Insider Tips from a Hiring Manager 8 Words You Should Never Say When Negotiating Your Salary

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“Currently” as in “I currently make…”

If you only take away one point from this checklist, this should be it! Never use this word when talking about your salary during a negotiation. In fact, typically a recruiter will say something along these lines “So what’s your current salary, and what are you looking for to make a move?” That’s a trap, don’t fall for it. Many times, this question is asked before an interview or at the beginning of an interview, and it’s meant to set the “goal posts” and lock the candidate in a box to suppress their ability to negotiate too far past their current salary. As a hiring manager, I will rarely meet a candidate without asking this question in advance (usually through email, or my preferred method is to have a recruiter do my dirty work).

“Desire” as in “I desire X salary…” or “My desired salary is…”

You do not want to disclose your desired salary upfront, this is a rookie mistake that we frequently see and hear about from colleagues. While it seems like a logical question to ask and answer in an interview, and most candidates are jumping to ask for big bucks, this answer could also put you in a negotiation box and undervalue yourself as an asset. While you may value yourself at a specific salary, your skill set, personality, and overall experience may be valued higher depending on the employer. It sounds crass, but I’ve personally picked up new employees who were highly undervalued at their current company whom to me were extremely valuable. As the saying goes, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” (I’m not actually calling employees trash, but you get the idea).

Instead, when the question comes up, try something like “I’m not comfortable sharing my current salary, in fact my current employer has asked that I not share my compensation with anyone inside or outside of the company. I don’t have a specific number in mind, but perhaps based on my skill set and experience you would have a better idea of what value I would be able to bring to the company. While compensation is important, I want to make a big step in both responsibility and compensation.”

“Sorry”

This is one I struggled with when I was on the interview circuit. I tend to over-apologize (I’m the guy who says “sorry” when you bump into someone on the street while the other person just says “excuse me”).  Negotiating isn’t supposed to be comfortable, and naturally we want to keep people happy and make the conversation less awkward. Sometimes, candidates will apologize for talking too much, or going off on a tangent and not answering the question completely. Saying you’re sorry could signal a trait of backing down or lack of mental fortitude by a hiring manager. Now, on the flip side, don’t take this too literally, if you knock her coffee over in the interview or sneeze on her desk you should absolutely apologize!

“No”

Your goal in negotiation is to improve your standing as the process goes on, and by avoiding negative words you will help yourself immensely towards that goal. For example, instead of saying “no, that won’t work for me,” try “I’m more comfortable with…”. While these words say the same thing, when you say them, they emote different feelings. Always use positive words even when making a negative statement. This is tough, it takes some practice.

“Yes”

OK, I know, you’re probably thinking to yourself “if I can’t say no and I can’t say yes then what can I say?” Counter, Counter, Counter! There’s always more room, and if there isn’t, ask for it anyway or the hiring manager may not respect you. Specifically, when it comes to sales or business development roles, this is extremely important. Most managers want to “test” their candidates during an interview or negotiation period, and this is a perfect time to show them you are aggressive and can ask for more. While you want to say “yes” because you’ve received an offer that you are ok with, now is your chance to see if there is more. I will preface this with the fact that some hiring managers could be turned off by this if you continue to push after they’ve met your number (I’m one of them). I would only suggest this tactic if you followed the first 2 rules above and did not specifically ask for a salary amount. If you do and they meet that number, you will look greedy. A negotiation is over when you receive what you ask for, but if you never ask for anything specifically, you might as well take a shot. 

“Later” – “I deal with some of these details later”

While this is more about what you say to yourself, it is important. Most people tend to convince themselves to shut up and take the deal and once you’re in then renegotiate. While I respect that as a hiring manager, if someone shows me they are doing a good job and I may lose them, I’m open to hearing them out; that procrastination could hurt you in the short term. While that opportunity may be available down the line, now is the time to take your best shot.

“Try” – “Can we try….”

The goal of this post is to help you remove passive words from your negotiation playbook. Someone can easily say they “tried” and it didn’t work.  Instead, use more positive phrases like “I would prefer…” or “I’m more comfortable with…” Both are less passive.

“More” – “I want/need more…”

At some point, you will get to specifics in terms of salary numbers. Whereas we discussed earlier that providing a salary number upfront is probably not the best idea, at some point you will have to talk hard figures. I would suggest letting the hiring manager provide a starting point or “goal posts” but eventually you will need to ask for your number. You want to avoid general terms like “I want more salary,” or “are you flexible on the salary?” Instead, be less passive and say, “I would be more comfortable with a salary of….” Or “to make this jump I’m looking for a salary of…”.