Five Salary Negotiation Mistakes You Won’t Make Twice

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Dear Liz,

I need your help! I am kicking myself right now.

I got a job offer the week before Christmas. I accepted the offer right away. I was ecstatic about it for 48 hours. For Christmas I went to my girlfriend’s sister’s house. I told my girlfriend’s dad about my new job.

He asked me "Are you happy with the salary?" I said I was. It’s $7.5K more than I’m earning now. I told him the salary. He said "Hmmm. Have you checked on what those jobs typically pay?"

I had not done that. I don’t know why I didn’t. I assumed my new company would pay me the going rate. I got online and started checking when I got home late Christmas night, and I was shocked.

Even with my $7.5 salary bump I will still be extremely underpaid. My new company low-balled me and I didn’t even know it!

Should I still take the job, or should I hold out for something better? I don’t feel that I can negotiate the offer since I sent the offer letter back to them a week ago and I’m supposed to start the job in a week.

Thanks Liz!

Krishna

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Dear Krishna,

That is disappointing, but there are lots of silver linings to your story!

You got the interview and you got a job offer. You found out that your supposed-to-be-new-employer offered you less than the market rate for your job. The next move is up to you. Do you take the low-ball job offer, or keep looking?

If you liked everything else about the opportunity, I would take the job and use that job as a stepping stone to your next opportunity. The salary looked good to you before you realized it was under the market rate. It’s a good raise from where you are now.

Unless you had just started job-hunting when you got the offer (in which case you may have jumped too hastily) you may find that taking the low-ball salary offer is still your best career move.

If you got the job offer quickly and without much trouble then it may make more sense to decline the offer and keep your job search going.

If you decide to back out of the offer, the best way to do that is by leaving a polite voicemail message for your hiring manager to say "Hi John, this is Krishna Jones. I wanted to let you know that my situation has changed and I’m not going to be able to join you as planned on January 9th.

"I’m sorry to have to decline the offer on short notice but unfortunately circumstances are beyond my control. I want to thank you very much for the offer and wish you and your team all the best in 2017."

After you leave the voicemail message, send an email message that says the same thing you said in your voicemail, and copy the HR person or recruiter you dealt with during the recruiting process. Life is long. You and those people may cross paths again!

You made a very common misstep in failing to research prevailing salary levels before you started your job search. Don’t feel bad about it.

Mother Nature is the best teacher! You won’t make the same mistake again.

Here are four more salary-related mistakes job-seekers and working people make once — but they won’t make the same mistakes twice!

Four Salary Negotiation Mistakes You Won’t Make Twice

  • Giving a headhunter or internal recruiter too low a target salary. Once you tell someone "I need a job that pays $50K" you will need a very good reason to say "I just realized I can’t take a $50K job after all" later in the recruiting process!
  • Giving up your past salary details. You lose a lot of negotiating leverage when you tell a recruiter or hiring manager what you earned at your last job. Don’t do it! It’s none of their business what another employer paid you. Tell them your salary target, instead. I don’t want you filling out online job applications forms but if you do, here’s how to handle the past-salaries issue.
  • Failing to negotiate your job offer because you don’t want to ‘make waves.’ No employer will ever love you more down the road than they love you when they’re trying to recruit you. If the offer is perfect, then accept it as is — but if it isn’t perfect, negotiate it!
  • Keeping quiet when you should ask for a pay raise. Your boss will not like or respect you more because you take on more and more responsibility and never ask for a pay increase. They will take you for granted more and more easily when you play the part of a door mat!
  • It is your career and no one else’s. Is it hard to speak up about money, one of the stickiest topics we have to deal with at work? Yes, it is hard — but the only way it will get easier is when you do it!

    It is hard for everyone to speak up for their own worth at first, but it gets easier for the people who push through their fear and do it. If you don’t grow your muscles now, when will you grow them?

    Who gets paid what they are worth? Only one group of people — the people who know their value to employers and demand it.

    They get paid fairly and they get something else, too — they get the respect of their employers and/or clients. Lots of other people are underpaid, but they keep quiet about it because they are afraid of making their boss unhappy.

    You are an adult. Who cares if you make your boss slightly uncomfortable? Maybe that is the learning your boss needs right now. Maybe 2017 is the year you finally find your voice and your backbone and begin to manage your career like a business. I hope it is, for your sake!

    All the best,

    Liz

    Liz Ryan is CEO/founder of Human Workplace and author of Reinvention Roadmap. Follow her on Twitter and read Forbes columns.