The Offer – to Negotiate or to Not Negotiate? That Is The Question.

A Google search of “how to negotiate starting salary” netted just under 2 million results. 8 tips here, 6 steps there, all sorts of advice. For the most part, it sucks. There are some things I agree with.  Do research – absolutely. You should know the market rate in your area of expertise. Don’t talk about your expenses, or how much money you need.  We don’t care.


That leaves plenty of advice to make me want to jab myself in the eye with a dull pencil. Like leave the salary expectation question blank on application forms. Some companies make that little square mandatory.  Guess who’s not getting an interview? Or how about this? 90% of all human resources professionals expect you to negotiate. So what, we still hate it. Here’s my favorite – realize the first figure out of the employer’s mouth is the lowest. Bullsh!t. The same guy who said that recommends asking for 15-20% more than you want. Hmm, so if the position pays 50-60K, you want (and have determined you’re worth) 55K, you’re now supposed to ask for around 63-65K? Seriously?? Don’t believe me? Look for yourself – link to that little nugget of info is here - #7 to be exact.


So what is a candidate to do? Nobody wants to leave money on the table, I understand that. Let me shed some light on the recruiter’s thought process, and I believe this goes for good internal recruiters as well as TPRs.


We are negotiating all along. Long before you even applied or had been sourced for the job we have been pushing back for the strongest potential offer. Most hiring managers are sensitive (and rightly so) to their budgets and other team member’s salaries. It’s our job to make sure they’re making salary ranges based on what’s realistic – what the market will bear, what it will cost to get the right person.


No really, we are negotiating the entire time. We will touch base often with a hiring manager about compensation. Especially once the submittal / interview process has started. We will continually remind them of what the salary range is for the position, what it will take to close a deal, and try to get them comfortable with making a fair offer.


Not everything is negotiable. Sadly, there are rules. If everyone waits 90 days for benefits, you will too. If we offer two weeks for vacation and separate sick leave, you're not going to get four weeks PTO. Some things are HR / company policy regardless of how recruiting feels about it.


Push too hard and you push that offer right off a cliff. I have been battling for a strong offer for you the whole time. I have finally worn down the hiring manager to a number that is not only good for you but also fair and equitable to the company. I have to take care of both sides. When you reject an offer purely because some idiot guru said you should, you run the risk of frustrating the hiring manager past the point of no return. Once we have a formal, written offer in place it’s already gone through a few layers of approval. If we have to go back and adjust it, well, you can imagine what a fun conversation that can be.


Do you have a backup plan? We probably do. Look, we made you an offer because we want to hire you. Unfortunately we’ve learned the hard way that offers do get rejected. Just like you’re still looking for another job until you sign on the dotted line, we keep looking for candidates. It’s not because we don’t love you. We really do want you, that’s why we made the offer. Please don’t jerk us around.


The negotiation conversation should never come at the 11th hour. This is a dialogue you should be having regularly with your recruiter. Talk money early, often, and specifically. It’s that important.

Views: 2262

Comment by Bill Schultz on October 27, 2011 at 9:56pm

nice one amy.  i run into the gurus far less often than i run into the multiple offers.  so yea, they do have a back up plan.  i know people are tired of hearing about it but i interviewed 5 people yesterday f2f, and each one of them said "you're the 1st recruiter who's ever asked to meet me."  why do i bring this up?  because i think it is sacrosanc (or whatever that word is) to negotiation.  someone sang " how can we be lovers if we can't be friends" 

how can you negotiate with someone you've never met.  why would they believe you?  why would you believe them?  you got to see the eyes.  do this and your placement rate will rise.  


Comment by Amy Ala Miller on October 27, 2011 at 10:28pm
@Bill exactly! It's all about the relationship- that is the recruiter's job, to create an environment where candidates can have these honest conversations.
Comment by Amber on October 27, 2011 at 10:52pm

I would love to meet all my clients and candidates in person, but it happens pretty infrequently. That said, I have had very few times that any party was very far off at the offer stage. I do make a lot of effort to build trust with candidates and everyone involved on my client's end. It is hard sometimes for candidates to know what advice is the right advice, as Amy pointed out there is TONS of coming from everywhere! Totally agree that the main point is thatit is absolutely a recruiter's job is to work with the people who are going to make the offer, and bring them the best candidates for the position but also make the whole process go smoothly.

The few times it doesn't work stay with you forever!


Comment by Bill Schultz on October 28, 2011 at 1:08am

@Amber- Yes, the alternative is to probe daily, do many temperature checks on both sides along the way and sweat the details. Sounds like that is a strength for you.  One of my associates is the same way. She rarely meets people but she's very detail oriented.  Details are not my biggest strength.   So I rely on the personal touch. 

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on October 28, 2011 at 9:59am
@John absolutely right - I think thats also part of our job, to educate our hiring managers on the importance of making a strong offer right from the start. I hate the game play only made worse by these so called experts.
Comment by Bill Schultz on October 28, 2011 at 1:49pm

I guess it's hard for internal recruiters to do but I like to create a 5k buffer zone.  In other words  I close the candidate at 95k and close the client at 100k.  so the client sometimes tries to shave the numbers as goes to 95k, I try to get them to 97.5.  The client thinks they saved money and I look like Jerry Maguire to the candidate.  

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on October 28, 2011 at 2:37pm

@Bill YES - we do it too, or try anyway. :) nobody wants to feel like they're being taken advantage of... and I truly want a good deal for both sides.  I think candidates are being conditioned with all this ridiculous "advice" out there that they are their only advocate in this and we're not on their side too.  Even worse when you're internal.


that 15-20% over what you want absolutely floored me.

Comment by Bill Schultz on October 28, 2011 at 2:43pm

yes that's bs.   5-10% is more the normal salary jump if you are working. also over inflates the cost of living in california so candidates who read that are misinformed.  

Comment by Sandra McCartt on October 28, 2011 at 6:04pm

It makes me crazy when candidates tell me they have researched what they should be making on the net so they want 30K more than they are making now.  I spent a whole day checiking out the different relocation salary calculators between 50 locations and the city where i live.  Where they get this crap must be from reading tea leaves  or a vision from the great spirit.  Not only were they all over the board every one of them were higher than what i know to be the salary ranges paid here.  Except one which was so low i wondered if it had been updated since 1980.

I ask a candidate to give me their "magic number"  if it is  within the range my client will pay  i will run with it no matter what they make now.  If it's  high then i tell them i can't hit it and ask them for current salary.  If i can get them an increase we discuss it to see if they are going to be reasonable. 


The ones that are not workable are the ones who have not worked in several years and decide that they will only accept what they were making three years ago adjusted for cost of living when they should be willing to take a little less than what they were making.  One of mine who has not worked since 2004 decided if she was making 100K then she should get a minimum of 100K  probably more because she made that much 7 years ago.  I finally had to tell her that i would be lucky if i could get her an interview at all at any salary.  She thinks i am an idiot but i guess there are a lot of idiot recruiters out there because she still is not working.  It could also have something to do with wanting a company to ship her household goods from overseas .  She was  told by someone that moving things from Texas to LA would not cost anymore than moving them from England to LA.

Honestly wish i had some of the stuff the gurus are smoking or swallowing then this nutty stuff would just make me giggle.

Comment by Bill Schultz on October 28, 2011 at 6:24pm

Your salary history almost always matters.  I get a fewfols coming off green card authorization who are severely underpaid and extremely talented.  Their companies know they are not going anywhere while the green card is in works.  They often get huge bumps in salary.  That's an exception.  


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