No, HR doesn’t need to know your salary expectations upfront.

By Stephanie Taylor Christensen
Cosmopolitan, Sep 08, 2016 —



You’re not alone if you’ve ever accepted a less-than-awesome job offer hoping that it would pay off in a raise down the line, or felt pressure to state your salary expectations in an HR interview upfront. The truth is, there are a bunch of misguided and outdated salary tips out there, and they could be what’s standing between earning an average salary — and commanding the one you’re worth. Here are six salary myths to stop believing now.


Myth: You have to tell the employer exactly what you want to make.

Reality: You can hold off. Online job applications and initial pre-screening calls with HR often involve stating your salary expectations right out the gate. But Bob Park, head of career strategy at SoFi, a modern finance company, says your goal as a job seeker is to get deeper into the interview process before you give salary expectations in the form of number. Instead, say: “I want to make fair market value.”

“This assures the interviewer that your salary expectations are reasonable—yet, it’s subjective,” says Park. You’ll buy time to impress the employer in person, and also learn more about how well the opportunity fits with your skills, interests, and career goals. The more you know, the better you can assess how much the company may be willing to pay once it’s time to talk numbers.


Myth: If you give a salary range, an employer will offer the lowest number.

Reality: Choose your salary range strategically, and you can avoid a lowball offer. Park suggests basing your range on three numbers: your “walk away number” (you will not accept anything less), the salary you’ll accept (which may be fair market value), and your thrilled number (which may be 20 percent or more than fair market value). You should decide which numbers to give the employer based on how badly you want the job, and whether you’re willing to walk away if negotiations don’t pan out.


Myth: You cannot command a salary that is well beyond your current one.

Reality: Park says some employers may try to take advantage of your low salary, but most will not. Ultimately, they want new employees to be excited about the opportunity and a potential offer.

Know the fair market value for your level of experience, and use the three-numbers formula above to set a competitive range. It’s possible you may come in at the lower end of some compensation ranges because of your current salary, but you should be confident in your worth.


Myth: Accepting a lower salary gets your foot in the door. You’ll get a raise or promotion soon enough.

Reality: “It’s not that easy to move your compensation once you are in your job; your moment is coming in the door,” says Park. “At best, you’re probably looking at a two percent cost-of-living increase a year. Even a ‘big’ raise will be a small percentage of your salary, unless you get a title promotion or move into a new role.”

If you can’t live within the confines of the salary you’re offered for at least a few years and can’t negotiate other aspects of the job’s compensation, it may not be the right job.


Myth: You’ll risk losing the job opportunity if you negotiate.

Reality: Park says negotiating salary is expected, and it doesn’t have to be an aggressive conversation: “The goal is to get the highest compensation you can, while maintaining the relationship.” If you get an offer that’s not quite where you want to be, Park says to go for the hard ask. Say something like, “I’m excited about the job, and the company, but not the compensation offer. Is there room to revisit this aspect?”


Myth: Your salary amount is the most important focus in job negotiations.

Reality: Use other factors to leverage your negotiations if you need to. Yes, salary matters: It’s your paycheck, and it drives other aspects of compensation like future cost of living adjustments, raises, and bonus potential. But it can be tough to move significantly if you’re at the top of an employer’s compensation scale.

If that’s your situation, Park says you can push to add responsibility to the job based on your experience (which could dictate a higher pay grade), or negotiate other aspects of a job that involve time and money. This may include relocation (aim for a lump sum upfront if you can), sign on bonuses, trading vacation time you know you won’t use into a sign on bonus, asking for monthly cellphone and parking allowances, additional paid time off, flexible hours, or working remotely.