10 Salary Negotiation Mistakes to Avoid
by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
How to Negotiate a Job Salary Offer
Whether you’re new to job hunting or a seasoned pro and whether you love the art of salary negotiation or dread it, the truth is that knowing salary negotiation tactics — and avoiding salary negotiation landmines — are key to obtaining the job offer you seek and deserve.
While much is written about the tactics of salary negotiation, this article focuses on salary negotiation techniques you want to avoid —mistakes that could result in a much lower job offer — or worse — losing the job offer you worked so hard to obtain. These ten mistakes avoided by folslowing the tips below.
1. Not Negotiating the Salary Offered
Probably the biggest mistake you can make is simply deciding to settle and accept whatever offer you receive. Research shows that younger jobseekers and female jobseekers often make this mistake — either because they don’t understand or because the dislike the salary negotiation process. Settling for a lower salary than you are worth can have major financial consequences, both immediately and down the road. In the short term, you’ll earn less, receive smaller raises (because most raises are based on a percentage of your salary), and have a smaller pension (since pension contributions are usually a percentage of your salary). Long term, being underpaid could also make you feel resentful of your duties down the road. Accepting a low-ball offer now can also affect your earning potential later, since future employers often ask for a salary history when determining how much money they will offer you.
Remember, in many professions, it is expected that you’ll negotiate your salary. Hiring managers are accustomed to these conversations so ask for what you think you are really worth.
A great way to avoid settling is to know your worth by using a salary calculator and doing research on salaries for your position in your location.
2. Revealing How Much You Would Accept
Information is the key to any kind of negotiation and a common mistake jobseekers make is telling the employer what you’ll accept. Sometimes it is hard not to offer this information, especially if the employer asks for a salary history or salary requirement. Some employers will also ask — in a preliminary interview — what salary you’re looking for. In all these situations, you need to carefully decide how you’ll handle the situation. Use our Salary Calculator to know your worth. In all these situations, you need to carefully decide how you’ll handle the situation. The earlier you give up this kind of information, the less room — if any — you’ll have for negotiating a better offer later. Always try to remain as noncommittal as possible when asked about your salary requirements early in the interview process. (Read more about dealing with salary histories and salary requests here.)
3. Focusing on Your Need and Greed Rather Than on Value
A very common salary negotiation error is focusing on what you feel you need or deserve rather than on your value and the value you will bring to the prospective employer. Employers don’t care that your salary won’t cover your mortgage or student loan payments or even your living expenses. If you plan to negotiate a job offer, do it based on solid research and a clear demonstration of your value to the organization. Don’t ever tell the employer that you need a certain salary, rather emphasize your credentials and show clear evidence of what someone with your breadth of experience typically earns.
4. Weak Research or Negotiation Preparation
With the number and variety of salary resources available online, such as a Salary Calculator there is no excuse for a jobseeker not to know their market value. Also use online tools to research your prospective employer’s historical salary levels, negotiation policies, and performance appraisals. Even if you decide you don’t want to negotiate salary, you’ll have a better understanding of the market for your services and your value in that market, which will serve you well in your next interview.
5. Making a Salary Pitch Too Early in the Process
The simple lesson: The longer you wait the more power you have. Yet, there are many jobseekers who jump the gun and begin salary negotiations too early in the process. The ideal time for talking salary is when you are the final candidate standing — and you get the job offer. It’s at that point when you can ask more specifics about salary, bonuses, commissions, health insurance, and other perks. Asking earlier in the process can be perceived as being too focused on money, rather than on the job itself, and it may also force your hand to reveal what you would be willing to accept.
6. Accepting a Job Offer Too Quickly
These days, the interview process can sometimes drags on for longer than you expect. When you finally obtain an offer after weeks and weeks (and in some cases, months) of searching, it’s not unusual to want to accept it right on the spot.
However, even the best offers should be reviewed with a clear head — and without the pressure of your future boss or HR director staring at you. Most employers are willing to give you some time to contemplate the job offer, typically several days to a week. This time – post-offer, pre-acceptance – that you have the most power. You have been chosen, now use that power to be certain that this is the right job for you. If you plan to negotiate the terms of the offer in any way, this is the time to do it. Be respectful of the time limit set to make your decision. If they asked for a decision within a week, all negotiating should be done within that timeframe.
7. Declining a Job Offer Too Quickly
Many jobseekers reject job offers very quickly when the employer offers a salary much lower than expected. While in many cases, rejecting the offer might be the right decision, it’s still best to ask for time to consider – and negotiate – the offer before rejecting it outright.
If the money is close to what you were hoping to earn but not quite right, take a closer look at the benefits. It’s a big mistake to declining a job offer too quickly without weighing the value of the entire compensation package. For example, some firms offer lower salaries but have larger bonuses or stock options, or pay the full expense of health insurance. Ask about all of the perks the company offers, like discounts on gym memberships and cell phone reimbursement, as these can add up to a real value. Remember, too, that you may be able to negotiate elements of the offer to make it even stronger.
8. Asking for Too Much in a Counteroffer.
If the job and the employer feel like a good fit, but the offer is not what you hoped, consider proposing a counteroffer. If you decide to make a counteroffer, remember that you can’t renegotiate every aspect of the offer. If the salary is too low, focus on that aspect in a counteroffer. If you know the firm will not negotiate on salary, then focus on modifying a few of the other terms of the offer (such as additional vacation time, a signing bonus, work-from-home days, or relocation expenses). Just remember that you can’t re negotiate the entire offer but you can choose one or two items in the offer, conduct your research, and write a short counteroffer. [Find specific guidelines for counteroffers in this article.
9. Taking Salary Negotiations Personally
Whatever happens in salary negotiation process, always stay professional. If the employer has made you an offer, keep in mind that you are the finalist for the position and act accordingly. Even if negotiations go nowhere, they did make you an offer, albeit not one that you plan to accept. If negotiations break down between you and the employer, move on graciously, thank the employer again for the opportunity and move on. Don’t burn bridges; you never know who you might encounter in your next job search.
10. Not Asking for Final Offer in Writing.
Once everything is said and done and you have received a job offer that you find acceptable, the last thing you should do is ask for the final offer in writing. No legitimate employer will have issues with this step of the process, so if yours balks at your request, take it as a MAJOR red flag that there is something seriously wrong.
Final Thoughts on Avoiding Salary Negotiation Mistakes
Following the advice in this article — and using other proven job-hunting and salary negotiation tactics — should result in a new job and job offer that is just what you were seeking.
More Salary Negotiation Articles:
- Common Salary Negotiation Mistakes
- Handling the Salary Counter Proposal
- Salary Negotiations: How to Get What You’re Looking For
- How to Negotiate a Raise
Other Salary Negotiating Tools:
- If you are new to job-hunting and salary negotiation, consider using our comprehensive (and free)Salary Negotiation Tutorial and our Salary Calculator.
- Confident about your salary negotiation skills?Take our free salary negotiation quiz.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Jobseeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
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