If you can bypass traditional application channels, recruiters and HR gatekeepers and land an interview with a hiring manager through your own networking, shouldn’t you be rewarded for saving the employer time and money?
It’s not free for employers to attend career fairs or advertise job openings through newspapers or job boards, and it takes a lot of time and Benjamins for employers to sift through job applications, conduct phone screens, etc. Plus, when employers use a staffing agency or external recruiter (also known as a “headhunter”) to find and hire a candidate, they have to pay a commission—generally 20-30% of your first year’s salary—to the recruiter.
That’s a $20,000-$30,000 fee (maybe even more) to identify a candidate with a first-year salary of $100,000.
What does this mean for YOU, the job seeker?
At the start of the recession, one employer increased their initial offer to me by $50,000, partly because that company had virtually no costs to find or hire me. (I mention this only to prove my point, not to brag or to try to impress you.)
That company didn’t have to travel all over the country to attend career fairs, they didn’t have to sift through thousands of resumes and they didn’t have to pay an executive recruiter $25,000 or more to find me. Because I networked my way into a meeting with a company higher-up, I made the hiring process easy for them and saved them a lot of money up front. Outside of some minor administrative costs and a few brief meetings, their cost-per-hire on me was only $7! (They treated me to a rum and Coke during one of the evening interviews at a restaurant.)
So, how do you put this into play for yourself?
First, you have to network your way into an interview and land a job offer. After you receive that job offer (in writing), you could send an email like the following to the hiring manager:
“Thank you again for your offer. I’m very excited about the opportunity to work for your company as an XYZ employee. Having said that, based on ______ [insert brief, compelling evidence here, (i.e. “my consistent track record for increasing revenue and for turning around IT sales departments”)], I was hoping that your offer would be higher.
I’d like to run an idea by you. If you were to fill this position with the help of an executive recruiter, you’d probably have to pay them a 20-30% commission, maybe even more. Since we connected through my own networking efforts, there were virtually no additional costs for recruiting or hiring me. (Well, other than the $7 rum and Coke you bought me at Rock Bottom Brewery last week!)
As a result, how would you feel about increasing your initial offer by 10-15%? This would still be a savings of $10,000-$20,000 off what you would have had to pay an executive recruiter, and it would put your offer in my target salary range. If this sounds reasonable to you, I’m ready to move forward. What do you think?”
Let’s break down this script, which features 9 secrets for salary negotiation:
1. Start on a positive by thanking the employer for the offer and expressing your interest.
2. Remind the employer why you’re worth more money.
3. Include some light humor, if possible (i.e. how I joked about his $7 cost for recruiting me).
4. Talk in percentages (or hourly rates) when asking for more money. For example, it sounds a lot less expensive to increase your salary “by 10%” (or “by $5 per hour”) than it does to increase your salary “by $10,000” even though they all mean the same thing.
5. Use big numbers when discussing the employer’s savings (and your value).
6. Throw out a range for your suggested increase and aim high with the upper end.
7. Use the word “reasonable.”
8. Tell them you’re ready to move forward if they agree to your proposal.
9. The entire tone of your message should be non-confrontational.
The employer can only offer 3 possible responses to this strategy:
1. The employer says yes. If their initial offer was $100,000, you just made an extra $10,000-$15,000 for ONE minute of work.
2. The employer comes back with a lower counteroffer (i.e. an increase of $5,000-$10,000). Still not too shabby for one minute of work.
3. The employer simply says no. This will probably only happen if the employer views you as a commodity that’s easily replaceable. In that case, you don’t deserve to be paid more money anyway. (Sorry!)
If you have concerns about losing your offer altogether by asking for a little more money, remember offers are only likely to be taken off the table if you are easily replaceable or arrogant during negotiations.
As with any salary negotiation script or strategy, this approach will bring out the cynics. But remember, you’re looking for bold advice, right? This is a drop in the bucket (even in a recession) for a top employer who decides to invest an extra $10,000-$15,000 to secure a candidate who is in high demand and extremely valuable.
Salary negotiation is all about leverage. If an employer sees you as valuable, that person will do what they can to convince you to join their company.
Pete Leibman’s career advice has been featured on Fox, CBS and CNN. His new book, I Got My Dream Job and So Can You, features lessons from young professionals who recently landed their dream job in a variety of fields.