A candidate’s ultimate goal from an interview is to receive an offer of employment. The employer’s goal is to select the right candidate. Contrary to how candidates have approached interviews in the past, waiting for the interview to learn what you need to know to determine if this is the right decision, is much too late. Many employers have figured that out, too, and that is why they research candidates’ backgrounds in advance of the interview, or prefer to work with candidates referred by a trusted source. The employer will typically know what they need (not always) and what they are willing to pay (a range) in advance of an interview. If they truly don’t have a range, then it could be red flag. It may mean they haven’t researched to know what is reasonable, or worse, don’t have a budget, which means they may not be fiscally prepared to add to staff.
Regardless of how prepared or ill-prepared either party might be, every interview potentially ends with an offer and subsequently a negotiation. To retain a position of power throughout the process, the candidate’s negotiating strategy begins with their advance preparation, the resume they send and the first conversation. Contrary to popular belief, a strategy cannot begin after the offer is made. Any attempt to negotiate without a strategy is only a reaction or response. The person without a strategy is in a less powerful position than the one with a strategy.
The following examples illustrate how easy it is to lose your power prior to or during an interview, when there has been little preparation and no strategy developed prior to the first conversation. Immediately following are recommended actions to help a person maintain a position of power and to reinforce the ability to get what they want.
Ways to Lose Your Power:
1. Reacting to an opportunity without goals and a strategy. If you are unclear about what it is you really want, why and how you are going to accomplish it, it is impossible to present a compelling case for why you are a fit for the role or the company.
2. Not preparing for the call before you speak with them. Without preparation, it is too easy to get side tracked with tough questions. People say things they shouldn’t say, and say things in ways that can be easily misinterpreted.
3. Talking about money before an interviewer knows anything about you (other than what’s in you your resume). Until you have presented a case for why you are worth anything, suggesting you should have more than what they might be offering will typically close the door on the opportunity. Yes, recruiters ask what you want. Just because they ask, doesn’t mean you need to tell them. (I’d like a home in Mexico. Anybody going to pony up?)
4. Disclosing current or previous compensation. Don’t compare apples and oranges. The employer wants to know they are not wasting their time. If you are changing roles or moving from an area with a different cost of living, this information is irrelevant. There are many ways to assure them you are fine with what they may offer.
5. Making demands or setting boundaries about what you will consider before a formal offer has been presented. If they haven’t decided they really want you and absolutely have to have you, then it is premature to discuss what you want. It can tip the cart and actually prevent an offer from coming forth.
6. Assuming who the decision maker is. Don’t take any conversations lightly. A receptionist or support person may not be listed as a participant, but they certainly may be in on the hiring decision. At the very least, information they pass on about you could make a difference in the outcome later.
7. Not knowing what the interviewer’s needs are. If you over speak when talking with any interviewer (trying to sell yourself by addressing issues that are not of interest to the person in front of you), you may completely miss the opportunity to move forward.
8. Making assumptions about the interviewer’s viewpoint or company’s position on key points without clarifying their needs. Expanding on your opinion about something without being absolutely certain it is in line with their thinking leaves too much to be wrongly interpreted.
9. Emailing communication that can be interpreted badly or will lose translation. Conversation about any conflict, money or a concern of any kind should not have a permanent trail.
10. Asking questions about “what they can do for you” before you have presented value to them. Don’t imply you will have special requests before they are clear about “what you can do for them”.
11. Talking beyond the business at hand before it is a done deal. If an offer hasn’t been presented for the role that is in front of you, then changing direction midstream without fulfilling their initial need can take you completely out of the game. Discussion about future options can be interpreted as if you are not interested in the original position or are overqualified. Even though the conversation seems pleasant enough, the reality of what is still left unfilled may resurface after you have left, and you could be dropped like a hot potato.
12. Assuming any discussion is a formal offer when none has been made. You can’t assume that because one person loves you, and says everything is a go, that it is a done deal. Talk is cheap.
How to Maintain or Build Your Power:
1. Be clear about your goals and how a particular role or company will contribute to your being able to achieve them.
2. Know what you need to know about an industry to be competitive before you begin any conversation.
3. Research a company and be as aware of important information about it before you have a conversation with a recruiter or hiring manager.
4. Set the stage that money is not your highest priority, but the fit and contribution to the company’s needs are.
5. Deflect questions about current earnings. Don’t be pushed into comparing apples and oranges. Research the current market range and suggest it. Certainly finding out from inside sources prior to an interview is optimal if the range isn’t posted.
6. Find out who the real decision maker is.
7. Make sure you know what is important to every person you interview with.
8. Don’t take a stand about anything. Rather than discussing your “opinion”, tell them what you have done in the past so they don’t need to guess what actions you might take when given a tough scenario to maneuver through.
9. Ask open-ended questions to learn more about the role, department and company. Let them talk! Ask open ended-questions to build your awareness of their motivation before coming to any conclusions.
10. Discuss complex issues in person (or by phone if that is the only option other than email).Create a positive impression with all communications.
11. Save discussions about “future advancement” until they have confirmed their immediate need has been met.
12. Ask for a formal offer. Get it in writing.
Negotiating what you want after you understand their position, you are clear of what you need and an offer has been presented is much more likely to end in a win-win.