3 negotiation mistakes women make

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I had just finished interviewing an amazing woman. She blew me away in the interview, checking off all of my boxes – including those that I wasn’t aware I had. She exited the room, and my face broke out into a huge grin – it was going to be hard to find a candidate to even come close to her. But then she knocked on the door. She poked her head in sheepishly and said: “I feel like I need to be honest. I have three kids, and so if I take this job, I’d need to work at 80%.”

Negotiation mistake #1 – Starting too early

This is one of the classic mistakes that women make in negotiating for a new job. In this case, we were still in the middle of the competition. There were other candidates left to interview, and the entire field to consider and assess. By sharing this information with me before I had even offered her the job, the candidate handed me the opportunity to easily choose someone else to avoid the hassle of a modified schedule. As we interviewed, I found myself weighing the other candidates against her, and asking myself how they stacked up against 80% of her.

The time for negotiation and setting boundaries is when an offer has been made. Don’t give anyone an excuse to count you out early. Wait until a job offer is made before you negotiate for what you need to be successful.

As women, we feel compelled to be honest and upfront in all of our dealings. We tend to share more than necessary and humble ourselves in front of others. We come by these tendencies honestly – from the time we are young, we are cautioned to be honest, humble, and gracious. This social conditioning makes us uncomfortable in negotiations and is the foundation of why we struggle so much to negotiate with confidence.

Negotiation mistake #2 – Falling into a speed trap

During negotiations, there are myriad tactics that experienced negotiators use to get you to sign on the dotted line. One of the most effective ones is creating an artificial sense of urgency. When you’re offered a job and told that “we need an answer by tomorrow at noon”, most women take that to mean the deal needs to be done by tomorrow at noon. That timeline puts pressure on you to say yes or no. The way the offer is phrased never includes the invitation to counter-offer. That’s intentional, because the faster a negotiation proceeds, the more it favours the employer.  Instead, slow down the negotiation. By “tomorrow at noon” come back prepared with your counter-offer and justification for why it adequately compensates you for what you bring.

Negotiation mistake #3 – Not trying

A full 60% of women will never negotiate their salary at any point throughout their entire career. Many women tell me that they accept that first offer because they think it’s fair and they are just grateful for the opportunity. They assume the employer is offering what they deserve. The truth is that the employer will always offer the lowest package they think you will accept. But they know that most people will negotiate (at least most men will) and so they offer low, knowing that there are plenty of places in a job offer to make valuable trades. By taking the first offer, you miss out on the chance to put more money in your pocket, increase your benefits, or improve your flexibility. I know that even asking comes with plenty of fear. But the only way to increase the offer is to ask.

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