Since the unemployment rate in the United States skyrocketed to the double digits (10.0%) in October of 2009, employees have been more reluctant to negotiate their salaries when accepting a new job offer. That kind of fear makes sense – the unemployment rate is now at 6.7%, or 10.5 million Americans. This is a far better number than in 2009, but most applicants would rather take what they can get than risk turning off their potential employers. However, now that the economy is bouncing back and 6.7% is our lowest rate in six years, applicants can shake off that fear and get back to their old negotiating selves.

Myths of Negotiating for a Higher Salary

There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding salary negotiation – probably because most of us don’t take a negotiating 101 class in our lifetimes. Before you head into that interview or your boss’s office, get rid of any false ideas regarding negotiating that might hold you back.

  • “The offer you get is the best your employer can do.” Employers are always trying to shave costs, sometimes at the expense of their employees. Your boss isn’t going to start out with his or her best offer, so you should have some room to negotiate.
  • “Smaller businesses don’t have as much money as large corporations, so the number they offer is more set in stone.” While it’s true that small businesses don’t make as much money as a larger one, they actually have more flexibility when it comes to your salary. Large corporations often have a policy in place that prevents them from being able to negotiate, whereas small businesses have more room to budge.
  • “I can only negotiate my salary.” Your boss may not budge on the salary, but that’s not the only item up for negotiation. Applicants and employees can haggle on signing bonuses, moving packages, severance, and other perks that can sweeten your employment.
  • “Negotiating is only for people in certain positions/with certain personalities.” No matter where you place on the corporate totem pole, you can negotiate for a higher salary. You also don’t have to be a stereotypical go-getter to negotiate either. There are techniques you can learn to help you negotiate better. Also, how you negotiate might change based on your industry and position – just make sure you’re learning from the right sources.
  • “If I’m currently being paid a low salary, I can’t negotiate for much higher.” The truth of this statement depends on a lot of different factors. However, the raise you deserve should depend on what other people in your industry with similar qualifications are earning. A large jump may be necessary depending on how far behind you were in the first place.

Strategies You Should Use During Your Salary Negotiation

The times have clearly changed since unemployment rose to drastic degrees in 2009, and so have some of the salary negotiation strategies you may have heard recommended back then. With the job market being a different place, you have to adjust how you ask for a raise. Keep these items in mind before meeting with your employer:

  1. Leverage any other offers you might have, or even mention conversations you’re having with competitors about job openings.
  2. Do your research first – find out what others in the same position are earning. You can use LinkedIn or a website called to find out more.
  3. If your potential employer is reluctant to accept your counteroffer, volunteer to do a project for the company on a prorated basis. This will get your foot in the door and make him or her more likely to accept your offer.
  4. Negotiate in person. It’s harder for your boss to reject your offer when he or she can see your face.
  5. Before going into a negotiation, have two numbers in mind: your bottom line and your target salary. Start the negotiation with your target number, but let your employer know that you are flexible.

Things Not to Do During Your Salary Negotiation

You should be confident and go for the raise. But some of the old strategies that used to work a few decades ago will not work now. Avoid doing any of these things during your negotiation:

  1. Don’t assume that the state of the economy means that businesses cannot negotiate your salary. About 80% of companies expect you to negotiate and purposely leave themselves some wiggle room to accommodate that.
  2. Don’t ask for a raise without proving why you deserve it. You need to back up your request with specific examples of how you have helped the company or how your experience requires that size of salary.
  3. Don’t name a number that is ridiculously out of your range. You want to aim high, but not so high that you won’t be taken seriously. Again, doing your research should help you determine the appropriate range.
  4. You have research, so don’t be afraid to show it to your employer. Use your concrete evidence to back up what you are saying.
  5. Although your past salaries shouldn’t matter when determining your new salary, don’t lie about the old one either. There is nothing worse than being caught in a lie by a potential employer. It could lead to an immediate termination. Just don’t even risk it.

What are your dos and don’ts for a salary negotiation? Tell us about it in the comments!


“Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey.” (9 April 2014).

Stinson, Sonya. “4 Salary Negotiation Myths That Hold Women Back.” (9 April 2014).

Hopkinson, Jim. “10 Salary Negotiation Myths.” (9 April 2014).

Giang, Vivian. “How To Negotiate Your Salary Without Turning Off Employers.” (9 April 2014).

Dugan, Dawn. “12 Dos and Don’ts for Negotiating Salary in a Tough Economy.” (9 April 2014).