6 Tips for Negotiations and Counter-Offers with Candidates

Have you noticed lately that you’re having to fight harder to hire the candidates you want? As you do battle in the war for talent, here are 2 quick, true stories and 6 tips for negotiations and counter-offers with candidates:

Story 1: Recently, a customer of mine made my candidate an offer that represented a significant raise. Naturally, the candidate accepted the offer. However, when he resigned, he received a counter-offer from his current employer that represented an even greater raise. He accepted the counter-offer, much to my client’s disappointment.

Story 2: A few months later, a similar situation came up. We received an offer for a candidate that represented a modest raise. The candidate’s current employer gave a form of a modest counter-offer. Yet this candidate accepted the offer from our customer, despite the favorable counter.

Certain things were similar in these stories. In each instance, my customer was anxious and maybe even a little frustrated. Both candidates were given a favorable counter-offer to stay with their long-time employers. Yet one candidate stayed and one candidate left. This goes to show that every human is different, and every counter-offer and negotiation situation is a little different. On this topic, here are 6 tips for negotiations and counter-offers with candidates that you as an employer can keep in mind to help navigate these murky waters:

6 Tips for Negotiations and Counter-Offers with Candidates

1. Counter-offers are good. I know that sounds weird. But think about it. If your candidate gets a counter-offer, it means that his current employer, with all their first-hand experience with him, values him highly! It means that you are recruiting good, top talent.

2. Make good offers. In my personal life, I can be a bit frugal. So I know how it feels to get a good deal. And sometimes employers think they can get a good deal by giving an offer lower than the candidate’s asking salary, or even lower than market value. Don’t do that, especially in this current economic climate. Make your candidate feel valued from the first step by giving a competitive, solid offer.

3. Treat people well. One thing that happened in Story 2 above was that my customer really made my candidate feel valued throughout the interview process. When he received the counter-offer from his current employer, he felt pretty valued, but that didn’t match up to how much more valued he felt by my customer. From the moment you speak with candidates, you must treat them well and value them highly. As the saying goes, always be closing!

4. Negotiate – ONCE. This tidbit may differ in various contexts. But let’s say an offer is extended and then the candidate would like to negotiate. Figure out what specifically would be acceptable to her on each variable, and then make your best and final offer, getting as close to her requests as you can, within reason. If you meet her requests and she negotiates further…

5. Move on! It happens. You fall in love with a candidate, extend a good offer that you think will be accepted, and the candidate declines. Maybe you negotiate and meet his requests, and he still declines the offer. At this point, move on. It’s always tough to think what could or would have been, but your best path is to move forward and find and negotiate with the right person.

6. Use a good, honest recruiter. Ok, this last one might sound a little self-serving, but hear me out. A recruiter can offer value while handling a negotiation, because he or she normally gleans a little more inside information from the candidate throughout the process. While candidates are professional and put their best foot forward in front of the employer, they often let their hair down in front of the recruiter. Find an experienced recruiter who handles this process honestly and in a trustworthy manner, and use him or her to your advantage.

Negotiations and counter-offers with candidates will not go away. But these 6 tips for negotiations and counter-offers with candidates can give a little confidence as you engage candidates in negotiations to win them over to your team.

If you want to better understand what has created the war for talent and what to do about it, read this Forbes article by George Brandt. His admonition to “Never let anyone quit until you know who is going to do his or her job” is a point well taken as knowledge workers become increasingly in demand.

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