After negotiating or advising on over 1,000 offers in my 20 year career, I have created a simple road map that if followed will help you greatly increase your chances of closing the hire you want.
Most offers that fall apart late in the recruiting process could have been saved had this simple four step process been followed. I call this the REAP strategy. (I should note that this approach differs from what I would use for a C-suite position, but many of the elements are relevant.)
REAP stands for Research, Engage, Assure and Pre-Close.
Follow these stages to hiring success:
Research: The foundation upon which to find a great candidate is built on a concrete and comprehensive job description. Have the hiring team contribute to the creation of the job description and stack rank the required competencies in order of need and value. Do the same for the experience requirements. Be very clear on the type and amount of experience needed in years. Gain and gather consensus from all stakeholders that this framework is exactly what would constitute a great hire. Vet and agree on every element. Be sure to include an executive who might have veto authority over any final hiring decision.
Next, check your HR staff records for similar roles and review existing or recent employee salaries. Search Salary.com or Glassdoor or any of the other career compensation data sites recruiters have in their toolbox for competitor’s salary reviews. Try running a few search strings on Google with the job title and core requirements. Scour Indeed.com and even Monster.com for similar positions. Salaries can often be found there. I even check with associates and hiring managers at other companies for a gut-check validation of compensation.
Based on this, you can determine a salary range with a target mid-point which should be your ideal cash compensation. It should also be very close to the current market salaries.
Present and verify your salary recommendation to management for final input and approval.
Engage: Start your search, post your job, run your referrals, inform your network, educate your staff, go head’s down and source, fire up your agency partners.
Once a short list of candidates has been identified, screen them. Gather the pertinent data you need in the initial screen that is related to the professional job description you’ve created. Save the compensation question for last.
Assure: Candidates evaluate you as much as you evaluate them. It is critical to give them assurance about your intent and confidence in what you are doing. This creates a good candidate experience and helps with your recruiting brand.
After you have engaged with your candidate and worked your screen, you need to address the compensation question. I maintain this needs to be done respectfully, clearly and at this early stage. Be warm and open and confident.
Phrase the question this way: “What salary target have you set for yourself in a new role?”
Before the candidate begins to answer assure them by saying,
“I am only seeking a sense or range of annual cash compensation from you, nothing else. We know there are other elements in an offer, but we are not negotiating yet. I am just gathering additional information at this point.”
Candidates will answer with versions of one of the following:
I am looking for something along the lines of… but I would want to see the whole package first… and understand benefits and so forth.
I’ve made this much on this job and am expecting this much in a new role.
I’ve done a lot of research and I know my skills are quite valuable. I would be expecting….
Why don’t you tell me what the job pays first?
I never discuss salary until I’m sure I’m even interested in the role.
If a candidate answers with a number or range, be grateful and assure them that their answer was very helpful and move on.
If their compensation goal is higher than the cash component of your budget target this gives you an opportunity to level set and understand why their salary expectations are so high. Be transparent and let candidates know if you feel they are above market and why.
If the level is lower than you expect you may want to explore the candidate’s skills and experiences with them a bit more to determine why they are below market and if this is the right level of person to interview. Often times candidates who have remained at another employer for several years may be under-compensated. This does not mean they will settle for less than the market demands.
Should your candidate ask what the role pays it is fair to explain that the compensation is determined by the skill level and experiences of the candidate and you don’t have that assessment done yet – they still need to be interviewed.
Assure them that your process is fair and salary is not the sole determining factor in your screening process. Assure them your company strives to be competitive with salaries.
You can remind candidates that they wouldn’t take a role that didn’t meet their needs or expectations and that you would work out a compelling and fair offer together if they got that far in the hiring process.
If a candidate is rigid in not discussing salary expectations assure them you don’t want to waste their time with several interviews only to find out that expectations are mismatched.
If they still won’t discuss it, it may be worth reconsidering their candidacy or at least discussing the challenge with the hiring manager. Either way, be gracious to the candidate and prepare to conclude your screen.
Pre-Close: This final step sets expectations for the candidate. Take the time to clarify where you are in the process with the candidate. Let them know if you’ve got other candidates to screen, where they are in your queue, when do you expect to finish your screens, what the hiring manager will do next (review your notes and recommendations) and so on.
Set a timeline in place for next communication. Thank them again for discussing money with you and that you will be their guide and resource through any negotiations down the road.
Should the candidate be invited in for interviews, schedule yourself to speak with them as part of the interview loop (being the last interviewer is best) and revisit the compensation discussion. The more you discuss pay with a prospect, the easier it is for them to talk to you about it with confidence. This trust will REAP dividends for you and the candidate when the time comes to compose an enticing offer.