10 Simple Tips for Negotiating Salary with a Successful Job Candidate
By Mark Wilkinson
So, you’ve found a fantastic new employee for your business; great news, the hard bit’s over!
Now, you could be faced with three situations…
- They accept your offer (great, perfect, fantastic)!
- They decline your offer (booooo)!
- Or you enter into a salary negotiation.
Job candidates are absolutely within their right to “haggle” during the recruitment process — in fact, most recruiters expect it these days.
Here are ten tips to make sure the process goes smoothly — for both parties.
1. Choose the right salary in the first place.
Before you even start interviewing, you should come up with a good, fair salary for the role.
You’ll obviously need to consider…
- The job seniority (will they manage people, projects, caseloads)?
- The skills needed (are they rare, sought-after and hard-earned)?
- The industry (is there a skills shortage or an abundance of job-seekers)?
- The current job market (how competitive is it)?
- The current economy (how much can you afford to pay)?
…amongst many other things.
Ensure that the salary you choose is fair, affordable and attractive — and that you stick to it throughout the entire process; advertising it on your job advert and in all communication with candidates.
Recruiter Pro Tip
When making this decision, it’s a good idea to benchmark against other, similar companies.
A great little trick is to use Indeed as a guide. Search for job adverts that advertise the same role that you are and see how much they offer applicants.
(Of course, take industry, location and your specific company needs into consideration too).
Leave yourself with a little wiggle room should your successful candidate attempt to negotiate, whilst ensuring that you are actually willing to pay the upper boundary, for the perfect person.
2. Find out what their current salary is.
It’s a good idea to find out a candidate’s current salary, early on in the recruitment process.
(Of course, they don’t have to tell you.)
This also gives you a chance to suss out whether the role is genuinely right for them. For example:
- If they’re on a higher salary than you could hope to offer then you might wonder why they’re even applying for the role. It’s certainly worth letting them know (in case they missed the advert) and checking if and why they’d be happy with the drop.
- If they’re on a much lower salary than you would expect, it might be worth considering why. Were their last employers paying them unfairly? Are you offering too much? Are they just not that good at their job?
This information will help to guide you with your negotiations, moving forward.
Making the Offer
3. Make a fair offer.
Now, the hard bit; deciding how much you should initially offer your successful candidate.
It’s important to remember, this isn’t a sales call. Going in with a really small starting offer that you know is ridiculous, is likely to put candidates off or at the very least irritate them.
Remember, recruitment is a two-way street and this candidate could end up working for you; do you really want them to resent you for messing them around?
There is no “perfect formula” for choosing that initial offer — it depends entirely on your company circumstances — but as a general rule, it should be…
- Within the advertised salary range.
- A fair reflection of their skills and knowledge.
- Enticing enough to win them over.
- (Slightly) lower than your upper boundary — so you have room to manoeuvre.
You should never offer too little, as your candidate will simply be offended and put off.
And you also shouldn’t offer too much, too soon, so that you come across as downright desperate.
For more tips on how to actually make that initial job offer, click here.
4. Be confident.
Don’t make the call until you’re fully prepared and confident with your offer.
Great candidates will have done some research themselves and will have some idea of how much they should be getting and how much they’d be willing to accept — so if your offer comes up short, they’ll want to know why.
I’d personally recommend preemptively explaining your reasons behind the offer, based on facts like their skills, your company processes, the industry etc.
If you’re struggling to explain why you came up with a certain salary, it’s probably worth revisiting it and making sure you’ve considered every angle.
Click here for more info on how appearing confident during negotiations will improve your chances.
5. A little trick.
Most companies like to make offers with round numbers like £18,000 or £22,000.
But psychologically, offering something much more specific like £17,300 could make the offer seem more thought-through and finalised.
It just appears like you’ve really considered everything to come up with that figure.
The Negotiating Stage
6. Be willing.
Look, if you’ve found the perfect candidate — you’ve got to be ready and willing to negotiate.
If they’ve got sought-after and rare skills, knowledge and qualities, they’ll know it and they’re perfectly within their right to try and negotiate.
Prior to making your initial offer, decide how much would be the absolute maximum you’d pay and keep that in mind throughout the process — but don’t be too stubborn to change your mind if it comes to it (and you can afford to).
You can and should be honest; tell them if it is the absolute final offer you can make.
7. Consider other benefits.
So, you don’t have the budget or free reign to offer your candidate more money…
Can you win them over with perks and benefits instead? Like…
- Holiday allowance.
- Gym membership.
- Company Car.
All of the above are really compelling reasons for a candidate to join you, so don’t forget to use them during negotiations. For example:
“Due to budgetary guidelines, I can’t offer you more money, but we could offer five days extra holiday and a Gym Membership.”
Outlining the money they’ll save (and you’ll spend) using your perks will help to persuade them and make it clear that you are serious about hiring them.
Click here to check out some more great perks and rewards you could be using to win candidates over.
8. Make a promise.
Even if you can’t justify paying them a higher salary right now, you could promise to offer it to them in the future.
For example, you could guarantee that on completion of a training course, probation period or after a certain length of time, they’ll automatically go up a salary band.
But you MUST follow through with that promise. You’ll only lose your new staff member’s trust and loyalty if you don’t.
9. Watch your attitude.
This isn’t a competition.
Remember; this person could work with you for the foreseeable future and you really don’t want to start off on the wrong foot.
Behaving ruthlessly, arrogantly and stingily isn’t going to go down well.
Make sure there is some give and take (another reason to offer slightly lower than your upper limit in the first place).
It’s also important NOT to get emotional. Giving away signs of anger or aggression, upset or frustration isn’t professional and will simply put the candidate off taking the job in the first place.
10. Don’t be too judgmental.
Salary negotiations are pretty scary for candidates.
They’re putting a lot on the line and as such, they might make a mistake, say something silly or come across a little too pushy.
Take a step back, consider the situation and try not to get put off so easily.
Guide them through the process.
Ready to start negotiating..?
Pick up the phone!
Having a proper conversation will give you the opportunity to suss out your job candidate’s reaction better and to feed off their vibe.
Recruiter Pro Tip
Throughout this blog, I’ve given you tips on how to win over that special candidate.
However, occasionally, salary negotiations actually reveal the more negative attributes and tendencies of a person.
You may even realise that the candidate isn’t actually right for you!
Are they being really difficult and asking for too much? Are they overconfident and even cocky? Have you lost contact (could they be leveraging a counter-offer)?
At this point it’s not too late to change your mind… but do it now, because once an employee starts, things will get a lot more difficult.
And if you’d like to read more advice on HR, Recruitment and Staff Retention, click here to check out the rest of our blog.
Mark is one of the founders of Coburg Banks and heads up the permanent recruitment division of the business. Every day he helps companies with their recruitment projects, sourcing the very best individuals for their vacancies. He understands recruitment inside-out.