merrell, editor of Blogging4Jobs.com and CEO of Xceptional HR. "Always speak confidently."

"The least I'd be willing to accept is X."

If you tell them the parameters of the lowest offer your willing to take, that could be what you'll get.


Have confidence in yourself. "If you know your value and what you'll be bringing to the company, there will be no need to apologize for asking for more," Kahn says.


These words are demeaning or disrespectful to the employer, Kane explains. "The employer may decide they don't want you to work there after all because of the lack of respect you show them."

"But I'm worth so much more."

Of course you'll want to mention your value in a salary negotiation — but try to say it in a way that isn't so obnoxious. You never want to come off as arrogant.

"You might not think I'm worth this, but ..."

Just don't.

"You want to be direct, polite, and concise in your negotiation to show that you are competent and a valued member of the team," Miller-Merrell concludes.

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