Emily, I agree with all your points, especially “Correct without apology.” Things I have picked up over the years, for what they’re worth:
- Go into the FIRST interview with a salary in mind. You can tweak that number up or down, depending on how the interviews go, but be ready in case you get an offer right off the bat.
- If you get the best offer you could ever expect, your response is always, always, always “I need to think this over and I will get back to you tomorrow.” And any other numbers get the same response, even the ones so low that you wouldn’t work at a pizza joint for that money. And then you think it over. And talk it over with your spouse/s.o./best friend/goldfish. Because whether the offer number is high, low, or just right, you need to consider the other factors, like commute, work atmosphere, path to advancement, whatever.
- Some companies are, “Here’s the job, here’s the salary, here’re the benefits, sign here or we’re done.” But others approach salary like negotiating a used car price. (By the way, these tips also work for used car buying. Which is a little scary.) Emily, sounds like you got caught in used car negotiations, and the company got the best deal. (Doesn’t just happen to women, btw. <cough>) Some HR people think they’re “acting in the company’s best interests” when they screw over incoming people, never mind the long term consequences.
- Some companies are stuck on salary, but flexible on benefits. At my present company, for example, I told them I couldn’t go lower than $X for a salary, and they said they couldn’t go higher than a few thousand below that. Okay, well, says I, I’m getting three weeks vacation at my current job, can you up my base vacation to three weeks and throw in an extra week my first year? Sure! they say. (Also, they made me an offer at the end of the first interview, which is why I was glad I had a number in mind and why I was glad I waited a day to think it over, especially when my wife suggested asking for an extra week of vacation the first year.)
Also, I’m a crappy negotiator, I hate buying used cars, and I can’t haggle to save my life. So I have to get psyched each time I go into a job interview and remember the above bullet points.