LinkedIn’s Head of Recruiting Shares His Tactics for Handling Salary Negotiations

February 2, 2017

During the recruiting process, there is one moment that causes angst and doubt for job seekers and recruiters a like: the salary negotiation. Whether you raise it early on or after an interview or two, it’s a crucial conversation that can move things forward smoothly—or stop the candidate’s progress dead in its tracks.

The salary conversation is a dance, says LinkedIn’s Head of Recruiting, Brendan Browne. In this week’s Talent on Tap episode, Brendan tells Pat Wadors, LinkedIn’s Chief Human Resources Officer, how much he embraces this dance—and shares a few tips for how to navigate it without stepping on his candidates’ toes. 

Here are his three main tips for salary negotiations: 

Reframe the job as a lost opportunity

While salary isn’t the only thing that candidates consider, it’s still the most important. According to a LinkedIn survey of 345,000 professionals, compensation is candidates' top criteria when considering a job.

So it makes sense that if your budget doesn’t meet with the candidate’s expectations, things can go south quickly. Some recruiters shift the conversation to perks, culture, and professional growth. But, Brendan suggests reframing the stakes instead, using this line:

“You said this was the opportunity of a lifetime for you—are you sure you want to walk away for that amount of money?” 

Brendan isn’t just flipping the script—he’s also tapping into a powerful motivator: fear of loss, or “loss aversion” as it’s known in behavioral economics. This psychological driver was famously developed in Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman—who won a Noble Prize for his research on decision theory.

In short, the idea is that “losses loom larger than gains” when we make decisions: the pain of a loss is roughly twice as powerful as the pleasure of a win.

Brendan’s question reframes the choice around loss. By talking as if the candidate already has the job, they’ll rethink their willingness to make a small monetary sacrifice to avoid the pain of losing that.

When in doubt, pause

Talking about money can be awkward—but a smart recruiter can leverage that. Instead of avoiding awkwardness, Brendan suggests leaning into it. “Use silence and pauses to solicit the right responses,” he said to Pat.

Remember, negotiations are about gamesmanship. Imagine this hypothetical dialogue:

Recruiter: So, what are your salary expectations?

Candidate: Well, actually, I was wondering what kind of range you were willing to offer.

Recruiter: …

Candidate: …But I guess I was thinking between $75,000 and $85,000, based on my experience and the demand for my skills.

Recruiter: …

Candidate: …

Recruiter: …

Candidate: …But, y’know, I might be open to something a little lower if it comes with great benefits, since I really love the company.

Recruiter: Great!

We’re social creatures, and few people are fond of long silences. By knowing this, you might get a candidate to tip his hand—and use it to place him in his dream job.

Come to an understanding early on

Nothing’s worse than spending untold hours reeling in a great candidate, only to find out at the end of the process that your salary expectations are totally misaligned. That’s why it’s critical to touch on the topic in the early stages and establish an atmosphere of trust and candor.

“From the very beginning, I want to understand what’s most important to [my candidate],” said Brendan. “By the time you get to the end of the process, when the preparation is done properly, when there’s a connection, and when people are being open and transparent… the consummation of the deal should be more of a formality.”

By making sure you’re on the same page before things get too far, you can save yourself and the candidate plenty of heartache and stress.

Salary negotiations may be a dizzying dance, but with these three tactics in mind, you’ll be waltzing with your purple squirrel in no time. 

Talent on Tap is a weekly series in which Pat Wadors and Brendan Browne discuss some of the hottest topics, biggest challenges, and most enticing opportunities in the world of talent. Talent on Tap will also give you an opportunity to hear from other organizational leaders, subject matter experts, and thought leaders in the space. Stay tuned each week for the latest.

*Image from Death to the Stock Photo

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