Salary negotiation is usually the last step before sending out the offer letter...so it must be done right! What is the best way to make sure you get the yes? Seek a Win-Win.
I'm not going to get into all the tactics of a salary negotiation. Instead, my best advice is be flexible and listen, listen, listen. If there is an issue be honest about it and seek alternatives that work for both sides. Sometimes it is not just about the money... so let's look at some critical part of the process
Salary negotiation actually starts in the screening process. Each candidate who is brought into an interview should have been qualified on the salary question. While often nobody likes to blink about what a position pays, it ends up the company needs to give a range and the candidate says yes to the range.
This is the starting point unless something was said by the candidate to reflect that he or she felt it was on the low side etc. This pre-qualification step is a must.
With the internet today, it is fairly easy to look at salary surveys to know what is a realistic salary for most positions. By now you should probably know your target salary and preferred range.
Your job is to find out what my partner calls the candidates 'happy number'. This is what the candidate would settle for as a salary and still accept the position. This works best if there is a 3rd party involved, like a headhunter, but it can be done directly as well. It takes trust and a certain tone in the conversation. You need to let the candidate know you are interested and want to make an offer and ask what would make them take the job.
Once you know the happy number, take it and add a little bit more. It does not have to be much, even $1000. That's only $0.50 per hour. As long as it is still in the salary range it makes a lot of sense.
Think about what this does to the mindset of the candidate. He just got beat up a little giving you his number. There is often doubt about whether he could have pushed a little bit more but he gave you the number he'd settle on.
When he sees the bigger number, it says to the person, I know what would you would take. I, as an employer, want you not only satisfied but motivated and excited. If there is any lingering doubt, that $0.50 will buy you a lot of good will and may clinch the deal.
Three final tips;
1) When dealing with sales people, it is perfectly acceptable to ask for copies of prior years W-2's to verify commissions and salary. A good sales person who can back it up should have no problem doing this.
2) A good rule of thumb when trying to pry a candidate away from a job is to give him or her a 15% boost in pay or overall compensation package.
3) If you hire an outside firm, let them do the negotiation. If you have to play hardball, it is better to have a buffer like the outside firm. If you come to a deal, you want things to start on a positive note and you don't want your first interaction to be haggling over money. It's part of what you are paying for when you use this type of service.
It may be that you can offer an extra week's vacation but keep the salary the same or you may have a medical plan that covers the entire family.
Stay flexible and listen and you will find a way to make a win-win deal with your candidates.