I worked in recruiting for more than 40 years before changing directions and doing executive job search coaching. I filled more than 1200 positions plus consulting assignments and, as you can imagine, entered into some negotiations that were easy and many that were painfully difficult. I won far more than I lost but certainly lost a lot.
Folks, many of you enter into negotiations with the belief that negotiating means that when they ask, you concede. You outsource your negotiations to third party recruiters whose interest are:
1. Deliver you to their client at the price the client says so that they earn a fee
2. Keep the corporate client happy and
3. See #1.
The client tells them to jump and they say, “Sure. Would you like me to land on my left foot, right or both feet.” I wish it were different but companies stop calling recruiters back unless they do what they are told and are successful doing it. Is it any wonder that relationships youhave with so many third party recruiters ends so badly with them arguing that you should do what they want?
Remember These Things When You Are Negotiating
Here’s my thinking about negotiating, whether it is directly with an organization or being done through a third party recruiter.
- The deck is stacked against you. From before your first interview, everyone is trying to get information from you that can be “weaponized” for later. How much you are earning, why you are looking for a job, data about your experience may all seem innocuous but are designed to get your trust by revealing information about you but sharing little about themselves.
- You are being seduced. As I have said to employers, everyone is on good behavior–the employer, the job hunter, the interviewers . . . Everyone is on good behavior. How do you know what you’re really signing on for if your future boss is “behaving?” Everyone is trying to make you trust them, and no one is being completely honest. Worse yet, it’s next to impossible to find out the truth unless you’re lucky.
- Win-win go means that you lose. Trust me when I tell you that when employers think of a win-win negotiation, they have no intention of being accommodating. They want all the concessions to come from your side, not theirs.
- Every step along the way, you have to think of the end game. How will your answer affect what you get from the firm. Will it make them excited to pay you what you’re worth or give them the excuse they need to push for you to make concessions.
- Know your value. Markets define value. Just because you want itu doesn’t mean you are worth it to every employer. Some firms will attempt to devalue your worth to them. That’s OK. You may discover that the best firms in your geographic area think of you as being worth x-5% (where x is the value that you thought you were wor him and). Other firms may see you as worth x+7%.
- Every time they want you to take less, they have to change their offer, too. This is a lesson from foreign policy negotiations. Concessions have to come from both sides or else it isn’t a negotiation, right? Why do you have to give up every point?
- Only negotiate with someone who has the authority to say yes. If HR tells you take it or leave it, ” go to the hiring manager. If they won’t champion you, take another offer. They are telling you something in their behavior that you should be thankful.
- There is a difference in value between someone who helps a firm who helps a firm make money and someone who doesn’t. If you are someone who has helped a firm make a lot of money, don’t negotiate for peanuts. If they start arguing, remind them, “I helped my last firm generate $15 million in additional revenue and you’re telling me I’m worth $20,000 less that what I am asking you for? You’re joking, right? The margin on my sales was 47% and you are going over peanuts? You are joking, aren’t you?” Don’t negotiate.
- You are not a grade level 12. You are a person who has financial responsibilities who can solve a problem for them. Firms that try to justify low offers by telling you that you slot out to a particular salary grade are thinking of like you are government workers or working on the factory floor. They are treating you like an animal who will go into a particular box on the org chart, not as a human being.
- Never accept a job offer without knowing what they think your future can be. Unless you are satisfied doing the same job for the rest of your life, get an idea of your potential; career progression and what benchmarks they will use to evaluate you. Even though your boss will probably not be there five years from now when it becomes time to deliver on some of the pledges, it gives you an idea of how you will be evaluated.
The Steak Story
Years ago, a new recruiter from a client called me to “negotiate” fees with me (“Negotiate” is a euphemism for charge them less). I listened to the pitch as to why this was a good thing for me (yawn) and said, “When I go to the store to buy steak and the package says “$20 and I offer $12 for it, what do they tell me to do?”
“Put it back.”
“This is what I charge for steak. You decide whether you want to pay it.”
I continued to receive jobs to work on from the “client” and went on to find a new one to work with who hired more than twice as many in a 12 month period as this firm in the previous 12. I had belief in myself and went out and delivered the same effort for another firm that appreciated and valued my work properly.
Negotiating your new job offer is usually the most stressful time in a stressful process. People give up their power too easily out of fear that they won’t get a new job or blow the one they are up for. Be prepared to say, “No,” and walk away from a bad offer and stand your ground. You are not a sheep. Be prepared to walk away from being treated like just another person sitting in the chair.
© The Big Game Hunter, Inc. Asheville, NC 2017
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves life coaching, as well as executive job search coaching and leadership coaching.
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