Want To Improve Your Selection Process? Skip the Interview and Negotiate Instead.

You ever wake up one day and suddenly have a clear answer for a challenge for which there seemed like there was no answer?  Well, I had that experience a couple of weeks ago about the interviewing and selection process.  You know the challenge – you design the “perfect” system to select only the right candidates for your company.  You’re feeling good until you make a hiring mistake.  So you tweak the system, come up with new questions to ask, create case studies or make them do some kind of scenario.  And it still doesn’t work so you repeat the process again and again until revamping your selection process becomes an annual HR goal.

But in my moment of clarity it’s now it’s now clear to me why:  we’re running our selection process in the wrong order.  If I look back, the best test of a candidate is how they negotiate their compensation since it’s the only time in the whole process that their true colors only come out.  Because it’s real and not concocted like the rest of the process.  So I propose that every company should start their selection process by negotiating with the candidate.  It will tell you all you need to know about a candidate in a fraction of time.  Here’s my quick guide for what you’re likely to see:

The Yes Man:  Before you’ve even finished making the offer the Yes Man has accepted it.  No questions, no thinking about it, and no negotiating.  He just accepts it.  Really?  This drives me nuts!  Whenever this used to happen to me I would immediately worry that I just hired someone who was so desperate for anything that came along.  Now, I refuse to accept a yes on the spot.  You have to at least hang up the phone and call me back to accept.

Page 2, Paragraph 3, Line 4:  These people are so far in the weeds they might was well be the soil.  They negotiate every inch of the offer in a way that makes you want to scratch your eyes out.  Yes, I’m happy you actually read through the offer but you know, we don’t even read that far into the offer letters.  These guys are focused on the little details that in the grand scheme of things don’t really matter.

And Another Thing…:  The candidate tells you exactly what they would like to see changed in the offer, you agree to make the changes (often after a lot of internal work).  You call the candidate back confident their acceptance is a formality and all the sudden there’s one more thing they’d like to see you change.  And it goes on and on…I never know if people do this because they haven’t thought through all the alternatives or if they think this is how they’re supposed to negotiate.  Either way it’s excruciating.

Let Me Talk with my Manager:  You know this process – you go to buy a car and every offer you make has to be discussed with a manager who you can’t see and maybe doesn’t even exist.  You make the candidate a good offer, they’re excited about the offer and tell you they need to talk it over with their family.  Fine.  They call you back and say something like “I’m ready to accept the offer but my husband/wife/family want me to ask for X and you know, I have to make sure they’re on board with this move.”  In some cases I make the change and the process repeats – they have to go run the offer by their “manager.”  Geez.

I’ve Gots Bills to Pay:  This is my favorite.  You make a competitive offer.  You know it, they know it.  But then the candidate calls to tell you about their bills, in some cases they detail their every monthly expense – mortgage, car payment, daycare, credit card bills and drinking money.  They build it from the bottom up and ask for enough to cover their bills.  So let me get this straight – I have to up the offer because you decided it was a good idea to buy a new car and put it on your credit card?

And we could go on.

The point however, is that in each of these cases I’ve learned something about how a candidate is going to act once they have joined my company.  The trouble is generally by the time you make an offer and see some behaviors you’re not thrilled about it’s too late.  It would be pretty tough to take back an offer at that stage of the game.  So move it.  Invite a candidate in not for an interview but for a negotiating session.  It will save you a ton of time!

FOT Background Check

Andy Porter
Andy Porter is Chief People Officer at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, MA which means he works with some wicked smaaht people. Some days, he indeed does wear short shorts around the office(call it a morale booster) but it really just makes people uncomfortable. Other days, he spits some mad game on cheese. No really – he’s somewhat of a cheese aficionado. But more importantly? At Broad he gets to his small part to help change the world of healthcare.


  1. Sheritz Sogbesan says:

    The problem, according to current research, is that women generally tend not to negotiate salaries and conditions of the offer. Contrary to the impression, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they are “yes women,” desperate, or would act without a backbone within the business context.

    The categories of negotiators listed are amusing. You could hardly conceal the joy that you find in dealing with them.

  2. Rick Dacri says:

    Agree with how you characterize the various negotiators and yes, you learn a lot about someone during the process. However, I don ‘t think scrapping the interview process will improve the selection. In depth interviews given by skilled interviewers, multiple interviews with lots of eyes on the candidate, putting the candidate through different situations and real, probing reference checking will improve the process. And if during the negotiations we see red flags, walk away from the candidate. Never let the momentum of the process dictate your decision. Andy provides us food for thought and a smile and maybe that’s enough.

  3. Joanne says:

    I wonder what is considered the impressive way to negotiate that would get you the job and the salary?

  4. Andy Porter says:

    @ Joanne – Good question, one which I didn’t really address in the post.

    To me it’s actually quite simple. As a candidate, be honest upfront about your current and expected compensation, be realistic about the value of your experience and skills, and be clear on what you will/won’t accept for an offer. In my experience too often candidates are under the false impression that the must negotiate in these ways to prove their worth. I’ll take the straight shooter any day.

  5. NIk says:

    Funny, but not that helpful. Except the part about skipping the traditional interview, which is great.

    The article says as much about Andy and his buttons, shows generalization from one situation to others, and possibly exhibits a lack of tolerance. If you’re hiring into a culture that has little tolerance for a variety in people’s approaches, then it’s spot on – eliminate all variation that you find annoying, and hire only the people who do things your way.

    From a logical standpoint, the challenge posed in the last paragraph still exists, even if it’s tongue in cheek – you couldn’t do this because you’re making an offer which creates a legal contracting situation.

    Thanks for the laugh!

  6. Raleigh Miller says:

    Andy, amazing idea-all of this is so relavent and I literally laughed when I got to the Page 2, Paragraph 3, Line 4 section. How do you suggest actually implementing this “negotiation interview”?

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