The mere mention of the word 'compensation' can send shivers
down the spine of even the most seasoned, stalwart hiring manager. Even if
you've got hundreds of interviews under your belt, the awkward dance of false
starts, staring contests, and stony silences that commences with the discussion
of salary can still be disconcerting.
To compound the problem even further, there are dozens of
confusing "rules" about salary negotiations floating around out
there, many of which seem to stand in direct contradiction to one another. In
fact, many candidates come to their interviews armed with their own set of
often-misguided notions about the salary negotiation process. All too often,
the end result is miscommunication, mutual suspicion, and crossed wires.
Clearly, this is not the ideal way to start off a potential working
According to Del J. Still, recruitment consultant and author
of High Impact Hiring: How to Interview
and Select Outstanding Employees, there's a better alternative. Still
contends that it's best to steer clear of the all-too-common compensation head
games and reverse psychology tactics. Instead, the most effective approach to
this touchy subject is one that is forthright and straightforward.
By taking the lead in the compensation discussion, you can
set a tone of honesty, trust, and confidence that behooves you, the
organization you represent, and the candidate. Use these strategies to
fine-tune your approach to the salary discussion.
Although compensation is
the big question mark that's usually hanging over the entire discussion, it's
best to reserve money issues for the end of the meeting. It’s best to determine
whether the candidate is a good fit on his or her own merits before you even
broach salary negotiations. If the applicant wants to discuss compensation at
the beginning of the sit-down, warmly but firmly reply that it's your policy to
go over some other basic information first.
It may be
tempting to try to use some diversionary tactics and evasive maneuvers when
salary talks commence, but a more straightforward approach will pay off for both
of you in the long run. If the candidate
is holding out for you to name a figure, go ahead and give in. It's more
efficient to get a clear picture of both your expectations upfront than to
dance around the issue for half an hour.
approach to salary discussions doesn't have to be blunt. Instead, finesse the
candidate with carefully-worded questions and inquiries. For example, instead
of asking, "How much are you earning at your current job?," try the
more delicate "I'd like you to review your salary history for me."
Rather than saying, "What is the minimum salary you'd take?," opt for
"How can we best reward you?"
is important, but it's not everything. Most candidates are looking for
fulfillment, opportunity, challenges, and professional development along with
fair compensation. Frame your discussion of money with the other benefits and
opportunities the position would offer the applicant. Ask about the types of
non-cash compensation that they most value.
Salary negotiations will probably
always be accompanied by a tinge of awkwardness, simply because our culture
typically shies away from frank talk about money. But by taking the lead and
modeling a straightforward and open approach to this inevitable phase of the
interview, you'll be able to defuse a lot of the anxiety that surrounds the