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12 Key Negotiating Techniques for Success Inside and Outside of Recruiting

by Jun 22, 2006

You possess skills that, when applied to your boss, your staff, the manager of your favorite store, the home-repair company, and the hybrid-car salesman, will get you more of what you want more quickly, easily, and frequently. Inherent in the skills you use everyday in recruiting are some very valuable negotiating techniques. Below, I’ve taken 12 of these key negotiating skills you already use for recruiting and show how you can use them to be more successful in the rest of your life.

  1. Think about what you want ahead of time; and know your goal and the minimum you’ll accept. In recruiting, you do this as a matter of course. You already know the amount you want to pay the candidate and the highest amount your company is willing to pay. But, do you use this technique outside of the search process? When you head out to make a purchase (a car, a home, a refrigerator, a vacation package, etc.), do you create that range in your head, the reasonable amount you want to pay, and the most you will pay? Or, do you decide after you see the salesman and hear his spiel? Creating your own range will keep you from being swayed in the heat of the moment.
  2. Don’t quantify your request. You ask the candidate his salary requirement before you give an offer. You get him to set the price. How many times have you been pleasantly surprised that your candidate is willing to work for much less than the highest you were willing to pay? In your other negotiations, let your opponent set the starting point. Your own salary, bonuses, and purchases can turn out much better because you don’t limit them to the criteria in your head. Perhaps you feel you deserve a raise and you think 5% is a reasonable increase. Unbeknownst to you, however, your boss is willing to give you a 10% increase. If you speak first, you’re guaranteed to get between a 0-5% raise. You’ve set the ceiling. Had your boss made the first move, she may have suggested 7%. Now, that’s the floor. You can only go up from there. This technique is most effective when you’re really not sure of what the person on the other side of the table is thinking. There are, however, situations when you will want to start out with your offer. Don’t let the other person make the first move when you know what she will say. When dealing with an expensive item, and she starts with a high amount, your much smaller amount will sound like a real stretch from where she started. Conversely, if you throw out the smaller amount first, then there it is, sitting on the table, waiting for her to respond. A much higher counter can be embarrassing, even a little insulting. She may come down from where she was going to start, just because you started out so much lower.
  3. Don’t base your request on arbitrary criteria. You don’t just pull a salary offer out of the air. You use compensation studies and know a person’s salary history. You know about his current title and job responsibilities. You do your homework. Keep this same skill in mind when you approach any negotiating opponent. Say that you’re negotiating a lower price for an applicant tracking system. Don’t just find out what vendors charge and try to get it cheaper. Base your counteroffer on facts. What are competing systems priced at? How much more business will you give a vendor in the future? What drawbacks are there in a particular system that, although acceptable, doesn’t make it perfect? Base your arguments on objective reasoning, not arbitrary criteria.
  4. Talk to who counts. Of course, in your profession, “who counts” is typically the candidate. You wouldn’t waste your time with anyone who couldn’t make a decision. So, keep in mind, when you step outside of your professional role, always go straight to the decision-maker. In fact, do you realize that telling anyone else what you want will decrease your chances? For example, say you walk into a retail store and want to make a return that’s not part of the company’s normal policy. You ask the floor salesperson to get the manager. She asks you why you want to speak with him. If you tell her, she’ll undoubtedly tell the manager. The manager now has all of that extra time to think up reasons why you’re not going to get what you want. The manager now also has the added responsibility of showing his subordinate “how it’s done” and the added pressure to prove his power and authority. Instead of telling the salesperson your business, quietly, politely, and with a smile on your face, tell her that it’s not a big deal, but you’d like to speak directly with the manager. So, when the manager asks the clerk, “What does he want?” her response can be “I don’t know, but I don’t think it’s a big deal.” When you get the decision-maker, turn your back to everyone else, and calmly say what you want. You want to turn your back, as your chances are better when you have a private conversation. The manager is more open to making exceptions and deals without advertising it to other customers or floor clerks.
  5. Be confident and ask for it!You wouldn’t be in this industry if you couldn’t close the deal. However, have you ever felt timid asking for something outside of this arena? We all have, from time to time. We’ve all been brought up in different cultures, different families, and with different values and beliefs. Were you taught that you should put the needs of others before your own? Or, maybe you were taught that this behavior is not ladylike. I’d like to set the record straight. Asking for what you want is neither brash nor ballsy. It is neither rude nor aggressive. You just need to do it politely and professionally. Remember that you have every right to ask, just as others have every right to say “no”. Look someone straight in the eye and ask your piece.
