Professor Gives Tips on Negotiating Job Offers

As they head into the business world this spring, one of the most important negotiations college graduates need to master is the job offer. We asked Driehaus College of Business Associate Professor of Management Charles E. Naquin, an organizational behaviorist, for tips that will help business grads ace job negotiations.

What is the biggest error that people make in job negotiations?

I would say the biggest error I see in job negotiations from a candidate’s perspective is negotiating before you even have an offer in hand. There are a number of reasons why you do not want to start negotiating before you get a written offer. Among them is that a verbal offer is easy to withdraw, while a written offer is not. In addition, once you get a written offer, the nature of the interaction changes — they (your potential employer) switch from “who should I make an offer to” to “how do we get you to sign.”

How should I respond when they ask how much I expect to make?

Generally speaking, don’t answer this question. Instead, you should respectfully deflect. A key word here is respectfully. A job negotiation should never be antagonistic. But you do want to deflect because answering this question typically never helps you and can actually hurt you. So, don’t play that game — instead, respectfully deflect. Here are some examples:

“I’m getting my MBA so my prior salary doesn’t matter.”
“I’m switching industries so my prior salary should not be considered.”
“What I’m making does not matter so much, what I would like is to be paid competitively to my peers.”

You get the picture — respectfully deflect and have a few responses in your back pocket. This is a question you will likely have to address on multiple occasions during the same interaction.

Will I offend my future boss/employer because I am negotiating the job offer?

That’s a myth. Keep it respectful, not antagonistic, and you should be fine. In fact, it is more likely that your future employer will respect you even more if you negotiate because you are obviously business savvy.

What do employers dislike about job negotiations?

Most employers making job offers expect you to negotiate and many will actually offer a starting salary lower than what they expect to actually pay you because they anticipate you’ll negotiate it to a higher level. So, employers typically expect negotiations and they don’t dislike them. What they DO tend to dislike are protracted job negotiations (so keep it short) or someone who pits one job offer against another (so don’t do that). ​