Top Myths and Realities of Salary and Job Offer Negotiation

Angela Copeland
by Angela Copeland   Career Advice Expert 

Getting a job offer can be incredibly exciting. After months of interviewing and preparation, an employer finally recognizes your hard work! But, when you get down to it, receiving a job offer can also be stressful.

Often, we feel like we cannot say No to a job once it’s offered. Or, if we were hoping for more money, we don’t always know how to start the conversation.

However, negotiating for a higher salary is an important step in the job search process. Once you join a company, you’ll typically receive a raise of two to three percent each year.

Therefore, accepting a low salary may prevent you from earning the salary that you want for the long-term.

Unfortunately, your pay discussion often begins long before you meet the hiring manager. Many online applications ask for your salary history.

Company representatives often ask, “How much do you make?” during the first phone call. Realistically, if you choose to disclose your salary history, you might back yourself into a corner without realizing it.

The good news is that many places are beginning to make questions about salary history illegal.

A number of states (and cities) have banned, or are planning to ban, this question. This includes California, Delaware, Massachusetts, New York City, and Oregon.

Why ban the salary history question? Many companies would argue that having your pay history helps them to determine if you’re within their budget. Therefore, learning your salary information benefits them. But does it help you?

Not necessarily. The problem is, if you were ever underpaid for any reason, you would likely continue to be underpaid in the future. And, if you were to move from a lower-paying industry (such as non-profit) to a large corporation, you would also be underpaid.

Thus, banning this question creates a pay system that is fairer to all employees.

Here are a few salary negotiation tips that I hope will help guide you in your next salary negotiation. Remember: salary negotiation is stressful, but in reality, the process takes less than 10 minutes. I’ve often asked job seekers, “If you were offered $10,000 to be slightly uncomfortable for 10 minutes, would you take it?” Of course, the person always says yes. What do you think?

Salary Myth: Asking for a Lower Salary Will Improve Chances of Hire

Here’s a great tip: Recognize that your future employer isn’t looking for the cheapest employee. In fact, they are likely looking for someone within a specific pay range. Asking for a salary that is too low (or too high) can hurt your chances of getting a job.

If asking for too little also hurts you, then what should you ask for to play it safe? Do some research to decide. There are many websites that offer salary data online. Some data is by industry and zip code, while other data is by job title and company.

Check out tools like salary calculators for salary estimates. Also, if you’re still working on applying to other jobs, consider putting LiveCareer’s free resume builder to work!

Special note for career-changers: Because of your inexperience in your desired field, you may need to start at a lower salary than others with relevant experience, but that isn’t always the case. Don’t discount your years of experience just because they were in a different role or field. Always conduct your research and be realistic in your salary request.

Salary Myth: Negotiating Salary or Other Parts of Job Offer Frowned Upon

There’s a common fear among jobseekers that employers frown upon job seekers who want to negotiate part of the job offer. Let me give you another important tip: As long as you respect and understand the process — and do not ask for unattainable or unrealistic changes — employers generally respect your desire to receive the best possible offer. In fact, a hiring manager may look down on you if you don’t negotiate.

In rare cases, employers will refuse to negotiate any part of the job offer. If this is the case, an employer will first explain that they cannot make a different job offer and then ask if you are interested to accept the offer as it stands. If you are professional and respectful during your discussion, a company will not rescind their offer. If they do, they’re likely not a place you would want to work for.

salary negotiation

Salary Myth: Accepting First Offer is Safest Strategy for Jobseekers

Jobseekers often assume that the hiring manager is just waiting to make the same offer to the next jobseeker on the shortlist. The reality is that the employer chose you as the best candidate for the position — therefore, they bought into you as the top choice — so you should not feel pressure to accept the offer immediately.

A little-known tip: if you are also interviewing with other employers and are close to receiving another offer, you should at least request more time to consider the offer.

If you ask for more time to decide, be reasonable in your request. Explain your request in a respectful way. Let the employer know that you have another interview in progress, and to be fair to every company involved, you would like to request a few days to make a decision.

