If everything goes as planned, any recruitment process will go smoothly, starting from the time job descriptions were written and job advertisements were published or posted, until the time that the best and the right candidate for the job has been selected.

However, there are bound to be snags along the way, and any recruiter worth her salt would know that issues are bound to crop up, and it will be up to her and the employing company to make sure these issues are dealt with swiftly and properly. This will ensure that the employee can be introduced and inducted into the organization at the soonest possible time, and start performing his job.

Some of the issues may be major, while some may seem to be trivial or minor. Recruiters and hiring managers know that extending a job offer does not automatically receive an acceptance from the chosen candidate. After all, starting a new job is a major event in anyone’s life, so the candidate will definitely want to make sure that he is making the right decision. Thus, both sides have to be prepared to negotiate details about the job offer.

10 Avoidable Mistakes when Negotiating a Job Offer

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In this guide, we explore what the job offer includes and the 10 mistakes most people do when negotiating a job offer.

THE JOB OFFER

For any jobseeker that has been pounding the pavement, pouring over hundreds of job postings and undergoing a battery of seemingly endless tests and job interviews, getting a job offer may sound like a dream come true. Chances are high that he will grab the first job offer that he gets, with no regard for the details. He thinks, “I got the job, and that’s all that matters. I’ll worry about the rest later.”

This attitude is hardly ideal especially when, weeks, months or years down the road, you realize that you are not satisfied with your job, and you start regretting accepting the offer at the first chance you got, no questions asked. You start thinking up “if only” scenarios. If only you negotiated early on, before accepting the job offer, then you would not be in the quandary that you are currently in.

It is also possible that, in the middle of a job search, you suddenly find yourself presented with three job offers from three different companies. Your first instinct may be to accept the one with the highest salary and benefits. Or, if you are averse to relocation, you will accept the offer from the company where your workplace will be close to your residence. The dilemma here will arise if, for example, the company closest to where offers a salary that is lower than you expected or wanted.

This is where you should consider negotiating. After all, the final job offer that you accept – with terms that you and your future employer are in agreement over – will dictate how the next months and years of your career will go. Negotiate terms that are acceptable to both parties, and chances are high that the working relationship will be a fruitful one, and your career with the company will flourish.

When we say negotiations with respect to job offers, the most logical conclusion that comes to mind will be that it would have something to do with the salary and the benefits and compensation package. That will not be entirely wrong, since most negotiations revolve around that issue. However, there are other terms of the job offer that may require negotiation, depending mostly on the circumstances of the selected candidate, as well as the employer.

Just as in all negotiations, some succeed and some fail. In order to lessen the possibility of job offer negotiations failing, it is important to make sure that you do it properly, and that means avoiding the mistakes that are commonly committed by candidates in the process of negotiation.

 

MISTAKES WHEN NEGOTIATING A JOB OFFER AND HOW TO AVOID THEM

1. Not negotiating at all

This is the point that we have been trying to get to earlier. No matter how desperate you are to get a job, you should not accept the job offer blindly, without negotiating at all. When you think about it, not negotiating and accepting the offer right off the bat is probably the biggest mistake you will ever make. This is akin to signing a contract without going over the finer points.

There are several possible reasons why some candidates do not negotiate at all.

  • They have been job hunting for so long that they will settle for just about anything.
  • They are too lazy to go over the terms of the offer.
  • They do not know how to negotiate, or where to start.
  • They think that the employer knows best, and trust that they will be treated fairly.
  • They are afraid that negotiating, where they will state their terms, will make them look impolite and unprofessional in the eyes of the employer.

Just by looking at the above reasons, it is clear that there is a common theme running through them, and that is the lack of preparation when it comes to negotiating.

As for the issue on whether negotiating will reflect badly on you as a potential employee and will affect your chances of being hired, that is no longer a general rule. In fact, many employers frown on candidates that do not negotiate at all, because it gives them the impression that the candidate does not acknowledge his own, true worth or value. They will think that the candidate is unable to stand up for himself.

Granted, there are some employers that do not accept negotiations by candidates, but they generally let the candidates know of that fact early on. It is in these cases where the candidate will decide whether the terms of the job offer are acceptable and therefore accept the offer, or look elsewhere for a better job opportunity, one where they get to have a hand in the negotiations.

How to avoid this mistake

Create your own “job-offer evaluation” checklist. Just as you prepared yourself for the job interviews and tests, you should also prepare yourself in case you receive a job offer.