  6. Get them to like you. Recruiters share something in common with salespeople. You’re selling the job, the benefits, and the company, but you’re also selling yourself. You’re the face of the company. The face of what your candidate’s future will look like for many years to come. You’d better make it a good impression. You know intuitively that your recruit is more inclined to join your team if he or she likes you. For the negotiating that you do every day, if you are liked, you have a much better chance. Smile. Be friendly. Give a sincere compliment; make some brief small talk. Sympathize with a recruit. Empathize with his frustrations.
  7. Never make it personal.Whereas discourse with a candidate might lead you into a personal discussion, typically, when you are negotiating in any other field, you shouldn’t get personal. It should be all about the issue. Never make a personal comment to the person you’re dealing with, unless it’s complimentary.
  8. Explain the why before the what. When persuading people to see things your way, explain your reasons why you are asking before you give away your position. Present your case before you summarize. By unfolding your side in this way, you are getting someone on board slowly. He or she has the chance to agree with each little observation you make, before he or she even knows that you want anything at all. If you ask someone for what you want first, and then explain why afterwards, you’ve lost your audience. Note this example of how not to do it: “Excuse me. Will you sell me this waffle iron for $15, instead of the $30 price it’s marked? Waffle World down the street is selling them for $17.50, and I see this is your last one, and it has no box.” Right after you ask for the discount, but before your explanations, the salesperson starts thinking, “Half price! Are you kidding? That leaves no room for my commission” and she doesn’t hear another word of your good argument. She’s starting to think about what she’s going to say back to you. Instead, follow this example of how to do it: “Excuse me, I was looking at this waffle iron. Did you know that Waffle World is selling the same thing for $17.50?” You’ve given the salesperson a fact. You haven’t asked for anything. There’s nothing for her to dispute. Continue by saying: “I also wanted this as a gift, but I’m told that this is your last one and you don’t have a box for it. Is that right?” The salesperson checks and finds that this is another fact. She’s thinking, objectively, that she’ll never sell it at $30 and she’s ready to offer you a lower price. After this preparation up front, you now ask for what you want: “If I pay you cash and take it ‘as is,’ can I give you $15 for it?” This technique works no matter what the subject of negotiation. This pattern of giving facts, unfolding your case, getting someone on board, then asking your piece will give you a greater advantage to asking first, then explaining your reasons.
  9. Be quiet. After you’ve presented your side, all of your reasons, and then your request, be quiet. Silence is good. Many positive outcomes have been thwarted because the negotiator didn’t feel comfortable with silence. Don’t interrupt his or her thoughts. If it’s quiet for a while, you’ve obviously given someone something to think about. You may be winning at this point, but the next thing you say may turn the tide against you. Only use the arguments you need to. If you’ve got the response you’re looking for, but haven’t expressed all of your reasons, keep the rest to yourself! Pressing your point after you’ve won is humiliating and frustrating to your listener and may reverse his or her decision.
  10. Be creative. As you know, price isn’t the only thing to work out. You sway your recruits with benefits, bonuses, career path, company culture, and the personality of their boss. When you’re buying a car or putting a new roof on your house, consider also your terms, extra services, additional options, timing of the work, and more. Try to get a sense of what the other side’s underlying motivation is and work from there. Money is often not the motivating factor for the other side.
  11. Create a win-win outcome. A happy day is when you’ve landed a hot candidate who is really excited to be coming onboard. In any negotiating case, all parties involved should be happy with the results and feel good about the transaction. Again, try to get a sense of what the other side’s underlying motivation is. It may be very different from what you want.
  12. If you’ve presented all of your arguments and you haven’t got what you want, walk away. You don’t give away the farm upfront in trying to bring onboard a recruit. You give up a little, and then you walk away and give him or her some time. Use this same technique in other situations. Some people need time to ponder your points. Walking away illustrates that you are serious and are not bluffing. Let him sweat a little. You can almost always come back later and accept his last offer (even if he says it’s a limited-time deal).

By applying these 12 negotiating techniques – many of which you are already using at work – to the rest of your life, you will find that you will get more of what you want more quickly, easily, and frequently.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.