How to Ace the Job Offer Negotiation and Land Your Top Candidate

By Robert Half on August 16, 2016 at 2:53pm

All of the interviews are done, and you’ve zeroed in on the administrative professional you want to hire. Now, the real work begins with the job offer negotiation.

One common mistake employers make is assuming their job offer will be accepted right away, no questions asked. The truth is that many administrative candidates will negotiate. Those with the most in-demand skills know they have some leverage, and they're not afraid to use it.

How you go about the job offer negotiation could mean all the effort you've put into the hiring process has been worthwhile — or a waste of time. It's not easy. As a hiring manager, you walk that fine line between not overpaying and not scaring off a promising hire with a lowball offer. You want your top candidate to be eager to join your team.

Following are six tips that can help you navigate the job offer negotiation and have a productive discussion:

1. Don’t delay

The first step in any job offer negotiation is also the easiest: Get moving. Top candidates have options in today's employment market, and if you don't extend a job offer, you're likely to lose the person entirely. In fact, 39 percent of workers polled by Robert Half said they lose interest in a role and pursue other job openings if the hiring process is too long.

Once you've found the right candidate — and let's face it, you know when you have — call the person and start the job offer negotiation. Be enthusiastic. Let the person know he or she is your top choice, and you're excited by the opportunity to work together. You want the candidate to feel special and excited about the prospect of joining your team.

2. Know what the job’s worth

You’ll enter the job offer negotiation with far more confidence if you are familiar with the latest compensation trends. Savvy job seekers will be armed with data about their value, so make sure you’re just as prepared.

When calculating the starting salary, keep the following two things in mind:

  1. You often must offer more than what the administrative professional was making before, especially if the person is currently employed. Few people will switch jobs for less pay unless there is a very compelling reason to do so, such as a loftier job title or significantly better benefits.
  2. The salary should be above what your competitors are offering. It's not unusual for skilled professionals to juggle multiple job offers, and it goes without saying that you want yours to be the most attractive.

Be sure to get your free copy of the annual Salary Guide from Robert Half to see up-to-date salary ranges for a variety of administrative positions and tools to adjust pay rates for your area of the country.

3. Remind the candidate of all you're offering

Your job offer includes more than starting salary. It also includes the benefits package, vacation time, professional development opportunities, work-life balance options and various other factors. Be sure to highlight all aspects of the offer so the job seeker can understand the full value.

These "extras" may also work in your favor during the job offer negotiation if the administrative professional asks for higher pay and you can't match the request. Offering flexible work hours, additional vacation time or a performance-based bonus after a set period of time could help make the offer more attractive. Often, it’s the little things that can tip the scales in your favor during a job offer negotiation.

4. Expect a counteroffer

If the administrative candidate you’re trying to recruit is currently employed, assume his or her employer won't let the person leave without putting up some resistance. Assume the company will do all it can to avoid losing a skilled worker. (Wouldn't you?)

During the job offer negotiation, ask the candidate how he or she would respond to receiving a counteroffer. Is there anything that would convince him or her to stay?

Also think about the reasons the job seeker has mentioned for wanting to find a new position and remind the person how accepting your job offer will address those concerns. For example, if the lack of a defined career path was the primary issue, be sure to illustrate the potential to move up the administrative ranks at your firm.

5. Don’t go overboard

It’s tempting to do all you can to get that ideal job candidate to accept your employment offer. After all, you’ve invested a lot of time evaluating applicants and finding the right person for the job. Be careful, though, about going higher than the established pay range to get the administrative candidate you want. Word may get out, and it could upset existing staff to learn a new employee is earning more than they are.

If someone seems hesitant to accept the job offer despite your willingness to negotiate, it may be best to give up. The last thing you want is a new hire who isn’t excited about working for your firm.

How do you know if someone is less than excited to join your company, or at least has some reservations? One thing to look out for during the job offer negotiation is if the potential hire starts to drag his or her feet. If the person asks for more and more time to evaluate your job offer, for example, the administrative candidate could be weighing other offers or hoping to receive one from a particular company.

6. Prepare a job offer letter

After the job offer negotiation concludes, make sure both you and the candidate are clear about the finer details you’ve agreed upon by drafting a job offer letter. The job offer letter should cover the job title, responsibilities, start date, salary and any points you agreed upon during discussions, like special work hours or reimbursement for completing a certification program.

This document is a good way to ensure there has been no miscommunication and that you two are on the same page now that the job offer negotiation has completed.

Once the job offer letter is signed, and the person is officially hired, you’ll want to keep in touch. Provide additional information about the company, such as details about the dress code and corporate culture, as well as any relevant forms. This will let your new hire know you are excited for him or her to join the firm and help ensure the person does not have a change of heart. It'll also help the administrative professional get off to a great start.

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