5 Big Myths of Salary Negotiation

salaryHow do you make sense of all the salary negotiation tips out there? Sometimes they don't quite add up. "Be tough." "Be flexible." "Tell 'em what you want." "Don't be too obvious." Who's right?

Stacey Carroll, HR expert and director of education at online salary database PayScale.com took some time to bust some common myths about negotiating your salary with your employer.

Myth 1: It's fine to ask about salary early on.

While you can ask about salary right away, Carroll doesn't recommend it. As an applicant, no matter how curious you are about what the job might pay, you should wait until the company tells you a salary range, if possible. There are two reasons for this strategy.

First, when you let the employer name a number, you can use that information to figure out the salary and benefits you think you can ask for. Second, your first priority is to get that company to fall in love with you. The more time you spend talking about the job and getting the employer to see you in the role, the better negotiations will go. By focusing on the position, rather than the salary, you're more likely to impress your future employer.

Myth 2: You need to have a salary number ready right away.

When you're asked about your pay expectations, you don't have to get into the details right away. Carroll suggests the following response to initial salary questions: "I expect that your company has fair pay practices. I'm mindful of all the pieces that go into a compensation package and all of those factors will weigh into my decision."

That reply, according to Carroll, is "the greatest way to deflect giving them an answer." If the employer still pushes you to give a number and you've already done your research, give them one. If you haven't done your research, then tell them that you need to take a preliminary look at the position and you'll get back to them.

Myth 3: When budgets are tight, there's no way to sweeten the deal.

You may get offered a low number because the employer doesn't have room in their budget to give you a larger salary. If this happens, try a creative counter offer.

Ask the hiring manager if you could have a 75 percent position for the pay they're offering? Maybe you could work from home, get additional weeks of vacation or have a flexible schedule. These are ways to feel more fully rewarded but not dip further into the company's limited financial resources.

Myth 4: You can take a low offer now because you'll renegotiate later.

Carroll reminds us that there are two times, and only two times, when you can negotiate your pay – on your way in and on your way out. If you do decide to accept lower pay to start, Carroll suggests asking for a two-part offer in writing, meaning, "I'll accept this pay now if in six months, when I'm meeting expectations for this role, I receive a bonus or more pay." She says you should get that promise in writing from your very first day. If you don't have it written down, there are no promises, and there will be little incentive for the company to pay you more once you're already on board. If you're on your way out, meaning you have a competing offer or are asking for more money and are prepared to leave if you don't get it, Carroll says to make sure you're really willing to walk away if the company doesn't come up with a satisfactory counter offer.

Myth 5: It's possible to name a salary number that's too low and get stuck with it.

Most of us have wondered, "What if I quote a salary number that is too low? Aren't they just going to pay me that lower salary?" The answer is likely "no," according to Carroll. Few companies are going to pay below the market rate because it's costly for companies to lose their skilled workers to other employers.

There are exceptions. Some companies may be willing to hire below the market. But, those companies will likely experience bigger issues long term, says Carroll. The bottom line is that employers know what a fair wage is. They won't low-ball you just because you low-ball yourself. They're only asking for a number from you at the initial stages to make sure there isn't a total disconnect between what you expect and what they're willing to pay.

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