Whose Side of the Table is the Recruiter on When Negotiating Compensation?

man-standing-over-two-people-at-tableEver wish you had access to an executive recruiter just to ask that one question? ExecuNet members routinely email us their questions, and we tap into the minds of executive recruiters in our network to get their unadulterated feedback. One ExecuNet member wrote: “What can I expect from a recruiter when I’m negotiating salary and compensation? After all, doesn’t he work for the hiring company?”

Executive recruiter Nick Corcodilos, offered his thoughts on the topic. Here’s an excerpt of what he had to say:

This question is so common that I include an entire section about it in my PDF book, How to Work with Headhunters ... and how to make headhunters work for you. The real work in headhunting is to get a company and candidate to agree they want to work together. This has nothing to do with money. It’s all about the people, the company and the job. That’s why it’s crucial for you to decide whether you actually want the job as long as the terms can be worked out. Saying you want the job doesn’t mean you’ve accepted the offer, but it sets the ground for serious negotiating. It helps you win the headhunter’s cooperation, because half the battle is won.

Once your motivation to take the job is settled, the headhunter can get to work on the financial terms. Even though the headhunter works for the employer, he earns no fee unless he can work out terms that are satisfactory to you. This is where many job candidates blow it. They don’t want to express what they want. They believe that if they don’t state what they want, they might magically get more. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Take note: If you have an offer, the employer has already put a number on the table. It’s decision time for you, and if you can’t decide what you want, you can’t make the headhunter work for you. You must arm him with specific instructions. This is the time to negotiate with the headhunter. At this stage the headhunter will advise you what’s reasonable to negotiate with the employer — but he will do the negotiating on your behalf with his client. So, be frank, but don’t be ridiculous. Tell the headhunter what offer you would accept. If the headhunter thinks your terms are nuts, he’ll tell you, but don’t hold it against him. He won’t go back to his client with an unreasonable request. But he’s not likely to drop-kick you out of the deal, either. He may try to convince you to take the offer as it stands. Or, if he thinks there’s some wiggle room in the offer, he will try to negotiate with you and with his client for a compromise.

The headhunter’s position as the middleman makes it easier for you to work out the terms without jeopardizing the offer altogether. He wants to get the deal done as much as you do. The client pays the headhunter, but the headhunter needs your cooperation; so he’ll work with you to set reasonable terms for your acceptance. The client gets the hire. You get a job you want on favorable terms. The headhunter gets his fee. All three parties must work together.

Nick hosts asktheheadhunter.com and is author of How to Work with Headhunters and How Can I Change Careers?

William Flamme

William Flamme

William Flamme is ExecuNet's Marketing Content Manager, where he is responsible for developing engaging career, job search, and leadership insight and delivering executive-level content across the various properties under the ExecuNet brand. Prior to joining ExecuNet in 2008, Will earned a master's degree in education and taught fifth grade and sixth grade. As a teacher, he deepened his appreciation for the written word and mastered skills necessary for managing writers who sometimes view deadlines as homework.

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