How to Handle Salary Negotiations During the Recruitment Process

By Roxanne Abercrombie

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For recruiters, acting as the middle man between candidate and client is rarely more delicate than it is during salary negotiations. Even after the rigorous screening process is over and the difficulty of sourcing a candidate with both the right skillset and culture fit has been completed, salary demands must still be attended to. 

Every experienced recruiter has been in the situation where a candidate has challenged the salary offer on the table, wanting more money before they put their signature on that contract of employment. In some cases, there can be a great deal of back and forth and offers and counter-offers before a conclusion is reached.  As a recruitment consultant, this can often mean losing a deal and all your invested time and effort because client and candidate are unable to settle on an appropriate salary sum.

So, how can you navigate your way around the expectations of your candidate and client and arrive at a figure that satisfies both? Follow these 5 steps to achieve a winning offer for the candidate whilst still offering a strategic, cost-effective partnership to the client:

1. Be transparent from the start

Being open about the salary from the moment you post the vacancy on a job board means that right from the start, you will be receiving applications from candidates who are prepared to accept the proposed rate. Many recruiters fall into the trap of listing the top end of the agreed wage range on their job adverts to entice more candidates, leaving them with little room to manoeuvre and frequently resulting in them having to disappoint the candidate at an early stage.

To save yourself time and frustration, salary should always be discussed in the screening process so that you can gauge whether the candidate is on the same page as the client. During salary discussions, be sure to talk about the range on offer rather than leading with a specific figure. By doing so, you won’t make any promises that you’ll be unable to keep and will ensure that candidate expectations are realistic.

2. Conduct market research

It’s important that you’re aware of average salary rates for the role in question, taking into account location, necessary educational requirements and the current demand for the skillset needed. Salaries for developer jobs, for example, are currently rising month on month, whilst those for retail jobs are remaining fairly consistent. Armed with relevant industry knowledge like this, you will then be able to take a consultative approach when talking to both candidate and client and ensure that a competitive offer is on the table. Your market research will better equip you to either recommend increased rates to the client or to manage unworkable candidate wishes. In turn, this will demonstrate your expertise and help build your personal brand as an informed recruitment professional.

3. Put the value of the role in context

Although market research is important, it doesn’t necessarily measure the full value and business impact of the role you’re recruiting for. If you know that the vacancy is a business-enabling position that will be instrumental in driving company change, it’s well worth considering whether you really want to hire a candidate at the lowest possible rate. When it comes to recruiting talent in a skills-short market, employers get what they pay for. Top-tier talent comes at a price, and these game-changing individuals are usually worth more money to the company than their implied value within the original salary offer. Remember, you’re not going against your client here: employers that don't pay market rate lose talent to employers that do.

4. Put your sales skills into motion

The influential communication skills necessary to successful sales are also necessary to successful recruitment. When acting as the intermediary in salary negotiations, it is important for recruiters to bring these sales skills in to play. You’ll have to really sell the role to any candidates hoping for a higher salary, or you might be in the position where you need to sell the candidate to the client and explain that they are in fact worth more money. When doing so, you’ll need to keep both parties on side: a feat which requires no small amount of skill, authority and persuasion.

5. Keep talking

Communication is key to successful salary negotiations. To prevent you from losing that fee, you need to know where the candidate’s head is at, whether they’re considering counter-offers or whether they’d be willing to accept the positon for slightly less than the salary they’d hoped for. In turn, you need to know how the client feels, how badly they want the candidate on board and how much more they’re willing to pay. As the all-important middle-man, you need to drive the situation as fit and ensure that you’re working as a skilled broker with the best interests of both parties in mind.


Remember: salary isn’t a dirty word. By being open on salary throughout the recruitment process, you will avoid misunderstandings and disappointment and become known as a skilled professional that both clients and candidates can trust.



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