After discussing the salary negotiation process with more than a thousand clients, I’ve found that many of them made mistakes in the past that we corrected during our coaching sessions so they could have better outcomes.
Some negotiate too aggressively, damaging the relationship with the hiring manager; others negotiate for too many things or for too many rounds, giving the perception that their expectations are unrealistic; and still others don’t negotiate at all, leaving the hiring manager to wonder if the person will be effective negotiating with colleagues and clients when this is a necessary part of the job.
Here are the five most common negotiation mistakes I see job seekers make and suggestions for negotiating more effectively.
1. Offer an ultimatum.
Negotiating a job offer is a collaborative process. The person you are negotiating with may very well be your future boss. When candidates negotiate in a very aggressive way, saying they can only accept a job offer if certain conditions are met, they reduce the chances of finding common ground with the employer.
Rather than giving an ultimatum, explain why your request is fair and reasonable. For example, if you are negotiating for a larger car mileage allowance, say something like, “In order for me to offer exceptional customer service, I will need to visit clients at a minimum of two times per month. Given the number of clients I will be responsible for, I believe it is fair and reasonable to request a larger car mileage allowance.”
2. Say you have a competing job offer when you don’t.
When you actually have another offer, a negotiation strategy is to hedge that offer against the other to see if you can speed up the decision process or improve the quality of the second offer. However, if you say you have another offer but don’t, this could backfire as the employer might respond that they can’t make (or change) their offer and wish you the best of luck in the other job.
If you are interviewing for another role and think you might be close to an offer, an alternative is to say, “I want to be totally transparent with you. I am expecting an offer from another company, but I am much more interested in this role. If there is a way to expedite the interview process and I was to receive an offer, I feel confident this would be the job I would select.”
3. Negotiate yourself out of a job.
While the negotiation process may require some back and forth, you want to make sure you are negotiating for what is important and not just for the sake of negotiating. Over-negotiating, or going back to the table too many times, may give the impression that you are not flexible or a team player, and the employer might decide you are not the right fit.
To avoid over-negotiating, create a list of pros and cons following the presentation of the job offer and be prepared to discuss alternative concessions if your original negotiation points are not granted. This will help you avoid too much back and forth and show that you are negotiating in good faith.
4. Fudge salary information.
While your previous salary should not be the basis for an employer’s offer, tread lightly here. Some employers request to see your W2 or a pay stub to confirm your previous salary and failure to be transparent about this could cost you the job. Bottom line: Don’t lie.
5. Fail to prep your references.
Even though your references might be prepared to say great things about you, they might not be saying the things that will resonate with the hiring manager. For example, if you’ve done a combination of print and digital advertising sales roles and you are going for a role with a heavy digital focus, you want to make sure your references are touting your digital skills and not focusing on your successes in the print world. Prep your references following the stage in the interview process when the employer lets you know they will be checking references. Explain to your references the value you sold to the employer, so they can reiterate these points in their discussion with the hiring manager.
The salary negotiation process is not only important for ensuring the best compensation package. A collaborative process helps get the relationship between employee and employer off to a good start. Eliminate aggressive and combative behavior and replace with harmonious ones to start the business partnership off on the right foot.