It’s time for Talent Acquisition to own the “expert” role in the offer negotiation process. Before anyone snap-answers “we already do!” consider whether you are the messenger or if you are actually the negotiator. We all like to boast of “our” hires when a candidate is landed, and we take great pride in managing the relationship from resume to employee. That makes us great sponsors of the company and hosts of the candidate, but…expert negotiator? Maybe not, buddy.
If you want a quick self-analysis exercise, determine your point of saying “yes” without permission. At what point do you need to stop the conversation and seek additional permission, approval, and/or signatures before continuing an offer deliberation with a prospective candidate? Those stops in the conversation can sometimes be a ploy in the process, but can also come with a cost. If you are in a competitive hiring market (reminder – you are), time is currency. The ability to respond, react, and lock down talent quickly is a competitive advantage that you need, but many do not truly possess.
A lot of the offer process is pre-built, right? Ranges are established or matrices are developed to provide the goalposts for any given position, or at the very least a target salary is established. Hopefully you’re able to do so with the benefit of market data, but even that can be outdated (or irrelevant if you find the purple squirrel). You’ll certainly want a look at internal equity included in your conversations with the hiring manager. So, it’s safe to say you go into the negotiation with a plan ~ but like Mike Tyson famously said, “everybody has a plan until they get hit in the mouth.” When your original offer is countered, what is your response? If it sounds anything like a car salesman (“wow, I really need to run these numbers by my manager”), a few things happen in an instant:
- You became a messenger, not a negotiator.
- You lost precious currency with the candidate.
I understand, it’s not “our” money, so this isn’t a call for reckless commitments. Have mock discussions with the hiring manager before the offer is ever presented ~ know your parameters, explore any additional sweeteners that could make the difference, and know your exit strategy when the offer becomes untenable. Get, on paper, agreement from the powers-that-be that act as pre-approvals for a spirited negotiation. Your goal is to basically get Power of Attorney to make financial decisions before the time ever comes.
The fact is, these conversations should be the most gratifying piece of our job – we become the “business partners” we have always sought to be.
Don’t be satisfied with being a messenger.
John Whitaker (“Whit”) is a SVP and Chief People Officer at Sage Dental and the founder of HRHardball.com (2008). He specializes in building and developing strong recruiting teams who are unafraid of “kicking the ant pile.” Like most Texans, he loves to tell a story (especially those that include an armadillo or a poker game) and cutting through the chaff…don’t take it personal.