The Timeless Art of Negotiating

Chaloner and PRSA have teamed up to write a series of articles on how candidates and clients can best navigate the recruiting process. Each post of the series chronologically follows the steps of a search process, with direct insights from Chaloner recruiters, clients, placements and candidates who Chaloner has partnered with during the recruiting process. Throughout the series, readers will have the opportunity to learn about how to best partner with a search firm and recruiters. This post is the fifth and last in the series.


Today’s workforce market is seeing candidates with multiple offers, counteroffers and everything from a generous sign-on bonus to more creative compensation structuring (e.g., guaranteed six-month performance reviews to evaluate employees for a salary increase).

Knowing the reality of our current and tighter talent market, we are covering one of the final and most critical stages to securing an accepted offer: the negotiation process. We interviewed the Chaloner team for their perspective on the recruiter’s role in negotiations, what questions candidates should be asking throughout the process and the signals of a best and final offer that a candidate can secure.

What is the recruiter’s role in a negotiation between a client and a candidate?

We play a significant role in negotiation. We communicate to a candidate how to negotiate, when to negotiate and how to stop. Recruiters are representing the client, the hiring manager or the hiring entity as our client. On the candidate end, we are serving as an advocate on behalf of the candidates we interview and screen for a role. We sit in the “goldilocks chair.”

Our job is to place professionals and provide both parties a happy place with one another in terms of background, experience or organizational culture. A good recruiter should pre-negotiate on behalf of the candidate while advising the client to make an offer that a candidate is going to accept or come very close to accepting without a major negotiation.

What questions would you encourage candidates to ask as they seek to negotiate a package for themselves?

As a first step, candidates should take the time to understand where they need and want to be financially, professionally and personally. In addition, candidates need to know where they are willing to go if their asks are not being met. The goal for a recruiter at this stage is to ensure that all parties (clients, candidates, and the recruiting partner) are happy with the final outcome of a search that being a candidate-client match. A few ways a candidate can ask or reflect on what they seek:

  • Simply, ask for what you want! Do not be afraid to ask and do not be afraid to ask for more. The worst you can get is a no.
  • Review the benefits and compare your current package to a potential new employer’s benefits. Look at the entire compensation package, not just the salary. Salary is only one piece of it.
  • At the same time, always ask about the salary range at the beginning of your conversations in a process for a new role.
  • Do your research on where a prospective employer is in terms of competition within industry standards. Be realistic about where your skill and experience levels fit within those industry norms. If there is anything else you bring to the table, then raise it.
  • Inquire about advancement and promotion. You may not get everything on day one, but if there is a good opportunity for growth with a new employer, then it may be worth some sacrifice early on. This can also help candidates show a potential commitment toward the future.
  • Understand that organizations are increasingly focused on parity and equity. It’s the right thing for businesses to be doing. Keeping that aspect in mind when you’re negotiating is helpful because you want to work for a company that is doing right by its employees. This sometimes might have an impact on what you’re trying to negotiate.

How do you know when to stop negotiating? What are the clues that you’ve reached the best offer you’re going to get?

 The best sign that the negotiation is over is when everyone is thrilled with the offer. Often for candidates, this may include gaining higher compensation, more PTO or occasionally a change in title. For a client, they’re getting matched with their first-choice candidate and hopefully within the original stated parameters of the position. When all parties are excited, that’s when the negotiation has been done right. If anyone in that equation is not happy, then it’s a bad deal and usually doesn’t stick.

As a recruiter, we can often serve as the role of mediator between candidates and clients. Sometimes it’s not so much as clues, but as hard facts. We are going to have those tough conversations with candidates about what their deal breakers are. It’s in a recruiter’s best interest to go back to a client and present scenarios and compare them to a candidate’s deal breakers. It is never worth it to go down the track of a square peg-round hole situation.

We’ve had the difficult conversation with the candidate and are regularly asking them about their salary expectation. If we have to get into negotiation as recruiters in our role, then we need to advise the client on what it’s going to take.

As much as possible, candidates should ask for all of the aspects of an overall compensation package they want to ask for at once. Whether that’s more money, more vacation days or a flexible work schedule, the more direct and thorough you can be with your first response to the initial offer, the better chance that both parties will have to positively resolve the negotiation.

We hope you enjoyed this final post and all articles in our series providing tips on how to navigate the recruiting process. If you haven’t already, then check out our other posts covering the different stages of the recruiting process:

For more information about Chaloner and advice on the recruiting process, visit our website and follow us on LinkedIn.


[Illustration: knut]

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