Just because you make it through the job-search and interview processes and receive an offer, it doesn’t mean you’re home free. As Alison Green writes in a U.S. News & World Report story titled “5 Salary Negotiation Mistakes That Cost You Money,” reaching an agreement on compensation can be “one of the most nerve-wracking parts of job-hunting.”
According to Green, there are many common mistakes that people make during this critical phase, and her article is an attempt to shed light on five of the biggest. The first one is obvious: “not asking for more money.” As long as you make it clear you’re really interested in the position, she says, you won’t upset your potential employer and risk having the offer rescinded. That said, there are a couple of situations where Green recommends not trying to get more — like when the company says it’s offering all it can, or when it’s giving you a number near the top of the range you provided in the first place.
Green’s second gaff: not basing your salary request on research. If you’re picking a number out of thin air based on what you think you’re worth, you might sell yourself short. Check with others in your field and read online salary sites — just be careful to put too much stock in titles. As Green says, “they list can represent widely different scopes of responsibility.”
The third mistake is telling the employer what you’ve made in the past and letting them base your new salary on those figures. According to Green, your pay history is your own private business, and if you divulge this information, you could miss out on a chance to make a major jump. If you employer pushes you for the info, Green recommends sidestepping as best you can and perhaps saying it’s confidential, which may well be true.
Mistake No. 4 is agreeing to a postpone a pay increase without first getting a guarantee in writing. A lot of times, companies will say things like, “We’ll revisit this in six months,” but then the six-month mark rolls around, and wouldn’t you know it: no bump. Green says this written assurance doesn’t need to be formal; simply send an email saying something like, “I’m just confirming that we’ve agreed to revisit my salary next year after XYZ happens…”
Finally, Green warns against providing a range of salaries whose low end you’re not OK with. If you tell a company you’ll take between $50 and $60K, for example, make sure you’re cool with $50K, since there’s a chance that’s what they’ll give you. This is yet another reason to do your homework and choose your numbers carefully.