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10 Things HR People Won’t Tell You About Salaries and Raises

If you’re negotiating for more money—either with a potential employer or your current boss—keep these expert tips in mind.

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From handling staffing needs, administering benefits, and determining salaries, human resources holds a ton of power in the workplace. Money can be an uncomfortable topic to speak about openly and many people make mistakes when trying to have these awkward conversations. Human resource employees have seen it all, but it’s important to remember that despite their best intentions, they are working to do what’s best for the company, not for you. Here’s what human resource experts had to say about talking money with the people who pay you. Also, check out these mistakes women commonly make when asking for a raise.

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Don’t trust salary websites

“There’s one website that drives all HR people crazy: salary.com. It supposedly lists average salaries for different industries, but if you look up any job, the salary it gives you always seems to be $10,000 to $20,000 higher than it actually is. That just makes people mad.” —HR director at a public relations agency

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Think before you accept a salary

“On salary, some companies try to lock you in early. At the first interview, they’ll tell me to say, ‘The budget for this position is 40K to 45K. Is that acceptable to you?’ If the candidate accepts, they’ll know they’ve got him or her stuck in that little area.” —Ben Eubanks, HR professional in Alabama. If you’re in it for the long haul, read the 13 things HR won’t tell you about keeping your job and make sure to remember to “act your wage.”

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Everything is negotiable

“This includes your salary and raise. Far too often is that potential candidates are presented with a job offer and salary that aren’t satisfied with but are too afraid to ask for more. This also applies for raises at performance review time.” —Nikita Lawrence, HR business partner and professional

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You’re great… but not that great

“You think you’re all wonderful and deserve a higher salary, but here in HR, we know the truth. And the truth is, a lot of you aren’t very good at your jobs, and you’re definitely not as good as you think you are.” —HR professional at a midsize firm in North Carolina. If you’re worried about the state of your job, check out these 14 signs you might be getting fired.

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Be careful with headhunters

“Be careful if a headhunter is negotiating for you. You may want extra time off and be willing to sacrifice salary, but he is negotiating hardest for what hits his commission.” —HR professional in New York City

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Negotiate during the interview

“It is significantly harder to negotiate perks after you’ve been hired than it is during the interview process. Know the industry standards—and specifically, standards for your region before you make requests for more vacation time, travel expenses, professional development training, flex time, working from home, or moving costs.” —Sarah Johnston, former corporate recruiter and job search strategist.

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Don’t have others negotiate on your behalf

“I once hired someone, and her mother didn’t think the salary we were offering was high enough, so she called me to negotiate. There are two problems with that: 1) I can’t negotiate with someone who’s not you. 2) It’s your mother. Seriously, I was like, ‘Did that woman’s mother just call me, or was that my imagination?’ I immediately withdrew the offer.” —HR professional in New York City

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Ask for an early performance review

“I always recommend at the ‘hiring event’ that the new hire asks, ‘When will I have my first performance review?'” The majority of responses is annually, next year. I suggest that the individual ask, ‘Is it possible to have my review six months from now?’ Over 50 percent of the time the HR individual or hiring manager will say yes thus shortening that first raise by six months.” —Elliott Jaffabehavioral and marketing psychologist
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Ask for more than you want

“Negotiations involve some back-and-forth, not simply a yes or no. Leave yourself some wiggle room to ‘concede’ to what you really want.  Collect enough information ahead of time to know you aren’t selling yourself short.” —Alexander Lowry, a former hiring manager. 

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Only you know the right time to ask for a raise

“People in HR will NEVER tell you when it is the right time to ask for a raise in your salary. This is a job that you must do when you are looking for the appropriate moment for your increase request to be accepted. There are many circumstances in a company that, regardless of your work performance, will determine if they will give you a raise or not. For example, if the company had a decrease in sales in the last three months by a new competition that is operating with low prices to enter the market. Finding the right time to ask for a raise is key to being able to achieve it successfully.” —Cristian Rennella, HR director. Next, don’t miss the 10 subtle things your boss notices about you at work.

What HR People Won’t Tell You About the Job Interview