Companies hiring for openings, search firms engaged to fill client needs, and candidates, professional and executive alike, are faced with the sometimes uncomfortable process of negotiating an offer. If you ask ten different hiring managers, HR professionals, recruiters, or job seekers, you may very well get ten different answers as to what constitutes best practices.
Years of hands-on recruiting and offer negotiation experience has taught me to rely on transparency and fairness to build rapport and trust to reach an offer all parties can agree is reasonable.
Regardless of the specific approach, there are a few offer negotiation basics that can be applied regardless of what side of the table you find yourself dealing from.
#1: Know Your Market – Having an accurate understanding of what the marketplace pays by discipline and level goes a long way toward coming to an acceptable offer. Candidates armed with information as to what their peers are earning can develop an understanding of where their current compensation places them on the bell curve of the market.
Similarly, companies need to arm themselves with good data points regarding compensation for similar skills and levels in the market. Compensation studies can be purchased, but often times the best informed hiring managers are those with strong peer relationships at other companies.
A good search firm should also be able to give you real data points on previous similar roles they’ve filled and where compensation trends are heading.
#2: Never Compromise Integrity – The temptation certainly exists for candidates to over-inflate their current compensation on job applications. Unfortunately, there are too many stories out there of staffing companies fluffing or being “generously ambiguous” about candidate compensation to clients in the hopes of pumping up offered salaries (and therefore fees too).
Both of these first two situations are unacceptable, and the reality is any candidate caught by a potential employer (even after their start date) lying on an application will likely be terminated on the spot.
Staffing firms misrepresenting candidates to companies should lose their customer for good (we’ve gained clients burned by unscrupulous firms many times in the past).
#3: Seek Informed Counsel – A well-run human resources department can offer a hiring managers a number of resources to help them understand the marketplace and niche skill supply, demand, and price. Some mid-sized and especially smaller companies don’t always have the scale to support an HR group or the type of resources needed. In this case, again hiring managers can rely upon their network of peers in the market to gain information and seek counsel.
Far too often, facing the uncertain and sometimes unsettling prospect of changing jobs, candidates rely upon too many people providing uninformed advice.
The best counsel will come from professional mentors with similar skill backgrounds, trusted former or current colleagues, or close confidants in similar professions. Instead of asking 15 people for advice, pick the best two or three and spend time really understanding their perspective and approach.
A good search firm should be able to provide objective, well-informed, free advice to both the candidate and the client.
We train our recruiters and account managers to broker reasonable offers candidates will accept from our clients to minimize back and forth during the process. Once we present the initial offer to our candidates, the first thing we do is gauge whether or not the candidate truly wants to work for the employer in the presented role. If there are any points to be negotiated, we work with our candidates to figure out what it will take to get them on board, and then ideally only go back to our client once with a proposed counteroffer. The bottom line is we encourage our candidates and clients to know their market, deal with integrity, and seek solid counsel to negotiate reasonable, acceptable offers.