How Sharp Are Your Negotiating Skills?

Recruiters are in the business of negotiating every day as they interact with clients and candidates. Ahead of the 2019 MRINetwork United Convention, we sat down with Chris Voss, a featured keynote speaker and one of the preeminent practitioners of negotiation skills in the world, to help recruiters hone their negotiating skills. Chris, who is also a former top FBI hostage negotiator and author of the book Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It, has developed a handbook of principles and techniques that are invaluable in the workplace and in every other realm of life. We had the opportunity to speak with him and get his take on using negotiation to give recruiters a competitive edge.

MRINetwork: How does the process of negotiation work?

Chris Voss: Never be so sure of what you want that you wouldn’t take something better. Negotiation is a process of discovery. You begin by focusing on the other person and what they have to say to determine what they want. You want to arrive at an understanding of their feelings and what’s behind those feelings. Once you recognize their perspective, you vocalize that recognition to validate their emotion and give it a name.

MRINetwork: You see information gathering as the first step, but you don’t always advocate asking questions. What’s the best way to gather the information you need?

Voss: Rather than asking a direct question, use a format such as, “It seems as though you have good reasons for…” Given this opening, most people will reveal much more about themselves and their situation. It’s a validating and respectful approach.

MRINetwork: You’ve said that when the pressure is on, if you don’t rise to the occasion, you fall to your highest level of preparation. What goes into preparing properly for a negotiation?

Voss: Begin by defining the problem in a way that the other side agrees is the problem. Change their perspective by showing them another way to look at the situation. In your business, for example, I’m certain that often what clients tell you they want in a new hire isn’t always what they really need. The job description is off and is not going to yield the desired candidates. It’s your job to steer them in the right direction, which you can do because through your preparation and knowledge of the marketplace you know what’s needed and how to fill that need.

MRINetwork: How does the discussion about money come into the negotiation process?

Voss: Money is rarely what kills the deal. You have to discuss money in the context of the big picture. Let’s say a candidate won’t accept an offer that’s less that 175K, but the employer’s top limit is 150K. If you can honestly demonstrate that this position will help the candidate achieve higher life goals and ultimately increase their earning potential in their next career move, you can come away with a successful negotiation in which both sides feel they’ve been treated fairly. Find the sweet spot–if the employer pays too much, they’ll never be satisfied with the candidate’s performance; if they pay too little, they’ll never get peak performance from a candidate who feels undervalued.