Negotiating with Job Candidates

Are you ready to negotiate? It may not be a concern if you’re hiring a low-wage or entry-level employee. But if your top candidate is a seasoned professional, or if they’re currently employed elsewhere, there’s a chance that negotiations will be part of the hiring process.

Negotiating a job candidate’s salary

Getting a new job is all about making more money, right? And candidates often base salary expectations on a mix of things, such as:

  • What they’ve previously earned, or are currently earning;
  • What they’ve seen in comparable job listings; or
  • Their understanding of the industry, the job responsibilities, and the local cost of living.

And while it’s true that a new job typically brings a larger salary bump than an employee can get via a raise, not every candidate is going to ask for more than you offer. In fact, according to a Glassdoor survey, only 41% of new hires actually negotiate salary. And, as the same survey suggests, only 10% of candidates that negotiate do so successfully. Based on this data, it’s easy to conclude that the salary you present in your formal offer will be the one your new hire signs off on.

Salary is only part of job candidate negotiations

There are plenty of factors other than salary behind a job candidate’s decision to negotiate. Perhaps they’re willing to take a pay cut because your company is a better cultural match, but want to talk about the benefits package or PTO. Or maybe they’re leaving a place of business because the salary you’re offering is too good to pass up, but they’re really going to miss the flex time they have at their current job. Are you willing to consider flex time?

Has your communication been open from the start?


When you view negotiation as another step in the recruiting process, you can include it in your thinking and planning. In our recent Spotlight, “From Job Offer to Onboarding,” you can read about ways to turn negotiations into a win-win situation for the candidate and your company, and how your applicant tracking system (ATS) can help you prepare for the process.

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Negotiating with Job Candidates
Negotiating with job candidates may be made easier by setting limits and preparing for potential negotiations before presenting the offer.

If you have been upfront about salary, benefits and perks from the start, then there’s a good chance that your candidate will refer to this information when the formal offer arrives. And if everything lines up with their expectations, you might be on your way to keeping any negotiations on the light side, or avoiding them altogether.

But what happens when things don’t go so smoothly?

When you call your top candidate and offer them the job, it’s likely that they’ll want to talk about salary and benefits. If they do, here a few things to keep in mind before you send anything in writing:

  • Start by reminding the candidate about any salary ranges or benefits information you’ve already shared.
  • Ask them if this information aligns with their own thinking. Whether or not it does, they might appreciate having the opportunity to revisit and discuss this range.
  • Also remind the candidate that the formal offer will be in their in-box shortly, perhaps as early as end-of-business today, or start-of-business tomorrow.

What if the job candidate is part of the 41% that want to negotiate?

If you’re asking a candidate to take a lower salary, relocate, or bump against their ideal work-life balance, it’s possible that negotiations will indeed happen. Ideally, you’ve gotten to know the candidate and their expectations to the point where the negotiation phase will be easy on everyone.

The following tips for before and after you present your offer can help create a win for everyone:

Before you present your offer:

  • Make sure your written offer explains benefits and perks as thoroughly as possible, especially those that reflect things the candidate has shared. And set time aside for follow-up emails or phone calls to discuss the offer.
  • If possible, get HR onboard, and let them know how the offer is going. You might need them to answer any questions from the candidate.

After you present your offer:

  • Try to create and maintain a back-and-forth quality to any conversation that includes negotiating. This can help remind the candidate that their stake in the process matters.
  • Be sure to set limits around salary, benefits and perks—and be willing to push beyond them, or at least be ready to discuss the possibility with senior leaders if necessary. With the average job opening taking more than 50 days to fill, you’ve come too far to lose your top candidate at this point.

Some things are simply non-negotiable, whether salary, perks, or other benefits. In some cases, cultural norms related to working hours, telecommuting, or even casual Fridays are literally written into the HR handbook. As you go back and forth with your top candidate, continue to listen to what they want, and see if there’s another way you can meet their work-life needs. This can also be an opportunity to revisit the way your company handles and communicates its cultural norms, especially if recruiting or retention have become issues as of late.


Negotiating your offer is one of the final steps in the hiring process. As your dedicated applicant tracking system, myStaffingPro can help you stay organized as you prepare to onboard your next hire and beyond. Contact a myStaffingPro representative today, and find out how we can help simplify your hiring workflow from start to finish.

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