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Negotiating the Offer

We often hear that “almost anything is negotiable.” And indeed, from how much we’re willing to pay for a house, to what time to schedule a meeting, it seems that there’s a way to negotiate just about anything in life. However, sealing the deal on a new job offer that satisfies both the job candidate and the company offering the position requires a specific set of bargaining skills.  

There are only four possible results of negotiation: 1) win/win; 2) lose/lose; 3) win/lose; 4) neutral (neither party wins or loses). Win/win means both parties come out with their goals and needs fulfilled. And that’s an important point about negotiating: it is not meant to be a contentious battle. “Negotiating is not about one side taking it all,” says Sachal Gidwani, president of Fortune Personnel Consultants (FPC) of St. Lawrence. “It should definitely be a balance between the two parties, where both parties are ready to buy. The candidate has to say, ‘I want that job,’ and the company has to think, ‘Hey, we want that person.’ And that’s when negotiations can begin.” 

Putting C.L.A.M.P.S. on Your Priorities 

To reach a win/win, you must negotiate from a position of strength. This means that before you even step into the negotiating room, there are some steps to take that will increase your shot at getting what you want. For example, make sure you have done enough research on the company, the salary ranges for the position you’re interested in and the job market so that you go to the bargaining table well-prepared. Also, make certain that any issues that may have come up during the interview process are resolved. This includes anything from confusion over specific job functions, to designating titles or reporting structures. 

Determining your priorities beforehand is also key. A common observation made among hiring managers is that many jobseekers go into a negotiation not knowing what they want, so they keep changing their minds during negotiations. Besides coming across as unprepared to your counterpart, you also run the chance of taking a job only to find out it is not at all what you want. You then have to start all over again. So ask yourself, what is most important to you and what matters less? What are you willing to negotiate, and what must you have? A helpful way to reach the answers to those questions is to employ the system Herzog uses: C.L.A.M.P.S., with each letter standing for a certain priority: 


  • C:  Challenge 

  • L:  Location 

  • A:  Advancement

  • M:  Money 

  • P:  Prestige 

  • S:  Security 

“I ask job candidates to rate their priorities in C.L.A.M.P.S. from 1-6,” explains Herzog. “In many instances, if an offer comes into one of our job candidates and he thinks it’s too low, we’ll go back to his C.L.A.M.P.S. and realize that money was not even on the top of the list, and the job does offer four of the candidate’s top C.L.A.M.P.S.” 

And herein is the true value of C.L.A.M.P.S.: it opens up the bigger picture to candidates by asking them to consider issues that might not be obvious, but can be equally important. While salary and benefits are two of the first things in many jobseekers’ minds, these are rarely the only issues. By assessing the whole package and taking the time to rate your priorities, you can uncover matters heretofore unknown to you and gain an understanding of where you may be flexible, and where you may not. 

Going into negotiations with a basket of needs as opposed to just one or two may also be advantageous: if one doesn’t work out, you can negotiate with another. As Herzog points out, “There are a lot of things that can be negotiated: sign-on bonuses, moving up the time for your review, performance incentives and, if you’re moving, relocation bonuses and moving costs. At FPC, for example, we sit down with our candidates to evaluate the total package instead of, say, a straight salary issue, and we identify areas where flexibility may exist.” 

Common Negotiating Blunders 

Of course, successful negotiations also entail knowing what to do during discussions. Here are some steps to avoid once negotiations begin: 

Bringing up such issues as salary, compensation, or benefits: 

“These issues should not be discussed during the interview unless the hiring manager brings it up,” cautions Herzog. Concentrate on selling yourself to the company first.   In a way, your “sell” is a negotiating tactic of sorts as it will plant the seed for how much a company is willing to have you on its team. 

Stating your desired salary:

When asked about salary, approach it with openness. Avoid giving a figure or a range if at all possible. You can price yourself above or below what the company had in mind without knowing it—or even price yourself out altogether. FPC recruiters recommend that candidates put in “open” or “negotiable” when asked about their desired salary on an application form. Says Gidwani, ‘If you put in a range between 70K-90K, guess what—the company is going to give you 70K.’” 

But how to answer the question during an interview? “Say something to the effect of ‘I am looking for a reasonable salary increase, and more importantly, I am looking for an excellent opportunity,’” Gidwani proposes. And be sure you make it clear that you want both—or an excellent opportunity may be all that you’ll get. 

Understating your current salary: 

Whether it’s on the application form or during the actual interview, many candidates forget to look at the whole picture when asked how much they’re currently earning. Some people put in their salary but don’t include other compensation. “You may be making 70K base, but you get a $5,000 bonus or 10K in additional compensation,” says Gidwani. “Include all forms of compensation as part of the earnings figure.” 

Inflating your current salary: 
In a word, don’t. Odds are good that this information will be verified. 

All talking, no listening: 
An often overlooked and powerful tool for successful negotiating is listening to your counterpart. To unmask someone’s goals and needs, it is vital to pay attention to what that person is saying. Inevitably, you will notice the words your counterpart emphasizes and her verbal intonation, which will cue you into what she’s really looking for. “We can’t stress enough to our candidates the importance of listening,” Gidwani emphasizes. “I’m always asked, ‘What do the best or most effective negotiators have in common?’ More than anything, it’s the ability to truly listen.” 

Keep in mind that you can eliminate the possibility of committing any slip-ups by working with a high-quality executive recruiting firm, where the recruiters are well-versed on the steps to take—and not—during negotiations. 

An Invaluable Ally 
One jobseeker dislikes negotiating because “I’m just not comfortable with it.” Another “never knows when I’m putting my foot in my mouth and saying the wrong things.” Whatever the reason, many people feel uncomfortable negotiating on their own. This is when candidates should turn to a powerful tool: an executive recruiter. 

As the intermediary between the company and the candidate, a recruiter helps to serve as a buffer between both parties. FPC recruiters, for example, help to deflect sensitive issues and work with both sides to reach an amenable agreement. The recruiter understands the job responsibilities for a position and is looking to match the right job candidate to the right job responsibilities, so both sides benefit. That’s why working with a recruiter is often a win-win process for all. 

How FPC of St. Lawrence Can Help 

There’s no need to go at it alone. When you work with an FPC recruiter, you will have a partner every step of the way. We know you have needs and wants—the key is knowing when and how to express them without turning off a potential employer. At FPC, we are negotiating specialists. We know how to resolve sensitive issues. We can remove the barriers when it comes to discussing issues that you may feel uncomfortable bringing up on your own. We will also brainstorm with you to realize your C.L.A.M.P.S., so you go into negotiations well-prepared. An FPC recruiter will guide you on what to say, what not to say, when to negotiate and when not to negotiate. You will also gain valuable insights from the other party through our briefing and debriefing process. 

As your partner, we rely on you to be very specific, honest, and open with your FPC recruiter on your wants and needs. After all, how can we present you with the best opportunity if we don’t know what’s on your mind? By working and having an honest dialogue with your FPC recruiter, the opportunity you are looking for may be just around the corner.


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