What (Not) to Do to Get Yourself the Best Possible Offer

Five Mistakes to Avoid in the Job-Application Process

By Published on . 11

Paul Gumbinner
Paul Gumbinner

It's a tough market out there. Jobs are hard to come by. But they do exist. And if and when you do get an offer, you'd better know how to handle it so that you get the best possible deal for yourself.

Ready to maximize your income? Great. Then here are five things you should never do:

1. Appear overanxious.

Real jobs and even interviews are few and far between these days. Even if you have been out of work for a long time, never let them see you sweat. There are many companies out there that will take advantage of your situation if they sense desperation.

2. Exaggerate your salary.

You should never lie. Period. People wrongly think that the way to make more money is to inflate their current salary. It simply isn't true. You will inevitably get caught in the lie and could blow a great opportunity, either because you get caught or because someone -- a recruiter, human resources -- thinks you are making too much. In a good job market, people change jobs for far greater increments than they can get in today's market. While we have not yet seen salaries going down, companies are being, let's say, careful about what they are paying. It is possible that for the few thousand extra you add on to your salary, you could lose out on a great job because a recruiter didn't call you, believing that you are making too much.

To this point, if you are asked to fill out an employment application and that application asks for a salary history, my advice is that you give them your job history, but leave the salary history, except your current salary, blank. Most times, companies don't even pick up on this. Besides, your past salary history is irrelevant.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Paul Gumbinner is president of the Gumbinner Co., New York. Before starting his executive-search firm in 1985, he spent 20 years in advertising, as an account person in categories including package goods, cosmetics, broadcasting, financial services, publishing, retail and fast food.

3. Negotiate before you get the offer.

Some people, particularly those who are currently working, set up barriers for themselves by telling interviewers what they want in terms of title, money, even assignments long before these matters should be discussed. It's a turnoff for many interviewers. The leverage to negotiate is always in the offer, meaning that once a company is committed to you, they want you. That is when you can negotiate salary and titles, even responsibilities, but not before.

4. Name a number.

There is an old rule of thumb in negotiating that the first person to name a number loses. But it's a trap to name a number too early in the process. You can and should tell your prospective company what you are or were currently making. But if you tell someone what you expect in terms of your next salary, you can preclude your ability to negotiate. If the company is expecting to pay or has budgeted a specific salary, you probably don't know what that is, but chances are it is higher than you have been told. If you are there through a recruiter, you should have been told the salary range for the job. If you don't know, ask for the range. If you name a number that's too low, you may miss out on a higher salary. Meanwhile, if you name a number that's perceived as too high, you may not get a job for the want of a few thousand dollars, which in this market may be a huge mistake.

If a company asks you what you are looking for, the answer is always "an opportunity." Truth is, jobs are made up of a lot of parts, and base salary may only be a small part of the package, which includes things such as responsibilities, amount of travel, work hours, bonus plans, benefits and other perks. And you won't find out most of these things until you get an offer. Leave yourself free to negotiate. And again, the leverage to negotiate is in the offer, not before.

5. Rush acceptance.

Once an offer is made, the company wants you to work there. If you have questions, even if you have been out of work for a while and are desperate for the income, don't let them know you're desperate. Strength wins. Tell them you'll get back to them. Give yourself a day or two. Then come back with your issues in a way that lets them know that you want the job, but need to resolve some issues. That day or two also enables the hiring organization to consider your issues. Most companies understand that a negotiation is a two-way street, and they want you to start work happy and enthusiastic. Therefore, they will, indeed, try to accommodate you.

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