The Most Common Boo Boos in Salary Negotiation

By Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

With the unemployment rate at 6.7 percent, 12 million Americans will be out of work by the end of the year. And, with the COVID-19 pandemic still going on, it’s a particularly difficult moment to hunt for new employment. However, don’t let this stop you from doing everything you can to achieve a decent income and benefits. Even in a downturn, hiring managers expect candidates to haggle over terms.

Finding the right person for the job is more important than ever, even with a much larger group of applicants. They want you as much as you want them so if you’re one of the top candidates, know they want you as much as you want them, negotiate from a position of strength.”

Not only do they expect you to bargain, but failing to do so could harm not only your career but also the impressions you make on potential employers.

“I immediately worry about certain things when a person signs and returns an offer without discussion or negotiation,” said Michael Sherlock, a speaker, author, and corporate trainer. “(I fear that) they don’t believe in themselves (i.e., they don’t believe they are worth more); they aren’t good salespeople/sales leaders — after all if you can’t sell yourself in a salary negotiation, how are you going to react when a customer raises a price objection? ; and (perhaps) I could have gotten them for even less.”

However, when it comes to the art of negotiating, people can easily make mistakes. Here are 12 common blunders that CEOs and recruiters notice.


  1. Failing to Bring the Negotiations to a Successful Conclusion

You should prepare to negotiate, but do so sooner rather than later

“Salary negotiations begin far sooner than most people believe; they really begin at the beginning of the process,” said Dennis Theodorou, managing director of JMJ Phillip Executive Search. “From the appearance and content of your resume to how you follow up and even during the interview process, everything matters. You don’t necessarily have to compromise pay because you’re unemployed or overqualified if you present your background well and come across confidently as the professional that you are.”


  1. Failing to do your homework on a specific role or market. 

  2. Jessica Williams, a career adviser, stated, “You have to perform your due diligence in terms of investigating (income) data.” “Use LinkedIn to look for salaries in your industry that are comparable to your position.”
  3. Failing To Inquire About the Budget of the Employer

It’s vital to ask the potential employer what they have budgeted for the role when asked what your wage expectations are.

“You have no idea how close or distant you are to their target unless you ask.  You may be leaving money on the table or requesting something that is beyond of their budget. If you’re having a conversation early enough and are compelled to offer what you’re looking for, explain that your response is based on what you know about the job criteria at the moment. Your opinion of the role at the conclusion of the process may shift significantly from your initial perception, and what you discover may influence what you decide to accept.”

Your opinion of the role at the conclusion of the process may shift significantly from your initial perception, and what you discover may influence what you decide to accept.”

Darrell Rosenstein, the founder of The Rosenstein Group, adds that if you don’t know what you’re worth, you won’t be able to sell yourself effectively. “A well-researched pay range will also be easier to sell,” he added, adding that you’ll be able to back up your request with statistics.


  1. Establishing a Salary Range

“Ask for the salary range at the beginning of the recruitment process to establish a starting point,” Lead Cookie CEO Jake Jorgovan stated. “If they ask for your phone number, you can say, “I am currently exploring various opportunities, and I am unable to provide you with a number; nevertheless, I would appreciate the opportunity to explore what you have to offer in light of my talents and expertise.” If they insist on your wage target, offer them a figure that is 10-20% greater than your intended compensation for the position. It will provide you wiggle room if the company wants to offer you a lesser price.”


  1. Forgetting About Other Benefits Aside From Pay

From the standpoint of a business owner, I can honestly state that if non-salary topics are discussed, there is significantly more space for bargaining. And many workers appear to have forgotten that they have a stake in this game.

And many workers appear to have forgotten that they have a stake in this game.


  1. Making a hasty decision

“If you’ve been looking for work for a long time, it’s tempting to take any job that comes your way. But, just like marrying the first person who asks you out on a date, jumping on the first offer that comes along can be disastrous “’s chief cultural officer, Julie Titterington, agreed.

“Allow yourself some time to consider an offer before accepting it. If you have other people in your life, such as a spouse or partner, talk to them about the offer and receive their feedback. Sometimes all it takes is a little breathing room to figure out whether a job is a good fit or a bad decision made in a hurry or fear. If you accept a square-peg-round-hole offer, be sure you understand why you’re doing it. If your ship will sink otherwise, it’s okay to pick the first port in a storm, but don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re doing anything else.”

