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Salary Negotiation Advice For Executives | Job Search Radio

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Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter offers some basic negotiation advice for when you work with a recruiter.


I just want this speak with you and say that if you're working with a recruiter, I know this may be hard, but you just have to trust them to do the job. That job and I'm speaking of is to do the negotiation for you.

You get to the point where you have the offer or on the run up to the offer. There are 2 different approaches – – one from the contingency side, the other from the retained search side.

I think the retained search side finds it less difficult to do the negotiation. On the contingency side, there is a certain panic involved because there is that much more money that is involved in the way of a commission. Often, with a contingency recruiter, the relationship may not be as strong as it is with the retained recruiter. Again, knowing the relationship that your representation has with the client is going to be a big help to you.

Let's assume it is a contingency recruiter and you are on the run up phase and they ask, "So, how much are you looking for, again? I want to make sure I have the numbers right." By now, you should have an idea of how much you be looking for based upon what you know about the job, what you know in the way of comparables for people like you... I'm not talking about those broad salary ranges (just to pick arbitrary numbers) like $200,000-$275,000. Everywhere there's a $275,000, knowing here's the $200,000 and so they know your here's all the numbers in the middle. Recognize that that is a pretty broad range. You want to get more targeted.

When the recruiter starts to talk you down as often, they will try to do, that may be a signal that they already know what the hiring firm is going to propose. You can cut right through. "Have you spoken with the firm? What's the number they are talking about? Let's just go right to it." This way, you can start working for the case as to why they have to up the number and why they have to represent you to up the number.

When push comes to shove, you may already know that they offer $245,000, you will take it. They don't need to know that. You have to push for the biggest number because at this point, what they are trying to do is squeeze you into that pocket that your client has been trying to wedge you into and that may not necessarily serve your needs.

Again, given the idea that you're going to do this and is going to generate this amount of money. Save this amount of money. At the end of the day, the client may not necessarily shift AND you may go directly to the client. Initially, following the old Nixon proverb, trust but verify. You have to do a certain amount of trust because they represent you up until this point, you want them to represent you, across the finish line.

If you get to a point where the client hasn't budged asked them to schedule one more conversation for you. They will ask, "What's the intention?".

"I would just like to talk with them before I make my decision. It's a tough choice for me; it's important choice for me. I want to make sure I have all the information I need to make my decision."

Notice how noncommittal that is? You don't want to necessarily give the idea to the contingency recruiter that you will take the offer if the client doesn't budge. You want to get them to move a little bit And get them a little bit more flexible.

On the retained side, like I said, you can lay out the case more directly because they tend to be more forthright because they have less money at stake. Again, because of how you present it, you're always driving to the highest number. You don't have to be "nice." At this point, in the run up phase, they may have an idea of the number that is being proposed; they may not. Normally they will. Just go right to it.

"What's the number that they are talking about?"

You can respond by saying, "That's not going to be enough for me. I'm going to need them to make that 2nd number a such and such," and work from there. Start working through them and then again, go directly to the firm for one conversation. The ideal is if you walk in, but often that is not appropriate.
Skype, FaceTime, a phone call... However, works for you and them, set up one less conversation and then go for the close.

However, in situations where there is a retained search firm involved, be prepared to say yes or no on the spot. You don't want to let it dangle one because often offers are rescinded.

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves life coaching, as well as executive job search coaching and business life coaching. He is the host of “Job Search Radio,” “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” and his newest show, “No BS Coaching Advice.”

Are you interested in 1:1 coaching or interview coaching from me?  Email me at and put the word, “Coaching” in the subject line. offers great advice for job hunters—videos, my books and guides to job hunting, podcasts, articles, PLUS a community for you to ask questions of PLUS the ability to ask me questions where I function as your ally with no conflict of interest answering your questions.  

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