Learning the Compensation Dance

Compensation discussions often make candidates very uncomfortable. Obviously, you want to get as much money as you can, but you also don’t want to seem too expensive and get ruled out before you can make them “fall in love” with you.

people-at-conference-tableIt’s a dance. ExecuNet premium member John K says he doesn’t like to dance…but he’s learning!

John has been working with his ExecuNet career coach on navigating the compensation question. They call it his “dancing lessons.”

This is right out of the ExecuNet playbook. The worst time you can negotiate a salary is before they know you. If they haven’t gotten to know you, then you’re simply negotiating off your resume. Don’t do that! They have plenty of resumes of qualified candidates; someone is bound to be less expensive than you.

Instead, you want to do what recruiter Ann Zaslow-Rethaber told ExecuNet’s Tony Vlahos during an ExecuNet Master Class Q&A. Ann said she advises candidates she’s submitting for her clients to consider to “make them fall in love before discussing the type of ring you want.”

Such a memorable way to phrase it ‒ and just what John’s been practicing in his “dancing lessons.”

John is learning how to smoothly relay that he has no doubt he and the company he’s meeting with will come to terms on compensation after they’ve mutually decided they are right for one another. Both from a value-add and values perspective, until that fit is clear, it really doesn’t make any sense to attempt to negotiate compensation. This course of action regarding compensation is also what recruiter Sharon Hulce, founder of Employment Resource Group, Inc, shared with Tony as her advice to candidates she’s submitting to her clients for consideration.

Companies will respect that it’s not all about compensation for you. After all, they don’t want to hire someone who may be jumping ship in a short time for greener pastures. Companies appreciate candidates who value career path, the work being done, and quality of life. The thoughtful candidate who isn’t single-mindedly grasping at compensation is appreciated and valued as someone who will bring that whole-picture consideration to their organization.

This is a delicate topic, a “dance” with give and take, which must be engaged with a thorough understanding of and by both sides. If you’d like to, like John, get some training in this area, we have people who can get you moving in perfect harmony with the right partner in no time.

If you’d like some help learning how to make them “have to” have you join them and how to navigate the delicate dance of the compensation question… reach out, we can help!



Mark Anderson

Mark Anderson

Mark Anderson is ExecuNet's president and chief economist. An Arjay Miller Scholar, Mark received his MBA from Stanford University and a BA in economics from Yale University. He joined ExecuNet in 1993, with extensive marketing and new product and business development experience, having served as president and founder of A&M Associates, an investment management firm. Mark's corporate leadership experience includes several senior marketing and financial positions with RCA Global Communications (a GE subsidiary) and American Can Company.

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