Salary Negotiations: 5 Things Every Recruiter Should Do

March 7, 2019

To maximize acceptance rates and prevent counter-offers, recruiters must never violate this rule when negotiating offers:

Never make a formal offer until the candidate accepts every term and condition first and verbally agrees to accept your offer without hesitation.

In order to build great teams, recruiters and hiring managers need to know how to negotiate offers. If you can’t close the deal, everything else done previously has been a wasted effort. As far as I’m concerned, negotiating offers is as important a skill as sourcing, conducting the interview, and preparing a job analysis defining the critical KPOs (key performance objectives). Given this, here are some critical techniques you can start using right away as you become a master negotiator.

1. Use compensation as a negotiating tool, not filter

Don’t ask about compensation until the end of the phone screen. The best people are always willing to reduce their comp demands if the opening represents a clear career move. Less sophisticated recruiters tend to ask about compensation too soon in an attempt to save time, but in the process lose the chance to build the relationship and get referrals if the person isn’t a great fit for the role. It’s better to use the phone screen to look for areas of stretch and change that clearly represent career growth.

2. Use the 1-10 test to determine where you rank

After the first interview with the hiring manager, ask candidates you’re interested in pursuing this question: “How does our job rank on a 1-10 scale in comparison to everything else you’re considering including a possible counter-offer?” As part of this, then find out why you’re not first and what it would take to become one point better on the 1-10 scale or number one. This is how you uncover problems with your job and what you need to address in the next round of interviews to hire the person.

3. Dig into concerns to uncover the real problem

Whenever a candidate expresses doubt about your job or opts-out completely, it’s important to understand why. In many cases the problem will be lack of understanding or a legitimate concern that could be overcome in some way. Once you uncover the issue, just ask the person if he/she would be willing to move forward to the next step in the process if the matter could be addressed satisfactorily. If the candidate hesitates, the concern raised is a smokescreen for something else. Of course, you do have to address the problem if it is the one holding the person back.

4. Take money off the table to test interest

A few days before making the offer, ask the person if he/she woud want the job if it weren’t for the compensation package. Most will say yes. Then ask why. Don’t make the offer if the person can’t specifically describe why the job represents a true career move or emphasizes the short-term benefits in too much detail. Both are clues the person hasn’t conducted proper due diligence and success, meaning satisfaction and motivation, will be problematic if the person accepts your offer.

5. Go long to turn around a rejected offer

If your offer is rejected, it’s important to immediately find out why. Often it will be for a better compensation package or some other short-term benefits. If so, you can say something like, “It appears you’re making a strategic decision using tactical information.” Then explain that the person has minimized the superior value of the long-term benefits of your opening. These are factors like faster growth, a bigger and more impactful job, and a mix of more satisfying work. If these factors have not been discussed during the interview process, you’ll need to hustle to make the case that your job provides a superior career trajectory than the other opportunity.

Negotiating the close is as important as preparing a performance profile when opening the requisition and conducting an in-depth interview looking for the gaps that represent a reasonable career move. I learned long ago that you’ll never have enough money in your budget to attract the strongest talent. However, you’ll still be able to close more often by offering a superior growth opportunity. Testing offers and overcoming concerns are recruiting techniques used to ensure all candidates understand the differences.

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