Back peddling! Negotiating the salary at offer stage when the salary is capped from the onset. Sigh.

This topic has been of much controversy between some of my colleagues and I on so many levels as stakeholders filling roles as well as friends and family testing confidence issues because it touches so many sensitive areas so I will try my best to surmise my experience on each side of the interview table as a specialist as well as in my past as a job seeker. As a Recruiter my role entails ascertaining a match between the company and candidate as well as setting expectations early in the process amongst other things. This article may also serve candidates applying directly to a company and in need of some support through the murky waters of salary negotiations.

Firstly, I’m only speaking to the desperadoes out here and if you are not desperate this is not the article for you. In so many instances and scenarios I have experienced candidates at various levels applying for a role even when the salary range is below their requirements with the hope that once the company falls in love with them the salary range may increase. Often, that is sadly not the case and as my brother calls it a case of phantasmagoria (big words). In most cases from where I sit as an Human Resources and Recruitment specialist having worked internally at some stage; Heads of Departments have in some instances stuck out their necks and toiled for the vacancy to become available so a budget is indeed a budget. Let’s try empathise. For applicants brave enough to take the risk to try get more money these are some of the opportunities you can create for yourselves in such scenarios.

So, you went for it anyway and you’ve gone through all the interviews and it has gone really well, you know this because the offer is received and lo and behold it is indeed still no where near desired expectations (even as advised) but anything slightly more would indeed be a “game changer” for sure. We are desperate here people!

My colleague Norma Ndlovhu from Mindrocket Consulting (specialising in Executive Search) advises taking the role anyway as a steppingstone and appreciating personal circumstances which motivate the candidate to pursue the role. The humble route. The positives in this scenario give the applicant the opportunity to prove themselves worthy of a higher rate through tenure and performance internally and externally by creating a good name in the workplace which in turn creates leverage. It is also a low risk method to job security.

My argument is whether one is doomed if they do or doomed if they don’t because once a low market value is on ones head it can prove potentially harder to convince the current employer or a potential employer of ones true market worth. I’ll leave that one open. Studies have highlighted that women tend to not negotiate for a higher rate and in my opinion this also includes people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Again, if one doesn’t ask the risk is that one doesn’t get! It’s a mentality.

A radical high-risk approach in my opinion is to be bold and ask up front once the offer is received. Politely and humbly of course. The reason this approach could work is because relationships have been built through the interview process and there may be enough room to slip in a casual phone call with a contact person on the inside to extend negotiations; this is usually the Human Resources representative who is always kindly willing to pass on concerns in a professional manner. Internal Recruitment practices in South Africa (according to my experience and some colleagues) usually give the candidate two to three days to accept or decline an offer of employment before pulling it so there is time. I have heard of less time if the role needs to be filled urgently so it’s best to ask ahead. The Labour Law is very grey on this area in South Africa so it is largely based on company practices. Again, ask once you have the offer in your inbox how much time there is to consider the offer. Bottom line is there is some time and any time is a lot of time.

In my opinion if you can’t open dialogue with a potential employer you shouldn’t be working for them it’s as much your decision to be there as it is theirs. If or once a door opens for dialogue, then it’s happy days and one can enter further negotiations which can either include revisiting the conversation later for example after a probationary period, other package incentives or even cold hard cash. I would caution applicants to be reasonable with how much more they can get (that’s another article). Please use common sense.

Going through the entire process only to decline once a candidate has not been able to negotiate further can be viewed as an act of bad faith so one must have good faith through the process. It’s called integrity here people. The salary was capped from the onset and the buy- in was after all the opportunity.

If one has a great recruiter feel free to communicate concerns with them and this will be done on your behalf with less blood on ones hands however if the company can’t or won’t budge and should one decide to still take the job I urge you to continue to add value, keep earnest lines of communication with your employer and keep asking from time to time!

There is no straight answer or right or wrong way to go about it mostly it’s about how badly you want or need the money at that time as a motivation. After all is said and done…Congratulations on your new job!!!

Please share your insights and opinions salary negotiation scenarios once the offer is made and any useful tips. It’s an interactive and creative approach to getting more in a sticky situation.

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