Editor’s Note: This blog is a modified excerpt from professional “headhunter” and bestselling job-hunting book author Skip Freeman’s next book in the “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets series of job-hunting books, CAREER STALLED? How to Get Your Career Back in ‘High Gear’ and Land the Job You Deserve─Your Dream Job. Publication is scheduled for early 2013.
If a new job is in the offing for you in the new year, chances are better than even that you will, at least at some point before nailing down the position, be involved in some form of negotiation, e.g., salary, number of vacation days, starting date, etc.
Since most of us are not regularly engaged in negotiations of any kind, you might want to take some pointers about how to successfully negotiate from expert Stuart Diamond, a Harvard Law School graduate who teaches negotiation tactics and strategies to students and Fortune 500 executives at The Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.
Professor Diamond’s negotiation research spans over two decades and is informed by data generated from over 30,000 people in 45 countries. He offers FOUR basic tips for what he calls “never-fail” negotiation (Hey, Washington, D.C., are you paying attention?!):
1. Don’t think about “winning.”
Diamond says that if you think about negotiation strictly from the standpoint of “winning,” you’ll probably just end up losing.
“Negotiation is not a competition,” he points out, “it’s a collaboration.”
Instead of winning, you should focus on meeting your goals.
“If you think of it as ‘winning,’ you will think about beating them,” he says. “And if you do that, you will not collaborate as much.”
Diamond’s advice: Define what your true, principal goal is in the negotiations and then make sure that your actions (and reactions) are helping you meet/attain that goal, not largely undermining your efforts in that direction.
Example: If your true, principal goal is to land the particular job you are in contention for, but not every aspect of the offer at this point is necessarily to your liking, first concentrate on doing that which will help you realize your goal, i.e., getting the job offer. Then, to the extent possible, honestly negotiate those parts of the offer which are causing you concern. Keep in mind, however, that some aspects of a job offer simply may not be negotiable at all, e.g., company health insurance plan, while other aspects certainly can be, e.g., salary.
2. Ask what you can do for the other person.
Negotiation is very much a “give and take proposition,” Diamond stresses, and when you ask the other person what you can do for him or her, it can go a long way toward successful negotiation.
Example: When interviewing for a new job (even though you should already know at least part of the answer), ask the hiring manager what needs he or she is trying to meet by filling the position. Then, clearly demonstrate how you are prepared to meet the hiring manager’s needs.
3. Uncover and then clarify any misconceptions that may exist.
Whenever there is a conflict/disagreement between what you think is the root cause of any “sticking points” during negotiation and what the other person thinks the root cause may be, don’t automatically assume that you know what the other person is thinking or what, specifically, may be motivating him/her to take any particular position. Ask the other person what his or her perceptions of the situation are, and then seek further clarification, if necessary!
“Anytime you have a conflict with someone, ask what (they) are perceiving,” Diamond advises.
Knowing what the other person’s true perceptions are—and not what you think or suppose they are—no matter how discordant these perceptions may be with your own, gives you a better starting point for persuading the other person to see things the way you see them, he adds.
“Because you (will then) understand the pictures in their heads,” he says. (Emphasis mine.)
Example: Suppose the hiring manager is adamant that he/she simply cannot go any higher on the salary offer on the table. Rather than merely assume that he/she is just being “contrary,” if possible, seek to learn why the hiring manager is taking that position. It may be something as simple as restrictions built into the company salary administration system, restrictions that the hiring manager cannot override.
4. Never threaten, issue ultimatums or “walk out” on negotiations.
When faced with an apparent impasse during negotiations of any kind some people respond in, shall we say, other than a professional manner. They may make threats and/or issue ultimatums (“If that’s the way things are going to be, I no longer want to even discuss the issue . . .”), or, they simply “walk out” on negotiations, either figuratively or literally, and any potential deal under consideration can quickly and easily be doomed from that point on.
Here is what Diamond has to say about acting in such an ill-advised fashion:
“Keep your emotions in check or you’ll be checking out of your negotiation.”
Example: As a “headhunter,” unfortunately, I experience “hard-line” reactions/responses from time to time—from both candidates and hiring managers.
“There is no way I am even going to consider such a ridiculous (salary, benefits packages, etc.),” a candidate might say, when I present a hiring company’s offer to him or her.
“This is all we are going to offer for the position and the candidate can either take it or leave it,” a hiring manager may say, when I come back with a counter-offer from the candidate.
Obviously, when either (or both) parties to job negotiations take such apparently irrevocable positions, there can be no winners, only losers.
Importance of Professional Brand in Successful Job Negotiations
All four negotiation tips Professor Diamond offers are certainly “right on the money,” as far as I’m concerned and based upon nearly a decade of being professionally involved in job negotiations of one kind or another. However, it is significant to note that, in the case of job candidates, in any case, successfully negotiating any aspect of a job offer presupposes that the candidate has branded himself/herself in such a fashion as to be in a position to negotiate!
If the candidate has in fact branded himself/herself as clearly and unmistakably being among the very TOP candidates available for the position under consideration, then he or she certainly is in a position to be taken seriously and genuine negotiation is possible. If that is not the case, however, then there is a far greater risk of the hiring manager issuing a “take it or leave it” ultimatum and moving on to the next candidate.
To learn more about what Professor Diamond has to say about successful, “win-win” negotiating, check out his latest book on Amazon.com:
Getting More: How You Can Negotiate to Succeed in Work and Life
Skip Freeman is the author of “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets: The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed . . . Forever! and is the President and Chief Executive Officer of The HTW Group (Hire to Win), an Atlanta, GA, Metropolitan Area Executive Search Firm. Specializing in the placement of sales, engineering, manufacturing and R&D professionals, he has developed powerful techniques that help companies hire the best and help the best get hired.