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Hiring great people starts with offering them an attractive company culture and an equally attractive compensation package. The way you handle salary and benefits negotiations must be careful and strategic, from the point at which a candidate expresses an interest in your opportunity.

Today’s candidates are much savvier than previous generations about what they want and what they believe they are worth. This can be a pro – or a con – when the time comes to discuss dollars in concrete terms.

Define your strategy.

The right negotiation strategy must be set in place well before the actual process begins. Know how to define your market, how competitive you want to be and what to reward. Once your leadership team reaches a consensus on these factors, you can implement your plan.

  • Know when to pay more. It makes the most sense to offer greater compensation for highly leveraged roles and for the best talent. Under this philosophy, top wages and benefits are accurately viewed as an investment that will pay for itself again and again over time. Of course, there is always the risk of making the wrong candidate selection. Your company must define top-tier talent through the right sourcing approach.

Start off on the right foot.

How compensation is presented early on in your recruitment process can make or break a deal with your candidate of choice.

  • Create a positive experience. Be friendly, respectful and considerate. Alleviate any fears and allow candidates to clearly explain what they want. Share all the benefits your company provides, so they can see how invested you are in their career and their work/life balance.
  • Highlight your total compensation package. Have an outline ready, with a typical salary range and basic benefits and perks. Remember to include selling points like generous paid time off, educational and training assistance, health insurance and performance incentives. This gives candidates the big picture versus just a straight salary figure.

Seal the deal.

Be prepared to allow for some wiggle room. It is a given that there will be push back if a candidate has had any experience at all in salary negotiation.

  • Expect a counteroffer. You need a plan for how you can adjust your initial offering and find something that will be mutually agreeable.
  • Pull out all the stops for outstanding candidates. Compensation is about more than just base salary. Be creative with features such as telecommuting, company vehicles, stock options, paid parking and office space.
  • Be upfront and honest. Candidates appreciate transparency and integrity. They know there is a limit to what they can demand. It is acceptable to say “no” at some point. Put your best offer on the table and negotiate in good faith.

For smarter recruiting and negotiating as you build your leadership team, consider a partnership with BrainWorks. We specialize in connecting top talent with leading companies in consumer products and insights, CRM, analysis and data science, and marketing research. Read our related posts or contact us today to learn more about our executive search services.


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