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How to Avoid the Most Common Mistakes When Negotiating a Job Offer

Michael M. DeSafey -- From first-time job seekers to seasoned professionals, salary negotiations can be stressful. Once you've done your research, know what you and the position are worth, and what pitfalls to avoid, you'll be better positioned to achieving your desired take-home.

When you're looking for a job, one of the most stressful aspects of the process is handling the salary conversation. We've always been taught it's impolite to talk about money, and yet, there you are, meant to be haggling away and assigning value to yourself that should match a secret number your potential employer has in mind, too. It can seem like a minefield to navigate, but there are some common steps to this process that will help you move forward, especially in the construction and engineering industries, where numbers can depend on conversations that job seekers often have a hard time with.

Giving too much information:A potential employer will likely ask you what your current salary is, or what your requirements are. If they ask this early on, be aware: you don't have to answer this directly. If you're hoping to make a vastly higher number than your current salary; you will give some leverage for the employer to offer you less early on. You'll lose any kind of ground you can gain later in the interview process through negotiating--once you will have proven your value. Now, you do need to respond, and you should decide the way that you may feel most comfortable beforehand. One option is to do your research: use a salary calculator to determine an average salary range for your title and location, and use that number to create a salary range to offer to your potential employer. Or, if early enough in the process, simply and politely let the interviewer know that you're aware of the industry standards, and appreciate their consideration along those lines for the position. Read the situation for an appropriate response, and practice answering these questions often so you won't be caught unprepared and share numbers you weren't ready to give yet.

Not negotiating at all: Some people are afraid that they'll ruin their chances by being too demanding, or appearing greedy. But it's a mistake not to ask for a salary that meets your value, especially if you feel that a salary offered isn't ideal; often, companies can certainly afford much more than what they offer, and they'll start at the low end of their range. As long as you do your research in terms of appropriate salary levels, you'll likely be proving that a) you know your true value, and b) you're an assertive, smart, and hard-working person they'd be lucky to bring on board. So, when offered a salary you're not thrilled with, do respond by politely suggesting a number more in line with your needs, and the backed-up reasons why it's realistic (your experience, your value, industry standards, and so on).

Taking negotiations personally, rather than logically: This goes hand-in-hand with the previous tip. Your future employer will not be hurt if you ask for more money--it's a business transaction. So conversely, you need to remind yourself that their offers are solely based in business reasoning as well; they're not at all personal. When a low salary is offered, it isn't a reflection on you, and your response shouldn't be emotional. It should be a counter backed up with facts and numbers that show you're worth the number you're putting forward. Consider, even, asking a question to keep conversation flowing evenly and in a friendly way: "Would you consider raising the amount by X to fully address the level of experience in this industry I bring... ?" Try not to be flustered or caught off guard, because the calmer and more assertive you're able to be, the more you'll show your negotiating partner that you know what you're doing, and you'll see this through.

In a full negotiation, you may not always get your exact desired number, but with the right approach and research, you will very likely find that you'll have a better outcome and salary than you would have before. Professionals who take the time to do some research before beginning the job search will find it makes a great difference in your take-home pay/benefits later.


Michael DeSafey is a leading executive recruiter for professionals in the construction, engineering and environmental industries. He is currently the President of Webuild Staffing To learn more about Michael or to follow his Blog please visit

© 2017 Michael M. DeSafey

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