Locating the talent you need for your team can sometimes feel like a marathon. But you’ve finally found your best job candidate and the finish line is in sight. You can already envision the person walking through the door on their first day.

But it’s not over just yet. In Canada's highly competitive hiring environment, talented creative professionals often receive multiple job offers. And given their increased leverage, job seekers aren’t shying away from negotiating a salary. As such, employers shouldn’t be caught off-guard during compensation discussions if a candidate requests more money.

Successfully negotiating a salary with top creative candidates takes preparation, tact and follow-through. Here’s what hiring managers need to do:

Before negotiating a salary with job candidates

  • Do your research. Establish a salary range for the position before you start recruiting. Know the market value of the position you’re hiring for, factoring in years of experience, location and current demand for the skills required. Review resources such as The Creative Group Salary Guide.

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During your negotiations with the best candidate

  • Decide how badly you need to hire this particular person. If a candidate asks for a higher figure than you’ve offered, consider how difficult and time-consuming it would be to begin your search again? You have three options: agree, make a counteroffer, or stand firm. In deciding what to do, consider both the value he or she would bring to the business, and if there are other available candidates with a similar skill set.
  • Leave nothing off the table. Don’t get stumped if you can’t match a candidate’s salary request. Consider revisiting other parts of the compensation package, such as flexible scheduling or additional vacation days. Applicants are often willing to compromise on base salary if the total compensation package is attractive. A positive company culture, perks and professional development opportunities can often be just as compelling as a bump in starting salary.
  • Know your upper limit. Consider the existing pay levels for similar positions in your company. If you agree to a higher salary to win a stellar candidate, you risk lowering morale or even losing existing staff if they find out a new hire is making more money than they are.
  • Know when to walk away. If your candidate becomes evasive or difficult to reach, she may be waiting for another offer to come in or using your offer as leverage for a different position. Although some HR experts discourage pressing an uninterested candidate, if you still feel strongly about the candidate’s potential benefit to your team, tactfully try to find the reason for the hesitation. That being said, if you feel like the candidate is playing games or if you aren’t getting anywhere, thank the candidate for his or her time and then move on.

Congrats! You’ve successfully made it through the negotiation — now seal the deal

  • Get it in writing. Once you and the candidate agree on a salary, benefits and start date, have the candidate sign an offer letter to confirm that he agrees to the terms. If you’re making a job offer contingent upon reference checks or background checks, make sure the offer letter says so.
  • Build anticipation until they arrive. The candidate will likely need to give notice at their current job, which means there will likely be two to three weeks between acceptance and start date. But a lot can happen in that time. For instance, if the new hire is employed, her current company may make a convincing counteroffer. The more you can stay connected through regular communication, the more excited and confident the person will be about the decision to work for your organization.

Negotiating a salary can be a time-consuming process but with current talent shortages, hiring managers need to be open to having the conversation in order to land skilled creative talent.