When you start negotiating your salary and what you want for your next job, it’s important to not undersell yourself. All too often, candidates don’t do their research and realize too late in the process what was actually possible. But just like in the real estate market, when the balance is a little bit off between buyers and sellers, crazy things start to happen. For example, in the D.C. area housing market, when it’s a seller’s market like it has been this past year, buyers have to come in, ready to offer their entire bank account at closing. I’m only somewhat kidding. So when I waive inspections, offer a five or six figure earnest money deposit, add an escalation clause that offers my first born, and then waive all rights to back out of the deal once the offer is accepted, I’m not really happy when that seller counters for $5,000 more. It might be a sellers market, but suddenly I don’t want to play anymore. The same thing happens for recruiters and candidates in the job market. Not all candidates pushing hard for high salaries are worth as much as they think they are. And when you start to nickel and dime a company for everything, it will quickly get old.

It’s a Small World Out There

You may have heard that it’s a candidate market, and that has motivated you to be a little bolder in how you negotiate your next gig. The general rule of thumb has always been to push for it all upfront or you may never get it at all. That rule is usually given right after you are told to keep your current gig until you secure the next one. All decent advice. However, when you keep driving up the stakes, rolling one more time to see if you can win it all, you might find your luck starting to run out. You may get the whole world in your negotiations, but it doesn’t mean that you will be able to keep it. So, in a small market like the cleared industry, you want to be sure you are not burning bridges in your interviewing and negotiation style.

5 Signs You’re Burning Bridges with Recruiters

So how do you know if what you’re doing could be frustrating to recruiters in the negotiation process? Maybe you only asked for another $5,000. What’s the big deal? It’s helpful to check yourself along the way to make sure you’re not trending in the wrong direction.

1. You feel removed from the process.

Life behind a screen can make you forget that there’s an actual person on the other side of the screen. You may forget that someone put a lot of time and effort into the process. Make sure you stay engaged the whole time. If at any point, you’re not feeling it, you need to raise your hand and let the recruiter know that. Don’t ghost recruiters. They are real people with a memory.

2. You don’t seriously want to leave your job.

It may feel empowering to get your current boss to counteroffer the job you just landed at a competitor, but it’s an easy way to get caught looking greedy and manipulative too. There are salary calculators available if you just want to negotiate a higher salary. Don’t waste a recruiter’s time if you’re just trying to get your company to pony up more cash.

3. You want to review as many options as possible at the same time.

It may feel like the real estate market, but you’re not a house. You don’t need to have 11 job offers to compare at the same time. If your spreadsheet has more than three companies with serious offers (and one of those columns should be your current job), you may have overshot the job search process. It’s fun being popular, but it won’t last forever. In some job markets, it’s common to have multiple recruiters interested, but it’s best to be open and honest throughout the process so you are not comparing so many job offers. Some companies may not have the bandwidth to try to beat out multiple vendors. Let them cut their losses early.

4. You have a real FOMO when it comes to job opportunities.

Is it possible to land a job, and then talk to another colleague two weeks later, only to find out they got $10,000 more than you? Yes. But if you’re constantly afraid of missing out on a better opportunity, it will start to be paralyzing, and you’ll wind up without a job. So, don’t hold out or keep pushing for incrementally higher offers. The point of the salary negotiation isn’t to see how high the employer can go. You are trying to find a fair and reasonable amount that works for both parties. And compensation isn’t everything. There’s a lot more to a job offer than the annual salary number.

5. You don’t understand the total compensation package.

Your compensation is more than the original number on the offer letter. From company stock options to health insurance to wellness benefits to paid time off, your compensation number is bigger than your paycheck. One year, our family had multiple medical procedures, requiring about $15,000 out-of-pocket expenses. Two years later, with a different contractor and different insurance, those same procedures came to less than $1,000 for the year. Not all insurances are the same, and some employers skimp on their offerings. Don’t forget all of the many factors that go into your total compensation package.

You Never Know Unless You Ask

No one wants to be underpaid. So, if you find that you really like your job, have some candid conversations with your employer about expectations, and the current demand for your capabilities. If you are as amazing as you think you are, chances are your employer would really like to keep you. So, let them put their retention strategies to work.


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Jillian Hamilton has worked in a variety of Program Management roles for multiple Federal Government contractors. She has helped manage projects in training and IT. She received her Bachelors degree in Business with an emphasis in Marketing from Penn State University and her MBA from the University of Phoenix.