Job seekers frequently worry that an offer will be canceled if they try to negotiate for more money. That's rarely the case (with one exception below). But there are other missteps you could make at this stage that can cause an employer to rethink that offer.
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1. Not responding to the offer right away. If an employer leaves you a message saying that they'd like to make you an offer and you take days to get back to them, you may lose the offer entirely. Not responding to this type of message signals a lack of interest or a lack of responsiveness, both of which are bad things. You don't need to call back and accept the offer on the spot, but you do need to call back and say something. People are usually excited to get job offers (even if they ultimately don't accept them), and it's not typically a call they avoid returning.
2. Asking for too much time to think over the offer. It's reasonable to ask for a few days to consider an offer, and sometimes you can get a week or two. But usually, if you ask for too much time, you risk sounding like you're saying, "I'm not that excited about this job but I may settle for it, depending on what else is offered to me." That drains away the excitement that the hiring manager had and makes the employer question your enthusiasm.
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3. Refusing to answer until you've heard from other employers. If you ask for more time to think over an offer, explain that it's because you want to make absolutely sure it's the right choice for you, your finances, your family, and so forth. Don't say that it's because you're waiting for other offers, because—as in No. 2 above—you'll signal that this job is something you'd only settle for if you have to.
4. Making over-the-top salary demands. Negotiating over salary is a normal part of the hiring process, but if you ask for a salary far out of the normal realm for this type of work, you'll look out-of-touch and entitled. Before salary negotiations start, make sure that you've researched how much this type of work pays—in this sector, at this size employer, and in this geographic area.
[See When to Talk About Salary.]
5. Springing a significant demand at the last minute. If you wait until you get the offer to mention that you plan to telecommute from the other side of the country—even though it's been clear from the beginning where the position is based—most employers are going to be annoyed that you didn't raise this issue earlier. If you have significant requirements like telecommuting or working a half-time schedule, make sure to mention them earlier in the process so that you don't appear to be pulling a bait-and-switch.
Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Leader's Guide to Getting Results and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development. She now teaches other managers how to manage for results.