Before you say yes to any position—no matter how badly you need a paycheck or how long you've been on the job market—think first. Take out a calculator and spend some time making a rough budget for the next few months or the next few years. Factor in your monthly living expenses, your financial goals, and the value of each hour of your time. Don't accept any offer before you've thought through the implications for your own life and lives of those who depend on you. When it's time to tackle the salary negotiation process, here are five common mistakes that can easily trip you up and set you back.
1. Disclosing your salary history
If your employers don't mention salary in the job post or application requirements, don't offer any information on this subject. If they specifically request a salary history, or include a phrase in the post like "only resumes with a salary history will be considered," respond by stating your preferred salary range, not your history. What you've made in the past is nobody's business but your own. In fact, if pressured to provide an answer, you're under no obligation to respond with the truth.
2. Sharing a range with a floor that's too low
Don't undersell yourself simply because you think it will help you land the job. This won't help you OR your potential employers. Employers who are looking for cheap candidates are trying to save money, but the hiring process is very expensive; they won't save anything at all if they take you on for less than you can accept and you have to leave within a year.
3. Answering too soon
When employers offer a salary in an informal capacity over the phone or over a desk in a face-to-face meeting, don't answer right away. Simply look over the offer and ask for at least 24 hours to think about it. There's nothing wrong with this, and requesting 24 hours isn't a sign of acceptance or resistance; it's just a perfectly reasonable window of time to think about the offer and discuss it with your family. Don't be pressured to speak right away, which may happen. If this is a real offer for a legitimate job with a legitimate company, your answer can wait.
4. Speaking too soon or too much
When you receive your initial offer, say nothing. As in, nothing. Don't say "this is a nice offer," or "is this in U.S. currency?" or "wow, thanks," or "well, gosh, I don't know." Don't feel obligated to fill the silence in the room (or over the phone). This awkward silence isn't your responsibility. If the employer would like to add or take away anything from the moment, he or she can feel free to do so. But you don't have to speak until you're ready. Sometimes a small pause can work miracles during the negotiation process.
5. Not considering all the angles
This offer may look nice when stated in hourly or yearly terms, but are these dollars being taken out of a substandard benefits package? What will you receive in terms of vacation and paid time off? Will you be accommodated in the areas that matter to you, for example, public transportation discounts, parking passes, or onsite daycare? Look at the whole offer—not just the flat salary. Consider all perks, bonuses, commissions and insurance benefits.
Rely on Your Resume
After you've given the offer plenty of thought, say yes if you're ready to do so with your whole heart. If not, head to MyPerfectResume and pick up your job search where you left off. You'll find a better offer around the next bend.