Then, follow up with the other company to communicate a similar message. But, let them know that you have a pending offer, and find out if there’s a way to fast track your interview process, so you can give them fair consideration. Again, tact is very important if you go down this road. It’s easy to send the wrong message here.

Note: Be wary of employers who try to rush you into accepting an offer — or who want a decision on the spot. Even if you have no other employment possibilities, always request some time to consider the offer before making a decision.

Salary Myth: Believing That Everything is Negotiable in Job Offer

But wait! There is such a thing as going too far when mediating salary discussions. A common salary tip given to job seekers is that all aspects of a job offer are negotiable, but the reality of your situation depends on several factors.

Typically, the lower the level of the position, the less room for negotiation. Thus, college grads may find little room for negotiation; conversely, mid-level and senior management jobseekers might learn that the entire offer is up for negotiation.

The amount of room available for negotiation also varies between industries or departments. For example, a recent engineering graduate may negotiate a relocation package while companies may not offer relocation to anyone in marketing who is not a senior-level executive.

A common tip given to job seekers is that all aspects of a job offer are negotiable, but the reality of your situation depends on several factors.

One thing that is often available for negotiation is vacation time. Yes, most companies will default to two weeks. However, if you ask for more, there’s a good chance that you’ll get it.

Note: A good source for determining your ability to negotiate one or more aspects of your job offer is an inside source. The power of a strong network is not in just helping you secure job leads, but in providing you with key insider information that you can use to receive — and negotiate — a job offer. Ensure that your inside source is truly knowledgeable. For the most accurate information, do your research online.

Salary Myth: Asking for Offer in Writing Will Offend Employer

No one should ever accept a job offer without receiving the terms in writing — whether in the form of an employment contract or job-offer letter — and no legitimate employer will ever question your motives for asking for such. Period.

When you receive a job offer, the best strategy is to thank the person for the offer and then to ask them when they can send it to you in an email, so you can review the details to see if you have any questions. Exercise caution: You don’t want the employer to assume that you have accepted the job. If you do, then you will lessen your potential negotiation power. Your goal is to be upbeat without coming across as overly eager.

Note: A benefit of receiving the offer in writing is that it gives you more time to understand and evaluate the full offer (including salary, additional compensation, and benefits/perks), and whether you want to negotiate any of the terms of the offer. It also gives you every detail about the offer in writing, so there’s no confusion between you and the company.

Final Thoughts on Salary Negotiation Tips and Myths

While receiving a job offer is exciting for job seekers, it’s important that you understand the realities of salary and job-offer negotiation — and the rules. If you follow these tips, you’ll find that you will quickly increase your salary.

But, above all, remember that if a job isn’t right for you, you should consider walking away. You aren’t required to accept any job, just because it’s offered to you. This is particularly important if the company is not willing to pay you what you believe to be a fair wage. In order for a job to be a fit, it must work for both parties.

Lastly, we must stress this final tip: Never forget that your feelings about the company matter too. Now that you’ve learned these tips, get ready to mediate your pay like a successful, respected professional.

About the Author

Career Advice Expert

Angela Copeland Career Advice Expert

Angela Copeland is a career expert and founder of her own coaching firm, Copeland Coaching. Previously, Angela was Vice President of Digital and eCommerce at First Tennessee Bank, and Director of Digital Strategy and Marketing at ServiceMaster. She’s the author of the book Breaking The Rules & Getting The Job and the host of the Copeland Coaching Podcast. Angela is also a syndicated career columnist, and recently shared her career story in a TEDx Talk titled "How I broke the rules & found my perfect job." She holds an M.B.A. from Pepperdine University and a B. S. in Computer & Systems Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.


Please rate this article

Average Ratings
1/5 stars with 1 reviews

As seen in*

brands image
*The names and logos of the companies referred to in this page are all trademarks of their respective holders. Unless specifically stated otherwise, such references are not intended to imply any affiliation or association with LiveCareer.