Scroll Top

Part 2: Bulletproof Salary Discussions

Back again for the final chapter of mastering salary talks. The key to any successful negotiation is understanding each side’s perspective, so last week’s post explored the goals of all stakeholders involved in salary decisions (job seeker, employer, recruiter), as well as popular myths.

This week we’ll continue with the top five things that can go wrong, plus tips for steering to a rewarding conclusion.

Rookie Mistakes & Avoidable Implosions

When something blows up, here are the usual culprits:

1.       Too far apart to begin with. If there’s a wide disparity between the employer’s budget and candidate’s requirements, it rarely makes sense to embark on the interview process. Hoping they’ll fall in love and find more money is like diving into a pool without knowing the depth – Somebody’s going to end up with a major headache. When I’m working with a star candidate outside the salary range, I make it clear to the employer upfront and get their commitment on compensation requirements.

2.       Failure to manage expectations. When an interview is going well and both sides are feeling a connection, a gleeful and well-intending hiring manager may try to seal the deal by saying something like, “What will it take to get you here?” While I’m all for a good lovefest, this kind of talk can lead to trouble. Here’s why: The hiring manager may not be the final/only authority on salary. And once candidates articulate what they want, there’s an assumption that they’ve been heard and their requests will be met. It’s hard to later take back what’s been said.

3.       Inconsistent stories. I strive for total alignment across all parties: Candidates, HR, hiring managers. Anyone involved in the salary discussion should be quoting the same numbers. Occasionally, a candidate will give me a comfortable target, then lose their nerve when talking to the employer and lower their minimum. This gives me an ulcer. As I mentioned in last week’s post, the best outcomes are achieved when we define the magic number upfront rather than go back and forth. Second, we should be comparing apples to apples. I always work with base salaries because bonuses in our industry are discretionary and can vary widely.

4.       Salary requirements change. When companies linger over the interview process and decision – especially in a hot talent market – it opens the door for changes to a candidate’s original compensation requirements. I’ve lost people because we gotten too close to when bonuses were paid out and they’ve decided to stay. In other cases, candidates finally achieved a raise that was promised to them or are deciding between multiple job offers. If you’re the job seeker, it’s critical to communicate any updates – including changes of heart – to your recruiter. No reason to wait until the offer stage. Sooner is always better.

5.       Counter-offer. Bidding war. It’s all the same. When decisions swing based on a few thousand dollars, there are usually bigger issues to solve. See my earlier post about counter-offers.

How to Achieve a Satisfying Outcome

Now that you understand the interests of all parties involved, how do you gingerly navigate to an outcome you feel good about?

For starters, you can have someone else do the dirty work. There are two advantages to letting your recruiter manage salary discussions:

1.       You can focus on the big picture stuff and not worry about sending the wrong message. You stay strategic and delightful, while I haggle and hammer out the details backstage.

2.       You can draw on your recruiter’s experience. I’ve probably extended over 350 offers during my past 7 years of recruiting. I have a good close rate. Stuff that doesn’t work out isn’t due to salary alone. I can see things way off in the distance that threaten a good outcome and zap them. In most cases, I’m working with long-standing clients and benefitting from the good faith, trust and honest rapport I’ve established. I still have skin in the game, just like you, plus lots of practice.

Final thought: If you find yourself in different places at the offer stage, consider what the company is up against and give them an opportunity to accommodate you in other ways. For example, if you make significant contributions immediately, will they agree to a salary increase in 6 months? Are they willing to offer a sign-on bonus or extra vacation time? Willingness to understand and work within their parameters may not guarantee a successful conclusion, but sometimes ingenuity, fairness and a sense of humor can win the day.

Do you have a happy or harrowing salary story to share? Need advice? Drop me a line:

Privacy Preferences
When you visit our website, it may store information through your browser from specific services, usually in form of cookies. Here you can change your privacy preferences. Please note that blocking some types of cookies may impact your experience on our website and the services we offer.