How to negotiate with your boss after getting headhunted

Received a juicy job offer from an external organisation but would rather stay put if your employer could provide a better role? Or more moolah?

Seeking an equivalent counter offer and working out which way to jump is a stressful process for many employees. But there are some secrets to maximising your position while keeping both parties sweet.

Be upfront

Being honest and not attempting to pit the employers against one other is key says PwC director Kristy Simpkin. She's knocked back jobs from headhunters on a couple of occasions, after being enticed to stay by the offer of equally attractive roles internally.

While nervous about broaching the matter the first time it occurred, Simpkin says doing so frankly made for a productive exchange.

"I went back to the partner I was working with at the time to say, 'I've been offered this. I'm not happy at the moment and just wanted to raise it with you before I go away and assess [my situation]' and they actually took it on," Simpkin says.

"They took on board the feedback and conversations and worked hard to find a role that worked for me.

"It feels a little bit uncomfortable raising it but I think if you work for someone who is also very open and authentic and a good leader then they actually embrace that conversation in a positive way."

It gets easier

Asking for a bigger salary to accompany the better role can be an awkward prospect but it doesn't remain so for long, Simpkin notes.

"I'm never very good at asking for more money, ever, but I've done it probably two or three times now…whilst it's uncomfortable bringing the topic up, it was actually an easy conversation to have from then on," she says.


The topic of coin

Many individuals worry broaching the subject of a competing offer may damage their relationship with management but it ain't necessarily so, according to Stephenson Mansell executive coach Mehul Joshi.

"People's biggest fear…is that they believe that once the genie is out of the bottle, it's hard to put it back in," Joshi says.

"In other words, if you raise the subject of job change, you are immediately seen as disloyal and the trust is forever broken. Also, people might think they are expendable and easily replaceable."

In reality, most organisations are keen to avoid the time and cost involved in finding a replacement and, unless you're terrible at your job, you're likely to be in a strong negotiating position.

Keep it cordial

That doesn't mean it's a good idea to hand your boss a list of demands and a deadline.

"Most employers react negatively to ultimatums," Joshi says. "It's better to think of it as a discussion and to use exploratory language, for example, I've been made an offer which I'm weighing up, could you offer some advice?'"

You'll find the process easier to navigate if you know what you want before you start talking turkey with employers, both current and potential, according to Think and Grow recruiter Anthony Sochan.

"Get a piece of paper and literally write down on it, what do I like about this job, what do I like about my current job and what do I prefer about each," Sochan advises.

"Have a good think about that in the context of [your] long term career goals."

The one sin of negotiating

If you're upfront about your motivations and aspirations and don't treat the negotiation as an opportunity to get one over your employer, you'll likely retain the respect of all parties, regardless of your decision, Sochan says.

"People understand and appreciate honesty and respect it when you respect their time and their role and the pressures they're under, as much as they do you," he says.

"Always think about 'how can both of us get out ahead in this scenario?' not 'what's in it for me?'"

Never, under any circumstances, commit the cardinal sin of accepting an offer, only to subsequently renege, Sochan adds.

"That's one of the worst possible things to do…you lose a huge amount of credibility if you do that and especially in Australia," he says.

"It's a very, very small market, people tend to know each other and it's rare for people to move across industries and so, as a result of that, it doesn't take long for your reputation to be tarnished."

Short and sweet

Dragging the process out is never a good look either, according to fellow executive head hunter and Blenheim Partners founder Gregory Robinson.

You should act decisively and let both parties know your decision shortly after you have their offers in hand, Robinson says.

"Given that you have engaged in a search and recruitment process and have got to the point of receiving an offer, you should be clear in your head what your parameters are – to stay or go – hence I would think that two or three days at the most."

How have you handled negotiations after being offered a job elsewhere? Share your experience in the comments section below.