In this checklist, you should put down the terms or things that MUST come with the job in order for you to deem it acceptable. Keep in mind that the checklist should indicate the “minimum” that you will accept. Examples of the common items that should be included in your checklist are:

  • Minimum salary or level of compensation that you need. Of course, this should also be in accordance with prevailing rates, as prescribed by the law and industry standards.
  • Benefits you expect to receive while on the job, such as health insurance, transportation allowance, meal allowance, and representation expenses, to name a few.
  • Working conditions favorable to your current circumstances. Define the work hours that are most suitable to you. Do you need to relocate? Will the job entail daily commute to and from work? How are personal days, sick days, vacations and holidays accounted for?
  • Employee programs and policies. Focus on how you will be able to avail of this plan and how you expect to benefit from it. Is there a retirement plan for employees? What are the policies on maternity and paternity leaves? On performance review and evaluation? Are there bonus or profit-sharing programs that you may be eligible for?

Go over the terms of the job offer carefully and compare them with the items on your checklist. If the offer meets the minimum as stated on your checklist, then you may consider accepting the offer. If there are deviations, then those will be the focus of your negotiations.

2. Not Asking for Time to Consider the Offer

Remember when you had to go in for interviews, and sometimes you felt helpless, as if you were at the mercy of the hiring manager and the other interviewers? Well, guess what? Once you receive the job offer, there is a shift of power. You are now the one with the upper hand. The employer wants you, and they’re waiting for your word on whether you will accept the offer or not.

The problem is that, mostly out of sheer excitement from getting a job offer, the candidate accepts immediately. It could also be because they are pressured into accepting right away. Do not fall for this bulldozer tactic that some employers use.

How to avoid this mistake

Ask for some time to contemplate the job offer. Let them know that you have to go over the details to see if the terms are acceptable to you. This is your right.

One reason you can give is because you need to consult with other people first.

“Thank you for the job offer. If it is all right with you, I would like to discuss some of the logistics details with my family first. How about if I give you my decision on Friday?”

Or you could just ask for time without giving any specific reason. After all, it is your right to go over the job offer.

“I am truly grateful for this offer and opportunity to be part of your company. I wonder if I could have until Friday to get back to you about it.”

3. Not Asking for a Job Offer in Writing

Verbal job offers are all well and good, since hearing the words out loud makes the whole thing exciting. However, you should not accept, or even consider, a job offer if it is not written. Again, think of it along the lines of a contract. You do not want to enter into a contract without the terms being written down, do you?

The written job offer will contain – in black and white – what you will be getting if you accept the job. Unless you have a photographic memory and you can recall, verbatim, the terms spoken by the human resource manager when he gave you the offer over the phone, then you will have a difficult time keeping track of everything.

How to avoid this mistake

Ask them politely for the details in a written offer.

“Wow! Thank you for the offer, and I look forward to going over the details in the written offer before I can give my formal acceptance. When do you expect a response?”

In many cases, however, you may also tell them outright (but still politely) that you will feel more comfortable reading the details in a written job offer before accepting.

Here is an interesting workshop on negotiating your salary in the job interview.

 

4. Telling the Employer What You Will Accept

This may be quite tricky, since there are employers and hiring managers that ask applicants during the interview about their salary expectations, or how much salary they expect to receive if they are hired for the job. This is especially difficult for candidates with previous job history, since they may be asked about their salary history as well.

Negotiating is about reaching a compromise, or getting to a point where both parties are agreeable. It is not about setting ultimatums, saying “pay me this much, and I will accept the offer”. This will only make you look arrogant, and likely to turn off the employer, to the point that he will withdraw the offer.

How to avoid this mistake

Do not provide an exact amount or even a salary range when asked during the preliminary interviews. Doing so will give you less room to negotiate if you do get a job offer. In an applicant’s desire to be in the good graces of the interviewer or hiring manager, he may even quote a low figure.

There is a tendency that, when the employer creates the offer, he will offer a salary within that range that you quoted. During the interview, it would be best to provide a non-committal answer, or one that will not box you in when the time to negotiate the job offer comes. Example:

“I will need more information about the job and your company’s salary structure before I can have a confident discussion about salary. Maybe you can give me an idea how much you pay someone with my skills, experience and education in this position, and what range you have budgeted for it?”

If you approach the recruitment process along those lines, you will have more room to move when negotiating the job offer.

5. Telling the Employer How Much You Need

The mere fact that you are receiving a job offer means that you have the skills, experience, education and other qualifications that are required for the job. The employer thinks you are suitable for the position. In short, the employer thinks that you will be of value to the company. Therefore, you should also show them that you know your value.

During negotiations, many candidates make the mistake of focusing on what they think and feel that they need or deserve, rather than their actual value, or what they have to offer in return to the employer.

New graduates, for example, go into the job market saddled with student loans, so they are likely to negotiate based on how much they need. For example, the candidate has to pay $300 monthly for student loans, so he chose to negotiate a monthly salary of $1,000, when it is above and beyond what the position merits.

How to avoid this mistake

Do your research before talking about salary during negotiations. If you go online, you can find various sources of information about salary rates applicable to various jobs, across industries. This should clue you in already.

