Salary negotiations: 6 phrases to avoid

salary negotiation

The process of finding a new job can be brutal. When you finally land that all-important job interview, you’ll want to make the best impression possible with your potential employer so you can reach the next stage of negotiating a salary. This salary conversation can be a delicate dance, often requiring a careful give-and-take between you and your potential new employer.

Clear, honest communication is key for a salary negotiation to work — and there is some strategy required, too. It helps to prepare ahead of time so that you don’t inadvertently blurt something out that costs you the salary you were hoping to land.

While there are no magic words to guarantee a successful salary negotiation, experts believe there are certain words and phrases that can derail your efforts to secure a salary you’re happy with. As you prepare for this conversation, take a look at what not to say during salary negotiations.

“I accept.”

Even if an employer’s offer sounds great, do not jump at the first offer.

“Employers rarely present their highest offer first,” writes The Washington Post’s Kevin Dickinson. “By accepting the first offer, you skip negotiations and likely shortchange yourself.”

An employer will sometimes rely on what psychologists call “the anchoring effect” when they toss out an initial offer. Harvard University studies have shown that people often use the first piece of information they learn as the set point for making decisions. So, companies will low-ball the first offer in the hopes a potential employee will not challenge them to move higher.


“The least I’d be willing to take is …”

If you make this statement during a salary negotiation, you’ve thrown out your own anchor, similar to the one above — but this time, you’ve set too low a standard for yourself.

If asked what you’re willing to take for a salary, you should start at the higher end of your desired pay range. It leaves some room for your employer to move down, but you can still end up with more than your bare minimum.


“I need ‘this particular salary’ to pay for my new home/car/bills etc.”

Guilting your new employer is not a good negotiation tactic. In fact, it’s likely to turn them off altogether. They don’t need to know the particulars of your personal financial situation, and although they may feel sympathy for you, it probably won’t move them to increase a salary offer.

“Unfortunately, your employer doesn’t actually owe you anything,” writes Charlotte Grainger of TopCV. “[This] comes across as unprofessional and is likely to make your employer reconsider where your priorities lie.”


“I’m sorry.”

Apologizing may seem like you are being accommodating, but it can backfire and give an impression of weakness.

“Even though you may mean it as a way to seem open, avoid saying ‘I’m sorry’ in salary negotiations since you risk looking like you could back down easily,” writes Adrianne Bibby of FlexJobs.


“My last salary was …”

Potential employers often ask about your last salary so that they can have the upper hand in salary negotiations. It’s yet another way to anchor the conversation to a specific number, and usually a lower one than you want. Even if the offer is higher than your current salary, it may not be in line with what you could be worth to a new company.

Alexandra Adamson of Women in Sales Everywhere provides a good strategy to work around this question during an interview.

“It’s acceptable to say you don’t wish to answer that question,” Adamson advises. “However, if you disclose it, be brief, and show how much you’ve improved since you started at your last job in order to explain why a raise is warranted.”

(AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)

“I want more.”

Everyone wants more when it comes to their salary, but simply saying, “I want more,” is too generic. Josh Doody, author of “Fearless Salary Negotiation,” told Glassdoor that it’s important to be specific in your salary negotiation, even if it feels challenging.

“Instead of asking for ‘more’ salary or ‘more’ vacation, this is your time to get specific,” Doody said. “Don’t leave things to the imagination once you’re negotiating. Instead of ‘Could you budge on the salary?’ say, ‘I would be more comfortable with a base salary of $105,000.'”


The salary conversation can be a stressful part of the job interview process, but if you head into the negotiation armed with confidence and strategy, you’re more likely to walk out with a salary that makes you happy. Good luck!

About the Author

Marie Rossiter

Marie is a freelance writer and content creator with more than 20 years of experience in journalism. She lives in southwest Ohio with her husband and is almost a full-fledged empty nest mom of two daughters. She loves music, reading, word games, and Walt Disney World. You can find her writing about her personal health journey at and connect with her at More.

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