Negotiating Initial Terms and Conditions
The biggest question most candidates have about a new job, after finding out what they’ll actually be doing, is what their salary and the associated terms and conditions will be. This is nothing we don’t already know, but what most people do have trouble with is how to negotiate their terms and conditions successfully. The reason is because if you really do want the job, then there is a fear that you might be seen as too pushy in making your requests and you may turn the hiring manager off.
It is true that the negotiating process is a sensitive one. And once you have arrived at a general agreement, you can’t really go back and redo it, instead you’ll be expected to wait a reasonable time and after a sterling performance before going back for more. So you only get one chance to do this at the beginning, and how you do it, along with getting the timing right is very important.
Of course, whether you can even negotiate and just how much also depends a lot on your job sector, desirability of your skill set, and if whether you have anyone involved in helping you with the negotiation. Let’s start with the helper first.
Although you may not have a positive image of headhunters or executive recruiters, they serve a very important function in “de-sensitizing” the hiring manager when it comes to talking about your terms and conditions. A good recruiter will bring up the salary issue right at the start of a discussion with a client, establishing the range and providing market pricing feedback to managers who haven’t done any hiring for a while.
They will pre-warn the client that there is a wide range, and will give a top-end rate a bit above market price to gauge the client’s reaction to the salary. If the reaction is negative, then clearly the manager has a budget to act within, and the recruiter can establish that this is the priority, rather than getting absolutely the best person for the job. This feedback should come back to you and be part of your decision about whether to compromise.
The recruiter’s most important work often comes in managing the recruitment process rather than making the original presentation. They should be monitoring the client’s reaction to you and their changing perception of what they should pay. For example, if you are the first candidate they see, and they have the budget, and, are in a hurry, then salary and other terms become less of an issue. However, if you are faced with a competing candidate, then the recruiter should be following the changing dynamics of the client’s thought processes. Is the client still excited about you? Is there a plus-alpha action you can take to get you over the line (such as more specific information about your excellent track record and achievements, or ideas that you may have about your first sale or technical challenge once you join)?
Your recruiter should be your confidante when it comes to negotiating salary and other terms. You should be able to talk to him/her with complete confidence about salary. Don’t be embarrassed if you don’t know the going market rate. Remember that the more you get, the more the recruiter gets paid, so they’re happy to discuss higher rates. At the same time, they will give you advice about market pricing if you’re over-priced. Listen to that advice and realize that recruiters can only push a client so far on increasing salary. Their inability to get you more may be more a function of a client with a committed budget than a weak recruiter.
What if you’re being told to take a lower salary than the one you’ve set your heart on? Well if the company is good enough for you to really want to join it, then my philosophy has always been that taking a worthwhile job is an investment. You’re already willing to invest time and effort, so the act of leaving some money on the table could be considered part of the same process. Maybe you can do without that sports car for another few months?
Having said this, if you are leaving money on the table for the employer, then make sure that your recruiter clearly tells them, so that they know you’re doing them a big favor. And, leave a hook in the negotiations about how you expect the employer to give you a pay raise to the amount you were originally seeking, plus a bonus, within 12 months of joining – after they see what you can really do. Most employers will agree to this since they are paying for results – an easy decision to make. Just be sure to get it in writing on the original offer.