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3 Disastrous Job Offer Negotiation Mistakes to Avoid

By Stacey Hawley

Major Job Offer Mistakes to AvoidMost people think the biggest negotiating mistake they make is NOT negotiating.

But, that simply is not true. Why?

You still have the offer, the role, and the opportunity if you do not negotiate.

Potentially leaving money on the table might be a "mistake," but it is not the worst mistake you could make.

People make even bigger mistakes while negotiating that lead to offers being reconsidered or -- worse -- rescinded.

Negotiating compensation mirrors game theory. You want to create a win-win approach in order to get the most from your compensation discussion.

Successful compensation negotiations occur when both sides feel empowered, productive, and respected.

But when you don a more adversarial approach, or do not take time to really gauge the employer’s responses, you put yourself in a position of potentially LOSING the offer.

As a compensation consultant, I have created the offers and helped my clients (the employers) negotiate with their new hires. I share this experience with my clients when I help them negotiate.

The Top 3 Mistakes People Make When Negotiating Job Offers

After supporting hundreds of individual clients in their negotiation process – and witnessing the outcomes – I recognize what it takes to succeed.

I also know how people stumble and fall during the negotiation process. Consistently, these are 3 clear tactics that result in poor outcomes for you: no additional adjustments to the offer, a delayed offer because the company decides to keep interviewing, or (yikes!) a rescinded offer.

The top 3 biggest mistakes people make when negotiating offers:

  1. Talking too much during the discussion
  2. Telling the company how they should be paying employees
  3. Missing the forest for the trees when negotiating restrictive clauses

Each one on its own can lead to a lost opportunity to negotiate a term, learn something about your new employer, strengthen your relationship with the company, or close the deal even sooner. All 3 together can be a recipe for disaster.

  Mistake #1: Talking Too Much During the Discussions  

The issue:

Chalk it up to nerves. Some people talk -- incessantly -- for numerous reasons. In my experience, people who talk continuously are generally nervous.

Sometimes it feels more personable to keep talking, filling in conversation gaps, a way to strengthen the relationship. Other times, people exercise dominance and retain control of the conversation (or try to).

The implications:

As a result of oversharing, the other party (a.k.a. the employer) does not have an opportunity to provide potentially valuable information you might need or want as part of the negotiation process. This information could help you decide if there are other items you would be willing to negotiate and/or accept to sign on the dotted line.

By talking, you are MISSING the opportunity to learn important information – what is important to the company and what is not. This information could help you find a solution that works for both parties when negotiating.

The remedy:

If you know you fall down the rabbit hole when you are nervous, put stops in place to help you breathe and listen. Practice your questions and answers with a friend beforehand.

Get advice on when to stop and listen. Focus on active listening and asking questions rather than providing answers.

Silence is golden and a powerful negotiating tool.

No one likes silence. The other party will be more likely to share and fill in the silence with information you need (rather than you!).

  Mistake #2: Telling the Company How They Should Be Paying You  

The issue:

In this scenario, you tell the companies what they should be willing to pay or, when looking at their revenues and profits, what they should be willing to share.

In this case, you honestly believe you know more about the company than they do…and you are letting them know that.

The implications:

People who try to tell companies what they should be paying -- and why -- appear self-interested and pompous.

In reality, you cannot decide how much the company is willing to allocate to the bonus pool, equity pool, or other compensation expense. Telling an employer they should be following "market practice" does not prove your point or make your case.

No matter what industry or financial experience you have, "sharing your experience" does not strengthen your negotiating position. In fact, your advice does the exact opposite.

This approach is generally a one-way ticket to a rescinded offer.

The remedy:

The long and short of this approach? Don’t do it.

Focus on the market value of the role, what is important to you in terms of compensation and benefits and the rewards items (base, bonus, vacation, benefits, etc.) you are willing to accept, concede, or negotiate during the discussions.

  Mistake #3: Missing the Forest for the Trees When Negotiating Restrictive Clauses  

The issue:

Restrictive clauses make people uncomfortable. The most common clauses restrict your rights to work for a competitor, to solicit clients, or to poach employees during a specific time period after you leave this employer.

The legal language can be far-reaching and imposing.

The main concern it raises for job seekers? Sometimes the languge is so broad, it seems as though you won’t be able to find employment anywhere for years and years after leaving.

Therefore, people tend to focus on the nitty gritty language, deleting legalese and clauses left and right in order to protect themselves.

The implications:

You don’t appear to understand the business need of the clause: to protect the employer. Instead, you appear self-interested and difficult.

The remedy:

Articulate your understanding regarding each clause’s importance.

Focus only on the terms or phrases that give you the most angst, and ask if the company can redefine the terms rather than slashing and burning the language.

Make sure the company understands that you recognize their business need to be protected, but you want to balance their need without severely limiting your future employment opportunities.

The Bottom Line

The biggest mistakes when negotiating compensation are made during the negotiation process. At best, these mistakes sprinkle a layer of doubt in the company’s mind about whether you are the right hire. At worst, these mistakes can lead to offers being rescinded. Focus on developing a long-term relationship with your potential employer based on trust and respect. If you do, you will create a win-win solution when discussing compensation.

More About Successful Salary Negotiation


Stacey Hawley About the author...

Stacey Hawley is a salary and compensation consultant and career coach. She helps companies reward and recognize their people effectively and helps individuals like you earn more money. You can connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or via her website.