Growing Great Companies


Successful Negotiations Require Some Compromise

Finally, the end was in sight. After exhaustive screening, interviewing, assessment testing and referencing, no one doubted that Paul Moore was the best candidate for the R&D management position. All that remained was the simple matter of the offer. Surely the opportunity to work for such a prestigious organization would be enough for Paul to sign on.


But then the phone rang. It was Jeff Blacker, a tough, no-nonsense employee agent. Jeff was calling to negotiate Paul’s offer, and he was ready to play hardball! Landing Paul would be much more difficult than anticipated.

Sound far-fetched? After all, employees aren’t professional athletes or movie stars. But in today’s talent-starved market, isn’t an accomplished chemist or a proven marketing director just as valuable as a star quarterback? Of course they are, and negotiating a job offer with such a promising candidate certainly isn’t what it once was. Back in the “good old days,” the prospective employee walked into the human resources office and there would be a compensation offer on the table—take it or leave it.

However, today’s professionals are much more savvy—they recognize their value in the market, and are unwilling to settle. They’re looking for more than a paycheck from their employers, and are placing increasing value on quality of life issues in the workplace. These days, most candidates, even recent college graduates, feel that the terms of their employment are negotiable.

Now, more than ever, a successful hire requires careful planning and tactful negotiating. And so, as a negotiator in search of top talent, you must be prepared, anticipate demands and act firmly.

Do you need to hone your employment negotiating skills? Here are some guidelines to follow:

Aim for Win-Win

In many negotiations, it’s acceptable for one party to win at the expense of the other. But in an employment negotiation, both parties must feel like winners. Both employer and employee should feel energized by the agreement. If either party perceives that they were treated unfairly, an air of distrust may be created. And ultimately, job performance could suffer.

Maximize the Pie

When discussing compensation, everything is on the table—from salary to incentives, benefits, prerequisites and even opportunities for professional development and career advancement. To get the best deal for both parties, keep all your options open.

Ask Questions, Then Listen Up

If you know something about a candidate’s background and what his or her needs are, you can tailor your offer as you negotiate. By asking the right questions, you drive the negotiations toward the best destination. With proper inquiry, the candidate will tell you what they want. Explore opportunities as they are presented. Just keep your ears—and mind—open. The best way to maximize the pie is to recognize what the other party values.

How Far Can You Go?

Find out in advance what is within your discretion to sweeten the deal. Can you grant sign-on bonuses, and if so, how much? How about covering relocation costs? Can you offer more vacation time as an enticement or an early performance review that could result in a quick pay raise? Know the answers to these questions prior to sitting down at the bargaining table.

“Job seekers are learning how to negotiate a lot smarter these days, so HR people now need the latitude to cut deals,” said Sally Haver, vice president of the Ayers Group, a New York-based HR consulting firm.

Money Isn’t Everything

Non-economic issues carry weight these days. In today’s two-earner and single-parent families, a recruit may not be as interested in compensation as in “quality of life” benefits. Therefore, you may need to think outside of the paycheck. Be prepared to offer incentives such as flextime, childcare or perhaps telecommuting. Conversely, you may appeal to a candidate by offering more responsibility within the company.

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