Surprisingly, 80 percent of workers would stay a job with benefits rather than choose one with a higher salary but no benefits; also, 55 percent of workers would accept a job with lower pay but a more comprehensive benefits package.

“And it’s these benefits, which employees often overlook, that can make or break any deal. The first item that comes to mind when determining one’s worth is money, and this is an excellent place to start. However, more money isn’t always the only indicator of high performance. When it comes to employment talks, extra time off, a better company car, more flexible working hours, and better-motivated payment arrangements are all important factors to consider.”


  1. Mental gymnastics

“A compensation negotiation may feel like a dance at times,” Titterington observed, “but if it resembles a high-pressure chess match, something has gone horribly wrong.”

“Refrain from playing mind games or attempting byzantine power moves. Don’t turn down a decent offer only to be difficult to obtain. Potential employers aren’t attempting to take advantage of you; if they offer you a job, it’s because they want you on their team and are doing everything they can to convince you to join them. Holding out for something better, even if you desire the job and would be OK with the current offer, is a smart way to end yourself jobless. This isn’t to say that you should accept mediocrity. If the offer is too low, keep negotiating until you find a solution that seems appropriate. Just don’t try to take advantage of the system.”


  1. Failure to account for changes brought on by the pandemic

“Because COVID has resulted in salary reductions in organizations, it will undoubtedly have an influence on merit raises moving forward,” said Joe Mullings, founder, chairman, and CEO of The Mullings Group.


  1. Accepting a Marginal Offer

“Probably the biggest mistake you can make is settling for whatever offer you get,” said Max Babych, CEO of SpdLoad, who added that salary is routinely negotiated every six months in their business. “Accepting a lower income than you are worth has serious financial ramifications. It will not only cost you money, but it will also gnaw away at you until you despise your job and/or employer.”


“Other companies have put a cap on merit raises across the board. While it’s reasonable to expect pre-COVID compensation levels when looking for a new job, you should also expect organizations to keep salaries low until some sort of business horizon is established, and those companies that have been prudently preserving cash may bring salaries back to pre-COVID levels.”


  1. Ignorance of the situation

“Pay attention to the surroundings when interviewing at a new employer,” advised Robin Widdis, CBIZ business unit president and board member of CBIZ Women’s Advantage.

“Is it possible to work from home? What aspects of the firm and the individuals they work with do people enjoy the most? Salary is important, and making sure you sell your skills and qualifications is important, but be a listener and make sure you factor in the perks, the work-life balance, and the salary is great, but no amount of money will help you do your best work there if you aren’t right for the culture or it isn’t right for you.”


  1. Excessive Bargaining

“While under-negotiating is a typical issue, over-negotiating presents a different set of worries among today’s employers,” Kent Elliott, principal of RETS Associates, stated. “For example, our business recently went through five variations of an offer letter with a candidate and employer. In this example, the candidate had very precise requests, including higher bonus possibility, various compensation levels, and minute details like specified days off.”

“Because the candidate was ideal for the job, the employer went out of its way to accommodate them, eventually producing an offer that was identical to the candidate’s specifications. Surprisingly, the candidate used the new offer as leverage to apply for another job at a different organization. The candidate’s reputation was ruined as a result of this. To avoid making this error, today’s job seekers should negotiate honestly and end when they get what they want.

  1. Not Getting It in Writing

“Make sure the employer agrees in writing that the salary may be increased but cannot be decreased during the term of the employment,” said Lauren Blair, a lawyer and legal writer for “A written agreement is key for employees negotiating a comprehensive compensation package that includes bonus, equity and/or other unique remunerative benefits.”

“Annual bonuses usually are not guaranteed so employees should make sure the eligibility requirements, as well as payment targets and timetables, are clearly defined in writing. For one-time bonuses, like signing bonuses, make sure the document reflects that they are guaranteed and when they will be paid out,” Blair added. “Equity awards normally have separate stand-alone agreements, but the equity promise and award amounts should still be included in the general employment contract. Also, employment benefits, like relocation packages, travel allowances and other perquisites likewise should be reduced to writing.”



JeffAltman, The Big Game Hunter
JeffAltman, The Big Game Hunter

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching, and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 2100 episodes.

Are you interested in 1:1 coaching, interview coaching, advice about networking more effectively, how to negotiate your offer or leadership coaching? Schedule a discovery call at my website,

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