From Behind the Recruiter’s Desk

In my job in a management consultancy I spend a lot of time making offers and then negotiating them. I’m sharing with you my internal recruiter insights on how to play it. This post assumes that you already have an offer and want to improve it.

Although this post largely deals with the money element of an offer, remember this is rarely where people get their most job satisfaction from.

I think we as women could all be a little less scared of the money side of the job search, hence my professional advice. It is fine and normal to have money blocks and feel uncomfortable asking for more, but from an insider’s viewpoint…everyone else is doing it so you deserve fair representation at the table as well.



1) Build your case

Know your worth before an interview process. Research allows you to boost your confidence and back your salary request with facts and figures. Consider job, sector, location, level. Use Glassdoor, ex-colleagues, your network to come up with a realistic happy number Always be likeable “people buy people”. Show them what it will be like working with you! Think also about your future worth. Would you be able to bring an old team member with you? Can you quantify a future saving or deliverable value?

2) Don’t wobble because you’ve been on career break.

It’s quite easy to discount the fact that before your 2 or 3 years off, you had twenty in a related role. If your break has been longer, you may need to be a little more flexible on money. It’s largely an issue of mindset though, and a reason for the gender pay gap. Impostor syndrome tells us we shouldn’t ask. But if you don’t know-one else will (also see Point 9).

3) Don’t rely on a recruitment consultant to get a better deal.

Very often, companies will look at the total cost-to-hire and factor in a recruiter’s fee, so you may not see that cut..

4) Think beyond base to the bigger picture–

It is right to have a total figure to state that you want (not a range, that’s confusing) but be flexible and agile about how you will get there in basic salary and other benefits. There might be other levers that are important to you, like training money or unpaid leave.

5) Be ready to join asap

Can you start immediately? There is usually an opportunity cost of a company waiting for an employee. Be confident that this can really play in your favour (and if you have eldercare/children to consider, have arrangements in place).

6) Have further leverage

If you can, have other application processes you are running in tandem, remember INSEAD found that even imagining that you have options helps. Ideally you want these coming to offer stage around the same time. Perhaps you could choreograph timings by requesting another meeting into one process to slow it down e.g. meeting the team to see if you can thrive in the culture.

7) Prepare for your counteroffer to be rejected

Remember, negotiation happens after selling. In the job process, you are selling your personal brand. What if the offer that you have in your mind is turned down, what is the worst that can happen? Remind yourself you are not your salary. This is not personal, it’s a business and you are Alan Sugar. Unwillingness to move on an issue may reflect constraints in the company that you don’t fully appreciate.

Think about the negotiation as a problem-solving exercise between you and the company. You could for ask for increased benefits and other non-monetary compensations can really give you leverage. I’ll talk more about these and the intrinsic value of jobs in the next post.

8) If you are given an ultimatum

Such as “Your request will be impossible” don’t fret, keep the lines of communication open – it may be said in the heat of the moment. Respond with: ”I understand, is it possible then to discuss other (non-monetary) elements?”. This TED with Margaret Neale, Stanford professor on negotiation shares how to view negotiation as problem solving, as taught to her by her horse!

9) Remember, it’s never just about money…

*****SUPER IMPORTANT*****being fixated on money can give you less power in the job process. You may decide to chart a course, as I did, that pays less up front but promises more long-term satisfaction. I wanted stimulus, colleagues, office banter, creative energy, projects, to feel part of the world. Those intrinsic benefits were worth as much as the money offered.

10) Show your commitment

Assure them you want to settle on something if you need to negotiate the initial offer. Your commitment may be tested. I will always be thinking, as an in-house recruiter, “If I push to get this (higher) offer approved, are they going to accept or will this be used as leverage?”. I might need to push my own social capital to get approval for an improved offer – I don’t want to be the stalking horse….

For similar reasons – negotiate all terms at once, not one after the other, rank their importance. Be selective about what you push back on.

11) Don’t panic about a delay on an offer

There can be so many non-offer related topics competing for an approver’s time. Keep the faith. Don’t get flustered at how quickly things move. Slow it down. Once you have the offer you know they want you. They are not going to go through the hassle of finding a runner up unless they have to. It takes time to reach out into the market, potentially advertise and free people up for interview.

A Last Thought

Finally, be elegant. Be honest. Don’t lie about other offers. To the question “Are we your top choice” you could respond, “I think you could be but I don’t have enough information yet”. I do ask that question of my candidates so I understand what if anything we need to do to get ranked as number one. Do we have a chance of getting the candidates? What types of roles interest them?Remember, negotiation is largely expected so don’t feel bad about doing it. And, back to Point 9, if you don’t get your Happy Number, there is more to fulfilling work than the money.

Watch out for my next post for what really makes us tick.