How to Negotiate with a Recruiter: The Script

When “don’t” is not an option

Let me first say I have nothing against the recruiting profession. But any “interest-based” negotiation consultant worth her salt must always ask, “what interests are my clients’ bargaining partners serving?”

If you must negotiate with a recruiter rather than with the individual who needs your services, you must always keep in mind that recruiters, while hoping to maximize their own “take” from the price of your hire, must also get a price for your services that makes your potential employer happy.

Because it’s your potential employer who is going to give the recruiter repeat business. Not you.

The recruiter also doesn’t need you to do the job. The recruiter just needs you to say yes. So you’re more dispensable to the recruiter than you are to the employer.

If you must negotiate your compensation with a recruiter, here’s my advice for getting the best deal.

First, understand that it’s not in recruiters’ self-interest to offer you the top of the range they’ve been authorized to offer you. That means you can safely negotiate. They always have more money than their first offer. Even if they don’t know it yet. Because the employer is also negotiating with the recruiter. As I said in my last post, it’s turtles all the way down.

Second, understand that every time recruiters have to go back to the employer to seek more authority to pay you more, they sacrifice a little credibility and endanger their continued ability to get repeat business from that employer. So it’s in your best interest to make it as easy as possible for them to “sell” your proposal.

How do you do that?

The Script

Here’s a generalized script that exemplifies the way in which you can help your recruiter help you.

You: Can you tell me a little about the needs and concerns of the person or people who will ultimately green light my compensation.

Recruiter: Well, she’s the marketing department head you interviewed with. She needs to fill this position. That’s all I really know.

You: Great. I’m glad my compensation is in her hands because she told me that the position has been vacant for three months.

Recruiter: I’m glad she finally found someone.

You: [assuming the recruiter has already conveyed an offer than is 10-20% below market]. I’d like to make your job as easy as possible but the offer is 20% below what I’ve benchmarked as competitive compensation. [don’t give a range because your bargaining partner will always pick the bottom of the range].

Recruiter: Well, they’ve only given me $X dollars.

You: I understand you’ll need to go back to them with my proposal and, again, I want to make it as easy on you to close this deal as possible.

Recruiter: What do you propose?

You: As you and I discussed, I’m looking for a position with a competitive salary and competitive benefits. The job announcement said that it paid competitive salaries. Can you tell me why your client has only authorized you to pay something below market?

Recruiter: The client doesn’t think it is below market.

You: That’s helpful. What I’d like to suggest is that I provide you with the market data that I’ve gathered so that when you go back to X with my counter you’ll have support for it.

Recruiter: I don’t think they’ll make any significant moves, but market data would, of course be helpful.

This script is not tailored to any particular industry or client, but it is an example of the kind of help you can offer to a recruiters so that they don’t have to return hang-dog with a counter that comes without backing.

Simply put, whenever you’re negotiating with an agent, it’s important to know who the agent is beholding to and what his principal’s interests are. Armed with those small pieces of information, you can help the agent serve your interests as forcefully as he’s already serving the organization he owes his living to.

By the way, this is the kind of script we write for our clients, tailored to their circumstances. If you’d like to explore working with us and obtain actionable advice at the same time, schedule a 50 Buck Half Hour consultation here.

Victoria PynchonComment