Compensation Myths and Mistakes: Don't Let These All-Too-Common Blunders Undermine Your Salary Strategy

Published: Sep 25, 2008

HCareers -- You've impressed the entire hiring team, sailed through the interview with flying colors, and posed a few smart questions of your own. All your efforts seem to have paid off, and your interviewer has broached the subject of salary. Now what?

If you're like most job seekers, you’ve probably got a lot of preconceptions about how the salary negotiation process should be handled. Some of these ideas you probably picked up from your colleagues and coworkers, while others are the same tired clichés that have been repeated in the job search literature for decades. According to leading compensation experts, however, many of the time-honored “rules” of salary negotiation are rapidly becoming outdated.

New Rules for a New Era

In all industries, major changes are underway. The rise of the Internet, the widespread availability of salary information, shifts in the supply of qualified workers – all of these factors and many more have served to transform the way that compensation issues are hammered out.

According to Laura DeCarlo, career coach and author of Job Search Bloopers: Every Mistake You Can Make on the Road to Career Suicide...and How to Avoid Them, you could be sabotaging your salary hopes if you hew too closely to outdated rules of thumb. Here are a few old-fashioned, obsolete, and just plain off-the-wall compensation myths that might be tripping up your job search.

Myth #1 – Salary ranges are set in stone.
Although most hospitality industry job announcements these days stick to the tried-and-true “salary depending on experience” formula, some ads still name a specific pay range. But contrary to popular belief, these figures are more like a guideline, rather than a hard-and-fast rule. In the private sector, there’s usually a great deal of room for negotiation if a particular candidate demonstrates exceptional promise.

Myth #2 – Play hardball.
There might be a few industries in which a hard-sell salary negotiation strategy goes over well – finance and sales come to mind – but this approach is usually misguided in the context of the hospitality industry. Unless you’re a top-notch professional with a lot of leverage on your side, try to adopt a humble, flexible tone as you begin your salary negotiations.

Myth #3 – Never be the first to name a number.
This old adage is one of the most oft-repeated rules of thumb in the salary negotiation book. In general, it is preferable to let the hiring manager talk numbers first. But on the other hand, it’s important to be flexible and go along with the flow of the conversation. If you’ve done your research and have a good handle on what your market value is, don’t be shy about naming a broad salary range if the interviewer repeatedly requested a number.

Myth #4 – Compensation is the same as salary.
Although these two terms are often used interchangeably, they actually refer to two different values. ‘Salary’ is your monetary pay, while ‘compensation’ refers to the total value of your salary, benefits, and other perks. If salary negotiations have screeched to a halt, see if your prospective employer is willing to sweeten the compensation pot with better hours, more vacation, or another enticing bonus.

Myth #5 – If you really want the job, accept their first salary offer.
When you’re in dire need of a job, it can be sorely tempting to take whatever pay rate they’re willing to give you, whether you’re a first-timer or an experienced job seeker. But starting off at a lower than ideal rate can have negative long-term implications for your career. The truth is, most employers expect candidates to come back with a counter-offer. If a little friendly bargaining makes them wary of hiring you, it might not have been the right place for you, anyway.

Now that we’ve dispelled some of the most persistent salary negotiation myths, you can follow your own rules when it comes to hammering out the details of your next compensation package. Hang tough -- and good luck!

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