10 Ways To Mess Up Your Salary Negotiation [Infographics]

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I was so nervous when I collected my first car.

It was the first time I will be driving without an instructor next to me. I don’t even dare to take the highway since that wasn’t covered during lessons.

But I survived, albeit the same feeling came back the first time I drove into Malaysia.

Now I could drive with two fingers and my eyes closed. (To the Traffic Police reading this, it is just an analogy)

Why are we nervous?

Any form of negotiation can be nerve wrecking. Professor Maurice ­Schweitzer at Wharton did a study that examined the effects of anxiety on negotiating in more than 500 research participants.

Anxiety triggers the flight response in negotiators, causing them to make lower first offers, respond more quickly to offers and exit negotiations earlier, resulting in worse outcomes, explains Professor ­Schweitzer

And involuntary nervousness during negotiations can induce a variety of symptoms such as increased heart rate, impaired information processing and decreased self-confidence, says Alison Wood Brooks, lead author of the study and a Ph.D. student at Wharton.

What can I do about it?

Beside the obvious practice-til-you-are-numb to it, there are many other things that you shouldn’t do to provide the outcome you are looking for.

Here are 10 common mistakes that jobseekers usually make and screw up their salary negotiation big time.

Infographics Salary Negotiation

1. Settling/Not Negotiating

Taking the easy way out and simply settle and accept whatever is on the table. Many people do this because they don’t really understand the complete negotiation process or simply do not feel comfortable doing so. But the repercussion can be huge.

It’s like not sorting out differences before going into a marriage. A divorce will end up becoming more torturing for both parties eventually. At least you could bring that conversation as and when in a relationship. In your company, you probably need to align with their performance review cycle. That could be a long long wait.

2. Revealing How Much You Would Accept

Show your fellow poker players your cards and you are guaranteed to lose every single time. Sometimes it is hard not to offer this information especially if the employer asks for a salary history or salary requirement.

If you are driven to a corner, always try to remain noncommittal on the pretext that knowing more about the demands of the role might affect your salary expectation.

3. Focusing on Need/Greed

One of the most common salary negotiation error is focusing on what you feel you need or deserve instead of your value and the value you being to the prospective employer. Employers really don’t give a damn that your salary won’t be able to cover your Mercedes, mortgage or simply your weekly clubbing expenses.

Look at what the market is offering based on factual research (Salary.sg, Glassdoor, Kelly Salary Guide) and clearly demonstrate your value to the organization.

4. Weak Research or Negotiation Preparation

With the number and variety of salary resources available online there is simply no excuse not know your market value. And you can even go beyond pure numbers.

Head over to Glassdoor to read about the reviews. The part that are listed under dislike could be your salary negotiation ammunition.

5. Making a Salary Pitch Too Early

Many job-seekers tend to ask about salaries and compensation too early in the game. Remember that the longer you wait, the more power you have.

That is why Greece keeps delaying acceptance of the deal given by EU even though they can. The ideal time for talking salary is when you are the final candidate standing and you get the job offer.

It is then you can get into the details about salary, bonuses, commissions, health insurance, and other perks. Much as we all work for money, there is a general perception that you are all in it for money. Weird yes but that is how it is.

6. Accepting Job Offer Too Quickly 

Job search nowadays is taking longer and longer. From application to offer, you could be looking at weeks and even months. I know of a candidate that went through 6 months from start to end.

And HR tend to rush the process when it reach the tail-end so they can quickly wrap things up. But even the best offers should be reviewed when you have clear head, without the pressure of your future boss or HR director staring at you.

Most employers are willing to give you some time to contemplate the job offer typically several days to a week. You only get this power once when the offer is on the table so take your time to bask in that moment and make sure you are getting the best possible deal.

7. Declining Job Offer Too Quickly

Many job-seekers also tend to reject job offers very quickly when the salary offered is much lower than than expected. In most cases you would probably be right to reject it but take time to consider it before giving an official rejection.

You want to be perceived as someone who looks at the full picture and not just fixated on the money, even if you are. Because words can get around and the next application you never hear from probably got wind of your money-mindedness.

Yes all these are supposed to be private and confidential. So are salaries but you still see co-workers sharing them during pantry talks. And you want to take a bit of time to analyse the entire offer. Google do not pay the best in the market but their perks and benefits more than make up for it.

8. Asking For Too Many Changes in Counteroffer

I had a candidate that asked for a counteroffer of 5% after the first offer was given. When they arrived, he asked for another 5% on some reason of his.

It pissed the hiring manager off and the whole offer was retracted. If you really like the role and the company, it is perfectly fine to make a counteroffer proposal.

But you have to pick the specific elements you wish to touch on. Expecting an entire overhaul is just plain unrealistic. Companies also have their own policies to adhere to and it doesn’t make sense for them to offend 50 others just to keep you happy.

If the salary is too low, focus on that aspect in a counteroffer. If you know the firm will not negotiate on salary, then focus on modifying a few of the other terms of the offer (such as additional vacation time, earlier performance reviews, signing bonus, etc).

9. Taking Salary Negotiations Personally

A candidate sent me a hate sms as he thought we low-balled him when we made the offer. Ok we did low-ball him but his reaction was totally uncalled for.

Until today I still remember his name and his application came in again 3 years later. We informed the client about what he did before as we do not want what happened to us to occur on our client.

Needless to say that added a bit of stumbling block to his application.

Whatever you do in this process, always stay professional in handling the negotiations. An offer was indeed given in the end even though it might not be what you had in mind.

And if negotiations break down between you and the employer, move on graciously, thanking the employer again for the opportunity. Burning any bridges is a no-no.

10. Not Asking for Final Offer in Writing

Once everything is said and done and you have received a job offer that you find acceptable, the last thing you should do is ask for the final offer in writing.

No legitimate employer will have issues with putting the offer in writing, so if yours balks at your request and accuses you of not having any trust and tries to bully you to accept the verbal agreement, take it as a MAJOR red flag that there is something seriously wrong.

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