Structural Negotiations In Recruiting Sales

Cross-posted at

I'm reading a book on negotiation, and it covers the importance of negotiating with decision makers. The example given is that of a car dealer, where the salesperson actually has no authority to make the decision on a deal.

If you've ever been annoyed when a car salesman leaves to go speak to the sales manager, it's helpful to remember that the salesperson isn't actually the decision maker. The process is set up so any negotiations have to be "run up the flag pole for approval."

In the book, the correct negotiating tactic in these situations is to do an end run to the decision maker, which got me thinking about the way that recruiters tend to make an end run around Human Resources to get to the hiring manager.

Clearly, HR isn't the final decision maker on hiring a candidate. The manager is. But the manager is in a weaker negotiating position, as they need the candidate, and thus may be open to price manipulation as they value the candidate for their impact. Human Resources in this instant is a shield put up to protect the company from high pressure tactics. The implicit promise of company-wide business, and the threat of gaining no business (or breaking the deal) puts the company in a better overall negotiating position, as Human Resources doesn't feel the personal pressure to hire a particular candidate.

The war between outside recruiters and Human Resources is sometimes seen as unnecessary, but it's clearly a structural barrier put in place by corporations to blunt recruiting salespeople. Going around HR is a good tactic, but a risky one, as it's flagrantly pitting internal divisions (line managers versus HR) against each other.

The truly interesting piece is that the success rates of the strategy have little to do with the efficacy of the salesperson, and everything to do with the comparative internal position of the hiring manager versus the human resources employee. And in a further note of irony, the more successful the strategy, the more likely that the balance of power shifts to human resources over time, as the hiring manager is always in a weaker negotiating position, and thus is open to less economic candidate choices.

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