by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
Receiving a job offer is one of the most exciting events for job-seekers — it means all your hard work in tracking down job leads, submitting resumes and application packets, and preparing for job interviews has paid off. Receiving a job offer, though, is also one of the most stressful times for job-seekers, as many people agonize over the terms of the offer and whether to take the plunge into negotiating a better deal.
Negotiating a better salary — or other terms in your job offer — should not be feared or loathed… as in buying a car or a home, a job offer is a starting point. The offer could be the employer’s best offer, but more than likely there is room to negotiate — as long as job-seekers understand the rules and overcome some very common myths about the process.
Here is our list of the top myths — along with the realities — of salary and job offer negotiation.
Salary Myth: Asking for a Lower Salary Will Improve Chances of Hire
If you do not believe in your worth — in the value you will bring to the job — why should the employer? Most employers are not looking for the cheapest hire, but the best hire for the job. By requesting a lower salary for yourself, you set yourself up for failure (either in not even being considered for the position, or, if hired, struggling to overcome the low salary).
Special note for new college grads and career-changers: Because of your inexperience level in your field, you may need to start at a lower salary than others with relevant experience, but that does not mean you should automatically downgrade your salary request. Always conduct your research and be realistic in your salary request.
Salary Myth: Negotiating Salary of Other Parts of Job Offer Frowned Upon
There’s a common fear among job-seekers that employers frown upon job-seekers who want to negotiate part of the job offer. As long as you respect and understand the process — and do not ask for unattainable or unrealistic changes — employers generally respect your desire to receive the best possible offer.
Note: Some employers absolutely refuse to negotiate any part of a job offer, but they generally state that up front in the process. For these employers, any attempt at negotiating could result in the employer rescinding the job offer.
Salary Myth: Accepting First Offer is Safest Strategy for Job-Seekers
Job-seekers often have the sense that if they don’t immediately accept an employer’s job offer, that the employer or hiring manager is just waiting to make the offer to the next job-seeker on the short list. The reality is that the employer chose you as the best candidate for the position — and bought into you as the top choice — so you should not feel pressure to immediately accept the offer. And if you are also interviewing with other employers and close to receiving another offer, you should at least negotiate more time to consider the offer.
Note: Be wary of employers who try to rush you into accepting an offer — or who want a decision on the spot. Even if you have no other employment possibilities, always request some time to consider the offer before making a decision.
Salary Myth: Negotiating Salary in a Weak Economy is a Bad Idea
Some job-seekers mistakenly believe that a weak economy means that employers don’t have the money to pay better salaries, but these employers would not be hiring if they did not have the resources to pay new hires. While it’s true that job-seekers may find fewer job openings and have fewer job offers in a weak job market, once you are the person the employer wants to hire, you have room to negotiate.
Note: In a slow or weak economy, some employers might be a bit more sensitive to negotiating salary, but still open to negotiating other aspects of the job offer. Research is again key to knowing the best strategy to follow.
Salary Myth: Believing That Everything is Negotiable in Job Offer
Typical advice given to job-seekers is that all aspects of a job offer are negotiable, but the reality of your situation depends on several factors. As mentioned earlier, some employers simply do not negotiate job offers. In other cases, the level of the job dictates the amount of room for negotiation. Typically, the lower the level of the position, the less room for negotiation. Thus, college grads may find little room for negotiation while mid-level and senior management job-seekers may find the entire offer up for negotiation.
Note: The best source for determining your ability to negotiate one or more aspects of your job offer is an inside source. The power of a strong network is not in just helping you secure job leads — but in providing you with key insider information that you can use to receive — and negotiate — a job offer.
Salary Myth: Asking for Offer in Writing Will Offend Employer
No one should ever accept a job offer without receiving the terms in writing — whether in the form of an employment contract or job-offer letter — and no legitimate employer will ever question your motives for asking for such. When you receive a job offer during an interview or over the phone, the best strategy is to probe for some of the details (most hiring managers don’t know all the details) and then ask when you should expect the offer in writing.
Note: Another benefit of receiving the offer in writing is that it gives you more time to understand and evaluate the full offer (including salary, additional compensation, and benefits/perks) and whether you want to negotiate any of the terms of the offer.
Final Thoughts on Salary Negotiation Myths
While receiving a job offer is exciting for job-seekers, it’s important that you understand the realities of salary and job-offer negotiation — as well as the rules. This article covered the myths and realities, but before you jump into negotiating your next job offer, we suggest you review some of the other key salary and job offer resources we offer on Quintessential Careers, including these articles:
- Achieve the Job Offer You Deserve by Avoiding These 10 Salary Negotiation Mistakes
- Salary Negotiation Do’s and Don’ts
- Job Offer Too Low? Use These Key Salary Negotiation Techniques to Write a Counter Proposal Letter
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 Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
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