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10.4 Why You Should Always Consider Negotiating

Learning Objective

  1. Understand that recruiters and hiring managers at larger firms have about twenty individual steps in the job search process before they find the right candidate, which gives the final candidate leverage to negotiate.

Many individuals shudder to think of negotiating, in any type of economy, never mind a down economy. That should not be the case, especially when you consider all the work the company has to do before they identify you, the perfect person to receive the job offer.

All the steps a larger company may take to fill an opening are included in the following list. Smaller companies may require fewer steps, but the detail listed here demonstrates the great amount of time and effort needed to find the right person to extend an offer. Once that person is identified, employers do not want to start the process over again, so there is some room for negotiation.

Steps include:

  1. The available position needs to be identified as either a “replacement” (someone has left and they need to be replaced) or an “add to staff” (an incremental position is needed). Therefore, the position will either be backfilledRefers to filling a position now vacant because the employee left the position or left the company. or a new position will be created.
  2. The hiring manager must secure budget for this position. Just because someone left this position (i.e., they got promoted, they left the company, or they were fired) does not make it a given that the position will be filled. Many times, managers have to make the case for hiring a replacement. The tighter the budget, the less likely it will be filled.
  3. The job description needs to be written (either by the hiring manager or human resources [HR]).
  4. HR must be given the open requisition to fill (along with the forty or fifty other job requisitions they are currently filling).
  5. HR will decide where the position will be listed. It’s typically always listed on the company website, but it will need to be listed on specialty job board sites in addition to the larger sites for the specific industry.
  6. Candidates will submit résumés that need to be reviewed.
  7. Top résumés will be compiled.
  8. Top résumés will be shared with the hiring manager, and a top slate will be selected.
  9. Candidates will be contacted for an interview (either by phone or in person).
  10. Interview schedules will be created.
  11. Candidates will be interviewed by HR and the hiring manager.
  12. Top candidates will be selected for the second round.
  13. Second and final rounds will take place.
  14. The hiring manager and HR select the person to receive the offer.
  15. An offer will be made.
  16. The candidate will receive the offer verbally.
  17. If accepted, the offer letter will be put in written form and mailed to the candidate.
  18. The offer letter has to be signed by the candidate and returned to the hiring manager.

The preceding exercise demonstrates that once a company extends an offer to you, they want you to accept. If you would like a bit more in your salary, most companies will consider complying to ensure you accept, but some will not. If you would like a bit more in terms of year-end bonus percentage targets, they may easily decide to comply, but then again, they may not. If you are interested in a later start date, they may be open to that, and of course, some may not be.

It’s important to also remember that nothing is a given. In strong hiring markets, your chances are stronger to negotiate. But even in down markets, you still have leverage.

Also note that your base salary is a very important starting point at a company. Accepting an offer with a compensation level that is far below market value can be a tricky move as well, even if you are very anxious to get any experience you can. Your next employer may be very curious as to why your compensation level is so low, and it could add a red flag to your candidacy. Whenever in doubt, speak to a professional—perhaps someone in career services or a colleague in the field. For most opportunities, salary increases come just once a year and are sometimes skipped in down economies, so you could be “stuck” at a very low compensation range for a longer time than you would like. Getting a higher base when you begin can make a significant difference for many years to come. With that said, research is always a key point in the negotiation phase. Ensure you know the best starting point, and your negotiation will be more successful. Also note that if you are hired into a large company, with a formalized entry-level program, all hires receive the same exact compensation package, and there is no room for negotiation. You can still ask, but the answer may be no.

Key Takeaways

  • Hiring managers and recruiters have a lot of work to do before selecting a final candidate. Once all that work is done, they do not want to backtrack to find another candidate. This gives you negotiating power.
  • Smaller firms will have fewer steps, but a significant amount of work is still necessary to find the best talent in the marketplace.
  • If you decide to negotiate, select the one or two most important points and go for it. Expect a yes, a no, or something in between. Negotiation is far from an exact science.

Exercises

  1. Conduct some research on acceptance and decline rates in the industry in which you are most interested.
  2. Search your network to find someone in HR and get their opinion of the hiring process.