Negotiating the close of any deal can be the hardest part of the process. This is especially true of recruiting where the stakes can be high. Your ability to close a hire puts all of your skills in the balance. The relationship you have built prior to the close is crucial to a successful outcome. From the moment you contact a potential candidate, prompt, courteous follow-up and attention to their key motivations for a job change (hot buttons) builds trust and rapport (and allows you to find the right fit for them). Today's employment market is strong, and in areas like IT especially, good candidates typically have more than one opportunity from which to choose. When deciding between two jobs, all else being equal, a candidate's level of trust in a recruiter could be the deciding factor in their choice.
Always maintain control of the recruiting process. This is crucial in the final negotiation. Don't slacken your attention to a single candidate, even those you are 99.9% sure will accept your offer. Remember, you've devoted a great deal of time and energy to making a placement, and a just a little more effort can make the difference. The sticking point in most negotiations is, of course, salary. If you have any budget flexibility, it's a good idea to know this up front and offer the candidate more than he/she is currently making - even if this is a stretch for you. When it comes to money most candidates ask for about 20% more than they are currently making. Thus a candidate that is currently at $50,000 should be happy with $60,000. If you can offer 20% more than the candidate is currently making then you should be in the range of other offers the candidate might receive as well as any counter offers from the candidate's current company.
While salary may be a crucial factor in your candidate's decision, money is probably not their only consideration. Financial issues include: benefits, bonus structure, expenses, commission, "ramp-ups", relocation reimbursement, and sign-on bonuses, to name a few. Many companies will be tied to a strict salary structure, but will negotiate on these other financial incentives. During the interview process, the good recruiters will have already uncovered the candidate's "hot buttons"- issues that could make or break their decision to take a new job. Also find out on which points your client may bend a little. Based on your knowledge of both, match the candidate's needs to the client's offer. For example, let's compare two candidates for a sales position. One candidate's primary concern may be procuring a steady reliable income, while the other candidate may be concerned with total earnings potential in the future. The type of offer each might be tempted to accept could be quite different, even with the same base pay. For the candidate concerned with steady income flow, negotiate a "ramp-up" payroll draw against commission, possibly with a lower commission structure. For the candidate concerned with total income potential, negotiating a higher commission percentage without a "ramp-up" might be more successful.
Recruiters are strongly advised to dissuade their candidates from ever accepting a counter offer. The philosophy behind this is simple: when a candidate has given their initial notice of resignation to their employer, they have indicated that they are in some way dissatisfied with their responsibilities and/or compensation. The current employer is now guarded and the sole purpose of the counter offer may be to bide time until a suitable replacement can be found. It is only a matter of time before your candidate could be let go. Throughout the entire negotiation process, it is critical to keep the candidate's key motivations on the table and refer to them often. For example, during your first discussions with a candidate, they may have indicated that their "hot buttons" were primarily related to challenge and opportunity or size and structure of the organization. A financial counter offer will not eliminate those concerns for the candidate. Prior to your candidate resigning from their current position, counsel them against taking counter offers. If you've negotiated a sufficient salary increase and you've addressed the candidate's key motivations, you should be able to remove the temptation of counter offers. Spending time up front to build a positive relationship with your candidate will pay off when a counter offer is particularly tempting.
Stay in Touch
In every step of the placement process, from initial contact to well past the placement of a candidate, stay in touch. Attentive recruiters who are accessible by their candidates and clients will build better relationships with both. In the placement process, staying in touch allows you to correctly assess a candidate's needs to assure a good fit. In the negotiation process, it allows the recruiter to retain control and prevent misunderstandings and stalemates. For the search firm and consulting firm, staying in touch after a placement has been made can build your candidate and client base. You never know where a candidate will be in the future and keeping in touch can lead to new clients and additional business. A satisfied candidate can also provide a network of referrals. For the corporate recruiter, staying in touch after the placement not only demonstrates a commitment to client service, but can minimize early turnover and ultimately lead to developing a strong referral base.