Benefits and Compensation, Recruiting

More Employers Are Moving Away from the Negotiation Table

Earlier this year, we surveyed subscribers to get a pulse on their recruiting strategies in this tight labor market. One question we asked was: Is your organization open to negotiating salary for initial job offers?


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An overwhelming majority (92%) say they are willing to negotiate a candidate’s salary to secure talent. However, additional research has shown that this strategy isn’t being adopted by every employer.

Salary Negotiations Are Off the Table

Career website,, recently polled jobseekers to get their take on employer negotiations. Respondents were asked, “How did you secure your salary at your current company?” and unlike our findings, roughly 42% say their employer told them what they would be making—offering no chance for negotiating their salaries.

However, on the flip side, 14% say they were able to negotiate, while roughly 15% say “I gave them a [salary] range and they offered within that range.”

“These poll findings demonstrate that as the labor market continues to tighten, you can expect to see more negotiations across the board,” says Monster Career Expert Vicki Salemi—in an e-mail to HR Daily Advisor. “I think we’ll see less candidates accepting job offers that were for less than the amount they asked for or were expecting.”

Salemi adds, “Job offers are one thing, retention is another. To keep employees happy—key word being “keep”—when jobseekers accept the job offer they get, if they don’t feel recognized, valued, and fairly compensated for their work as time marches on, they’ll start looking for external opportunities, so it’s a win-win situation to pay them equitably from day one and continue to focus on compensation and appreciation once they start working at your company.”

“With two-thirds [of respondents] unable to negotiate their job offer, one-third of respondents were. I think we’ll start to see the one-third number increase,” she says, adding: “For the two-thirds who weren’t able to negotiate, hopefully those offers were equitable and competitive, so despite the non-negotiation, they were able to feel happy with their offer to start working there.”

For some employers, salary may be a tricky thing to negotiate—especially for employers on a budget. If you’re looking to attract and retain top talent but can’t offer the salary he or she is asking for, you can always try negotiating benefits like paid time off (PTO), vacation time, and other benefits.

Are Vacation Days Off the Table?

Again, for some employers, even these soft benefits are nonnegotiable. In the Monster poll, respondents were asked, “Were you able to negotiate your vacation days at your current job?” and the findings revealed that 32% of jobseekers say they “tried but didn’t get anything extra from it.”

Additionally, roughly 25% of respondents say they didn’t even try to negotiate vacation days, and now they regret it. While 22% say they were able to negotiate vacation days, adding “[t]he vacation policy is why I work here.”

“Results for the vacation day policy negotiation poll show that more and more jobseekers are leveraging this as a negotiation during their job offer,” says Salemi. “While approximately one-fourth didn’t negotiate but regret it, one-fifth did negotiate! And one-third tried, but didn’t get it. So, first make sure your vacation day policy is competitive in the marketplace and expect candidates to start pushing back on this.”

“Technically, when I worked in corporate recruiting, it was an easy win for both sides,” says Salemi. “It doesn’t impact your budget and maintaining equity within the group, a few extra days a year for candidates won’t break the bank.”

“And as more companies see the value in vacation days, not only will the jobseeker feel like they got at least something out of the negotiation, chances are they’ll return from their vacation (or staycation—however they spend time unplugged away from the office) refreshed and more productive at the office when they return,” concludes Salemi.

Our research findings were on par with Monster’s, as roughly 70% of our survey respondents say they do not negotiate benefits. However, for those that do, PTO and work schedules were the most common benefits our respondents were willing to negotiate.

Almost 70% of our respondents—who negotiate benefits—say they are willing to negotiate PTO, including the amount of vacation, sick, and/or personal leave. While 58% are willing to negotiate the hours of a candidate’s schedule, and 49% are even willing to negotiate the days a candidate works.

“We know that salary and time off/PTO are some of the most difficult conversations for candidates and employers to work through—which our poll confirms, with two-thirds of respondents saying they didn’t negotiate their current salary and more than half of respondents saying they didn’t negotiate their current time off,” says Jonathan Beamer, Chief Marketing Officer at Monster—in an e-mail to HR Daily Advisor. “We strive to help facilitate the discussion to ensure the right fit is found for both.”

So You Want to Start the Negotiation Process …

When you see that more employers aren’t negotiating salary or benefits, you question whether this tactic is still being used in the recruiting process. In a tight labor market, it’s shocking to see that many employers aren’t using negotiations to secure top talent.

If your company falls into the “no negotiations” category, but still struggles to fill vacant positions, it’s time to look into negotiating with candidates. Matt Thomas—WorkSmart Systems President—offers a few tips to take into consideration:

  • Keep negotiations positive. With salary negotiations, it is important to keep them positive, says Thomas. Make sure that you are remaining civil throughout the whole process is important.
  • Open communication is essential. Include the salary range in the job posting, this way jobseekers will know what you’re willing to pay upfront. Thomas suggests that when opening the lines of communication with a candidate—whether on the phone or during the first in-person interview—be sure to reaffirm the salary range to make sure everyone is on the same page.
  • Know your company’s policies. Candidates can have unreasonable requests and cause your company unnecessary headaches. With company policies in place, negotiations remain under control.
  • Establish internal salary ranges. Before deciding to hire for positions externally, it is important to have internal salary ranges. By establishing internal salary ranges for each position, standards can be determined when you are promoting an employee internally. This helps create a smoother process when you hire externally because the ranges will already be established. It is also beneficial because it will defuse any issues with your current employees when new hires arrive.

The candidate-driven market seems to have no end in sight—that is, until we’re in the next recession—so if you’re struggling to attract and retain workers, try negotiating with them. It may surprise you to learn that jobseekers will take a pay cut for more PTO.

As Thomas says, open communication is key, therefore you won’t know what workers actually want until you ask. Keep his tips in mind when opening the doors to salary and benefits negotiations.