7 Great Candidate Negotiation Tools Other Than Salary

Candidate negotiation can be tough at the best of times, but it can be especially hard when you don’t have any more wiggle room in terms of salary. Imagine you have a great candidate sitting there and you are finding that you are just not able to meet their salary expectations. What do you do? Let the person go without a fight? Of course not, you begin to focus on areas other than salary, which you can use as a negotiation tool, and which may work as an incentive to draw the hesitant or even resistant candidate into the business.

And below I have outlined seven great candidate negotiation tools other than salary that may have a powerful seductive affect on a resistant candidate.

1. Sign-on bonus. This is a great tool that can prey on a candidate’s instinct/need for instant gratification. This is why it can be a powerful incentive. A bonus of $1,500 can have as powerful a seducing effect as an additional $3,000 salary spread over 12 months with the advantage that it is both lower and is also a one time payment. Sign-on bonuses are great negotiation alternatives to a higher starting salary. It’s like, “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”, as the expression goes.

2. Flexible working. Many candidates realize that it can be the death nail to express a desire for flexible working even though they may desire it. (Surveys show, including this one from the FT, that flexible working is one of the most desirable benefits). So exploit this likely desire for flexible working by offering flexible working options, such as a 1-2 telecommuting days a week, flexible start times, job share, working for four days (pro-rata) which the candidate might see as a favorable alternative or suitable recompense for not achieving their desired salary.

3. Deferred salary review/increase

Perhaps, you don’t have the budget now, but you will have it in six or nine  months. If so, why not build in a deferred salary review/rise based on the successful completion of a 6-month probationary period, or the meeting of some specific performance goals over the next 12 months?

4. Annual Bonus Schemes (guaranteed bonus)

Introduce a bonus or increase their bonus potential as an alternative to a starting salary increase. It can be win-win as they only get it if they perform. If candidates are skeptical, consider guaranteeing a proportion of the bonus for the first year.

5. Equity grant or options

This can be an attractive alternative to salary but this depends on the viability, potential and reputation of your business. Yet, if you tick a “yes” on all these features, then equity or options can be another great alternative to a higher starting salary.

6. Separation benefits

An unusual one, I know, but many candidates like the safety net of a good severance package should things go wrong. Others like to feel free and easy and like shorter notice periods and are therefore not so worried about severance. So increasing severance or increasing/decreasing notice periods can be a powerful negotiation device and alternative to a higher starting salaries in some instances.

7. Holiday benefits

With an emphasis on work-life balance, an additional five holiday off days might be worth much more than its actual monetary value to certain applicants who place importance on this. So, don’t be afraid to perhaps offer more holidays as compensation for not being able to offer a higher starting salary. Or even consider the opposite, which might be to allow the employee to shave off five holiday off days for a corresponding increase in pay. If other employees complain that the new hire has more holidays than them, give current employees the option to buy more holidays by sacrificing their salary. The fact that it’s a salary sacrifice will serve as some kind of deterrent to stop the masses demanding more holiday in response.


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