The Big Green Elephant On the Call: Salary and How To Discuss It

Article main image
Nov 28, 2023
This article is part of a series called Crafting Culture: The Art of Candid Conversations in Sourcing.

Welcome back to the fourth and final part of a four-part series, where I provide sourcers with strategies to navigate candid conversations about company culture. From discussing company culture to pitching your company and addressing negative Glassdoor reviews, this segment focuses on discussing compensation with your candidates. While it should already be a part of what you share with candidates, I’m here to share how to make this topic more accessible to discuss and feel less like walking on eggshells.

Stay Calm and Communicate

When it comes to discussing compensation with candidates, the terms ‘Money’, ‘Salary’, and ‘Total Compensation’ essentially convey the same idea. Some job descriptions mention them explicitly, while others don’t. Regardless, broaching this topic may feel like a delicate balancing act, especially for those new to recruiting.

Rather than viewing salary negotiation as a rigid process, consider it more as a dialogue. How and when you introduce compensation and benefits can significantly influence the conversation. The key is for the discussion to flow naturally while maintaining composure. Remember, you’re not personally funding their payment, so there’s no need to stress over it.

It’s Their Money, and They Want It Now!

Wondering when to bring up compensation? I find it effective to raise this topic after establishing rapport with the candidate and just before presenting the company and the role. The way I frame the question is crucial.

Candidate, at Business XYZ, we prioritize ensuring everyone feels valued. What compensation range would make it compelling for you to transition from Company ABC to join us at Business XYZ?

Typically, about 90% of candidates will provide their desired number or range. I pose the question in this manner to understand not just the bare minimum they’d accept but to ensure they feel appropriately valued from day one if placed in the role.

Upon receiving their figure, I follow up with, “Is that regarding base salary or total compensation?”

This clarification helps to better comprehend their compensation expectations. It’s essential to avoid misunderstandings where they anticipate a specific salary, but the offer ends up including different components under total compensation.

Don’t Overlook Benefits

This is also the opportune moment to discuss benefits. If there’s an outstanding benefit your company offers, consider highlighting it first. For instance, something like 100% covered medical benefits, a robust 401k match right from the start, or generous PTO.

I bring it up by saying, “We have a lot of great benefits like 100% paid medical benefits for your whole family on day 1 of employment. I could share all of our benefits, but is there one in particular you would like to confirm we have?”

Keep this part of the conversation concise. Avoid overwhelming them with a laundry list of benefits. Instead, focus on what matters most to them and smoothly transition to the next discussion point.

Handling Non-Responsive Candidates

For the 10% that don’t share right away, that’s fine too! This isn’t a game of poker where you can’t show your cards, especially if the salary is already posted in the job description.

Share the range with them. Most candidates will ask for the top end of the range, and that’s fine! Let them earn that salary in the interview process. That’s what you have interviews for anyway, right?

When the Offer Falls Short

Some recruiters fear that the allocated salary might not meet candidates’ expectations. Fortunately, discovering this early, during the initial call, is advantageous. Inform them of the range and that it exceeds the budget. Most candidates appreciate this honesty. Assure them that if circumstances change to align more closely with their needs, you’ll reach out again.

If a pattern emerges where candidates consistently decline due to salary concerns, it’s advisable to consult the hiring manager and finance team to explore the possibility of a higher budget.

Reiterate Compensation Throughout

Now, one thing that you should continue to do is reconfirm the salary at every stage. Make it a part of your debriefs after your candidate finishes each interview and confirms that they want to move forward.

This helps bring up any concerns or if they are interviewing elsewhere and that elsewhere is offering more money and has changed their expectations or needs. Knowing it early so you can bring it to the team is better than waiting until the offer is extended and it’s 20k less than what they remembered from the first call or what the other company is set to offer.

Negotiating the Offer

Before discussing negotiation with the candidate, consider the initial negotiation with the hiring manager or budget overseer. It’s common to advocate for candidates during offer discussions, a practice you should be prepared to undertake regularly. Inform the leadership that you’ve discussed compensation with the candidate since the initial call, possibly even having them adjust their expectations if it initially exceeded the budget.

Making the conversation smoother involves keeping the team informed about the candidate’s salary expectations throughout the process. Regarding candidate negotiations, while less frequent, they do occur. Communicate to them that you’ve already negotiated on their behalf, but if they have further expectations, ask directly, “If I approach the team again, what should I convey?”.

They might present additional factors, like competing offers, but often they’ll reconsider and understand the prior discussions. Ultimately, they may accept the offer or decide to decline. The level of rapport established plays a significant role in this outcome. Hence, it’s crucial to be forthcoming with all candidates, engaging in these ‘tough’ discussions early and consistently. This approach builds trust and ensures candidates recognize your commitment to their best interests, not solely the company’s interest.

Thank you for reading. If you haven’t already, explore the previous articles in this series on engaging in candid conversations with candidates.

This article is part of a series called Crafting Culture: The Art of Candid Conversations in Sourcing.
Get articles like this
in your inbox
Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting articles about talent acquisition emailed weekly!