Negotiating 101: Getting to Yes

As I’ve said before (many times before), recruiting is marketing, not selling. Lots of negotiating is involved–especially toward the end of the process, when things can, and often do, start to go wrong. From years of experience, here’s my short course, Negotiating 101, which should make the “Road to Yes” a little bit smoother:

  • Get concessions at every stage. As a candidate advances in the interview process, get her agreement on aspects of the offer at every step. This way, closing is natural throughout the interview process–not just at the end when you have less leverage.
  • Don’t move too fast. This can frighten away good candidates. A job change requires thought. Don’t push too hard. Let candidates absorb the opportunity at their own speed.

<*SPONSORMESSAGE*> Overcoming Objections Expect for things to go wrong–they always do! That’s why I stress testing every offer before you actually make it. The purpose of testing is to uncover possible objections. THEN you’re in a position to negotiate the item in an open, non-confrontational style. You won’t close everyone this way, but you’ll close more. You’ll also know why someone didn’t accept your offer. Once the offer is extended, open communications effectively cease. Here are a few typical objections, and how to overcome them:

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  1. Not enough money. Change the focus to long-term opportunities from tactical short term issues; these could be better growth opportunities, more challenge, or more impact. Another way to negotiate salary is to introduce competition — real or imagined.
  2. What are the promotional opportunities? Tell them, “Promotions are based on your performance and business opportunities. You’ll be given as much as you can handle.” Describe other people under your direction who have received promotions this way. (This approach also presents you as a manager who can develop people and help them advance their careers.)
  3. The job isn’t big enough. So make it bigger. This doesn’t mean handing him a bigger title or a larger staff — just add more work. Adding special projects works well. Focus on what needs to get done and the job’s overall importance. Review and/or add performance targets.
  4. The long-term opportunity doesn’t seem strong enough. To overcome this, bring a candidate back for a strategic overview. Get a senior executive to describe the company’s growth plans. You can also minimize this problem by including some strategic objectives in the performance-based job description. If you include a performance objective like “Prepare a long-term facilities plan to support annual growth of 25 percent,” the candidate instantly recognizes the importance of the job and the potential for promotion.

We all know that most of the time the circumstances surrounding an act of recruiting are not perfect. We never have enough money; the best candidates have multiple opportunities; you’re always vulnerable to counteroffers. But following these tips can at least help to level the playing field–and make us all better recruiters.

Lou Adler is the CEO and founder of The Adler Group – a training and search firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring℠. Adler is the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 3rd Edition, 2007). His most recent book has just been published, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013). He is also the author of the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio program, Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Build Great Teams (2007).


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