Putting Your Money Where Their Mouth Is: How To Handle Tricky Salary Negotiations

Financial considerations are rarely why a deal falls apart. In the past 20 years, in over 1000 different salary negotiations that I’ve been involved with, only a very few?two or three percent?fell apart because of compensation. If salary becomes a major issue before a final offer has been made, it’s easy to ask the candidate just how flexible he is on this point. If he’s open to discussion, your objective is to switch his interest in the job to its more strategic aspects: better growth opportunities, more challenge, more impact. <*SPONSORMESSAGE*> An early review (less than a year) can sometimes compensate for a lower starting salary. Sign-on bonuses are always popular, and special performance-based bonuses can also help meet some salary objections. Make sure you review the benefits package: this might well include some hidden gem which helps sell the deal. If the candidate doesn’t appear to be flexible on salary, pull the offer back. Since you haven’t made a formal offer, it’s easy to say, “I don’t think we can go any higher.” Involve the candidate: “Are you suggesting that if we can’t meet your salary needs, you’re withdrawing from consideration?” If the answer is “Yes,” you have two choices: say, “I’ll see what we can do,” or terminate the process. If the answer is not quite so definite, you can keep the process alive by bringing up things like promotional opportunities, increasing the scope of the job, and upgrading the chances of long-term advancement. Examples of current employees who have pulled this off always help. Another way to negotiate salary is to introduce an element of competition?real or imagined. A few years ago, I created a salary cap on a production manager’s position in the food industry by telling the candidate that if we were to go any higher on salary, we’d be forced to look at candidates with more experience. We had enough data on hand to show the candidate that his salary demand was more consistent with directors than managers?and he wasn’t yet at that level. With this data, and our strong stance, we convinced the candidate to stay within the salary range we had originally targeted. Presenting an experience can also overcome salary problems and make your opportunity more compelling. A candidate for a CFO position who doesn’t enough experience might have a very high salary: you have to convince her that a move to a smaller company with a broader focus is essential for her?even if she has to give up a little salary as a trade-off. To move past salary problems, it’s up to the recruiter to create a long-term opportunity that overrides all the short-term problems. After all, that’s why YOU get the big bucks…

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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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