Questions to Ask During Job Offer Negotiation Talks

You’ve posted your job ad, fielded hundreds of resumes, picked the top 20 for phone screenings, invited the top five from that pool for interviews, and now you’ve made your decision. But don’t forget, the candidate also has a decision to make and may go elsewhere. And if they’re your top pick, you have to assume other employers also want them.

Too many managers mistakenly make job offers without qualifying whether other offers are on the table. It’s also crucial to know whether the candidate might leverage your offer at their current company, looking for a pricey counter-offer. This can quickly lead to complications if you haven’t determined the job’s market value in advance.

We’ll discuss the best questions to ask during job offer negotiation talks, including ways to determine just how interested they are in working for your company.

Negotiating the Job Offer

It’s important to be aware that once you extend an offer to a candidate, the balance of power is shifted and the candidate takes control. For that reason, you don’t want to offer the job before you’ve discussed compensation and the start date. If you make the offer but you haven’t yet qualified the candidate’s readiness to accept it with the right job offer questions, then they may be inclined to drag out the process.

So how do you maintain control of the salary negotiation and minimize costs by reducing time to hire? Before you extend any offers, you should take the candidate through the following five-question “offer drill.”

1. “What would be your next logical move in career progression if you remained with your current employer? How long would it take to get to that next step?”

You need to know up front if there’s a possibility of this candidate accepting a counter-offer. Therefore, to better understand how much your job offer would catapult this individual’s career (relative to remaining with their current company) you’ve got to have a benchmark. That benchmark is their perception of their current role’s potential.

Once all the rounds of interviewing are completed and you’ve conducted the necessary reference checking, personnel assessments, and background screening, it’s time to extend the offer. The job offer questions at this stage will focus more on their salary requirements, how soon they can start, and longer-term goals.

2. “Remind me again why accepting a position with our company would make sense for you from a career development standpoint.”

Forcing a candidate to articulate the benefits of joining your firm from a more global, longer-term perspective is an ideal way to enter into a salary negotiation. This question reminds them of the benefits this opportunity has to offer.

3. “If we were to make you a job offer today, when would you be in a position to either accept or reject it?”

Beware of candidates who suddenly ask for more than 24 hours to consider your offer. They may be delaying because they’re considering another company’s offer. Putting you off may be the only way to buy time to see whether they can generate the offer they really want. If you suspect that to be the case, don’t be shy about asking them for more information.

4. “Again, if we were to make you an offer, tell me ideally when you’d be able to start. How much notice would you need to give your present employer?”

Most candidates will need to give their current employers two weeks’ notice, and you might want to offer an additional third week so the individual has some personal down time before coming aboard. If they say they can’t start for six weeks, however, there may be something going on that you’re not aware of (such as the possibility of an offer from another employer).

If they ask for several weeks, then you need to open up that dialog right then and there with more job offer questions. Otherwise, you may find out six weeks later that they’ve either accepted an offer elsewhere or accepted a counteroffer to remain with their current company. By that time, your other top candidates may have already moved on.

5. “At what point dollar-wise would you accept our job offer, and at what point dollar-wise would you reject it?”

This is one of the biggest questions to ask during job offer negotiation discussions and it’s why salary negotiation is often saved for last. Candidates typically expect to “hear” offers rather than volunteer numbers themselves. Still, if the candidate isn’t quite sure how to respond initially, then qualify your question this way: “I’d like you to help me gauge your level of interest. Share with me the ideal salary offer you’d like to hear versus what that walk-away point might be for you.”

Ideally, candidates will close themselves at lateral moves to their current base salaries. But it’s more common for candidates to peg an increase in their base pay to a percentage hike, depending on their desire for the job and their perception of their market worth.

Assuming that any of those assumptions are within your salary range, you’ll be safe to extend the offer at this point. However, if they’re looking for a lot more money than you have on the table to offer, you could either discuss that upfront and extend the offer, or simply delay the process and go back to the compensation/budget table to review your proposed offer.

The key to the exercise, of course, is to ensure that you retain control of the negotiation until you’ve had all your most critical questions answered. After all, employment offers are a two-way street: your candidate should be an excellent addition to the team, but accepting this role should make sense for them career-wise for at least the next two to five years.

With Monster, You Can Find the Right People Before You Make the Offer

If you’re already thinking about which questions to ask during job offer negotiation talks, then you’re probably in a good spot with your hiring process. But are you certain you have the best candidate? The experts at Monster can help. As you consider your next hire, be sure to get our latest free insights on recruiting and hiring strategies, as well as helpful job market research, retention strategies, and more.