If you have previous job experiences, then you may also have an idea how much you are worth in that position. You should also look into the salary levels and salary negotiation policies of the employer, so that you will be in a more solid position when negotiating.

6. Negotiating in Piece-Meal

Employers want to hire new employees quickly, so they can start performing the job. However, they can only wait for a certain length of time for a candidate to decide whether to accept the job offer or not. One sure way to prolong the negotiation period – and make the employer withdraw the offer – is when the candidate negotiates multiple issues serially.

This piece-meal negotiation can be very tedious and exhausting. Just when the employer thought you have resolved the issue, you raise another point for negotiation. It becomes tiring and, to be honest, annoying, because they might think that you are toying with them and showing blatant disrespect for their time.

How to avoid this mistake

This is why you should have the checklist. You can also prepare another document listing all your points for negotiation, thought out carefully so that you can present them all simultaneously.

This is an example of bad serial negotiation:

Candidate: I have one concern. I find the salary a bit low, considering my expertise. Can you increase it by 10%?

The HR discusses it with management and, after a day, calls the candidate back.

HR: I’m happy to inform you that management has agreed the 10% increase.

Candidate: Thank you. Now let us move on to the working hours. I know you have a 9-5 policy, but may I be granted flexible time?

At this point, the HR is probably annoyed, thinking about how you said, at the beginning, about your “one concern”. Tell him about all your concerns in one go. Do not worry that you will overwhelm him; he is prepared for you to negotiate.

7. Haggling

This is not a store, and you are not bartering. The employer tells you that the annual salary for that position is $150,000, and you thought you deserve more, so you ask for $175,000. The employer expresses the possibility that they may be able to provide $160,000 for the position, then you jump in with $165,000. When he said that $165,000 is already over their budget for that role, you ask for more vacation days.

Let’s face it: this looks tacky. You just made yourself look tacky, cheap… and unprofessional.

How to avoid this mistake

Again, you should have already researched on the salary for that position, and how much budget the company allotted for it. Name your target figure, and ask whether it is within their budget range or not. If they say no, then believe them.

Take this exchange, for example:

Candidate: I am aware that you have budgeted $150,000 for the position. However, I believe that my level of experience warrants a higher rate, should I accept the job.

HR: How much do you have in mind?

Candidate: Can you make it $165,000?

HR: Due to budget constraints and limitations, we can only go as high as $160,000.

Candidate: I see. Then, may I give you my answer on Friday?

 

8. Playing Hard to Get

Many say that, if you appear too eager or too excited, then you are basically putting yourself under the thumb of the employer making the offer. They’d think, “Oh, he really, really wants this job, so even if we make a low offer, he will definitely accept it.” As a result, candidates avoid appearing too enthusiastic about it and try to be low-key.

The problem is that, in the process, they come across as disinterested. They are playing hard to get, and this will make the employer think that they are holding out for more. Not that this is necessarily bad, but if overdone, the employer may be turned off, thinking they cannot be bothered to woo or court you. Then they are likely to rescind their offer, or withdraw it completely.

How to avoid this mistake

Show just the right amount of enthusiasm. You don’t know how to gauge it? Let’s put it this way: there is nothing wrong with letting them know how excited you are that you got an offer.

However, by telling them that you will need to go over the details first, and that you are asking for time to contemplate the offer, this means you are giving it serious consideration. Give them a definite time frame within which to evaluate the offer.

Do not be evasive about what you want, expecting the HR officer or the employer to be able to read your mind.

9. Negotiating Every Aspect of the Job Offer

You may think that the employer will be impressed if you come up with a counteroffer proposal, or negotiating ALL the points or aspects of the job offer. Believe me, you’re not. They may think that you are a nitpicker, and very hard to please, if all aspects do not satisfy you.

How to avoid this mistake

Choose just two or three items to negotiate, and they should be the most important to you.

However, if none meet the items on your checklist, then this may be a sign that this is not even a job offer worth contemplating or considering. Respect the employer by telling them that you are not accepting their offer, instead of wasting both your time.

10. Negotiating Over E-mail

While it is true that e-mail has become an acceptable mode of communication or correspondence in business and professional circles, it has its limitations. Remember the time when snail mail was the only mode of correspondence, and it takes ages to send letters and wait for replies and, even then, the exchange of information is unsatisfactory?

Although email cuts down the time, there are still many messages that get lost in the exchange, which can have adverse effects on negotiation. A lot of misunderstandings may still arise from negotiations made via email.

How to avoid this mistake

Negotiate face-to-face. Set a meeting with the employer or his representative. Talking with them directly will make the negotiation go faster. Video calls also made it possible for people from opposite ends of the continent (or the globe) to converse, so this is another good option. Finally, negotiating over the phone is also possible if the two cannot be done.

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